Monday, August 17, 2015

Helms Bakery Lives On at California Adventure

On a recent visit to DCA, something caught my eye. In between Buena Vista Street and the Grizzly Peak Airfield, there's a Churro cart called Willie's Churros (evidently a tribute to the first Mickey Mouse cartoon). As I've been spending a lot of time in Culver City lately for work, I immediately recognized this as a replica of the famous Helms Bakery trucks that once puttered around Los Angeles.

All the iconic details are there, from the shield crest logo on the side, to the "W" in a familiar font on the back. The cart's slogan, "Delivered Daily!" is even reminiscent of Helms' "Daily at Your Door".

Helms Bakery had a relatively brief, but memorable existence in Culver City. From 1931 to 1969, the iconic blue and yellow trucks delivered all sorts of baked goods to homes around Los Angeles. The company's founder, Paul Helms, went to great lengths to promote his enterprise--including supplying bread to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. thus coining Helms' catchphrases, "Helms Olympic Bread", and "Olympic Games Bakers - Choice of Olympic Champions". Helms Bakery continued to provide bread for the Olympics for years to come.

Helms even supplied bread for the crew of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, in a last-ditch publicity effort to save his company--and to become the first bread on the moon. But sadly, Helms could not compete with the rise of supermarkets, and his once-convenient delivery trucks were out of style.

Thankfully, you can still visit the sprawling bakery--or what once was the bakery--today. It's mostly just furniture shops and some pretty good restaurants, but it's a neatly preserved look back on an important part of LA's past.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Star Wars Land Announced

What we all pretty much knew has been confirmed. Yesterday at D23, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced that both Disneyland and Walt Disney World will get their own Star Wars-themed lands. This is really exciting news!

So far, it's anyone's guess as to where this new land will be located. I'm hoping that the only thing that gets demolished and replaced is storage space, like the area behind Frontierland/Toontown. Unlike Disney World, Disneyland is very spacially limited.

In other Star Wars Disneyland news, more rumors were confirmed when Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced that the Star Wars Launch Bay, a Star Wars-themed attraction and activity zone, would be coming to the Disney Parks as well. This had already been heavily speculated, due to the recent closure of Innoventions, and the Star Wars Launch Bay coming to the new Shanghai Disney Resort.

It looks like some awesome changes are coming to the Disneyland Resort. I mean, nothing like Disney World's upcoming Avatar and Toy Story Lands, but Star Wars is good enough for me. Disney is bringing this franchise to life in ways that Lucas never could have done on his own.

I just got my Annual Pass renewed so expect more updates--I will definitely be keeping up with the Star Wars news. Is it too optimistic to hope for 2016? Yes, probably.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Disneyland All-Nighter 2015 RECAP

Disclaimer: I will be talking about the new changes to several Disneyland rides, in some detail. If you haven't seen these yet and would like to experience them for yourself spoiler-free, I suggest you stop reading here.

The chain has broken.

This year's all-nighter was absolutely spectacular. New rides, amazing fireworks, parades, decorations. It may have been my favorite one so far. Unfortunately, I didn't make the full 24 hours.

My friends and I arrived around 5 and got into the park at opening. The first ride of the day was Matterhorn, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. The new additions are fantastic. The lift hill effect is super cool, even terrifying. The crashed bobsleds are an awesome touch. But of course, the centerpiece of this new makeover is the updated yeti, and it is far from disappointing. Our new friend is much larger and much scarier: in fact, only his upper body can be seen. Rather than clawing at the air, the yeti now emerges from a cave and roars directly at passing riders. His movements are much more lifelike, and while I think the new roar is a little... I don't know, zombie-like? It's still quite chilling.

As I had been saving the Hatbox Ghost for myself as well, that was the second ride we hit. The new effect is really cool--it really does look like his head disappears. It's great to finally see one of the most iconic parts of the ride in person, especially because they finally had the technology to successfully pull it off. However, I feel that the addition of the Hatbox Ghost makes the ghost bride look even more lame by comparison. I hope they can update her with similar technology in the future.

At some point in the day we rode on Splash Mountain, getting far more soaked than usual. Seriously, they must have dialed it up for the summer because I have never gotten so drenched on this ride as I have when a tidal wave crashed over us on the final drop.

