Saturday, March 30, 2013

Churro


Ah yes, the famous Disneyland churro. Churros are a traditional Mexican favorite - a stick of fried dough rolled in sugar and cinnamon. Next to the enormous lollipops, they're the most iconic treat at Disneyland. When you make your way through the park, you won't be able to resist the enticing aroma of the fried dough and sweet, spicy cinnamon. They measure over a foot across and come wrapped in a thin sleeve of paper. The churros are crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. They're light and convenient to carry, and easy to break if you want to share it with someone else. The Disneyland churros are quite close to perfection, but a little pricey at almost 4 bucks each. If it's your first visit to Disney, it's a must-have treat. With each successive visit to the park, the scent and taste of these nostalgic sweets will be sure to bring you back to your first one.

Price: $3.75
Location: Anywhere

Friday, March 29, 2013

Jalapeño Cheese Pretzel


Due to the popularity of this item, I decided I'd give my own two cents on it. It's the famous jalapeño cheese pretzel, available wherever pretzels are sold. Imagine a pretzel filled with cheese and sliced jalapeño peppers. That's really all the description I need to give. This pretzel is truly awesome, and for its price I highly recommend it. Personally I enjoy these, like all pretzels, with a packet of
Heinz mustard, which are complementary at the many pretzel vendors throughout Disneyland. Of course, the pretzel is just as good on its own. Just take a bite of one of these hot baked pretzels with oozing cheese and spicy jalapeño and you'll see what I mean. Of course, if you don't like Disneyland pretzels (preposterous), you can always go to Wetzels Pretzels, located in Downtown Disney.

Price: $3.75
Location: Anywhere


Thursday, March 28, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Astro Blasters Gift Shop

Climb out of your space cruiser, and record your scores. Congratulations, you've just defeated the evil Emperor Zurg! Take a look at the candid photo of you abusing your trigger figure on alien invaders and walk past the gift shop, back into the busy streets of Tomorrowland. That's the drill when riding Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

But have you ever stopped to take a closer look inside the gift shop? It hasn't got much; an assortment of Toy Story memorabilia and pins... but if you're old enough to remember the once popular Astro Jets ride, then you'll surely recognize this little guy:


It's not a replica either; it's one of the actual rockets that people used to ride in. If you look inside, you'll find the lever that would launch the rocket into orbit or bring it back down to earth. Many of the features have been updated - obviously it received a Buzz Lightyear-themed paint job, and the seating area has been bolted over. But look at the underside and you'll see that it hasn't exactly been altered from its original state. The mechanics and supports are all still in there.


The whereabouts of the many Rocket Jets have varied. After the ride was replaced by Astro Orbitor in 1998, they were auctioned off, and only a couple remained within Disney property. One of them was put on display in the line for the Rocket Rods attraction, a short-lived thrill ride whose waiting queue included many nods to the past, such as an actual Rocket Jet, a Skyway Gondola, and a PeopleMover car. Speaking of the PeopleMover...


That's right, the cashier counter itself is modeled after the PeopleMover. Obviously, this isn't a real vehicle that was used to carry guests, like our rocket friend up there. It's just a cool tribute to that beloved ride. Disappointed that you'll never see the PeopleMover again? Well, if you can manage to get into the Imagineering headquarters in California, you'll see lots of them scattered about. In fact, if you visit Walt Disney World in Florida, you can still ride their PeopleMover, it's called The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. But at least here in Disneyland you can come to this store and revisit memories of this forgotten ride.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fantasy Faire Review

It's finally arrived, Fantasyland's Fantasy Faire. As I mentioned in a previous article, I have been planning on reviewing this attraction since before it opened, so let's get straight to it.

Aside from the fancy new buildings, Fantasy Faire doesn't really offer anything new, in terms of things to do. It's targeted toward younger audiences, unlike the Carnation Plaza Gardens that preceded it. In fact, the only remnant of those gardens is the awning and dance stage, which have had a complete makeover to appear as the "Royal Theatre".


So, what is it? It's a storybook village centered around Disney princesses; ranging from classics such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, to more recent favorites like The Little Mermaid and Tangled. There's a meet-and-greet area, a new shop, and a ballroom. Obviously I don't fit the target demographic Disneyland was going for, but I'm going to leave my feedback anyway. The buildings look nice - in fact, they almost put Sleeping Beauty Castle to shame. The Imagineers really did a fantastic job creating a storybook village square, from the colorful tiled roofs down to the little maypole in the center of town.

