Thursday, May 30, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Burning Settler's Cabin

On the banks of the Rivers of America, lie many attractions visible only by the train, the explorer canoes, or the two ferries that circle Tom Sawyer's Island. Each vignette represents what times were supposedly like in the days of pioneers and American Indian tribes. However, one was perhaps a little too realistic.


The Burning Settler's Cabin lay directly across the Rivers of America, as seen from the Disneyland Railroad. It was a moonshiner's cabin set ablaze, apparently by hostile Indians, complete with a dead settler outside. His body was even pierced with an exaggeratedly large arrow, visible to patrons of the train and boat rides. The cabin was one of the more mysterious additions to Frontierland, as it could only be seen from afar, leaving behind many mysteries of origin and explanation. Who was this settler, and why was he attacked by the "Unfriendly Indians"? Well, it's actually a full-body fiberglass cast of former Imagineer Ed Winger. Winger's name can be seen on one of the windows above the Carnation Cafe on Main Street.

Photo from FindingMickey.com
Appropriately, the window is captioned, "Old Settler's Gold Dredging", listing Ed Winger as the proprietor. Now, in 1984, the macabre scenario was altered to be a little more racially sensitive, and the explanation for the fire was that the moonshine still had caught fire. The arrow was removed and the settler was still lying there, presumably asleep after having too much to drink. Around 1991, the flames ceased to burn, and the settler was removed entirely. A hollow, charred cabin stood for many years. Recently however, the entire area has been cleaned up, with many additions such as a fire pit, a stable, and a tree house. A sign in front proclaims that the land is now the home of "Mike Fink: King of the River".

The former Burning Settler's Cabin as it appears today
And what's out in front of Mike Fink's cabin? Oh, just his old racing boat, of course.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

REPORT: Small Bomb Discharged at Disneyland

A 22-year-old Disneyland employee was arrested Tuesday after being linked to a minor explosion that went off in the Mickey's Toon Town section of the park. A loud bang was heard and a trash can appeared to have exploded. Toon Town was evacuated and police arrived at the scene, but fortunately no one was hurt. The bomb in question turned out to be a dry ice bomb, a small explosive device commonly used in pranks, in which the combination of water and dry ice in a resealed water bottle causes gases to expand, creating a pressure buildup from the carbon dioxide.

The debris from the small detonation
Toon Town was eventually reopened later that evening, but an investigation is pending outside the park. It seems that this was a prank pulled by the young employee, and not an act of terror or endangerment, even though it could have seriously injured someone. Ever since the tragic "Boston Marathon bombing", large public areas are seen as potential targets for another attack, and Disneyland is no exception.

I wouldn't let this dissuade me or anyone else from going to Disneyland, but it should act as a reminder to always stay safe in places like these.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cream Cheese Pretzel


Finally we'll be reviewing the second of the Disneyland pretzels. It's sort of like the jalapeño cheese pretzel, only instead of being filled with melted cheese and jalapeño peppers, it's filled with sweet cream cheese. To be perfectly honest, I would have preferred regular cream cheese to the frosting-like stuff they fill these pretzels with, but I understand that they want to expand their variety of pretzels. Still, they're pretty good, and more of a dessert than anything. The tartness of the cream cheese filling makes them less enjoyable with mustard, but good enough on their own. Also, the pretzel is crispier and less smooth than the jalapeño one, which is a bonus. Looking for an affordable treat that isn't too spicy or salty? Look no further.

Price: $3.75
Location: Anywhere

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hidden Gems: New Orleans Square Station

With so much history at Disneyland, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that even the train station at New Orleans Square has its own backstory. While it's no longer accessible (it was once used by guests as an actual train station in Frontierland), it does house a cast member lounge and a functioning water tower. Additionally, the message that can be heard being tapped repeatedly at the telegraph office is a Morse-code version of Walt Disney's famous opening speech.

