Showing posts with label Disney California Adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disney California Adventure. Show all posts

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.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Impressions of Land

It's been two years, but I'm happy to say, I've finally been back to the one, the only, the original: Disneyland.

It's been more than a year since I've been to any Disney park, which is far too long, but two years without visiting Walt's original, that's just painful. Especially since so much has happened to the resort in the past two years. Finally, my family and I got around to getting a trip to Anaheim.

Flo's V8 Cafe with its stunning neon. (Preston Carter Melbourne-Weaver)
Obviously, the most exciting part of the re-theming of Disney California Adventure is Cars Land, and you've probably read enough to fill a novel about it. There's not much new insight that I can provide. It's everything everyone has said about it. Stunning, breathtaking, immersive, capturing the Disney magic that the park so terribly lacked since its opening in 2002.

It's also packed beyond belief. The best day to go, I would have to say, would be the day they had the press preview. I'm envious of those who got to go and just take in the new land, soak it up without the 30 minute wait for a Fast Pass, or the elbowing and shoving it takes to go up and down the strip. Overall, I didn't wait more than 30 minutes in any line while there, but that took a lot of strategy.

Luigi's flying tires didn't quite soar for me, but I enjoyed the attraction for what it was. It makes for a nice C-ticket attraction. The queue was far more exciting, with its classic Disney details displayed throughout Luigi's tire shop.

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, despite being themed around my least favorite Disney character of all time (and by the way, he's nowhere to be seen on the attraction, only heard. What the heck?), were a pleasant surprise for an attraction that looked to be pretty basic. The whipping and constant change of direction made for a thrill.

The food was great. And by food, I mean everything served in a pretzel cone. I had the Chili Cone Queso, the Chicken Verde and the breakfast bacon, cheese and egg cone. The best I'd have to say was the Verde. Quite a surprise for me, as I was betting on the Chili, and had to sample my girlfriend's Chicken Verde. The Apple freeze was delicious, though too sweet for some members of my family, and the pomegranate lemonade was sweet and had just the right amount of tart.

The merchandise was appealing, using the art deco colors and style in a callback to the original screen printed posters of Disneyland. I didn't purchase any though, as I'm not a fan of the vinyl printing they used. It's cheap, uncomfortable and gets killed in the washing machine.

As in the film, Radiator Springs really shows its feathers at night. When the neon's flipped on, it's like the already beautiful land masterfully applies makeup and turns into a real stunner. I had a great time challenging myself with my newly acquired photo-knowledge by taking pictures of the fantastic neon signs and the deftly lit rock formations, and found myself overloaded with things to look at.

It's surely a place so fantastic, one visit will not be enough. I'm starting to understand why Lightening McQueen decided to stay.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Yay for DCA!

Disney California Adventure has FINALLY found its audience with the opening of Cars Land. Imagineers have given the park that magical Disney touch that it had been missing since Michael Eisner built it on the cheap back in 2001.

It's been open for around 20 days now, and I don't think a negative word has been written about it. People love it, and honestly, it's killing me that I haven't been yet, so all you boastful visitors, I've probably blocked you on Facebook at this point as a measure of self preservation. Yeah, I'm a little jealous.

I haven't been to the California parks since 2010, before I did the College Program in lovely Florida. Visiting DCA at that point, the re-imagining of Paradise Pier had been completed and World of Color was up and running. They'd already rid of the Eisner-ick that made the park so, well, boring.

Not so with Condor Flats and the Grizzly River Recreation Area, Those areas remain almost completely in tact, as they were from the dreadful Day One.

I've always thought that ripping out Grizzly River Run would do wonders for the park. A river rapid ride is so not Disney. Every Six Flags park has one. It's not unique, fun, or worth the five acres it takes up in the middle of the park.

It was, when the park opened, the icon of Disney California Adventure, the weenie, as Walt would have called it. But, much like the Fantasia hat over at DCA's sister park, Hollywood Studios (which covers up Grauman's, the original, and still superior, weenie), there is something that could be a much better icon. In DCA's case, it's the new Carthay Circle Theater, which stands higher than Sleeping Beauty's Castle across the concourse. With the need for something to print on merchandise to distinguish the park filled, there's no need for the uncreative, unimaginative mountain.

As techskip points out on's web forum, Condor Flats is a land designed to represent the desert portions of California. And so is Cars Land. And Cars Land does it better, so why two lands representing basically the same California climate? Surely the imagineers have noticed the redundancy, and are planing on doing something about it.

The west side of the park can't be ignored now that the east side has gotten the brunt of the updates. The newly named "Hollywood Land" where "Who Want To Be A Millionaire" and the "Monsters Inc." dark ride (which should also be replaced by something that, at the very least, begs for multiple rides) is currently, also needs some attention.

But, when you look at the money Disney has been spending (A billion in California, a billion in Florida, a couple billion on cruise ships, a billion probably on Avatar land [Still have saying that]) you come to the conlcusion that they've spend a lot lately. They've come to that conclusion, too, and aren't going to make it a trend.

From the Orlando Sentinel: "We should be coming down substantially — substantially — in domestic spending," Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said during a recent presentation to stock analysts.

So, while all this would be fantastic, reports have come out that Disney may be putting some money into Disneyland's Tomorrowland. This news, with the news of the reduction in capital spending, all means that Disney California Adventure will probably look pretty similar to how it does today 10 years from now.

Or maybe, just maybe, Disney will realize what Walt always knew: being cheap puts you on the level of everybody else, and reinvesting money back into the parks, well, that gets you Cars Land.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Coming Of Cars Land

Monday, April 2, 2012

Avoiding "DisneyLine": Pop Up Shows

"Any dream is possible, wishes do come true!"