Note the crane in the background
But WHY did they have to get rid of Carnation Plaza Gardens? I'll admit, I've only visited the gardens a couple of times. But as a regular guest, I know how much that dancing ground meant to many guests, and even to Walt Disney. I love the idea of having a designated area where guests could dance to music without disrupting crowds or feeling foolish. It was a stage where memories were shared, and remembered. I like the idea of Fantasy Faire, but couldn't it have been built somewhere less... in the middle of the park? It's not even technically in Fantasyland, although apparently Fantasyland has stretched its borders to accomodate the land outside of the Castle. Anyway, that's what I think. If you have small children, I suggest you check out this new attraction because I'm sure little kids would adore it. Me, personally? I think I'll head over to Frontierland instead.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thunder Mountain Construction Update


I was able to drop by the park today and observe the progress on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. They've boarded up any trace of the ride from the entrance of Frontierland all the way to Fantasyland. Apparently, they're laying down new track to make the ride go more smoothly. I'd say it's about time. This ride is one of my favorites, and I'd imagine that the high speeds and frequent train cycles aren't too kind on those steel tracks. According to Erin Glover of the official Disney Parks Blog, some parts of the Rainbow Ridge Mining Town are being replaced, the originals sent to the Disney Archives. As long as they leave Rainbow Ridge right where it is, I'm happy.

So it appears that this construction won't be complete until autumn this year. It's a shame that we won't get to ride Big Thunder this summer, but I'm excited to see the changes that will be revealed this coming fall.

Hidden Gems: Walt's Ghost

Right next door to the Main Street Town Hall at Disneyland is the Disneyland Fire Department. Guests can wander around the old-fashioned firehouse and marvel at vintage fire engines the likes of which had preceded the invention of motor cars. It may not be a functioning fire department that rushes to the scene if there's a fire on the park premises, but it's a nice addition to the old-timey feel of the Main Street facade. But in the upstairs room of the DFD lies a secret to many.


Walt Disney, the visionary behind Disneyland, liked to oversee construction and make personal changes to his beloved park. It was only fitting that he should have his own living space right on park property. And so he made his temporary home right above Main Street, in the Fire Department building. If you're a common guest, chances are you haven't been inside Walt Disney's apartment, though tours are held every morning. But next time you're walking by the Disneyland Fire Department, pay close attention to the window. See the lamp?


Guests would rely on that lamp to know when Walt was visiting the park. In a Revere-esque fashion, Walt would light the lamp when staying in his apartment, as a way of signaling to guests that the man himself was on park grounds. Ever since Walt passed away in 1966, the lamp has been lit permanently, symbolizing that Walt Disney will forever remain in Disneyland, in spirit. Hopefully in spirit. Maybe it means that his body has been cryogenically frozen in the bowels of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

All kidding aside, this is a cute little homage to Uncle Walt, who's spent 58 years watching over Disneyland. Here's to 58 more.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Top 5: Fastest FastPasses

There are some rides at Disneyland that are worth a long wait, but sometimes you just aren't in the mood to wait 50 to 100 minutes for a ride you've been on before. Maybe it's 80 degrees on a summer day and you don't feel like waiting for more than 25 minutes in the sun for Indiana Jones. Luckily for us, Disneyland created the FastPass.

First introduced in 1999, Disney's FastPass lets you skip a portion of the wait time for most rides with a long line. This ticket, usually activated 45 to 65 minutes after receiving it, allows you to spend time that would've been wasted in line on enjoying other attractions in the park. While it's nice to have a FastPass for any ride, there are some that are more worthwhile than others.

5. Grizzly River Run


It's scorching and you've come up with the brilliant idea of making your way to the only water ride in California Adventure. Unfortunately, it seems like half the people in the park had the same idea, making the line over an hour long. Even though they board quickly, you'll be waiting here for a while. The FastPass line, however, never stops moving.

4. California Screamin'


One of Disneyland's few traditional roller coasters that always has a full queue, California Screamin'. Although this magnet-powered ride moves bullet-fast, the wait seems pretty long. A FastPass in this line will have you on the ride in no time.

3. Space Mountain


When you're in Tomorrowland, there is one attraction that you're most likely here for. But if you've waited for a ride on Space Mountain on a usual day, you know that it moves anything but quickly. Half the wait is spent winding around an elevated courtyard with nothing to look at but your watch, and when you finally think you're getting somewhere, inside the building is the other half of the line. The reason this FastPass is higher on the list is mainly because of how unpleasant the outdoor wait is. The FastPass lets you go right inside where the queue is actually decorated to fit the ride's outer space theme.