"To all who come to this happy place, welcome."
The most interesting bit of trivia however, is that the train station is actually a replica of another fake train station. More specifically, the movie set from the 1948 Disney movie So Dear to my Heart. Walt Disney intended for the train station built for that movie to be the one used in Frontierland, but he had given it as a gift to Disney animator Ward Kimball. Kimball had already done some work on the station, so Disney had another one constructed in the park. The train station has changed over the years in shape and form, expanding in size and receiving an entirely different coat of colors, but Kimball's movie prop station still provides an accurate idea of how the New Orleans Square Station looked on opening day.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Disneyland All-Nighter 2013 RECAP - Part 2

The Morning

The day began like any other day at Disneyland. The only differences being, I was there at 6:00 AM, two hours before the park is normally scheduled to open. The other, I wasn't going to leave for 24 hours.

The lines to get into the park were quite underwhelming. There seemed to be consistently no waiting all day and night, to enter the park. The day began with a firework countdown for the gates to open, hosted by Mike and Sully from Pixar's Monsters, Inc. and the upcoming Monsters University.



As we came into the park, hundreds of cast members lined the sidewalks of Main Street with arms outstretched, all wearing Mickey Mouse gloves. As I ran down Main Street, I was high-fived and welcomed by every one of them. Several complimented my sweatshirt (go Dodgers!) and said good morning, making it a truly welcoming and happy experience to kick off the day. For at least the first 4-5 hours of the day, none of the rides had so much as a 20-minute wait, with the exception of a couple of the more popular rides like Space Mountain and Star Tours. I was the first rider of the day on Pirates of the Caribbean, along with two other passengers who sang along with the lyrics the entire time. It was awesome.

Tons of cast members giving out high fives

Pirates looking empty as ever
As I waited for the rest of my party to arrive, I thought I'd check out Splash Mountain's standby wait time. Nobody was in line. I casually strolled to the front and was allowed my own boat. I decided to just kick back and enjoy the ride to myself, with no one else even in sight. When the ride was over, the ride operator asked if I'd like to go again. Since I am rarely afforded this opportunity I rode Splash Mountain again. And again. Yes, I rode Splash Mountain three times in a row without anyone else and without getting off. After completing the hat trick, I headed to Tomorrowland.


An hour's time allowed me to ride Space Mountain, Astro Orbitor (twice), and Astro Blasters. An additional 30 minutes later I had rode the Finding Nemo Submarines and Autopia. All in all, the daytime was an easy and pleasant experience, even more laid back than usual.

The Night

By night time, I had been with the rest of my group for about 12 hours and we were starting to get hyped for the all-nighter. I drank a coffee to ensure that I wouldn't begin to fade randomly at any point during the night, and we just sort of walked around and rode whatever we wanted, like a typical day at Disneyland. Only, it was past midnight.


Main Street was lively all night
Matterhorn was awesome at 2AM, and the music was loud and blaring at the Tomorrowland Terrace. People were passed out on the ground and benches, and there were all kinds of crazy shenanigans at the Sleeping Beauty Castle area. I can safely say that having been to Disneyland many hundreds of times over the past 17 years, I have never experienced anything like this. Nothing compares to riding Indiana Jones late at night, only to know that you could ride it a second time. Usually I am put off by hours of waiting, but when you have 24 hours, 45 minutes seems like nothing out of your day.

I started slipping away around 4AM. I was sitting on Jungle Cruise in the dark as the skipper was lighting up the scenes and pointing at things with a flashlight when I started to drift off. Even though he was constantly yelling to startle the easily frightened guests, I was too exhausted to be startled. By the end, I was barely awake when he asked if anyone had been here since 6. I raised my hand and to my surprise, I was the only one. That's when I knew that I had been there for too long.

