Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
Welcome to our first Disneyland Report! For those of you who have been following our Saga in our other reports, thank you for joining us once again! For those first time readers, thanks for opening this thread--we hope it doesn’t disappoint!
Worth noting is that this report report is 32 single spaced pages of text. I don't point this out because I want to warn you before you make the time commitment to read it, but because at this length, and given my schedule, much of the report was written very hastily. I hope that it’s somewhat coherent and not rife with grammatical errors, stylistic faults, and misspelled words, but such may be the case.
Along the same lines, there are approximately 500 images among the first set of posts. The way I take pictures, my camera produces a “digital negative.” This is unlike most P&S cameras, which give you a usable .jpg file right out of the camera. This means I have to edit each shot. Normally, I spend 20 minutes or so editing an image that I post on Flickr. Given the time constraints and the volume of images to edit, I edited most of these in batches, grouping similar pictures together and performing quick edits. Consequently, some of the shots may be less-than-stellar.
If you're interested in the photography here and would like EXIF data for the pictures, it can be found on the Flickr page for each image that is on Flickr (denoted by little watermarks that read “Bricker”). To access said data, click the picture, which will take you to Flickr. EXIF data can then be found by clicking the "More Properties" link in the lower right hand corner.
Alright, enough with the disclaimers, warnings, and other miscellaneous opening remarks. On with the show!
August 2010 Disneyland Report:
This summer has been especially busy for us. As some of you may know, we got married, honeymooned at Walt Disney World, moved to Indianapolis, and I studied for and took the Bar Exam (suffice to say, even though we had concluded our honeymoon roughly two months earlier, we were ready for another vacation). The days leading up to this trip were no different. My parents had come to visit us that weekend, precluding us from doing any packing, so we were left to pack the Monday night before the trip. I had not used by camera once since our Disneymoon, so I figured I could just grab the bag containing it and take it. However, for good measure, I decided to open it up and take inventory, as you never know, maybe in an elaborate plot, our pets had schemed against me and opened it one day, taking everything out. Well, not so shockingly, that turned out not to be the case. However, a different saboteur had attempted to undermine my photography efforts for the upcoming trip: me. It turns out, so I thought, I had left my camera’s battery charger at Old Key West. Luckily, I had roughly 1.5 batteries worth of “charge,” and access to Sarah’s D40, but this would be an issue on the trip.
I couldn’t wallow in the pain of my missing battery charger for long, as I had a great deal of packing to complete before bed. This took far too long, and by the time we had completed packing, it looked like Hurricane Tom had touched down several times in our apartment. Two other things I had to do were book our hotel room at Disneyland and our SuperShuttle from the airport. As you may have guessed, I procrastinate a bit. Although in my defense, the Anaheim HoJo had been adding days to its discounted rate, and I had been hoping to book it. No luck on that.
To make matters worse, Sarah had a death in the family shortly before we left and this would prove to put a substantial damper on the first day of the trip. We considered postponing the trip for a few days as the primary purpose was a wedding that wasn’t until the weekend, but that ultimately wasn’t our best option, so we proceeded with the trip as planned.
Up after only around four hours of sleep, and all things considered, we could already tell the first day would be a long day. However, we’re troopers, so we were ready for the day ahead. We space our trips far enough apart that when we book, we always seem to forget about the misery of getting up at 3 a.m. just so we can arrive at the Resort on the earliest possible flight. Right now, we’re contemplating what flights to book for our Christmas trip, and sure enough, that early flight is once again the flight of choice. Perhaps this time we can at least pack our bags earlier than the night before? Easier said than done.
We arrived at the airport and immediately made a b-line for McDonald’s. Well, that is after going through the slow-moving security line. Even at 5:30 a.m., TSA still is inefficient like clockwork. At least they are consistent. Perhaps it’s just based on my experience going to WDW, but I think that if a line is going to move that slowly, it should at least be well-themed! McDonald’s was next on our plate, and I don’t think I need to reiterate to you all how delicious it was. I really don’t get all of the people who complain about McDonald’s. Like Sam the Eagle would say, disliking McDonald’s is distinctly unpatriotic.
After a while of waiting, we finally boarded the plane, where we had a really great flight crew. One of the guys made up various songs about Southwest to the tune of well known songs at the end of the flight, which were incredibly funny. It might have been annoying had he done this for the duration of the flight while I was attempting to sleep, but constrained only to the end, it was very enjoyable. These manners in which Southwest clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously make it our preferred airline; I know many people look down their noses at “Air Moo,” but we think it’s great fun.
On the ground in John Wayne Airport, we briskly headed towards baggage claim. I fancy myself a badass in the vain of John Wayne (although I am a bit more rugged and suave), so of course I had to stop and pose like my elder counterpart. After screwing around doing that for a bit, and an eternity of waiting on our bags (sadly, without the “magic” of DME to send the bags to your room, you actually have to wait on them; at the start of a vacation, this makes minutes melt into hours), we boarded the SuperShuttle for the Anaheim Plaza Hotel & Suites.
When the bus approached, we realized just what $50/night had bought us. It’s difficult to contend that $50/night is overpriced for a hotel, especially one with this kind of proximity to Disneyland (we could see Tower of Terror as soon as we opened the door to our room), but $50/night was overpriced for that hotel. To make matters worse, when we attempted to check-in, we were told that none of the Queen-bed rooms were available yet, but that “the next level up” were available, if we wanted to pay $20/night more. I wanted to call shenanigans on this one. I had called to book our room at around 10:30 EST the previous night. I highly doubted that they had booked up in the interim, but of course, I couldn’t prove this, plus we were there prior to check-in, so there was no point in arguing. The manager informed me that if we came back the next day she could try to get us in one of the cheaper rooms if it were available. I knew this was just B.S. to try to sell us on the “one time” $20 upcharge--since we would be leaving for the parks each day at around 9 a.m., I knew her answer would be the same each day. She also gave us the option of keeping our bags in an unlocked, completely open area and coming back at check-in. Yeah, given the cost of our luggage and everything therein, and especially after seeing the “quality” of the hotel, I think I’d rather pay the extortion fee.
As far as Disney trips go, at this point, this one was easily off to the worst start. However, we decided to try to put all of that behind us and head to the parks with positive attitudes. Admittedly, this was easier for me than it was for Sarah, as she was still visibly grief-stricken.
We have been WDW Annual Passholders for the last couple of years now, but we still had three days remaining on an old no-expiration 10 day ticket (which is how we used to buy them to save money when an AP wasn’t yet cost-effective for us), so we decided to convert them to DLR tickets since we will be WDW AP-holders for the foreseeable future. This was a pain, especially when you can hear the background music, see the train station, and are ready to go play!
When we finally got inside the turnstiles, and headed down Main Street. I had seen pictures of Sleeping Beauty Castle, so I knew of its diminutive stature, but I was still somewhat shell-shocked when I actually saw it. When looking down Main Street, I had no awe for what I saw at the end. It was not a grand Castle, wasn’t really much of anything. I’ll concede that it’s quaint (as I’ve heard others since call it), but I don’t think quaint is really a compliment when referring to a castle. I realize it’ll never be touched because the Disneyland purists would soil themselves if the idea were presented, but I think that’s just nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Objectively, I don’t think this castle stacks up to any of its world-wide counterparts. I’m not suggesting making it something identical to Florida’s, but something reminiscent in scale. I hate when people raise the question "Would Walt Do?" when confronted with something they don't like about the contemporary parks, but I have to wonder whether he would have had this castle razed for something more 'epic' upon the completion of WDW, were he alive.
I initially expressed these sentiments when posting a shot of Sleeping Beauty Castle on Flickr, and the Disneyland faithful ripped into me, some invoking Walt’s legacy as justification for keeping the Castle at its present height, others just generally expressing the sentiment that the Castle was ‘sacred’, and something that should never change. Multiple (contradictory) stories were offered as to why it was that height. I knew I had read otherwise, so I did some digging, and low and behold, I found a remark from one of great Imagineers, Eddie Sotto. Mr. Sotto said this, “Herb Ryman once told me that Walt wanted a big Castle [for Disneyland] but could not afford it. His first rendering that Walt directed showed something much grander. I wonder what the bankers thought when they showed up and saw the final." (Source: Eddie Sotto's take on the current state of the parks - Page 79 - WDWMAGIC.COM Forums). I guess to each his own on the Castle topic; many Disneyland devotees claim to love its quaintness. I can understand that. However, after growing up frequenting the park with a grandiose Castle, seeing Sleeping Beauty Castle was an underwhelming let-down. Whenever I photographed it on the trip, I attempted to choose angles and lenses that made it appear larger than life to compensate.
I told myself before the trip that I wasn’t going to compare anything between the parks, and that I was just going to appreciate each of them for what they are. As you’ll see with my constant comparisons, this notion went out the window as soon as I saw that Castle and started comparing the two Main Streets. I’ve since decided that people inherently compare everything, and that there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this. Throughout this report, I’ll express a preference for one thing or another (usually as between WDW and DLR). That doesn’t mean I don’t like its counterpart, it’s just my ‘take,’ as it is. I may come across as a tad negative overall (hopefully not), but believe me, I loved Disneyland, and love WDW. I think my initial desire to compare was a bit misguided. In reality, I was concerned that I’d be one of those individuals who is a loyalist to only one park, and attempts to find reason to bash anything in the park that isn’t their “home park.” While WDW is, and probably will always be, our home park, this trip showed us the greatness of Disneyland, and will make us pencil into our schedules trips out West!
Following the initial shock of Sleeping Beauty Castle, we began following a truncated TouringPlan by heading for Space Mountain, where we picked up FastPasses. Starving, we also decided to stop here at Pizza Port to split a piece of pizza. After not having had caffeine since our honeymoon, the Coke I had there really hit the spot; not to mention it got me moving again like a Mexican Jumping Bean, as my body wasn’t used to so much caffeine and reacted “strongly” to it. When we finished eating, we headed towards New Orleans Square; we knew the park would have some midday crowds, so we thought it would be a good time to take in the fast-moving air-conditioned dark ride classics.
We passed through Adventureland to get to New Orleans Square, and as we approached Indiana Jones I slowed. I would have slowed regardless, seeing the queue of what has been hailed by many as Disneyland's biggest 'trump card' over Walt Disney World, but I slowed moreso than I otherwise would have as something odd was happening with the queue. I had heard that Indiana Jones was down while we were eating at Pizza Port, so when I saw what appeared to be Cast Members starting to allow FastPass holders to enter the queue, I had Sarah stop. (Why you would use a FastPass when the regular line is about to open—and be empty—is beyond me.) Two minutes later, the Cast Members opened the Standby queue and we were among the first 50 people to enter. Our first attraction of the day was going to be the one for which I was probably most excited. As we winded through the very long, and very empty, queue, we both marveled at the level of detail. One of the most compelling aspects of the queue was its lack of redundancy—it wasn't just one unique theme, it was several motifs encompassing the greater theme of the attraction.