One of the valuable lessons you can learn during one of the many-but probably the most annoying-pop up shows that add that little something to a Disney parks visit.

Come early in the morning, and you can meet the mayor and other residents of Main Street USA, or hear about the many great things living in the early 20th century have to offer, lip-synced by a bunch of people who can't decide if the want to ride the horse drawn trolley down the street of jump off it an sing. Or you can learn about the life of a pirate in Adventureland, as told by Captain Jack Sparrow.

Concept art for The Red Car Boys
If you're at Hollywood studios, you can see the Citizens of Hollywood put on their pop-up show, or walk into the middle of a bunch of high school kids randomly breaking out in song. Don't be afraid to be a part of the show, after all, we're all in this together. Maybe you're in the Hollywood back lot, and you happen to find yourself listening to a band covering the classics of rock'n'roll while the truck for their gardening business is being repaired. One of the better guises for a pop-up if you ask me.

The many pop-up-shows of Disney are what separate it from other theme parks, and also something that you can do that doesn't involve waiting in a line. Some of them are entertaining, while others offer the only free food to be found in a Disney park: cheese. You know, kind of like that joke.

As far as I can recall, having actors take on the role of inhabitants has been exclusive to Walt Disney World, Besides Billy Hill and the Hillbillies and The Laughing Stock Co. in Frontierland. Now, in the Disney Parks Blog most recent post, the new Buena Vista Street in California Adventure will feature The Red Car News Boys, singing on the new Red Car Trolleys (one my my favorite new additions) along with Five and Dime in the Carthay Circle Theater. I probably won't ever stop for an extended amount of time to watch either of these acts, but just walking by is enough to appreciate how much it will add to the aura of Buena Vista Street. Though, if those Newsies prevent me form boarding a Trolley, my attitude may change.

There's also been the addition of Minnie's Fly Girls over in Condor Flats, filled with songs from the 40's to the 60's, reliving the glory days of being a flight attendant, and there's the Phineas and Ferb's Rockin' Rollin' Dance Party. California Adventure seems to be following more closely in Disney World's footsteps when it comes to the pop-ups.

These shows are great additions if you're traveling with little ones, or a way to keep a couple extra people out of the line of your favorite ride, shaving a couple minutes off for you.

What do you think? Do you stop and watch, or just appreciate the ambiance they add to the parks?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Marvel Meets the Mouse

Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Cinderella. The Green Goblin. Funny as it may sound, these characters now inhabit the same world of fantasy.

It's been a lingering question, since Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, if these famous fantastical personalities would live harmoniously in Disney's own worlds of fantasy: their theme parks.

"The Avengerail"
Bob Iger, the CEO and supreme chancellor of Disney (now that he's chairman of the board, too), recently mentioned that the future will see Marvel characters walking around, posing for pictures in Disney's theme parks.

The superhero's first foray near the theme parks (not including merchandise) will pop up this spring as the TRONorail will be replaced with the Avengerail. It's a good move by Disney, as it will slowly introduce a presence of the new slew of characters to the Disney parks. It's also a great advertising gimmick, and keeps the older models of Walt Disney World's monorails looking fresh. 

It's the first small step towards integrating the two companies (that are now, technically one). When Iger announced that the characters would eventually be making their way into Disney parks, my reaction was one of "No Duh!" 

People will love seeing their favorite super heroes roaming around the parks, but Disney will have to work hard to separate itself from the much less classy Universal Studios that the Marvel Universe is still associated with. 

James Cameron tours Animal Kingdom 
They can't just put them anywhere. Hollywood Studios at the World and the Hollywood Pictures Backlot at California adventure seem like the only logical places to meet and greet with The Hulk and Iron Man. Though, once the idea seems a little more natural, who knows how we'll feel. 

The "Disney" brand has always branched a little from the actual Disney company in itstheme parks, and it's usually for the better. Who doesn't love Star Tours, Indiana Jones or the Terror of Terror? Soon, Avatar, which was distributed by 20th Century Fox, will have a significant presence in Animal Kingdom, and the American Idol experience is a prominent part of Hollywood Studios.

Disney knows how to seamlessly introduce things that weren't produced in-house to its theme parks. Introducing Marvel characters is a challenge Disney has yet to face, as their presence has previously been in a rival theme park, but it's one Disney is almost guaranteed to pass.      

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cars Land and the Realization of a Park

My distaste for Disney California Adventure Park is not something I shy from, but it may be something I abandon come June 15.

That's when the results of park's gigantic, $1.1 billion  renovation will open to the public. This means the new Buena Vista Street, with its classic, 1920's Hollywood theme, and Cars Land, Radiator Springs and all, will open to the public.

It marks the final stage of a re-imaging of California Adventure that brought us The World of Color, The Little Mermaid, and the re-theming of Paradise Pier, all welcome additions what was a less-than-thrilling park on opening day a little more than 11 years ago.

It says a lot about the park's (lack of) original vision that Disney was willing to cough up over a billion dollars to do something for the underwhelming park.

Personally, the only thing that's been there from day one that remains fresh is California Screamin' (the video was shot before the Paradise Pier makeover), which itself has had a design overhaul. I still stand by my statement that there is no place for a story-less river raft ride in a Disney park (That means you too, Kali!).

But alas, with the addition of Cars Land, the new Buena Vista Street, and everything else that has been added since the park's lackluster launch, The Disneyland Resort may actually become a two-day park, instead of a one-and-a-half day outing, where you visit California Adventure on your way to the airport.

I know I'm ready to be impressed with the new additions. How do you feel about them?