We only spent an hour at DCA
Don't get me wrong though. I rode at least another 5 rides before I left. Around 5:15 I got on Star Tours without waiting (I accidentally went in through the handicap area and was too tired to notice) and at that point the cast members seemed pretty nonchalant. I could hardly keep my eyes open as we traveled to Kashyyyk and Naboo. By the end, I just wanted to go home, and the final stretch seemed impossibly long. I hadn't slept in over 24 hours and was ready to get it over with. Barely anyone was left in the park by 6, and a very small number of them had been there for 24 hours. It was an experience I'll never forget, and hopefully next time I'll be able to arrive at night so I can get some much-needed rest beforehand.

Disneyland All-Nighter 2013 RECAP - Part 1

The Main Street Clock Tower around 4:00 AM
I arrived at 6:00 AM on the morning of May 24th, and stayed until 6:00 AM, May 25th. So yes, I spent the full 24 hours at Disneyland and was one of a relatively small number of people who did so. This is a recap of the experience. I will also publish a recap of my own personal views here.

It was not nearly as crowded as I had anticipated. Last year's celebration was packed within hours with lines extended all throughout the park. This year, many factors prevented a hectic version of last year's catastrophe. I think the fact that it was right before summer (Disneyland's busiest time of year) coupled with the opening of California Adventure Park, slimmed down attendance at the Magic Kingdom, where I stayed for 23 of the 24 hours.

The lines for all the rides, except Space Mountain, remained reasonably short all night. Space Mountain peaked at over two hours. My party and I were able to board Matterhorn at 2 AM with standard wait times of just under an hour. Autopia also reached relatively long wait times, but Fastpasses for that ride were being distributed until about midnight.

I was able to get in tons of rides, especially early in the day. It seems that most people got some sleep during the day, so lines for the rides were extremely short all morning. I hope that the next 24-hour celebration, should they choose to do one, is just as organized.

For my experience and takeaway from the 24-hour event, check out part 2.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Rocket Jets


We've talked about the Rocket Jets before. If you've read that article, you will know that a couple of the rockets from that ride are decorations at the Astro Blasters gift shop. But where exactly was Rocket Jets?

One of the rockets still in Disneyland
Well, Rocket Jets was sort of the predecessor to Tomorrowland's Astro Orbitor. But unlike Astro Orbitor, it wasn't located at the front of Tomorrowland. It was actually located high above Tomorrowland, on top of the PeopleMover station.

Pictured: Two no-longer existent rides
You would board a lift stylized to look like a tower from a real launchpad, walk onto the loading platform and enjoy the ride.

Now, Rocket Jets wasn't the first of its kind. It was not only preceded by Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland (1955), but also another very similar and rather short-lived ride in Tomorrowland called the Astro Jets (1956).

Astro Jets, c. 1962
But despite the two other incarnations of a Tomorrowland rocket spinner ride, the Rocket Jets was perhaps the most iconic. Maybe because it resembled NASA's Saturn V rocket at the height of the Space Race, or maybe because it spanned four decades in the park. But one thing can be sure, and it's that the Rocket Jets attraction will be missed. Hopefully the Imagineering department decides to make something of the PeopleMover track, and the large space that was once occupied by the Rocket Jets. Speaking of that space, what's there now?

Oh yes, that um... thing.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Disneyland Archives

An overlooked pocket of Main Street sits plain-as-day, to the right just as you cross under the Disneyland Ltd. railroad bridge and enter Disneyland. It's a sort of archive for Disney Park history. They have many fantastic scale models of attractions, and even a large model of Disneyland as it appeared on July 17th, 1955. It also has some relics from the Griffith Park Observatory that gave Walt Disney the inspiration behind Disneyland. And of course, this old piece of history:


That's the bench Walt was sitting on when he first dreamed of Disneyland. The spot where Disneyland was born.

Another amazing bit of Disneyland's legacy is the collection of tickets they have. There's a very large bulletproof case containing countless tickets, including ride ticket books and admission passes. But there's one particular silver slip of paper that makes this exhibit particularly interesting.