After a good five minutes of walking through the empty queue, we finally arrived at the pre-show. This is easily one of the greatest pre-show videos in the history of Walt Disney World. Loaded with sight gags and wry humor, I found myself quoting the show for the duration of our visit (“It is unlike anything you've ever experienced, I assure you!”). Not only was the pre-show clever and amusing, but it also was a well-used plot vehicle for the attraction itself. We both really appreciated this; it was what we considered to be great 'layering' of the attraction's storytelling. The pre-show ended and we headed deeper into the queue, shortly thereafter boarding our ride vehicles.
I cannot put the experience of this attraction into words. Unfortunately, I can't put it into photos, either, as I didn't take pictures the first time we rode (which is my general rule for any first time experience of an attraction), and even images I took on subsequent ride-throughs were less-than-stellar. The attraction did an amazing job of storytelling, utilizing multiple technologies (and not just for the sake of using them, either), and also using other ride vehicles (there is nothing quite like seeing another ride vehicle pass over the bridge with lava under it!) to create a fully immersive experience. I have read a lot of people write that Walt Disney World should get this attraction because it already has Dinosaur. Now I realize these people have never actually experienced Indiana Jones Adventure, as that statement is laughable. Comparing the two is like comparing Space Mountain to Big Thunder Mountain, as both are coasters. Actually, that comparison isn't quite apt, as those two attractions are fairly comparable quality-wise. Nothing against Dinosaur, but it pales in comparison to Indiana Jones Adventure. While we both loved it, I still wouldn't want to see it at WDW; it's nice to have attractions unique to certain parks. While I know we'll visit Disneyland less than WDW, it gives us incentive to return and something to look forward to when we do return.
Exiting the ride, we were still awestruck. Due to this, we wandered around indecisively for a few minutes before finally heading to Haunted Mansion. Here, it is probably worth noting that this trip report will proceed much more like a conventional “we did this, then we did this” trip report with my commentary thrown in rather than my typical style of mostly my commentary with only passing mentioning of what attractions we rode. Since it was our first trip to Disneyland, my primary reflections are upon the experience of each attraction.
I had tried to avoid reading anything about the attraction experiences or viewing any pictures of Disneyland prior to the trip. I wanted to experience everything for the first time in person and have that initial excitement then. Despite the occasional pictures from my friends on Flickr, I think I did a pretty good job with this. I do think that more research would have prepared us better, but that's the trade-off we made. There are always future trips for which I can fully research the parks, and get a really good idea of all the nuances to experience.
Haunted Mansion's exterior was one of those things that wasn't a surprise. I knew, more or less, what it looked like thanks to seeing a few pictures of it on Flickr. Despite that, seeing it in person was a wholly different experience. It was really a gorgeous facade, and one that fit well in the area. I guess the great thing about the Haunted Mansion is that mansions exist all over the place. There were mansions in Colonial Williamsburg, there are mansions in the American West; heck, there could even be a mansion in the future or tropics! My one qualm with the Haunted Mansion is that its always so exquisitely appointed and well kept on the exterior. In my experience in watching such scientific ghost documentaries such as Ghostbusters and Casper, ghosts are slobs and destroy most anything with which they come in contact. To that end, I think Disney really missed the mark with the theming of these Haunted Mansions.
Welcome to the Haunted Mansion! by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
The Haunted Mansion is Sarah's favorite attraction and one of my favorites, but it was somewhat anti-climactic. It wasn't all that much different than the Florida version, except at the beginning where Disneyland's post pre-show queue is somewhat-mirrors the beginning of the Florida ride. Even though it is one of our favorite attractions, it wouldn't be added to the “re-ride” list due to the similarities it shares with Florida's version.
Next up was an attraction we knew was substantially different than the WDW version, thanks to images I had seen, Pirates of the Caribbean. The queue here was exceptionally long, and winding outside in the hot (although not humid!) California sun was not my ideal way to spend 15 minutes. Perhaps it's this way because of the Blue Bayou, but the queue seemed really awkward, and one way WDW's Pirates beat this version. That is where the WDW's superiority started and ended. At the beginning of the Disneyland version, there is what I would describe as embodiment of the “Dead Men Tell No Tales” line. They are montages of the real pirate lifestyle: portrayals of greed, excess, and death. A similar room used to exist in the last scene of WDW's Pirates before Jack Sparrow took up residence there, and I always thought that scene made more sense, especially from a storytelling perspective (I really don't care about it from a “moral” perspective—I think few children are going to experience the attraction and actually turn towards a life of piracy on the high seas). The idea, at least as I understand it, is that the pirate lifestyle may seem glamorous, but that overlooks the substantial pitfalls. In the new WDW version, those pitfalls are ignored, and the fruits of the pirate lifestyle are embraced. Given the beginning of the attraction, that doesn't seem to jive too well. The final scene works for Disneyland because all of its montages of the pitfalls are at the beginning, and the rest of the ride, to me at least, is in the form of flashback. Perhaps this is over-analyzing a simple montage attraction, but that's how I perceive it.
Next on the agenda was Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. It had been a long time since either of us had seen this, and truth be told, I didn’t really remember the original that well. I will admit that in the past, I have defended the Florida “Under New Management” incarnation of this attraction when others had disparaged it. While I still understand why the change was made, I won’t be defending it any longer. The original blows the new version out of the water. The flow was much better, the music wonderful, and the whole sensory experience was just extremely compelling. Since I don’t really recall the original show at WDW, I don’t think my opinion of it is prejudiced by nostalgia, and I think this is clearly a case of a new show being a step back rather than a step forward. I still don’t dislike the current WDW show, but it just doesn’t stack up to Disneyland’s. It is my firm belief that changes should occur to the parks, but only those changes that bring improvements. After seeing this show, it’s clear to me that Under New Management brought no such improvement. It did, however, bring Phil Hartman, and everyone loves him.
Sarah and I are fairly indecisive when touring the parks, which probably isn’t the most efficient strategy. We’ll often survey wait times of attraction in an area, darting here, then there, then back again before finally making a decision. About the only positive that can be said about it is that it helps burn off the calories of the fried crap we ingest on the trips as I know it doesn’t actually save us any time. After some darting of this nature through Tomorrowland, we finally settled on riding the Finding Nemo Subs. Adhering to the advice offered in the Unofficial Guide, we queued up around 15 minutes before the parade started.
The Cast Members at the entrance to the queue might as well have handed out tubs of butter, because I think Disneyland’s intent with that queue is to bake its guests to a golden brown. It was interesting to watch the queue move sporadically, as guests tried to huddle under the scattered umbrellas whenever possible. It’s almost laughable that such an advanced and immersive attraction has a queue that is composed only of umbrellas and a few rock formations. Maybe Disneyland should import the “futuristic” tarps from behind SpaceShip Earth!
It was a little disappointing that more wasn’t done with the queue, but clearly space constraints prevented expanding outward for a fully elaborate queue. Still, expansion could have occurred upward, so at least we wouldn’t have cooked. I have to admit that I don’t really remember the original incarnation of the attraction. I do recall not going on it when younger because the line was really long, and my mom said it was “just a bunch of cut-out figures” or something to that affect. Given how many people, even today, adore 20K Leagues, I figure she is probably downplaying it. Still, the concern lingered in the back of my mind that people had let nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake get the best of them, and 20K Leagues wasn’t actually that good, and by extension, the Finding Nemo Subs wouldn’t be that good.
That concern couldn’t be more misplaced. If there were a way to square epicness without a meltdown or overload of some sort, this attraction had managed to do it. The attraction started out a little scenic, with stationary figures scattered throughout as the subs pass through the tranquil blue water. However, as soon as your sub passes under the waterfall, the attraction really hits its stride. Awesome effects, an interesting storyline, it really has everything. Nothing in Florida’s version can compare with the active deep-sea volcano scene, which is really unique and visually stunning, as is the humpback whale scene. By the attraction’s conclusion, I was really scratching my head questioning whether it had the same bloodlines as The Seas at EPCOT. About the only thing the Seas version has going for it over this one is the KUKA Arm fish, and that is routinely broken.
Following this, we headed to it's a small world. The best I could tell, it's a small world was a land unto itself. I know it was categorized as being in Fantasyland, but much like the Nemo subs, it just didn't quite fit into the borders of Fantasyland. A lot of Disneyland seemed to be structured like this; a bit awkwardly and not quite radiating from the central hub. I suppose this is the result of cramming so much substance into such a small area. At times it was pretty clear the park was hemorrhaging at the seams. While this could be aesthetically jarring and annoying for traffic-flow purposes, it was great to see so much to do around every corner. Quite the contrast from Walt Disney World, where the layout is much more open, and many locations sit dormant.
The aforementioned hemorrhaging was not an issue back by it's a small world, where the attraction had much more 'space' than its WDW counterpart. Enough space to have a beautiful outdoor area filled with topiaries and gorgeous facade. This all easily trumped WDW's building; I can only imagine how gorgeous it is when lit up during the Christmas season.
Due to the great Battle of Blair Forge, thankfully fought without muskets (by most, at least), pretty much everyone in the world knows about the Disney characters being added to the attraction. While I like it's a small world, I hardly had a horse in the race on this issue when the 'debate' first raged. That being said, once I finally saw these characters, I was convinced. They are absolutely, positively, a good addition.
I have heard the argument from the other side: the additions are like adding a mustache to the Mona Lisa. They desecrate Blair's “art,” with the purported “synergy-monster” that Disney critic-extraordinares so often seek to vilify. My response to this is that while the dolls are Blair creations, the entire attraction is not. Moreover, Blair was an employee/independent contractor of TWDC hired to create these dolls to be placed within an attraction. The dolls that Blair created don't stand alone as anything significant. The entire attraction does. Moreover, given the very nature of attractions (fluid) versus single paintings (non-fluid), the analogy to the Mona Lisa is faulty.
The dolls fit and work well and breathe some new life into the attraction. Not that it was stale before, but they ensure it won't be anytime soon. They are discrete and blend into the attraction seamlessly. For the most part, you really have to search to find them (although there are some that are fairly obvious). I don't view them so much as advertising Disney products as being more akin to Hidden Mickeys—both a sort of “easter egg” in the attraction that it's fun to search for and find. I often think that the “hardcore” internet crowd is arbitrarily skeptical of anything that brings a change to the status quo, and is especially skeptical when that change might somehow involve the dreaded “synergy.” While synergy was undoubtedly a consideration Disney made when adding the characters to the attraction, that's no grounds to dislike it. Dislike it if you think it's substantively shallow or poor, but don't just hate it because of the “idea of the thing.” That's entirely baseless, in my opinion. Unfortunately, this seems to be the modus operandi for the hardcore crowd. Criticize anything that changes an “original” aspect of the park and invoke the catch-phrase “Walt wouldn't have wanted this,” as if anyone truly knows what Walt would've wanted.