The park reached capacity sometime in the early afternoon. After jumping from ride to ride, we rode on Indiana Jones Adventure and were amazed to discover the new ride intro. We first saw the Fountain of Eternal Youth, and the second time around we saw the Observatory of the Future. The latter was really cool, even more so than before. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover these changes.

In anticipation of the new firework show, we decided to ride the Matterhorn while the fireworks went off. We got in line at exactly 8:30 to prepare for the fireworks at 9:30. We actually had to go around 4 times before the fireworks started, believe it or not.

By midnight, we'd been on almost every ride in Disneyland Park. We decided to try our luck at California Adventure, but the lines to get into either park were the longest I've ever seen. My friends and I went back to our hotel and went to sleep, though one of my friends got into DCA at 3 and saw the new World of Color. As I really wanted to see the new changes to DCA for myself, I will be returning soon.

This year with all the new changes coming to the park and with the 60th anniversary kicking off, it's no surprise that the 22nd was so busy. Hopefully in 2016 I can reach the 24 hour mark once again.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Disneyland All-Nighter 2015 Preview

This year's 24 hour Disneyland day is highly anticipated, as it will not only be celebrating the beginning of summer, but also Disneyland's 60th anniversary. Many updates are happening at the resort, and some will be unveiled on May 22nd, the day of the all-nighter. These include a new parade and firework show, and new and improved abominable snowman animatronics on Matterhorn Bobsleds. Not to mention the return of the famed Hatbox Ghost, which is happening on May 9th (tomorrow)!

As I have the past couple years, I will be recapping the all-nighter, and trying to once again hit the 24 hour mark. I have a strong feeling that this year's all-nighter will be the best one yet.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Getting Escorted off a Ride

Have you ever been riding along on a Disney ride, when the vehicle stopped suddenly and the lights came on?

If you are a regular Disney-goer, this has probably happened to you before. It could be technical difficulties, or maybe something triggered the sensors that force the ride to brake.

Something rare however, is the case of getting helped off the ride by a cast member. Sometimes you'll end up waiting in the vehicle for an extended amount of time, just so they can fix the ride before you get off. It seems the park really doesn't want to have to resort to escorting guests off the ride.

The other day a friend and I were on Pinocchio's Daring Journey. The ride broke down just as we were entering Geppetto's workshop. A cast member came through and rounded up each group by vehicle. So my friend and I took this opportunity to linger behind and take some sneaky (hence pretty crappy) photos. Since Pinocchio is a small ride, we got to walk through the rest of the ride on foot--a very different experience than usual.

This was my first time actually exiting a ride in the middle at Disneyland (I have however, had a similar experience at Disney World). Did it ruin the magic for me? No way. It's cool to see the ride from this perspective. If anything it added to the magic, being able to see how everything looks up-close.

The park works extra hard to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen, but every once in a while it just might happen to you.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's a Small World Holiday

If you go on one ride this holiday season, make sure you ride It's a Small World.

The Disney team truly went all out this year with the decorations and lights. I feel like I have never seen so many different colors in one place. The decorations and songs are totally overwhelming, and although we're still weeks away from the holiday season, this will surely get you in the spirit.

One of the many cool holiday additions is the holiday clock show, replacing the 15-minutely cuckoo clock show with a huge projection with characters and toys. It's awesome, although it seems to be the same show as last year.

As I've said before, the holiday season is my favorite time to visit Disneyland, and attractions like this are exactly why.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DISNEY WORLD REPORT: Disney's Hollywood Studios

It's been a while since my last Disney World Park post, so check it out here and hopefully I will get to all of them. Now, as I was saying...

Disney's Hollywood Studios is the only Disney Park in America that I hadn't been to within the past 10 years, so it was a totally new experience for me. Having grown up in Los Angeles, it was absolutely bizarre to see an amusement park that was so heavily modeled after my hometown. Despite having the least amount of attractions to offer, this park was still a fun experience, and can easily occupy a day's worth of activities.

