Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Lighting of Sleeping Beauty's Castle

While waiting for the "Believe...In Holiday Magic" fireworks show at Disneyland, I got to see the lighting of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. I shot the whole thing on my iPhone, and now you can watch what I saw. Enjoy!

Haunted Mansion Holiday: Completely Missing A Point

I get it, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a popular movie for Disney, and a lot of people like it. So, to some people, making over the classic "Haunted Mansion" at Disneyland may seem to make sense.

I am not one of those people.

To me, "The Haunted Mansion" is a timeless classic, an attraction that I like to enjoy over and over again when I visit Disneyland. The line is never too long thanks to the omnimover, I love the stretching room, and the classic soundtrack still gives me chills. Some of it is a little corny, but overall, it's extremely well done, and I've been spooked by it many times over the years.

Not this year, though.

This year I was subjected to "Haunted Mansion Holiday," where Jack Skellington and his band of seditious sidekicks have hijacked the classic attraction, stripping it of a story line, and for me, any hope of excitement.

"Haunted Mansion" is a great attraction because it has a central theme: it's got 999 ghosts, and there's room for one more. The spooky bride with her shrill request of "Come back, come back, be sure to bring your death certificate." The perfect "Grim Grinning Ghosts," the classic scenes. It's a cohesive cornucopia of Disney magic.

No so when "The Nightmare Before Christmas" takes over. The idea seems to be more: "put a black light up here, put one there, throw some black light paints here, some stiff 'Nightmare' figurines there, a Santa hat on this classic character. What's the theme you ask? Well, it's about a movie, haven't you seen it?"

"Haunted Mansion Holiday" just seems lazy. I'm sure it takes the Imagineers a while to transform the ride from a classic to a clunker, but it would take a long time to make a mosaic of a turd: that doesn't give it any type of quality.

"it's a small world holiday" gets it though. The attraction's holiday overlay doesn't disrupt the classic ride's narrative. It's the same ride, just transformed to show how different parts of the world celebrate the holiday season.

If people want a "The Nightmare Before Christmas" dark ride, then they should get one, but they don't need to take away one of my favorite attractions for a third of the year to get it.

 I usually ride a Doombuggy multiple times per visit: this year, I only got in one once. I was grim, but I was not grinning, sad that the classic ride was just a ghost.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gowalla and Enhancing the Disney Experience

Gowalla's eye-popping logo
Gowalla has been popping up all over in my Google News alerts recently, as the Disney parks have paired up with the location based social network app for smart phones. Disney officially submitted "spots" to Gowalla, meaning when you're at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you can "check in" to whatever ride, restaurant, parade or show you're at, and an official digital badge will be yours on your Gowalla account. Through Gowalla, you can announce where you are via Twitter, or through Facebook's new places app, which syncs to Gowalla. There are certain "trips" you can complete on Gowalla, like the "Season's Greetings" trip at Disneyland, which includes the Holiday fireworks show and "it's a small world holiday."

On my recent trip, I checked in as often as I possibly could, completed every "trip" and used the Disney/Gowalla integration to its full potential. I thought it was great how the different rides had their own specific badges that I could collect on my trip.

It was also very fun letting my Twitter followers know exactly what I was doing during my trip at Disneyland, though some may have thought the constant updating was a little much. Overall, it was a great way to integrate my trip with my social media outlets.

The location-based badges from Disney
At each destination, Disney has supplied descriptions with the badges, so you read up on each ride when you're there. Also, if you have a lot of friends on Gowalla, you can see what they're doing at the parks if they're there at the same time.

I had a great time accomplishing all the trips Disney provided, like "Thrill Seekers Unite," for the more intense rides like "Indiana Jones" and "Space Mountain" and the "Entertainment Park Hopper" which included different entertainment options in both parks. With each trip I completed, I received a specific badge for that trip.

Another great aspect of the Disney/Gowalla integration is that I can look back on my trip and have it completely documented. Gowalla lets me view my history, and since I so thoroughly documented my trip with the app, I can look back and see what Idid within every hour of everyday. There are also user-submitted pictures at each destination, so I can take a look at those to refresh my memory.

Overall, I thought it was great that Disney is taking advantage of social networking, and in turn giving their smart-phone clad guests a special thing to do in the parks. Using the Gowalla app enhanced my trip, connecting me closer to the parks by offering me an official way to document my trip.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Goodbye, Disneyland

I sit now at Gate 1 in John Wayne Airport, waiting for my flight back to Phoenix, and back to real life. It's a total bummer, but it's also a relief of some sort. I do Disneyland hard, like self-administered-sleep-torture-famine-hard.

The first, rainy night at the park
When I go to Disneyland, there is nothing more important to me than Disneyland. I throw my basic human needs aside. I literally forget I'm hungry until it becomes too blatantly obvious that I need to eat that I am forced to stop a moment and acknowledge I'm not a humanoid. I do Magic Mornings after staying in the park until midnight, and if I shop, until 1 or 2.