Apart from the Disney characters and facade of the building, I thought the rest of the attraction was also superior to WDW's version. I can't really put my finger on why I think this, but it just seemed better. Sarah and I were both very impressed, and I believe, along with Indy, this became the attraction that we experienced the most while there.
We followed a TouringPlan from the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland pretty closely, but the one area I think the good book plays a little conservatively is FastPasses. We always seem to be able to accrue double the amount for which the book provides. This day was no different. We had in our possession FastPasses for Indy, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain. The Indy and Space ones were ripe for using, so we headed over to Indy for our second voyage.
In my discussion of Indy's awesome queue, I don't think I fully emphasized just how long the queue is. Seriously, I think the show building is somewhere in Long Beach. I mean, I'm sure it's necessary given the epic-ness of the attraction and the lines it probably generates in busier seasons. I can't imagine waiting in that long of a line, though. I tried to capture some images this time, although didn't put too much effort into it, as I still wanted to savor the experience. I might as well have drunkenly spun around in the dark and tried to throw a dart at a board 50 feet away. I am convinced that photography on that attraction is next to impossible. Just when you're lined up for a shot, the vehicle darts another direction, your camera slamming up against your jaw. Despite the photography fail, the attraction still is a perfect ten.
Up next was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, a childhood favorite of Sarah's. Even though I am a couple years older than Sarah, I didn't remember this attraction from Walt Disney World. I think it's likely another case of my mom thinking it sucked, and us thus never doing it. After our ride aboard it, I am thankful that she spared me from having to experience it as a child.
The ride was pathetic. In my opinion, it compares favorably with Snow White's Scary Adventure. Why this attraction has developed such a cult following is totally beyond me. I have seen better things at the State Fair. Don't get me wrong, the facade of the building was beautiful, the ride vehicles really cool, and the story of the attraction cool, but the execution is sub-par, and that's putting it lightly. The substance of the attraction is moving cut outs. That's it. I am not one who demands cutting edge technology in every new attraction, in fact, sometimes I think the tech-first, story later approach actually works to the detriment of attractions, but it works in the other direction, too. Toad is dated to the point that it detracts from the story. In my mind, it's the antithesis of “Disney Details” we all foam over.
Climbing back up onto my soapbox regarding overly hardcore online Disney fans, it's the fights over things like this that, to me, really invalidate the collective voice (if there is such a thing) of the Disney fan community. Are people really raising such a fuss because they truly believe the change Disney is about to make or has made is a bad decision, or are they complaining because their own nostalgia doesn't want to see something on which they've made great memories, go away? If the latter is the case, Disney rightfully should ignore the fans, as these sentiments won't be shared by the majority of guests (who are infrequent visitors or first-timers), who will instead view the attraction as dated or of poor quality. It's gotten to the point where people online complain about pretty much anything, even things they haven't seen in person, or things that are yet to occur. With the frequency of such complaints, how does park management distinguish between legitimate complaints and “whiny” ones? At some point if you cry “wolf” (or “you're destroying the parks!” as the case may be) too many times, you get ignored. In my eyes, the case of the uproar over the departure of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride from Walt Disney World falls squarely into complaints mostly from the perspective of nostalgia. Maybe some thought it was truly a wonderful attraction and I'm just “missing it” with the quality of the attraction, I don't know.
We decided to keep up the string of sub-par Disney attractions by heading to Dumbo next, after we noticed its ridiculously short wait time. I won't pontificate over Dumbo's county fair qualities here. I know it's become the “face” attraction of all of the Disney resorts worldwide, and I know it's never going anywhere. For kids, I'm sure it's an awesome experience getting to ride it after seeing it in all the ads. We promised Sarah's deceased loved one that we'd ride it for her, so we happily queued up for it for the first time as adults.
I am actually pretty glad we opted to ride it. I got some pretty good photos (and plenty of ideas for the future), and we had a great view of the park. Among the spinner rides like this, I still prefer WDW's Astro Orbiter (especially at night) with it's even more elevated view, but Dumbo wasn't too shabby. I can definitely see the allure for kids who want to pilot their favorite flying elephant.
After Dumbo, we made our trek into the Matterhorn, in search of elves and/or jewels (at least I think the storyline to the attraction went like that). When the Cast Member at the boarding station (seemingly) innocuously asked “how many?” we casually responded “two.” Huge mistake. Neither of us were paying much attention to the loading process, so we didn't see that responding two meant that we'd be cramped up in the vehicle one behind another. This made for an “interesting” experience for two reasons: Sarah has really long hair, and the ride tosses you around a bit, so a human positioned between a man's legs has a “jarring” effect on the 'zone between the legs' for lack of a more family-friendly term. Due to the hair in my eyes and the discomfort in my groan, I didn't really take in a whole lot of the attraction. I didn't see any elves, but interestingly enough, I did see a yeti. Even more surprisingly, in the brief glimpse I saw of him, he seemed to be in working condition! I know my eyes deceived me, as WDI has a distinct animosity towards working yetis. The hair in my eyes must've caused me to see things.
Although we wanted to keep playing, our stomaches protested. We obliged them, heading over to the Hungry Bear to eat. It was really cool seeing a restaurant themed to everyone's favorite irreverent bears, the Country Bears, and the views from the restaurant were wonderful. Disneyland's Rivers of America is so cool. I could have sat there for hours, just soaking in the park. Sarah, however, could not, as we had an uninvited dinner guest. A big, presumably killer (for the sake of drama of the story), spider. Frankly, I'm not quite sure why she was so scared, as the spider was aways from us, but scared she was, nonetheless. I was really quite amused. Not of her fear or the spider itself, but this dude roughly our age at a table near us, who was absolutely enthralled with the spider. On multiple occasions, he went over with his camera to take pictures of it, and was constantly checking it out (although I'm one to talk, since I also took pictures of it, and was actively watching him to see his reactions to the spider). Finally, after much discussion with his significant other, he went over to the spider with a jar, closing the spider in the jar. We subsequently overheard him saying to his spouse that he was going to take it home. That really cracked me up for some reason.
The dinner show over, we headed over to Big Thunder Mountain to use our FastPasses. I can't say I noticed any huge differences between WDW's Big Thunder and Disneyland's. There were little touches throughout the ride, and we both thought those who pretty cool, but nothing huge. Overall, I think I liked it roughly the same as I like WDW's. I do wish we would've gone just a tad later, as Big Thunder is always most awesome at night. Still, it was pretty stellar at dusk, and is one of my favorite Disney attractions.
Our Space Mountain FastPass was finally available for use, so we headed over to ride our third consecutive Disneyland Mountain Range attraction. We considered going for the clean sweep by hitting up Splash after this, but it was fairly dark after we exited Space, and we had no interest in being soaked and cold for the remainder of the night if we happened to get wet on Splash. As you'll read (unless you get bored and skip over that portion of the report—a somewhat likely occurrence) later, we made the right call. Back to Space Mountain; it's sort of tucked away as compared to WDW's version. Now I realize that it's hard to 'tuck away' a huge futuristically styled building, but the queue is within a sort of 'pavilion' containing Captain EO and Pizza Port, and the famous white building is somewhat hidden behind the 'pavilion'. Once you finally get through the beginning of the queue and on top of the pavilion building, you get a much better view of the “real” Space Mountain building.
The general consensus seems to be that Space Mountain in Disneyland is better than Walt Disney World's. No doubt, Disneyland's was awesome. However, I find myself still preferring WDW's. A big part of this is that personal nostalgia I complained of above (for what it's worth, if WDW's Space Mountain had been transformed into something similar to Disneyland's during it's recent refurbishment, I wouldn't have complained) as I have a lot of memories aboard WDW's Space, but I also think the story is better on WDW's, especially after the recent refurbishment. From the beginning of the (awesome) queue until the end of the (equally awesome) postshow, WDW's has a cool story and neat montages. It also seems a bit more “wild” than Disneyland's.
In any case, Disneyland's Space Mountain did not disappoint. The 'blast off' sequence was awesome, the boarding area (and area above the boarding area) was really well themed, and having music in the attraction was pretty cool (I am hopeful that WDW executes the music equally well). Definitely a top-notch attraction, and I can absolutely understand why so many prefer it to WDW's incarnation. I really wish we could've seen the Ghost Galaxy version, but there's always the future for that.
Space Mountain Starport by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Magical, the Summer Nightastic! fireworks show was set to start in roughly forty minutes, so most attractions were time-prohibitive after factoring in the wait and the attraction duration. It's a small world was walk on, so we boarded that. It was, once again, awesome, and it was cool spotting little details missed on the previous voyage.
When we exited the attraction, we had roughly 15 minutes until the fireworks started. We arrived on Main Street, and it was as if 5,000 additional people had entered the park just for the fireworks! The park was fairly busy throughout the day, but this was insane! There was absolutely nowhere to stand! Then, I saw it. It was a location that few others wanted because part of the show would be blocked by the Partners statue, but for me, it was perfect. Sarah was indifferent to the location, so I set up. I was faced with a dilemma: my normal choice for fireworks, recently, has been the ultra wide angle. With perimeter bursts in the Magic Kingdom's Summer Nightastic! Show, it was the logical choice. However, my decision not to research the park so as to not spoil the surprise meant that I didn't know whether Magical had perimeter bursts. The ultra-wide also de-emphasized Partners, so I decided not to use it. I was thus left with a choice: Sarah's 18-200mm or my Sigma 30mm. The 18-200, when combined with the ND filter, would produce somewhat soft images, yet it would allow me to zoom around once I figured out the best way to frame the fireworks. Conversely, the Sigma 30mm would be sharper, and it would allow me to just frame the shot ahead of time and pay attention to the show rather than fiddling with the lens and missing portions. The risk with this would be that I'd seriously misjudge the burst location, and would miss most of the fireworks (in the frame of the image). Photography always comes second to the experience for me, so I went with the Sigma. Plus, I'm a pretty big risk taker.
Disneyland's Summer Nightastic Fireworks - "Magical" (78 second exposure) by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
I switched from my ultra-wide to the Sigma 30mm and almost immediately, the show started. My decision to go with the Sigma 30mm was definitely the right call. Partners, the Castle, and the fireworks filled the frame (a 25mm lens probably would've been ideal, but I've got no complaints). The show was so awesome, I barely paid any attention to the camera. I enjoy Wishes!, but Magical is what a Magic Kingdom fireworks show should be. It had wonderful music, great spectacle with Dumbo and Tinkerbell flying around the Castle, and real charm. The scariest part is that I've since heard plenty of reports calling Magical pedestrian as compared to Remember, Dreams Come True. I imagine if I saw that, Wishes! would become the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of Disney fireworks shows to me.