The last time I was here, it was called Disney-MGM Studios

Echo Park Lake, the namesake Echo Lake
in Disney's Hollywood Studios
As I mentioned before, much of Disney's Hollywood Studios is a replica of Hollywood, down to the street names, buildings, and even the lake. Some of the recognizable landmarks include Crossroads of the World, Carthay Circle Theater, Echo Lake, and literally dozens of others. The tributes to LA's architecture are both touching and accurate. It was truly inspiring to see so much care and detail put into an amusement park as an homage to our beautiful city on the other side of the country.

Hollywood Studios includes The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Star Tours, The Great Movie Ride, Studio Backlot Tour (now defunct), Toy Story Midway Mania!, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. With the recent closure of the Backlot Tour in late September, only The Great Movie Ride and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster are unique to this park.

Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror

The Tower of Terror was a new experience for me, since I'd only ever been on the one in California. For those who don't know, the two are considerably different. Although both rides reach the same height, the tower in Florida is actually 16 feet taller, since the California one was built with all the machinery underground. Interestingly, the Florida Tower of Terror is 199 feet tall, since FAA regulations state that any building 200 feet or higher must be topped with a red light beacon.

Waiting in line for this ride was a schlep. A considerable portion of the queue is outside, snaking around the gardens and grounds outside the tower. Not to mention that the Florida temperature at this time was brutal. As with most rides, the wait time for this Tower of Terror is exponentially longer than its California counterpart. I went on this ride a few times just to get the feel of it, but I see no reason that I should ever ride it again. The elevator moves along a track before ascending to the drop tower, passing by strange images familiar to Twilight Zone fans. The whole extra show is dumb and pointless, and I think the decision to get rid of it for DCA was the right one. On the other hand, the building's facade is a lot more detailed and interesting, so it has that going for it.

Star Tours

Not much to say about this one. The line and outer decor of this ride are way cooler than the Disneyland version. It's got a large AT-AT and the entrance looks like the Imperial Endor Bunker from Return of the Jedi. Plenty of cool photo-ops for Star Wars fans. There's also a life-size speeder bike you can take a picture on. I did notice during the ride that the intro and outro segments are different, but the ride is otherwise the same.

The Great Movie Ride

Another ride that was a totally new experience for me. The entrance for this ride looks like the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood (it will always be the Mann's Chinese Theater to me). Being very familiar with that theater myself, I enjoyed that the interior really did feel like the inside of the Chinese Theater. You enter a large ride vehicle and pass by famous scenes from various movies recreated with wax figures while a cast member narrates. This ride is unique in that cast members actually interact with the scenery, stopping the ride and interacting with animatronics and performers. During the western scene, a cowgirl hijacked our ride vehicle, but the ride has multiple different possible scenarios. It was an interesting twist on the Disney dark ride formula. At the conclusion, you watch a montage of great films throughout history. An interesting tribute to Hollywood's rich history.

Studio Backlot Tour

This was an interesting experience as I had no idea the ride was due to close only a couple months after I went on it. The ride is basically a knock-off of the Universal Studios backlot tour, only without the historic movie sets. What it lacks in sets, it makes up for in awesome props and vehicles used in famous movies. The warehouse where you wait in line is filled with actual movie props cluttering the shelves. The tram takes you through the costume department where you get to look at famous costumes from iconic movies, and large-scale props like airplanes from Michael Bay's travesty, Pearl Harbor, and a Snowspeeder that was used in The Empire Strikes Back. There's also a demonstration of special effects, where the tram enters a desert scene with an exploding oil well. My least favorite part of this ride was the fact that they shamelessly branded historic airplanes with those stupid eyes from the movie Planes: Fire & Rescue. Shame on you, Disney. Using Walt Disney's private jet to plug your summer B-movie.

In conclusion, I totally loved my trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's easily the least notable park in Disney World, but it's still awesome. I think that a new patron who's never been here could easily spend a full day at the park, but seasoned visitors will likely only spend a couple hours before moving on to the next park. Especially with the closure of the backlot tour, this park is in dire need of some new attractions. However, it has plenty of shows and live performances, including live bands, a stunt show, and an Indiana Jones stage show. Not to mention that this park has some pretty rad restaurants, one of which I will be covering in a future review. Stay tuned!

...But wait, I forgot about Rock 'n' Roller Coaster! This ride is so epic, I felt that it needed its own article. So look forward to that in the near future as well. Happy trails!