Monday, June 3, 2013

The Show Goes Back On

I have but one distinct memory of the Fantasyland Theater: burning my mouth so bad before "Beauty and the Beast" that I had to leave the park. I was young, and I'd like to say I've learned since then, but I just get so eager when presented with hot chocolate.

Since that fateful day in the mid-1990s, a lot has happened to the Fantasyland theater, most of it having little to do with being a theater. For as long as I can remember, it was some princess thing. I never knew exactly, because I never visited. I could say the same thing for Carnation Plaza Gardens in regards to it being an area I used to never visit. Ironically, it's now some princess thing.

Live entertainment that isn't for a demographic that's acutely specific, has returned to the theater that looks like Madonna's cone bra, and it's demographic is much more broad: anyone that likes to be entertained. Now, if you are only entertained by a strong story, go to the indy theater, hippie! Things that have a plot either get cancelled or bomb!

That's why, with its newest show, "Mickey and the Magical Map," Disneyland went light on story and heavy on the classic songs they know we all love so much, we don't care how one transitions from the other. (If you're counting, it took 3 paragraphs for me to get to the point. Didn't it seem like one though?)

Despite having its predecessors scar me both physically and emotionally, "Mickey and the Magical Map" had a lot to live up to. I'd started my morning off by enjoying a fine breakfast at Club 33. For something to make itself stand out in a day that starts out like that is quite a feat. Furthermore, I had risen at 5 AM to get to Anaheim by 7, so by the 12:40 show, I was...fatigued. Coincidentally, a favorite place of mine to nap is in a theater. I've heard the middle parts of Finding Nemo - The Musical at the Animal Kingdom and Disney's Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular at DCA are great. I wouldn't know.

I'm happy to report that I had my foot tapping, my fingers drumming, and my eyes open for the entire show. There was an electric feel to the whole thing that kept even me engaged for all 22 minutes of its run time. The girl screaming about Stitch in front of me also helped keep me away, but in a different way.

"Mickey and the Magical Map's" attempt at a story has Mickey reprising his role as Yensid's apprentice, way back from when the duo last appeared in 1940's Fantasia. Yensid, a poorly animated 3D (bring back the 2D! Oh, wait...) character that appears soley within a gigantic, three-tiered LCD screen, has a magical map with a missing, unpainted spot. Mickey tries to paint that spot, and by doing so, elicits King Louis, Ariel, Rapunzel, Mulan, Pocahontas, Tiana, and various other character to come out and sing their famous songs.


There's some great choreographed dancing, awesome, non-recorded singing, a cool bubble thing and a few awkward sequences where Mickey gets sucked into the map and looks like he's part of a 10-year-olds sub-par flash animation project.

Remember, despite all the negative stuff I just wrote (partly because it's more fun to dish out the disses then the praise), I walked out of the show excited and fulfilled. It has its weaknesses, but when, as a whole, the show entertains its viewers, I don't think its especially important just how it does that. "Mickey and the Magical Map" is energetic enough that you love every minute of the shoe while you're watching it. When it's over, you might be scratching your head a little, but don't over analyze it. I just did that for you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Most Expensive Breakfast I'll Ever Have

Every Disney fan knows that a huge part of being a Disgeek is competing to be the best in class. From the most extensive pin collection, to collectible art, shirts, ears, Vinylmation, and the thousands of other things the people at merchandising concoct to sell to us, to going to all the international theme parks, to the ultimate: dining at Club 33.

I'm ultra-competitive. I'm the best looking, smartest and most funny Disney guy out there (for the most prolific blog competition, I gave up on that a long time. I know that the last time I posted, it was during a  month that begins with "M", and I'm not talking about this past May. Sorry, four loyal readers [See what I'm saying about the funny thing?!]). Asky anybody. That stranger eating food at the table next to him. Ask him, I don't care if he's mid bite. Ask. He'll tell you.

But I don't collect anything (accept admirers. [He strikes again!]), I'm not the Preston from "Blank Check" (and even if I was, those filmakers had a warped idea of what $1 million could do. And that kid was an idiot for not slapping a couple of more zeros on that bad boy), so I have only been to all of the domestic parks. That means I'm left with only one option to be Captain Disney: go to Club 33, the ultimate destination for Disney fans in looking for some serious bragging rights that don't require crossing an ocean. 

I've been once before when I was the grand old age of 12. If I blogged about it back then, the post would have looked like this: "It was cool," and it would have taken me five minutes to type. Well, ten years later, through the awesome Meetup app and the Disneyland Fan Club group, I was afforded a second chance to both dine, and write a more extensive review of the experience: It was super cool. 

I'm just pulling the chain on your high-tank toilet! You don't have one of those? You must not live at Club 33, because they totally do. Along with some amazing views, a rad elevator that wasn't working, half-built microphones in chandeliers, taxidermied animals, some awesome cast members, and as a whole, the opportunity to make some awesome Vines.

The Club really is just your average fine dining experience (that's not an oxymoron, because I said it isn't). The food was average to above average, the service was the same (and it was a buffet, so most of it was self-serve) and the china and silverware were nice. The only thing that made it extra special was that I was in there and you weren't. Which is something I had a great time reminding those below me from the amazing balconies at Club 33.

We spoke at length with the manager, who's spiel seemed a little rehearsed, and even more with a cast member who seemed to have the authentic, enthusiastic answer to every question we threw at him. It's guys like him, whose name I didn't write down because I was too busy thinking of how to be funny, that keep the Disney customer service reputation alive.

I did not buy any alcohol, because it was $14 I'd rather spend on a souvenir that I wouldn't have to run to the toilet to dispose of an hour after consuming, which I did (buy the souvenir, that is). Maybe next time. Disneyland is still a dry park to this guy.

It's an amazing experience, but what makes it special is that it's a once in a lifetime kind of thing, (or ten years if you're as awesome as me.) It's nothing out of the ordinary as a dining experience. But you feel something extra special because you know that the walls surrounding you are soaked with history, and if they could talk, oh boy, the money that would cost Disney in mechanical costs would be amazing (I'm sure they'd tell some cool stories, too.)

It's kind of like seeing the Grand Canyon. You go, you do it, it's spectacular, and when it's over, it's over, which is usually in about 90 minutes. Just, this trip gets you mad bragging rights. Everyone can go to the Grand Canyon.

If you've got some time, check out these panoramas I took while in Club 33. There are so many awesome details, so zoom in, swipe around and check out every pixel.