Disneyland "Magical" Fireworks - 189 Second Exposure by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
After the show, we began heading towards Fantasyland and I began reviewing the images I took during the show. In my haste to get the lens changed before the show, I forgot to do something that, in my mind, ruined the shots. I immediately told Sarah we'd have to see the show again (something I wanted to do anyway), to try it again. We never did end up being able to see it again, but I decided to post one of the images on Flickr, anyway, hoping no one would catch my mistake. It's been one of my most popular images to date, so I guess I was overly critical. I figure if no one can spot the issue, I'm not going to point it out to draw attention to it!
One way or another, we were going to experience four Disneyland Mountains that day. Since Splash was out of the question, another trek to the Matterhorn was in order. This time I was a man on a mission. I would catch those dang elves. To accomplish this, I knew Sarah and I would have to be two parties of one. We practiced telling the Cast Member this, but yet, when we got to the Cast Member, and she asked “how many?” I again responded, “two.” Nice work, dummy. The experience was much the same this time, with much pain, discomfort, hair in my eyes, and no sign of elves. I have determined that if, in 10 years, I'm unable to have children, I'm suing Disney over this one. Hey, if that 80-some year old sues after riding Tower of Terror months before a seemingly natural medical event, I think I'll have plenty of basis for the suit.
Keeping up the trend of awesome things, we decided to board the Nemo subs again. Apparently, everyone leaving the fireworks area had this same idea, as the reported wait time was substantially lower than our actual wait. At least this time we didn't slow-cook in the queue. Even at night, though, the queue was boring. I was half-hoping for some killer lighting effects on the umbrellas scattered throughout the queue, but unfortunately, there was none. The queue remained as uninteresting as conceivably possible. I think the only thing that potentially could make it more lame would be random cut-outs of Urkel. The ride, contrasted with that, was once again amazing. I noticed a lot of additional details the second go-round.
The post-fireworks crowd was still pretty high, so we decided we'd hit some less popular attractions. The Storybook Land Canal boats seemed to fit that bill, so we decided to give it a whirl. I was fully expecting this to be lame, but much to my surprise, it was really quite cool! Perhaps it's my life long dream to be a giant terrorizing a small village while battling a giant mole, but something about it really appealed to me.
Next it was time to use our FastPasses for Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. By this point in the night, we didn’t really need them, so we just cruised through standby. I don’t know why, but the lines for this (in Florida at least) always seem to disintegrate later in the evening. Perhaps it’s mostly popular with families who have since exited the park? I don’t know why. In any case, and despite all of the criticism levied at it by WDW fans, we really enjoy it. I think it’s just because we’re highly competitive.
Well, if we “enjoy” the WDW version, we absolutely, positively are enthralled with the Disneyland version. It’s crazy to think how an attraction can be so starkly different on one coast than it is on the other, but such was the case. Everything, from the set pieces, to the cleanliness of the ride, to even the accuracy of the laser-guns (having fully-moveable guns was very nice) surpassed WDW’s incarnation of the attraction. I only wish we could have ridden for a few more spins.
It was still around twenty minutes until closing at this time, but since we only had two nights to capture photographs of the entire park, we decided to start taking pictures, beginning in Tomorrowland. I was about as rusty as Tow-mater. I just sort of wandered around Tomorrowland, taking pictures of 'stuff', then cursing the LCD screen when I saw the results. The poor results only made the rust worse, and threw off my game even more. Most of these lame shots were taken in Tomorrowland, which might explain my dislike for the aesthetics of Disneyland's Tomorrowland as compared to WDW's.
The Star Trader by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Admittedly, Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland is my favorite land in any of the parks. While the current incarnation of Florida's Tomorrowland is far from stellar, I still love it. Not that my dislike for the aesthetic of the Tomorrowland in Disneyland is unfounded. Objectively, I found the most disappointing land in Disneyland to be Tomorrowland. I knew almost from the beginning that it would disappoint, when I saw this small sign and some little rock formations rather than the long walkway leading through the futuristic archway and Avenue of the Planets. The architecture was not as good, the lines not as fluid, and the key attractions inferior to those of Magic Kingdom. Everything just felt really cramped, which seemed entirely unnecessary given some of the dead space. To be fair, Space Mountain was very cool, and very different, from Florida's, but to me, the land left something to be desired. I don't expect the same attractions between the coasts (quite the contrary, actually), but there were no big “time killers” that really made me want to soak in the ambiance of Tomorrowland like Florida's TTA or even the Carousel of Progress, which we find pulling us to Tomorrowland frequently to avoid the crowds.
Disneyland's Tomorrowland by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
It didn’t help that Star Tours was closed and a few areas that appear that they used to house attractions now sit dormant. On top of that, given its location and theme, I can’t quite bring myself to consider the Nemo subs a Tomorrowland attraction. They are, seemingly, a stop-gap or transition between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. WDW fans may complain about Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor not fitting the Tomorrowland theme, but in my eyes, the Nemo Subs are far worse (albeit a killer attraction when judged by itself). Don’t even get me started on the deficiencies of Innoventions. Okay, so perhaps I’m taking out a little of my frustrations for a poor photography outing on Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. At this point, I basically threw my arms up in the air, wondering what to do next.
Suffice to say, our first park closing in Disneyland didn’t go how I would have liked. Sarah was clearly still grief-striken, so we spent some time talking on a bench near the entrance before deciding to call it a night. Both of us were tired anyway, as the time change and our inability to plan ahead and make sure we got to bed early the night before our trip led to us being awake for over 24 consecutive hours, minus the “eye half open” sleep we got on the plane. Perhaps I had delusions of grandeur (that happens often, so it wouldn’t surprise me), but I was fully expecting to be the last people in the park, soaking up the new park by taking picture after picture of fresh subjects. Instead, I left with my ego a bit hobbled, never having gotten into the photographic groove I wanted, and only coming away with a handful of images I liked. It was really great experiencing a totally new park, but I guess it wasn’t the best day for us. We headed home like stray dogs being told to get out of the dumpster (except we probably didn’t smell quite so badly) with our tails between our legs.
We returned to our “resort” (I’m shocked it didn’t charge by the hour), prepared for, and went to bed. When I awoke, I checked myself for cockroach and/or rat bites, and surprisingly, found none. We did not arise early the next morning for rope drop, but were up and heading to the park by 10 a.m.. No small feat given the amount of sleep we got the previous day.
The Domineering Castle? by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Owlie the Owl by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
The outlook was much better today. Not just figuratively, but we actually had a bright blue sky to accompany the much-improved tone! Hearing stores of SoCal’s constantly overcast sky, I availed myself of this while Sarah scurried off to Tomorrowland to grab FastPasses for Space Mountain, immediately snapping some pictures of Sleeping Beauty Castle before we headed off to ToonTown. Sarah has quite a knack for capturing images of me in odd positions as I try to get “the shot” and this morning was no different. Honestly, sometimes I think the only reason she takes an interest in photography is to get pictures of me looking like an idiot. The photos really don’t have much blackmail value, though, as I freely post all of them in these trip reports. Readers probably mutter, “idiot” towards me when they read some of the opinions I express here, so their sentiments might as well be reinforced with images!
The previous day we neglected to pay mind to the fact that ToonTown closed earlier than the rest of the park, and when we arrived (late) to use our FastPasses for Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin, the gate to the land was closed. Although Sarah isn’t a big fan of Roger Rabbit, we were both resolved to experience the attraction on our second day. The line for the attraction was relatively short when we arrived, and after ten minutes in the queue, it was almost time for us to board our taxi. Then, the queue began to empty. It had broken down!
We had experienced nearly everything that was high-priority the previous day, so we decided to take things at a leisurely pace on this day. In retrospect, this was a mistake. The leisurely pace itself wasn’t a bad idea, but our analysis of how much time we’d spend doing particular attractions would be (and always is--we typically conclude the day saying “dang, we didn’t get a chance to hit ____ attraction this time!”) so we missed some things I really wanted to see. I guess that gives us something to look forward to for the next trip!
With this attitude in mind, we decided to board the Happiest Boat that ever Sailed! I’ve gushed over it enough already, so I don’t think any further commentary is necessary. It’s awesome. Usually we do it once or twice on a seven day trip to WDW, but we exceeded that number of voyages on a three day trip to Disneyland. We liked it that much. I don’t know how we’ll be able to look at WDW’s the same again.
Our FastPass for Space Mountain was going to be ready relatively soon, but we had a late lunch scheduled for Blue Bayou, and we were both really hungry, so we decided to head for the Hungry Bear to grab a snack. On the way there, we saw the Bilge Rats and Bootstrappers performing. the band put on a fun little show. Our stomachs dictated that we didn’t stay to watch for long, so we headed on to Critter Country.
Once we got to Critter Country, we were again alarmed by the prices. In retrospect, we should have just not even paid the prices any mind, but having just been to Walt Disney World, we noticed some higher prices throughout Disneyland. We are generally frugal, and vacation is typically one of the areas where we splurge a bit, so I really wish we would have just bought what we wanted, not considering the prices. At most, it would’ve caused us to spend an additional $50. Not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. However, we were price conscious, and so we decided to split a kid’s meal of chicken strips prior to our Blue Bayou lunch. It was the most cost-effective snack that actually had substance, so we went with it. They were pretty delicious and the box was cool, too!
After finishing the kid’s meal-snack, we grabbed FastPasses for Splash Mountain and then, noticing a short queue for Pooh, lined up for it. It wasn’t all that dissimilar from the WDW version, although the outdoor load was cooler (at least for the time being--the refurbishment work going on at WDW’s Pooh looks pretty cool). I probably missed a decent amount of the ride, though, as I constantly had my neck craned backward, looking for Melvin, Buff, and Max from the Country Bear Jamboree. Once I finally found them, I was a little surprised that they weren’t more hidden. I guess most guests don’t look backwards during the ride, so few people probably see them, but still. Not that I’m complaining, I think the Country Bears should be featured more prominently in every attraction. Imagine the Country Bears working as AA astronauts inside Space Mountain? It’s entirely likely that bears will serve as astronauts in the future, so I think that would be pretty progressive.
After Pooh, we jettisoned off to Tomorrowland, working off those deep-fried calories along the way to Space Mountain. This time, there was a large tour group of local school-kids in front of us, so when we lined up, we let a couple of parties pass us before boarding our rocket. While I hate waiting in line, I hate the experiences of the attraction being ruined by talking and various other noise. In space, you can hear pre-pubescent girls shrill screams.
It was then finally time to head to the Blue Bayou. We had heard and read a number of positive things about this restaurant, and the view looked awesome when we saw it while floating past on Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m a sucker for restaurants that overlook attractions (Garden Grill, I’m looking at you!) and this one was no different. We indicated that we’d be willing to wait to get a seat right by the Bayou, and wait we did, for around 20 minutes after the time of our ADRs. However, it was totally worth the wait.
The view was excellent, and I screwed around with my camera and tripod taking pictures of the passing boats. Nothing really turned out all that well, but I had fun, nonetheless. Although my dream was to somehow get into Club 33 for a meal, it might have been better that we didn’t. I felt uncomfortable-enough using my camera at Victoria & Albert’s, I can only imagine it would been a bit more awkward at Club 33.