This trip, I got off the plane at 9:30, my mom parked the car at the hotel, and we ran to Disneyland for the remaining two hours it was open. We got so much done, for mother nature was on our side in kind of a backwards way: it was raining. I saw it as the elements separating the diehards from the tourists, shortening the lines for my obsession's delight. We got Autopia, Small World, Casey Jr., Dumbo, Indiana Jones, Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion Holiday in in just two hours. Then we shopped and got back to the room somewhere around 2:00 am.

It was extremely satisfying getting so much done in so little time, especially since I had nothing to do that entire day, as my late class was canceled, and I skipped my other one, and got at the airport at 4 for my 8:50 flight If I had known earlier how free my day would have been, I would have gotten a flight that arrived somewhere around 2 pm instead of 9:05.

So now the whole trip is over, and the blogging about the trip and resting my body will begin. I would have gotten some blogging done if my hotel hadn't charged for WiFi, but alas, it did. I now return to a normal life, a life of full night's rests, free of fastpasses and running around gigantic parks, and, sadly, free of Disneyland's magic. It's a relief to be able to rest, but after I get a good night's sleep, I'll be wishing I was waking up in Anaheim again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In only a couple of hours...DISNEYLAND!

I'll see you guys in a couple of hours!
The flight leaves at 8:50 and gets there at 9:20, an hour long trip cut in half. My trip to Disneyland starts out with magic! Or, if you're picky, a flight from Mountain time into Pacific time.

We've got 5 day passes that start today: it was only slightly more moola for five days than it was for three, so we'll also be hanging out at the park on the day of our departure: Saturday.

I'm not going to lie, I couldn't sleep, and then when I finally dozed off, I woke up early because I was so excited! Just like the classic (to me) Disneyland commercial! I feel just like a little kid every time I go to Disneyland, and just about every time I talk about it. It makes me seem a bit nuts every now and then, but that's ok, everyone's a little nuts!

Right now, to get psyched up for the trip, I've got Disneyland 50,  Happiest Homecoming On Earth, The Official Album of the Disneyland Resort playing, and it's almost making the time go by slower!

This time, my family, girlfriend and me have a plan of attack: to partake in every attraction listed on the map, in both parks. I'm excited for this because I love setting goals and accomplishing them, and there are many attraction in both of the parks that I haven't experienced in a long while.

What am I most excited for? WORLD OF COLOR! I have yet to see it, and we have picnic reservations to see the show, so we're guaranteed a good view. The holiday overlays and fireworks show look to be pretty spectacular as well!

Tonight we'll probably check out  ElecTRONica, since it's open so late, and hopefully take a stroll down Main Street! There's so much to do, and we've got 3 and-a-half days to get it all in, leaving us a perfect amount of time.

It's been almost 2 years since I've been to the park, a long period for someone as obsessed as I. It'll be great, and our hotel is right across the street from the park entrance, next to the McDonald's!

We'll be there on Thanksgiving, which I think is perfect. If there's anything I'm thankful for, it's Walt's vision being brought to life at Disneyland!

Monday, November 22, 2010

It All Started With a Mouse...That is No Longer Recognizable

Last week, on the anniversary of Mickey Mouses's 82 birthday, I decided that I'd finally rip off the cellophane encasing my Vintage Mickey DVD, and revisit the original Mickey Mouse cartoons.

The original Mickey Mouse. Don't let the smile fool you
It was revealed to me that Mickey Mouse has lived two different lives. I know that he was mischievous in his early days, geting himself into comic situations in a Chaplin-esque fashion, but my first-hand knowledge came from basically only Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie. Obviously, I knew there were more than just two classic Mickey cartoons, but the others are much harder to find and less well known.

On Vintage Mickey, there are 7 other Mickey cartoons: The Karnival Kid, The Birthday Party, The Castaway, Mickey's Orphans, Mickey's Revue, Building a Building and Mickey's Streamroller. They all portray Mickey as a misbehaving, womanizing trickster. He's a completely different Mickey than I or anyone who didn't grow up in the late 20's 30's did. He was much more daring back in the old days, as exemplified in Plane Crazy when he grabbed Minnie and kissed her against her will. Things of that nature would not fly (even while in a plane) with today's standards of political correctness.

Mickey's New Image
So, over the time, Mickey's rough edges were smoothed out so he became a flat, dimensionless shell of a character. The Modern Mickey is known more for his costumed character at the Disney parks than he is for being an actual character. The company has tried to bring him back with shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhousebut nothing has really caught on.

Soon, Epic Mickey will be out, revealing a darker side of Mickey, a Mickey with actual character traits, a personality that may reinvigorate the classic character with something actually memorable.

Many have decried Mickey's image makeover, but really, if they knew anything about his original self, they'd know that Mickey having a dark side is nothing new. He started out as a little daring, a little left of center, a little clever and he's returning to that in a way.