2. Indiana Jones


Similar to the last ride mentioned, the main reason this FastPass is so great is because you're skipping a long wait in the sun. The outside wait is long and sweltering while you spend the entire time wishing you could just get inside. With a FastPass, you're missing the only unpleasant part of the line. Once in the building, the queue is fun and elaborately decorated, so the wait from there is not bad at all.

1. Splash Mountain


The line for this ride is 45 minutes or more year round, not just in the summer. The fact that this ride is number one on the list is a no brainer. This is one of the best rides in the park and I would stand in any line for it, but comparing the full wait to the FastPass line is impossible. While the main line is a long, slow-moving wait outdoors, a FastPass will take you past more than two thirds of the line. Really, there is nothing more satisfying than running through this line with your ticket.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hidden Gems: Secret Bathroom

In light of Disneyland's new "Fantasy Faire" attraction (review to come soon), I'm going to reminisce upon an old favorite of mine that no longer exists. If you've been to Disneyland within the past several months, you've no doubt noticed the construction going on in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Well, they've finally completed Fantasy Faire, a village courtyard where guests can experience a magical meeting with their favorite Disney princess. But most older Disney guests will remember it as Carnation Plaza Gardens, a fun dance floor that frequently held dance parties. By night, live bands would play to swinging couples and guests who loved to dance after a fun day at Disneyland. Even Walt Disney himself adored the plaza and would love to dance there. But by day, the plaza was a bleak, dimly-lit dinner stage that was often empty. That made it the perfect spot for a secret room.


Okay, so it's not so secret anymore. Thanks to the internet and word-of-mouth, this hidden gem became little more than a discreet washroom behind the terrace near Fantasyland. Next to the cast-members only gate, if you walked around and behind the stone wall you'd find a secret family restroom. It was one of the first restrooms to feature new technologies like motion-sensor sinks (now used in most restrooms) and was handicap-accessible. Most guests who knew about it favored the secret bathroom due to its private location and the thrill in finding a hidden location. There are reports that the Disneyland Secret Bathroom has been moved, but I'll have to see for myself. In the meantime, enjoy the Fantasy Faire attraction that replaced it. Maybe we'll see another hidden restroom sometime soon.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Gullywhumper

The Gullywhumper was one of the two Mike Fink Keelboats that used to take guests around the Rivers of America. Back in the days of Tom Sawyer's Island, the Gullywhumper and Bertha Mae sailed from 1955-1997.
The Bertha Mae in its heyday
The keelboats were based on the Disney TV show Davy Crockett, and were named after the "King of the River" character, Mike Fink. After the Gullywhumper capsized, the ride was shut down for good. The Bertha Mae was bought on eBay by Richard Kraft, and featured in his documentary, Finding Kraftland. But what happened to the Gullywhumper?

The Gullywhumper remained in the Rivers of America as a prop for spectators on the Disneyland Ltd., where it deteriorated over the years.

Guests on the train could watch the Gullywhumper slowly begin to sink
In 2010, the Gullywhumper was replaced with a new keelboat; a more faithful prop built to sit in the water as a tribute to what once carried guests around the rivers.

The new Gullywhumper
It even says "Gullywhumper" on the side

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hidden Gems: America Sings Goose

Shortly after The Carousel of Progress was removed, a new attraction moved in: America Sings. It featured dozens of peppy critters, furry, feathery, and scaly, all singing classic American folk songs.


 But what's that you say? Those look familiar? Well as a matter of fact, almost all of the animatronics on Splash Mountain were just stripped right from America Sings. But not all of them...


Before Splash Mountain even saw the light of day, a couple of the geese were actually skinned to their skeletons and wires, and placed in the queue for Star Tours. Go ahead, and take a gander
(pun intended) at those old nods to the past. Though Star Tours may have changed, those few old geese still occupy Tomorrowland as they always have.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top 10: Reasons Disneyland is so Expensive

Disneyland is one of the most expensive theme parks in the world. There's no denying it. The average family who visits Disneyland may end up with hundreds of dollars missing from their wallet by the week's end. But why is that? Why are they denying underprivileged children the chance to visit the "happiest place on earth"? Is Disney the evil, money-grubbing corporation we think it is? Not exactly.

10. It's Not Always Overpriced


Does Disneyland charge too much for products? Look at their beverages. Guests may pay up to twice for a Coca-Cola or a Monster what they would pay at the grocery store. Yes, that's an extra two or three dollars, but is five bucks for a soda going to kill you? Not to mention, the numerous restaurants and various sit-down eateries throughout the park are quite affordable. And if you're really thirsty, stop by the ice cream parlor on Main Street and ask for a cup of ice water. It's free of charge.