Upon numerous recommendations from friends, I ordered the Monte Cristo. I didn’t know anything about it, except that it was a sandwich, probably French, and presumably is named after the Dumas novel. When the server brought it out, I was a bit shocked. It consisted of, what appeared to be, deep fried lumps of stuff with ham and cheese in the center. I typically eat very little in the way of deep fried foods, and although I find them okay in moderation, this was too much for me. I realize that the fact I didn’t like it was entirely my fault, since I didn’t read anything about the sandwich, or look at its description on the menu, or possess the relatively common knowledge as to what a Monte Cristo consists of (admittedly, I had it confused for a Reuben), so I can’t really fault the Blue Bayou for that. Plus, the Gumbo soup was delicious, as were the Beef Short Ribs that Sarah ordered. I know I’ll probably be ostracized by the “Disneyland Cool Kids” for not liking the Monte Cristo, but I’m not saying it was an ill-tasting sandwich; just that the type of sandwich was not for me.
Stuffed, we picked up FastPasses for Indy. The Jungle Cruise was right next door, had a short wait, and we, bloated from a large lunch, didn’t want to move much, so we gave it a try. If you read our honeymoon report, you might’ve seen my rambling explanation of how the Jungle Cruise has fallen out of favor with us and is highly overrated. If you didn’t read it, here’s the Cliffnotes version: the attraction is highly dependent on the skipper and the skippers are very hit-or-miss. Additionally, the attraction is dated/cheesy to the point where good jokes about the ride are necessary to ‘explain away’ its datedness. The attraction should be captivating on its own, with good skippers thrown in for another layer of entertainment.
I can’t say that we had any more success with the Disneyland version than WDW’s. The skipper lacked any bravado when delivering her lines, but rather sort of phoned in the standard script. Don’t get me wrong, this script is funny, but only when delivered well. Reading it off in a near-monotone voice isn’t all that humorous. It would be akin to me taking Tracy Morgan’s stand-up lines and just reading them in my normal, boring voice. Probably wouldn’t be quite as funny as Mr. Jordan. I think we just have had bad luck with skippers recently as others have reported some excellent skippers. We’re not going to give up on it yet. The effects (such as the piranhas) were really cool at times, but overall the ride seemed a little shorter. Maybe that was just my impression. I think overall I’d give it the slight edge over the WDW version.
After Jungle Cruise, our FastPasses for Splash Mountain were ready, so we waddled our way over to Critter Country. Up until this point, everything about Splash Mountain seemed different than its Florida counterpart, something I wasn’t expecting. From its aesthetically awkward proximity to Haunted Mansion to the single-row logs, things were a bit off, it seemed. From reading Wikipedia, I knew the attraction had a few different AAs, and Splash at WDW is one of our favorite attractions, so we figured it would be worth experiencing. We planned on doing it the previous day when we noticed a relatively short line later in the day, but we thought we might want to poncho up, so we opted to come back the second day, ponchos in hand.
Am I ever glad that Sarah convinced me to wear a poncho (usually I pretend I’m too tough for that sort of thing). As soon as we descended the first minor drop, half of my body was soaked. I missed half of the first scene because I was busy checking to make sure my camera bag didn’t get wet. Second drop, soaked even more. Third and Fourth drops, more of the same. The attraction itself was dramatically different (although it seemed somewhat less story-driven; but that might have been my impression given that I was preoccupied for chunks of the attraction), and I really would’ve liked to experience it again, but I didn’t want to get soaked like that. Even with the poncho, I probably got more wet than I’ve gotten on Kali River Rapids, and than I would get the next day on Grizzly River Run. I really don’t see the point in making attractions with a strong story element “soakers” as it really distracts from the show, I think. I guess maybe others prefer the thrill of getting wet? I don’t know. It seemed neat, but the soaking was annoying. After we exited, we found a restroom, and worked on drying our socks.
Next, we headed over to Tomorrowland, thinking we might give the Monorail a ride. Right as we approached, it departed the station, so we scrapped that idea. Disneyland apparently adheres strictly to the EPCOT philosophy (usually applicable for photography purposes, only) that whenever you want a monorail, you will be forced to wait forever for one.
Instead, we headed over to Innoventions. We’ve found that EPCOT’s Innoventions has made substantial positive strides in the last couple of years, so we decide to give Disneyland’s a whirl. Definitely not the case. Although therw was a cool AA that reminded us of Timekeeper, the rest of the house/attraction seemed like a blatant advertising for Microsoft. The technologies in the house were somewhat cool, although they didn’t really seem that forward-thinking to me. We should have just waited in the heat for the next monorail.
To wash out the sour taste of Innoventions, we decided to give the Matterhorn another try. This time we were resolved to nail the question, “how many?” Guess what? We did! Our ability to answer this question “correctly” was pretty indicative of how the entire day had been much better than the first. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Now the only thing that remained was spotting one of those elusive elves. While I didn’t see any of them, I did enjoy the ride much more, and I even took a few pictures of Sarah (probably not the safest idea, I know, but trust me, I’m an expert on this sort of thing). Perhaps the elves were removed in the last refurbishment, or maybe they were asleep.
As much as I hate to say it, notwithstanding queues, I think I might prefer Matterhorn over Everest. It has a certain charm, even if it doesn’t have as many effects as Everest, at least the ones it has work, and it generally seemed more exciting. Everest is cool, with its ability to go in reverse and all, but it has never totally lived up to the hype for me (even with the Yeti in A mode). It’s a close call, but I think Matterhorn wins. Perhaps I just am a poor judge of attractions (recall, I am in the small minority who prefers WDW’s Space Mountain).
Knowing we’d want to hit Roger Rabbit’s ToonTown Spin, and seeing the lines it got the previous day, we picked up FastPasses for it. We then wandered back to Fantasyland, where Sarah wanted to experience Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride again. I should have noted above that she enjoyed it more than I did on the initial ride-through. It was a childhood favorite of hers, and she and her mother still have a running joke that her mom drives like Mr. Toad. The same could honestly be said about Mr. Toad. Well, perhaps if Mr. Toad were a grandmother who typically drives below the speed limit (except in the morning on the way to work!). Just kidding, dear; you’re an excellent driver!
Alice in Wonderland was next on the list. I was looking forward to this one; mostly because I am a fan of dark rides. I don't really like the movie Alice in Wonderland, (I think it has been subverted by hippies and I hate hippies), but I really like a lot of the characters from the movie. I think the movie's fatal flaw is that it's too dependent upon sensory 'captivation' and uses that as a crutch for a weak story (which may explain why the hippies like it, so they can smoke their reefer cigarettes and stare at the cool color swirls!). The White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Alice, Cheshire Cat, Tweedles, and Queen of Hearts are all great characters. Too bad there isn't a better storytelling vehicle to really allow these characters to shine. Then the movie would be a true classic. The attraction had all of the best parts of the movie: these great characters, without the worst parts: a rambling nonsensical story. I give it a solid B+. Not too shabby for a relatively simple Fantasyland attraction.
Bunny with Large Pocket Watch by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
We had queued up for Alice in Wonderland following the Unofficial Guide’s advice regarding parade start times. However, we had zipped through the queue so quickly and the parade was a little slowly getting to that point of the park that it was just about to arrive when we exited the attraction. We thought we’d give it a shot.
This turned out to be probably the biggest mistake anyone has ever made. Actually, the biggest mistake that anyone has ever made would be the mistake made by whomever greenlit this monstrosity of a parade. It was like a combination of the worst elements of the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade at Magic Kingdom and Block Party Bash, with none of the good parts of either. We watched for about 5 minutes before vacating the area. There is so much ‘suck’ in that parade that I’m surprised they don’t have to quarantine the area after it runs. It’s easily the worst Disney parade I’ve ever seen.
What next? Why Indy, of course. Awesome, as always. Following that we rode Pirates again, noticing more details we previously missed. This attraction is really rife with details. I would love to see the Magic Kingdom’s version similarly expanded. Not necessarily with the same show scenes, but to make it this long. I know that would likely not be feasible, but I can dream.
At this time, our Toontown Spin FastPasses were ripe for using, so we headed off to Toontown. I was shocked at how awesome this attraction was. Obviously we had already seen the queue, which was very cool, but the attraction itself was easily one of the best Disney dark rides I’ve experienced (if it can be properly classified as such). We were thoroughly impressed. I only wish we would have ridden it earlier on so we could have planned to ride it again. Like I’ve said elsewhere, I guess that’s why we’re going back. It gives us something to anticipate!
Sunset was approaching, and while I wanted to get some cool shots, it appeared there wasn’t going to be much color in the sky, so we opted to hit a couple more Fantasyland attractions before heading back to Toontown. First up was Pinocchio's Daring Journey. We had recently watched this movie for the first time since being children, and I have to say that I was surprised by how much I liked it. The attraction was no different. Fun scenes, reasonably well done. Another solid attraction. Not something I’d do over and over again on the same trip, but I could see doing it once or twice.
Following that, we decided to torture ourselves with Snow Whites Scary Adventures. Actually, we thought maybe it would be better than WDW’s, otherwise we wouldn’t have considered it. So many other things surpassed their WDW counterparts, so why not give it a shot? By some miraculous act, I think Disney actually managed to make the Disneyland version of this attraction worse than its Florida counterpart. I was shocked by this! It started out largely similar, but as the end approached, the attraction just sort of abruptly ended! It was comparable to part of the film Elf where Walter decides to ship books missing several pages because kids won’t know any better! On second thought, perhaps this was intentional. Maybe Disney saw the poor direction the ride was heading, and decided to do guests a favor by making it shorter. In any case, I really hope the rumors are true that this ride will soon by history in WDW. It is an abomination. Worse than Stitch’s Great Escape, in my opinion.
Clang Clang Clang Goes the Trolley! by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Since the previous night had been such a poor outing for photos, we decided to strategize this evening to buy a little time to get more photos. We had experienced almost everything we wanted to experience, and like I’ve written here previously, we didn’t mind leaving some things on the table as things to look forward to for our next trip. With that in mind, we headed back to Toontown and started taking photos minutes before it was set to close.
Maestro Mickey Mouse! by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Often, in situations like this, we encounter some resistance from Disney security. Even though other people are still around, climbing all over things, they seem to want to herd the photographers away. However, this evening was different. A security guard approached while I was taking a shot and I ended up showing him the LCD display of the camera; he was impressed by the shot, and gave us some strategy to avoid having other Cast Members sweep us out. He told us where to go, and just slowly make our way toward the exit (something we typically do anyway, but didn’t plan on doing this early--but after seeing the aggressiveness of the non-security CMs, I’m glad we followed his advice). We took a good number of photos, before a CM finally informed us that we had to leave. On our way out, he said something encouraging, and along with some body language that suggested he tried to fend off the CMs. He was, without a doubt, one of the coolest security CMs we have ever encountered.