Mickey has always been emblematic of the curent generation, so maybe this new Mickey in Epic Mickey says something about us. It's anything than a complete makeover, though, Mickey evolves and adapts, just like everything around us. If he was static, he'd have gone the way of his earliest competitors, like... well, I don't really remember.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Almost Here: The Disney College Program

Yesterday, I went to a sendoff meeting here at ASU for students attending the Disney College Program, where the DCP ambassadors were there to answer any of our questions and discuss what our upcoming experiences had in store for us.

If I was psyched up for the experience before, my excitement has since doubled. The joy in the room was palpable, how could it not be? A bunch of people, brought together by a single, magical experience, a love of Disney shared by all in the room. It was just another form of Disney magic.

If you're not a Disney fanatic, it's not something you could understand. When a bunch of Disney people get together, there's no room for unhappiness or anything that doesn't resemble glee in its purest form.

At the meeting, the second I have attended this year, the DCP Ambassadors told us about what dorms we should choose for the best experience, how we'll learn about what roles we will be performing in the coming months, and told us about their own personal experiences of the park, from working on the Jungle Cruise to being a character in the parks.

I got to meet other future DCP cast members, some of whom would be working at Disneyland, others who would be future co-workers of mine at Walt Disney World. We then played the Disney addition of Apples to Apples, which I won, and attempted to get a few rounds of Scene It? Disney Edition, before the room erupted into a chaos of elated conversation. The smiles were audible throughout the room.

What I've figured out so far about DPC is that it's going to be a hassle getting down to Orland alone, it's going to be a anxiety filled first couple of days upon arrival, and then I'm going to have the time of my life for seven months straight.

It all starts January 19: I cannot wait.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Product of the '90's: A Goofy Movie

It's not a film that gets mentioned often lately, but "A Goofy Movie" is one of the most memorable films for my the people of my generation that were born in the early '90's.

Rotten Tomatoes currently has the movie at a 57 percent approval rating, making it "rotten." That means nothing to my 5-year-old self.

Variety's Todd McCarthy criticized the film's score, calling the six featured songs "unmemorable." Mr. Todd McCarthy, I'd like to disagree with you on that account. Some of the songs are not the most catchy of tunes to come out of a Disney musical in the nineties, but "On the Open Road" is a classic. I still sing along to it today, 15 years later. Looks like time has proven you wrong. Although I do admit, the flagship song of the film, "Stand Up," failed for the most part to stick in my memory.

But as a young kid, the adventure of the film really grasped me. Going across the country like that, running into Bigfoot, those crazy chase scenes and the "perfect cast." You just can't beat that. The relationship between Max and Goofy was heartwarming and frustrating at the same time. Max's pursuit of Roxanne. The shenanigans they got themselves into were always cringe inducing (What fork to choose?!) but they always made it in the end.

Maybe to a lot of people, "A Goofy Movie" was a flop. I'm glad I'm not one of those people, because "A Goofy Movie" will always remain a staple of my childhood, not matter what the critics say, or how many people have forgotten about it 15 years later.

"An Extremely Goofy Movie," its direct to DVD sequel, that one was definitely a stinker. Hands down.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cars 2 and Pixar's Perfect Record

Prior to every Pixar movie's release, all the critics speculate on if that movie will put an end to Pixar's perfect 11-11 record. What Pixar has done is unprecedented, creating 11 films that have mass approval from both critics and normal folk like you and me, many of them simultaneously winning awards and breaking box office records. It's unparalleled in the film industry, and it's not something that can last.

Cars 2: 12 for 12?
I mean, it could last, I don't doubt Pixar one bit, but the way things are going on the business side, with Disney pushing for franchises like "Cars," "Toy Story" and "Monsters Inc." (which, all coincidentally, have very appealing merchandise), I don't know how much longer Pixar will be able to do the things they want to do.

Look at the second "Cars" film for example. Pixar was on track to release summer of 2012. Then Disney decided that they wanted the film a year earlier, forcing everyone at Pixar to try and speed up an extremely slow, tedious process. Pixar didn't get to do what they wanted to. It's not fact, but I would dare to say that Disney wanted the film a year earlier to build up hype for California Adventure's new Cars Land, set to open sometime in 2012.

Now, I know that Lasseter and Co. over in Emeryville have a strict standard of "If the stories not there, we won't make the movie." I doubted him a little with "Toy Story 3," just because, coming off such great original stories like "Up" and WALL-E," releasing a sequel seemed like Pixar was taking a break. I was dead wrong. But "Toy Story" has always been Pixar's flagship franchise. "Cars," not so much.

Disney has officially released a full length trailer for the new "Cars" film, and I'm not going to be a naysayer and say I didn't like it for the sake of my argument. It looked pretty good. It's got the classic characters of Mater and Lighting McQueen back, and the news ones, one of them an english James Bond style car voiced by Michael Caine.

Yet, as Pixar gets bigger and bigger, and Disney relies on them more heavily to be the one consistently good part of their film department, they will try to exert more control. There's no doubt Pixar's people know what they're doing, and will go one spinning cinematic perfection. It's just a countdown to when Disney's greed usurps Pixar's control and maims their golden goose.