9. Promotions


If you actually think about it, Disneyland pays fortunes for you to come and visit their park. If you're driving throughout Southern California you're bound to see loads of Disneyland billboards and hear radio commercials. You might see a Disneyland commercial during halftime on any given Sunday. These promotions aren't cheap, and while they create an endless cycle of family trips and more advertising, how else are they going to get you to come to the park? It works like a trade.

8. Sanitation


Have you ever been to Disneyland and seen trash piled up on the ground? Or cups crushed flat on the pavement? Candy and ice cream wrappers swept into the curbs? No, you probably haven't. Disneyland hires an army of discreet janitors who sweep discarded trash into their dustbins as soon as it hits the ground. It costs a lot of money to keep Disneyland as pristine as it is. If they weren't cleaning the Magic Kingdom 24/7, you'd encounter a lot more rotten food and vomit all over the place. If you don't believe me, go to Six Flags and compare.

7. Expansion


Believe it or not, Disneyland is always expanding. This can be said even more so of Disney World. But yes, even Disneyland is constantly adding to their resort, building new pools for the hotels or new sections for their parks. I'm sure Cars Land in DCA wasn't cheap. Remember when California Adventure was just a parking lot? The Disney Parks are constantly working to compensate as many guests as possible and create a less-crowded, more spacious environment for its worldwide selection of guests.

6. Merchandise


Disneyland is frequently stocking the shelves with stuffed animals, clothing, knick knacks, and pretty much anything you can think of. They have to mint pins for pin traders, and manufacture cups and hats and toys. They sell hundreds of thousands of items per day and a good portion of that revenue goes straight to re-stocking the shops for the very next day. Obviously they're turning a profit from all of this merchandise, but believe me, in selling these products they want to provide every guest with as much satisfaction as they can.

5. Ride Construction


You don't think rides just appear magically at Disneyland, do you? Of course, that's what the Imagineers would like you to think. Ride construction is actually an extremely meticulous and expensive process. Contractors are hired to imagine and plot the rides. Concept drawings and models are made on paper and on the computer. Occupied land space is bulldozed to make room for the new attractions. Materials are purchased and most often imported, where they are constructed in warehouses and assembled on the park grounds. Disneyland maps, websites, and commercials are updated to preview the new attractions, and additional costs are spent each day to maintain and run those rides. As you can well imagine, each ride costs Disney a pretty penny and they only get more and more expensive. Disney World's Expedition Everest cost a whopping 100 million dollars just to build. That's over three months of total park revenue.

4. Quality Food


Disney Parks have the best theme park food in the world. Seriously. Some restaurants such as Wine Country Trattoria and Carthay Circle are renowned food establishments. Are they expensive? Certainly. But you don't have to pay a royalty to eat high-quality food at Disneyland. The Tomorrowland Terrace, Gumbo Shop, and the turkey leg stands all offer delicious meals for under 10 dollars.

3. Cast Member Salary


Think about how many people must work at the Disneyland Resort. All the costumed characters, janitors, chefs, food vendors... all the security guards and secret service members... There's approximately 20,000 employees at Disneyland. And considering that working at Disneyland isn't exactly a minimum wage occupation, you have to expect that all 20,000 employees are going to require a paycheck just like any other job. Every restaurant, every ride, in fact every 185 square feet of the entire resort will have a cast member in it. And they're the smiliest, friendliest employees you can find. Even though Disney probably treats them like drones. So just remember that when you drop a hundred dollars on a park ticket, you're paying for all of those ice cream salesmen who have to slave away in the sun, and Goofys and Tiggers your kids took a picture with.

2. Maintenance


If you're a regular at Disneyland, every once in a while you've probably had to step off of a ride, or maybe you walked all the way to Adventureland to find that Indiana Jones has been closed for repair. Sure, it's a bummer at the time, but be grateful that Disneyland offers so much care to their rides and attractions. In fact, if they didn't have scheduled repairs or shut down the rides at the first sign of malfunction, those rides could be closed for months at a time. Disneyland is always innovating new ways to make the rides safe and operate cleanly, to prevent as many disasters as possible.