It was probably a good thing we left there, as Fantasmic! was set to start soon. Earlier in the day, we noticed that people were camping out along the Rivers of America. We assumed this was for Fantasmic, but were somewhat shocked given that it was three hours before the show. We discussed it a bit, and I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising; if we had APs and lived in SoCal, what better way to spend our time after work than by relaxing in our favorite place before watching a show? None of the same desire to hustle and bustle to see everything would be there, as you could always head back the next day. Geez, that would be the life!
When we arrived at the Rivers of America, the area was packed. Pretty much standing room only. Mind you, it was only 10 minutes before the show, so we weren’t expecting much in the way of seating. A Cast Member found us a seat right up against some building, with no possible seating behind us right before the show began. As our view was slightly obstructed, we stood up to watch--again, no one was, or possibly could be, behind us--and a Cast Member immediately came over and instructed us that we had to sit down. My only guess is that it’s considered a safety hazard? I understand companies feel the need to err on the side of over-safety for liability concerns--but standing? I stand and, gasp, even walk all the time in the dark at various Disney parks. Someone might want to get the in-house counsel on the line; they might have to restrict that type of activity, too!
Complaining aside, the show was good. Sarah, who normally is not a fan of Fantasmic at all, thoroughly enjoyed the show. Her normal sticking point with it is too much Pocahontas. I definitely agree with her on that point; WDW needs to tone down the Pocahontas scenes. Since it’s not that much of a classic in the Disney Canon, it’s clear that Fantasmic at WDW was a product of the time period when Pocahontas was popular, and has since not been updated. That, or whomever wrote the show script was way too obsessed with Pocahontas! The sailing ship Columbia scenes with Peter Pan easily surpass the Pocahontas scenes at WDW, and Peter Pan actually is a Disney classic. We were also lucky enough to see Murphy the Dragon before his little accident, and wow, was he ever spectacular. It was crazy how much of a difference little tweaks to the show made in terms of our enjoyment. One thing that is universal: the finale and exit music for both incarnations is awesome!
At this point, I was hoping that we’d be able to make it up front to catch Magical again, and we beat the rush of the crowd exiting Fantasmic, so we could have if we made the proper effort, but I could tell Sarah was getting tired, and didn’t want to be crammed in the crowd, so we opted for Tomorrowland instead, agreeing that we’d head over to Disneyland the following night prior to Wonderful World of Color to see Magical once more.
We thus headed over to take a Spaceranger Spin with Buzz Lightyear. It was awesome as before, although I believe Sarah somehow cheated, jumping out to an insanely large early lead, which put a damper on the ride for me. Actually, on second thought, I let her win to make her feel better. Yeah, that’s it! Wow, that really was super-nice of me!
We then darted over to Adventureland as our FastPasses for Indy were ready. You may notice that the order of attractions we experience is in a seemingly random order. Neither of us have any issue walking great distances. I was curious to see how many miles we walked each day, so prior to the trip, I bought a pedometer. Come to find out (at least I think this is the case), it only reports acccurately if you wear it on your belt. I thought I could just throw the thing in my camera bag. I might be a huge dork, but I’m not going to wear some pedometer on my belt.
While I’m on the subject, I also ordered some different shoes. I had long been interested in buying a nice pair of running shoes, and Brooks and Saucony were the names that I kept seeing as the best. I couldn’t find any deals on Brooks shoes, so I ordered three pairs of Saucony’s I found on sale, with the intent of returning two pairs. I ordered three because I had read that not every shoe is for every foot, so I wanted the pair that fit me the best.
When the shoes arrived, I was shocked to find that all three pairs were amazing. I have never really been “into” shoes, but they all were so comfortable, and I got such a good deal on them all, that I kept all three pairs. The pair I used at Disney worked out so well that I have resolved myself to never buy another pair of Nike shoes again. I did this because I got the sense that Nike was mostly marketing and not focused that much on real shoe technology, anyway. Perhaps all the money spent marketing is compensated for by the greater economies of scale Nike has, but I doubt it. In any case, this trip report is not a dissertation on the shoe industry. Simply put, I give Saucony shoes two gold stars.
After the brisk walk to Adventureland, we arrived for another Adventure into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Each time we rode this, we saw details we hadn’t noticed the previous times. Although it caused us to miss other attractions, experiencing it was many times was pretty cool. Even if it did make me feel like the guests who go to the Studios in WDW and spend all day bouncing back and forth between the Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster. We did experience more than two attractions, at least!
With such a full sensory experience and new details to take in on subsequent ride-throughs, it’s no surprise so many people want to see this attraction cloned at WDW. I don’t oppose cloning completely as I realize it lowers R&D costs, and in some cases, may be the only way to get a project greenlit. However, here, I oppose cloning. This is not because I think it’s too similar to Dinosaur; as mentioned above, I don’t. It’s because the R&D justification is obviously not apt, since this attraction has been in DLR since 1995, and I think there should be a few E Ticket attractions unique to each park that makes fans say, "I really must visit ___ park, if only so I can experience ____.” Once those attractions provide the motivation for people to visit the parks ‘foreign’ to them, they will take in and appreciate all of the subtle differences of which they never otherwise knew. I know it’s unfortunate for those who don’t have the means to make such a trip, but I don’t think this allure should be compromised for their benefit. I also know I’ll likely never visit Tokyo DisneySea, but I still don’t want to see it built adjacent to Animal Kingdom for this same reason.
Sarah had to use the restroom or something like that, so I had a couple free minutes to take pictures. Normally I don’t set up the tripod so early in the evening, especially when the parks still have light crowds, but we were going to head towards Main Street shortly thereafter for a photo opp that would require crowds, so I figured, “when in Rome...” and busted out the tripod to take a couple pictures of the Carrousel.
King Arthur Carrousel by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I burst forth. Wait, more like a Kodiak Bear waking from a long winter’s hibernation. Or perhaps like the feel good story of the homeless dad making his big break and becoming a successful investor. Whatever it's comparable to, one thing is for sure, and it's that I found my A game and was in the zone. I'm not satiating my own ego or saying the pictures were awesome, I was just had that indescribable feeling where photo idea upon photo idea came to me right away. The resulting pictures may not have even been that good, but getting the ideas is half the battle.
Since I was already set up near the Carrousel, Sarah rode it once and I snapped a few pictures of her on it. With a good amount of photography done in Fantasyland, we decided to head over to Adventureland for some more. However, it was still an hour or so before the park closed, and although I wanted to conquer all of the lands photographically, we felt it more important to actually enjoy the park. There would be future trips on which I could photograph the other lands. This occurred to us while nearby Indy, so naturally, we headed towards it, yet again. I really think they embedded some sort of magnet in us after the first ride. That, or maybe we really were hypnotized by the eye! Although I imagine if Disney had the technology to hypnotize us, it would use that power to achieve more souvenir and food & beverage sales out of us, not get us to ride headliner attractions numerous times. Who knows, maybe it’s benevolent hypnotism. In any case, the attraction was down when we approached its entrance.
Sleeping Beauty Castle by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
We realized we hadn’t yet done Peter Pan’s Flight, so we headed back towards Fantasyland. At this point in the night, nothing else we had seen had more than a 20 minute wait. This includes Indy, Matterhorn, and Nemo. Yet we arrived in Fantasyland and, much to our chagrin, the posted wait time for PPF was 40 minutes! We enjoy this attraction, but the waits for it always dumbfound us. I swear the Cast Members at the entrance must entice kids by telling them there is a magical unicorn inside with a pot of gold who will grant them three wishes. I don’t know what other reason there could be for such long lines. Well, other than perhaps it being a slow-loading attraction with poor FastPass implementation--but I think the unicorn explanation makes more sense.
Not wanting to wait in a line that long for PPF, we headed to Frontierland, a land we had largely ignored with the exception of one previous ride on the Runaway Mine Train. We figured this would be our last attraction we experienced in Disneyland, so we savored it. It’s always one of our favorites at night, so this wasn’t too difficult. I was surprised at how dark this area of Frontierland was at night. Although, that corner of WDW is similarly pitch black at night. Odd.
As we emerged from the exit, we saw that it was 11:56 p.m.. Frontierland isn’t too far from Adventureland, so I told Sarah that we should go for it. We both thought it was likely Indy would still be down, as it was so late when it previously went down that the park would have no interest in reopening it so late. However, when we arrived at its entrance, at around 12:01, it was open! We rushed through the queue, for one glimpse into the Forbidden Eye. I had lost count of how many times we rode this attraction by this point, but I knew it was far too many. Despite all of those rides, I still look forward to my next ride on it, knowing I’ll see something new. It’s a home-run along the lines of Tower of Terror.
Tree of Epic-ness by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Back of the Front of Sleeping Beauty Castle by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Disneyland 55th Window by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Opening Day at Disneyland by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
After we exited, the park was obviously closed. We quickly took a few pictures in Adventureland before moving on to the Castle and Fantasyland. We encountered another great security guard there, who encouraged us to take some photos. With those completed, we headed towards Main Street and to the front exit. Defintiely a successful day in the park. Outside the gates, we noticed that we still had alertness, so we decided to take some pictures in the Esplanade, and in front of the CALIFORNIA letters. I had a ‘great’ idea that I ended up executing poorly--we would take pictures of us in each of the letters, then merge the photos in PS so it appeared there were multiples of us. Not thinking, I used my ultra-wide angle lens for this from a substantial distance. When I reviewed the images, we were like specks in each. Later, I realized the way to go would’ve been to use the 30mm lens at a close distance, and do a pano-merge in PS. Then, we would’ve been discernible. I thought, oh well, there’s always next time...before I realized the letters were being torn down.
Due South on the Esplanade (HDR) by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
"C" is for... by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Now fully exhausted, and the clock approaching 1:45 a.m., we headed back to our motel. Along the way home, we experienced a feeling I’ve had on the way home from a Disney park: a little bit of fear. It was late, there were some sketchy folks wandering the sidewalks, and there was generally nothing “Disney” about this walk. At that moment I think we both realized we’ll never stay at a non-Disney hotel. That feeling would add considerable expense to subsequent trips, but we’d rather pay the extra and have a totally immersive Disney experience, than be jolted back to reality like this. One of the most important aspects of a Disney trip for us is escaping from reality. When we cross through those gates in Florida, it’s like entering a totally different world. We don’t drive, we don’t read or watch the news, we don’t participate in society, for the most part. It really is as if we’re off in Fantasyland. For us, this is a large aspect of the appeal of Disney. Although the distance was nominal, the walk seemed to last forever. When we finally made it back, we promptly went to sleep.
The next morning was another late start. We arrived at California Adventure around 10 a.m., and immediately headed over to the Grizzly River Run FastPasses to get our World of Color tickets. Quite the line, but we were fully expecting this. With tickets for the second showing in hand, we decided to get some breakfast. We opted for pizza, the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. It was absolutely delicious. Pizza Oom Mow Mow was themed interestingly, with almost a 90s-ish neon surf vibe. For some reason, it reminded me of those “LA Lights” shoes that everyone wore (you weren’t cool unless you had them!) in the 1st grade.
After that, we sort of just wandered around Paradise Pier for a few minutes, looking at all of the sights. For this being our first trip to Disneyland, and for us typically being somewhat commando tourers, this was decidedly slow-paced. It was nice to just take in the parks our first time, though. I realize that a lot of Paradise Pier has already changed, but I found it to be nice, for the most part. Certainly, any comparisons to Dinoland at Animal Kingdom are misplaced. Dinoland is story to explain away poor substance, Paradise Pier is a pretty detailed, almost Victorian, boardwalk with some enjoyable attractions. Plus, it’s absolutely gorgeous at night. It’s definitely not my favorite land, but I was expecting some cheap carnival, and that it definitely is not. My biggest complaint about the Pier would actually be that the water looks bad during the day with all of the little “lily pads” for World of Color sticking up. I really wish those were retractable. Still, just a minor qualm.
We then strolled our way over to the Hollywood Backlot, ready to experience the dark ride of one of our Pixar favorites, Monsters, Inc. Unfortunately, it was down. At this point, we realized we had been in the park for an hour and hadn’t experienced any attractions. Wasting valuable morning time is not something for which I’m too keen. We resolved ourselves to heading for the nearest attraction, and experiencing it. Tower of Terror was that attraction, so we went for it. The 30 minute wait was more than we had in mind, but we realized walking to another attraction would’ve taken at least 10 minutes, and we were unlikely to find a 20 minute wait at anything else, so we went for it. Luckily, just as we entered the line, a CM pulled us aside, handed us FastPasses, and sent us through the FastPass line with the red ‘time’ cards.
No more than ten minutes later, we were ready to board our elevator! Prior to that, however, we carefully hunted for references to the Twilight Zone, which are scattered throughout the library. There are a few different ones than in WDW, which was cool to see. As a huge Twilight Zone fan, the detail of that attraction, and the little references, never ceases to amaze me. I was also surprised to see the attraction itself is dramatically different, as the elevator doesn’t navigate through a hallway; rather, you see of the show scenes as the elevator ascends up the elevator shaft. Overall, I like the WDW system better, although I wish the transition to the hallway were smoother.
I took some photos for my own personal files as we exited the attraction, and then, outside we saw Pluto, all by his lonesome! As big character photo people (I know, we’re dorks), we were shocked that he had no line. I guess the California crowd is too cool for character photos. As corn-fed Midwesterners, we’re not too cool for anything! We got a few shots with him, and then collected FastPasses for a future stay at the Hollywood Tower Hotel.
After that we noticed that Aladdin the musical was about to start one of its shows in about 15 minutes. The Unofficial Guide had great things to say about this show, and we did not want to miss it, so we got in the line. Much like the Nemo subs, the Cast Members at the queue entrance should slather butter on guests lining up, because they bake you in that queue. There was little shade and the high sun was beating down on us. I can’t imagine waiting in line for 30 minutes like some of the folks there had done. Even though we were near the end of the line, somehow, we got great front row balcony seats! With my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens mounted, I was prepared to do some photographing of this show!
Once it started, I found myself barely picking up the camera. From the very beginning, it was captivating. When the Genie made his first appearance, it became captivating, irreverent, snarky, hugely theatrical, and rife with pop culture references. As Barney Stinson would say, it was legen-dary! It combined the perfect amounts of grandiose, humor, song & dance, and drama. It is without question the best stage show we have ever seen, and it easily beats Finding Nemo: the Musical, which I previously thought was un-toppable. It’s really that good. I actually prefer it to the the animated version of Aladdin. Although it’s like comparing apples to hand grenades, it and Indy were probably tied for my top two attractions at DLR.
Following this, Monsters, Inc. was finally back up and running. The queue for this attraction was pretty cool, and it moved quickly. Two pluses, in my book. I wasn’t expecting too much, as I recalled reading an old Jim Hill Media article about how it was merely a reskinning of an atrocious attraction called “Superstar Limo.” Well, my expectations were exceeded, and then some. This is a new classic dark ride in my book, with some great scenes. A couple of my favorites include the “door storage” area, disappearing Randall, and the Chinese restaurant. The attraction in no way, seemed like it was just a retro-fit. Nothing stuck out as being reskinned. It was, without a doubt, one of the best dark rides we’ve experienced. Something we’d definitely do over and over.
When we exited, we noticed Mr. Incredible in the courtyard outside the attraction. Again, no line! The Incredible is probably our least favorite Pixar film, but if a character has no wait, we’re definitely going to get our picture with him--he could be a Teletubby for all we care (well, maybe not a Teletubby, but you get the idea).
We thought Ice Cream might be a good idea, so we wandered over to Condor Flats. Sarah had her eye on something at a stand, while I headed into Taste Pilot’s. Pretty cool building, especially adjacent to Soarin’. I only ended up getting a large Coke (after going to bed at 2 a.m. and getting up at 8, I was a little tired) to give me a jolt of caffeine. While there, I noticed some ridiculously delicious looking food, and made a mental note that I wanted to eat there later. I took a seat outside and waited for Sarah, just soaking up the Condor Flats background music.
She returned with some sort of frozen mocha drink, and we chatted for a bit before heading towards Grizzly Recreation area to get Grizzly River Run FastPasses. Along the way, we saw Minnie Mouse dressed as an Aviator in front of a plane at the edge of Condor Flats. With only a short line and a character we’d never seen (unique to DCA is my guess), we knew we had to stop. After getting our FastPasses, I said to Sarah that we should pass through Condor Flats again, just to see if any different characters were out this time. Sure enough, Aviator Goofy was there. We got some neat (read: dorky) poses with him, and headed on our way to Paradise Pier.
There, due to the extremely short wait, Sarah allowed me to do California Screamin’ by myself. Even though I only waited about 5 minutes in line, I realized afterward that there was a single rider line that was walk-on. Oh well, can’t win them all. The ride was awesome. I realize it’s not the most exquisitely themed Disney thrill ride, but there is something to be said for seeing so much of the park. Plus, I just loved the crisp whites of the structure, harking back, like I previously wrote, to an old wooden coaster on a boardwalk. For what it is, it’s done incredibly well, in my eyes.
From there, it was on to another Pier attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania. While we were skipping some attractions with WDW counterparts (MuppetVision, Soarin’), we so seldom have experienced Toy Story (Midway) Mania at WDW that the thirty minute wait for this version really enticed us. Either FastPass really slows things down at WDW or its less popular at DCA, or both. My bet would be both. Based on the waits for Soarin, it similarly seems less popular out West. Although it has an added word in the name, TSMM is pretty much the same as TSM.
We now headed back towards Grizzly River Run for the moment that Sarah was dreading. We had ridden Kali River Rapids, once, on our first trip together in 2006. I barely got wet, and Sarah got drenched. Since, we have avoided it like the plague. The Unofficial Guide gave GRR high marks, so we decided to give it a try--poncho’d up, of course. While waiting in line, with our ponchos on, I got the bright idea that I would keep my camera out for the beginning of the ride. Well, I shouldn’t say “my” camera, as my camera’s battery had been quickly approaching nil earlier in the day, so I had put it in the bag for the rest of the daytime hours, only to use it again in the evening, where its settings and superior sensor would be more valuable.
Keeping the camera out worked out fine. I put it under my poncho once we got to the top of the big drop, and it never got so much as a drop on it. Why people are so sensitive to their cameras getting wet is beyond me. The attraction was definitely better than Kali, as there were more details and it was longer, but overall it still wasn’t quite as good as the build-up. As an (the?) icon of the park, I was sort of expecting more. In any case, it certainly looked cool!
Grizzly River Run (6 Stop ND Filter) by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
We still had our ponchos out, so we decided now might be a good time to walk across the Esplanade to Disneyland to give Splash Mountain another try. Plus, we thought it would be cool to say we walked from one park to another. However, as we approached the front entrance, logic got the better of us, and we realized that it’d be a long walk to the back of the park, and then we’d have to wait in the line, however long it may be, then walk back. All of this was a lot of time for only one attraction. Instead, we headed inside the Blue Sky Cellar, to see what might be open on our next trip to DLR.
The Blue Sky Cellar was really cool. I’ve always said that Journey Into Imagination’s post-show should be redone so that WDI sponsors it, and it features new technologies and highlights some coming attractions. After seeing this, my though on that was reinforced (although the techie in my still wants to see it mostly highlight tech, not whole attractions). At least maybe One Man’s Dream will become somewhat of a Preview Center when it reopens.
Looking through the Blue Sky Cellar, and the park itself, I thought to myself how enjoyable the park really is. California Adventure was easily my second favorite Western Disneyland Resort park. We were both pleasantly surprised by it, especially after all I've read about DCA. We both found it more enjoyable for us than AK, and very close to DHS. After all is done, I think it'll be better than DHS. Granted, it’s difficult for us to compare the park we experienced to the one there on opening day, but it didn’t seem as bad as it’s been billed. Some areas had definite room for improvement, but some were solid. Once the Extreme Makeover is complete, I think DCA will be a force to be reckoned with, as one of the premier second gates right up there with EPCOT and DisneySea. We really can’t wait to experience all of that, but even now, we found ourselves wishing we had more time to explore all of DCA, and really impressed with what we did see.
In my mind, this shows the power of a park being located out West. If WDW had the kind of AP pull as DLR, I don't think there's a chance any of the WDW parks would be in their present conditions. Likewise, if DCA were located out East, I don't think it'd be getting an extreme makeover.
Following the Blue Sky Cellar, we headed back over to Monsters, Inc. again. It was awesome, once again. I got the impression that Roz might have been part of the Living Character Initiative given the things she was saying at the end, but perhaps it was just luck/chance. Next time I’ll have to pay better attention for accuracy and specifics. Cool AA either way.
Our Tower of Terror FastPasses had long been ready, so we decided to use them. Nothing more needs to be said about this attraction. Its WDW counterpart is probably my favorite attraction on property, or close to it, and this one is nearly as good. If only all of the attractions conceptualized in the “Disney Decade” could have come to fruition.
As we left Tower of Terror, we noticed that Aladdin was about to start, and the theatre was “loading.” Having loved it so much the first time, we went to see another show. Although seeing it twice took a significant chunk of our day, it was definitely worth it. Genie’s ad libs were different from show to show, so it was almost like seeing a different show. It alone would be worth the price of admission for DCA. I am honestly surprised there isn’t more fanfare surrounding this show.