1. Just Because


Now before you accuse me of copping out of a real reason, hear me out. Disney is a multi-billion dollar franchise, and they're always looking to make as much money as they possibly can. And with great power comes great responsibility. The park costs billions of dollars to run each year, and they end up keeping approximately half of their revenue. So while prices are always increasing for annual passes or food and merchandise, so are the costs that Disneyland has to pay. So of course Disneyland is expensive, but it's also the greatest amusement park in the world. You're donating a lot of cash to keep Disneyland as awesome as it is, so why not enjoy it?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Disneyland's New Child Admission Policy

Disneyland has just announced a new rule that will be effective this weekend. Children under the age of 14 will not be admitted into the park without a parent. This poses a problem for parents who don't want to pay for parking and prefer to drop their children off at the park. Or worse, children on vacation whose parents didn't buy a pass to accompany their kids. Personally, I don't think this rule should exist at all. By the age of 14, aren't kids responsible enough to spend a day at Disneyland alone? How dangerous could it be? 10 or under, I'd understand, but 14? Those kids don't want to go to Disneyland with their mom and dad! I'm curious to see the controversy that will ensue.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hidden Gems: Max Buff and Melvin

The psychotropic children's ride, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, holds a number of clever easter eggs. A couple of Hidden Mickeys and, well, that's about it. But if you were alive in the 90's or earlier, then this hidden gem may come as a pleasant surprise. Remember what existed before The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh? It was none other than the Country Bear Jamboree!
No, not those Country Bears...
That's more like it.
The Country Bear Jamboree was a show where visitors could watch animatronic animals play instruments, not dissimilar to what you would find at a Chuck-E-Cheese. It included a cast of characters such as Zeek and Zeb and Ted and Fred and a bear named Tennessee. And of course, Max the stag, Buff the buffalo, and Melvin the moose, three severed animal heads mounted on the wall that performed a song and introduced the show.

Melvin Buff and Max in their prime
Sadly, all 17 bears are nowhere to be found, likely dismantled for their parts to be used on other rides. But what happened to Max, Buff, and Melvin? Well, going back to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh...

They're still there. Hanging above unsuspecting riders
Make sure you turn all the way around after the hallucinogenic Heffalumps and Woozles scene. The heads are huge, you can't miss them. If you ever miss the old Country Bear Jamboree look no further than the attraction that replaced it in 2001.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Disneyland Enforcing Fastpass Times


In case you haven't heard, it's finally happened. As of last month (February 19th, 2013), Disneyland has begun enforcing the Fastpass times. From now on, riders who show up before or after the designated time window on their Fastpass will not be admitted to the ride. Before, riders could stack up all their Fastpasses by getting a new one every hour, allowing them to skip the line multiple times in a row. This new rule will prevent the Fastpass line from becoming too crowded, and riders from abusing the system.


Personally, I don't know how I feel about this rule. Disneyland has started cracking down on scalpers selling two-day passes, which is understandable, because they're losing potential money in that situation. But if a guest took the time to perhaps collect a Fastpass before lunch and returned just as the clock expired, why should they have to wait all over again? What's the harm in letting someone have multiple Fastpasses, free to return to the ride when they feel like riding? Disney World implemented this rule a while ago, and just now they're enforcing it here in California. I wonder why the sudden change-of-mind.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Top 10: Splash Mountain Photos

Most people would scream or make an embarrassing face on Splash Mountain. But not these people. These are the top 10 coordinated Splash Mountain photos, mostly coordinated before they stepped on the ride. Maybe some of them couldn't stay entertained long enough to finish the ride before engaging in other activities. This is how to ride that classic flume LIKE A BOSS.

#10. Surgeons


Oh, you know, just a procedural operation being performed at Disneyland. It makes one wonder what the other guests thought seeing people walking around in scrubs.

#9. Taking shots

"Every time they say something racist, we take a shot."

#8. WHY???

Just a classic expression on the drop. I can't tell if this person planned this or is actually scared... or what gender they are.

#7. Beer Pong


Enough said.

#6. Stormtrooper


The best part is his stormtrooper shirt to match his mask. I wonder if he enjoyed Star Tours?

#5. Connect Four


The dude with the Jenga tower kills me. I wonder how they got a Connect Four game into Disneyland.

#4. Marriage Proposal


How sweet! Assuming that's Lindsay in the front I doubt she is as flattered by the picture.

#3. Shaving


 Classic stuff. I hope he didn't cut himself.

#2. Monopoly


This must have taken a lot of planning. I see they're playing with the "No Parking" rules.

#1. Gamecube


This is just awesome. A+ for the idea of playing Super Smash Bros. on the ride. One has to think that was the first (and only) time a video game console rode on Splash Mountain. Also, the poster board being used as a TV was a nice touch.