When we emerged from the theatre, night had descended upon the park. We were hungry when we entered the attraction, but by this time, we were starving. Sarah wanted some food from Cucamonga Mexican Grill, but nothing there looked all that appetizing to me. I had my eyes on the prize: the Aviator’s Chicken Sandwich with the Full Throttle Fries and a large Coke. I am salivating right now just thinking about it (seriously, it’s 10 a.m. here, but I think I might have to take an early lunch). I think if I were to have a “last meal,” this honestly might be the meal I would pick. As always, I loaded the up with toppings from the Fixins’ Bar, and headed out towards the Pacific Wharf (which seemed much farther away when carrying a tray of food) where Sarah was sitting. I make a point to get photos of all my food on our trips, but after such a long walk, I wasn’t going to bother with any ‘good’ shots. I just set the camera to auto (a crime in the photography world) and left the camera fire a shot for future illustrative purposes. I now wish I would’ve taken the time to get a good shot, as I would set it as my desktop wallpaper!
Throughout dinner, we heard the sounds of World of Color--but avoided looking over as that would ruin the surprise. As soon as we were done, we quickly left, not wanting to spoil any more of the show. It sounded really cool. After wandering through the Hollywood Backlot, and the Glowfest party, which Sarah loved, it was time to queue up for World of Color. As we entered the queue, I noticed a beautiful view of Grizzly River Run, and I gave Sarah that look that says, “May I go play? Please, please, please???” She obliged, and I ran off.
When I returned to line, Sarah quietly instructed me to listen to the kids, who couldn’t have been older than 15, in line in front of us. Clothed in articles bearing marijuana symbols and speaking in vulgar terms, I was shocked by some of what I heard. And all of this in front of one of the kid’s parents! I know at age 15 I wouldn’t have worn marijuana-branded clothing in front of my parents, much less discussed the consumption of the drug and alcohol. Still, it was amusing to hear and funny for the duration of the time that we walked from the Grizzly River Recreation Area to the World of Color viewing area. Made us a little scared to be parents, but amusing nonetheless.
This brings up something I generally found surprising about Disneyland was the guest demographic. I have routinely read reports of how Disneyland is more of an AP park, and guests really have more of an appreciation of Disney there. Perhaps I visited Bizarro Disneyland, but there’s no way the “appreciation” bit is true. The park was rife with scantily clad teen mothers and fathers, individuals of both sexes with tattoo sleeves with subjects inappropriate for Disney parks, and “So. Cal. attire” in a general sense. I realize I’m probably more conservative than most from this perspective, but there was an abundance of people in this regard, but I still don’t think a great number of the people we saw are the type who “appreciate” Disney more. If anything, many of them are annual passholders because it’s a cheap form of entertainment and it’s a place to go with their kids. Mind you, I am not knocking people who have tattoo sleeves or the “SoCal look,” (except when vulgar), I am just suggesting that, as a general proposition, I doubt a high percentage of these individuals are hardcore Disney fans.
Undoubtedly, there are those AP holders who have a great “zest” for Disney, but I find it hard to believe that this is a dominant percentage of daily visitors. Maybe that’s just further proof that hardcore WDW AP holders could exact more leverage over management decisions if the group spoke collectively. After seeing some of the inconsequential arguments on WDW forums, I can’t imagine a true collective voice ever emerging. I guess from that perspective, DLR is lucky to have Al Lutz. Even if he is close minded towards anything outside of his “home” park.
We found an area away from these hoodlums, and sat down, waiting for the show to start. Sarah took to watching these two people interact who had just met one another, and were clearly hitting it off (you’ll be happy to know that when the show ended, the girl gave the guy her number!). Meanwhile, I played with my tripod, debating whether it would even be worth shooting the show from so far away. Ultimately, I decided to use it, but after only a few minutes of the show, I realized it was a lost cause, and packed it up.
Overall, I have really mixed feelings about World of Color. It was an awe-inspiring show, no doubt. The visuals were absolutely spectacular. However, part of me just couldn’t get past the feeling that I was just watching a montage of Disney movie clips. I loved the water effects, don’t get me wrong, and I got chills when the music first started playing and the water first started jumping, but I just don’t think it was as ‘layered’ or unique as something like Illuminations. I’m not asking for something deep, it would’ve just been nice to see some more new content rather than snippets of movies. Like I said above, the effects and tech was incredible, and I could watch it over and over for that alone. Overall, it was pretty good, it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations, admittedly, which were probably set too high.
When the show was over, the park was closed. I didn’t think about this too rationally. I figured since the park was closed, no attractions would be open, and we might as well sit around for the next showing of World of Color. While we waited for this show, we headed over to the Pier, taking pictures along the way. We decided we’d enjoy it from one of the benches on the Pier, away from the crowd, and then take pictures afterwards. There were two problems with this: first, you can’t see the show from the Pier, only hear it (I guess you can see it, in that you can see the water); and, second, that by the end of the third show, the park has been closed for 45 minutes, and security is ready to get everyone out. This meant that all of our pictures were incredibly rushed, and we didn’t even end up getting any of us. Seriously, picture taking was a matter of Sarah walking slowly to set the pace for the security “sweepers” behind her, while I walked briskly ahead to snap a picture or two, pick up, and repeat. To call it slightly awkward would be an understatement. The first group of 5 or so security guards stopped sweeping us at the turn to the Grand California when I loudly said to Sarah, “I think it’s this way to our hotel.” I wish. This allowed us to wander through Grizzly Recreation area and Condor Flats (again, very briskly, as another security guard had started to “sweep” us). As we finally approached the front exit, I stopped for one more photo before we left. So long, Disneyland Resort parks!
Paradise Pier: Fun in the Sun for Everyone! by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
Ice Cream by Tom Bricker (WDWFigment), on Flickr
As we exited, we noticed that Downtown Disney was still fairly busy. I asked Sarah if I could grab one quick picture over there, and she obliged. As soon as I set up my tripod, a security guard came over, and told me no tripods. This, literally, was the only shot I was going to take, and it was ruined because he stood in front of the camera. If he had come just 10 seconds later, I would’ve been fine. I completely understand the tripping concern, and he was really nice about it, I just wish he wouldn’t have been so quick to see me.
At that point, we left the Esplanade and headed back for our motel. The next morning, we’d have to get up bright and early to head to Huntington Beach for our friend’s wedding, so our Disneyland adventure was over.
We approached this trip possibly as a once in a lifetime type thing. Not because we were anti-Disneyland, but because we seldom get out West, and any non-WDW vacation is likely to be non-Disney in general. However, this trip convinced us otherwise. I really can’t compare Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, because they are so different. Both should be viewed as a whole, rather than as a sum of its parts. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and we really enjoy both. Like I mentioned above, although I know there isn’t such a value to staying on property at Disneyland (no transportation, no huge proximity advantages, no Extra Magic Hours), I think we’ll be staying in the Grand Californian on our next trip--depending on price. One of our favorite aspects of WDW is that it is so self-contained, so apart from the real world, and this is what we missed most at DLR. I think if we can ‘change’ that, our next trip will be all that much better!
If you made it through this trip report and are hungry to read the others, here is a catalog of our past trip reports:
August 2010 “Disneymoon” Trip Report
I always get a lot of questions about where Sarah gets her dresses, so read the following if you’re a female (or guy, we don’t judge) who is interested in her attire and wonder where she picked up the dresses, she gets them at local department stores (Dillards, Von Maur, Saks), and J.Crew, but primarily through online sample sale sites.
For those who aren't aware, Sample Sales are discounted invite-only sample sale sites that sell nice clothing and products (think Saks, Neiman Marcus, etc.). They are all legitimate retailers of said products (not like some New York street corner selling knock-off Louis Vutton purses). Their offerings rotate frequently and most usually sell out within a few hours. We've saved a LOT of money buying through these sites rather than the mall. Here are our favorites ranked in descending order:
#1 - Gilt Groupe/Gilt Man
#2 - Rue La La
#3 - HauteLook
#4 - Ideeli (mostly women's stuff)
#5 - Beyond the Rack
Disneyland regulars, I’m curious to hear your responses to some of what I’ve said. I know some of these statements have been pretty bold, or don’t jive with fan sentiment, so I would like to see how my thoughts compare. I know we went into this trip a little (intentionally) blind, but I think we did a decent job. Now, it’s time to learn the history of the park, the nuances, and the ins/outs so we can really enjoy Disneyland to its fullest.
We hope that you all enjoyed the trip report! (Although I don’t think you would have read this far if you didn’t.) With one more trips to Walt Disney World on the agenda for this year, rest assured that it won’t be along before we have another one of these written. I also have a lot more pictures that I’ll be adding to Flickr (and possibly here) to this trip, so check out my photostream if you want to see more shots of DLR.
See ya real soon!
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
Awesome trip report!
Read every word haha
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
Wow, wonderful report! It's long, but worth reading.
The pictures are well done and it feels like you are there.
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
ok i tried reading every word, but then i couldn't and looking through the pics was hard enough for me to keep my attention to :)) (i mean that in the best way possible)
but you took some really really really really great pictures!!!
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
I loved your trip report! I know we all have our favorites, but it is really hard to compare WDW with DL. My son and I like DL because it is closer to get to, and because we can do more in a short trip. We loved our trip to WDW, but you really need to spend a lot more days to enjoy it and the cost can add up. To us DL is quaint and comfortable and WDW is sometimes a little overwhelming with all the time to get from place to place. Again, I loved your report and your commentary (and your photos :)))!
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
Probably one of the most essential trip reports I've ever read. Incredible photos to boot. Very interesting perspectives on the parks, and I do hope you get to return again someday so we get another report like this one!
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
great report! thoroughly enjoyed it!
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
WOW! This was probably the most extensive and thoughtful trip report I have ever read. Great job, think I'll take a look at your previous TRs as well, and your flickr!
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
I don't usually comment since anything I would say has usually already been said but I just have to say how much I love this trip report. Once you started talking about comparing DL and WDW I immediately though, "oh god, here we go...". But you brought up very good points and you compared without getting snarky. As someone who has never been to WDW its helpful to hear relatively objective comparisons so thank you =)
Also those pictures are gorgeous. I laughed when you posted the links to the online stores and saying how people always comment on your wife's clothes because going through the pictures I kept thinking about how cute her dresses were.
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
One of the best trip report I have seen so far. There were too much reading to go through. So, I essentially look at all the wonderful pictures you took with your professional camera. If I have time, I will come back and read through it.
THOSE ARE EXCELLENT PICTURES EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
Took a while to read.
Things to consider:
Mr. Toad's at WDW was wildly different and actually had two different tracks so it was like two rides.
Snow White is short because it was done from HER perspective, like a lot of the original Fantasyland rides. Yeah, you can tell that doesn't make sense.
Matterhorn has no elves, but the snowman's name is Harold.
And sadly, you got the crappy fireworks show. Remember...Dreams Come True is the better one.
Re: Disneyland From a Walt Disney World Fan's Perspective: Our First Disneyland Trip
Very awesome! You two are adorable!