It's the greenish one at the top left
That ticket was one of the very first Disneyland tickets ever made. It was donated to the park by someone who was personally invited to attend opening day. After consulting a cast member, I learned that the case was recently insured for over $22,000,000. TWENTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS. But I'm sure that the ticket itself is priceless.

So stop by, and enjoy the amazing details of Disneyland's past. I hope this exhibit will stay forever, because it truly is an amazing and informative museum documenting the beloved amusement park.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Motor Boat Cruise

In 1957, Disneyland welcomed a new water ride, the Fantasyland Motor Boat Cruise. Guests could speed around a waterway track in their own motor boat, underneath the tracks of the Monorail, Viewliner, and Junior Autopia.

The steering wheels were non-functioning decorations
The ride was simple and enjoyable, and saw many prosperous years in the park. As the years went by, countless attractions came and went, and it was only fitting that in 1991, Motor Boat Cruise began to come to an end.

Photo from Yesterland.com
In 1991, the Motor Boat Cruise was re-branded as the Motor Boat Cruise to Gummi Glen. In a brief effort to revive the fading motor boat ride, cut-out characters and settings from the NBC cartoon, Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears, were placed about the banks of the river to give the ride a theme. Unfortunately, it didn't last, and in 1993 the ride made its final run. However, as the boats may be gone, the waterway lives on, and you can still see some of the banks and turns from the monorail. But perhaps best of all, the loading dock is still 100% intact, and is now used as a rest stop. Though most guests may not recognize or even acknowledge this little awning as any more than a resting place, it was once a queue for a historic ride that will live on in the patrons' memories.

The loading dock today

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hidden Gems: Real Bones on Pirates of the Caribbean


Back in 1967 when Walt Disney had hardly just passed away, Pirates of the Caribbean first set sail at Disneyland. Today, the ride has spawned a multi-billion dollar film franchise, merchandise, and even video games. But it all began with the iconic boat ride, considered by many to be the most beloved in Disneyland. But along with singing pirates and fair maidens, it once held a dark secret.


Legend has it that while the ride was still under construction, Imagineers were displeased with the false skeletons placed about the ride. They didn't look authentic enough. The solution was simple: to use real human bones. The UCLA medical school provided cadaver skeletons to Disneyland, which were positioned in the classic poses we see  today. A pair playing chess, one atop a mountain of gold coins, a dead captain with a sabre in his ribs... While this may seem grotesque, they remained for quite some time. It hasn't been officially stated exactly when the skeletons were replaced with dummies, but they were. Perhaps technology provided more realistic-looking skeletons, or some Imagineer simply couldn't stand it anymore. All we know is, when they were taking out the bones from the ride, there were a couple they didn't remove.


Although the skeleton in bed looking through a magnifying glass is no longer the remains of a deceased man, the bones on the headboard behind him are. That is a genuine skull and crossbones, and it is not known why they chose to leave it there. Love it or hate it, it certainly is a spooky Easter egg that will hopefully remind patrons of the ride's eerie history for ages to come.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Top 5 Summer Rides

Summer is just around the corner, and as usual, Disneyland will be packed like a can of sardines. But which rides should you go on, and which should you avoid? Fear not, for this is a breakdown of the top 5 rides that are perfect for your summer Disneyland excursions.

5. Splash Mountain



Don't expect short wait-times. This ride is almost always a hassle. But even on the most brutal summer days, a Fastpass will ensure that you're on the ride in 10 minutes tops. Should you choose to wait out the full hour or two, most of the line is indoors or in shade anyway. Once you're through the barn door, Splash Mountain is just a few cool steps away. The ride itself is a bit of a tease, as you circle around the big drop, and go up and down a few smaller ones. But once you make that final splash, you'll be drenched.

Summer tip: Wear sandals or flip-flops on this ride. Wet socks are inevitable.


4. Ariel's Undersea Adventure



A short wait time, cool air and a long, sit-down show ride. These are qualities that make a great and relaxing experience, and an easy way to escape from the blazing Southern California sun. It's a lot like The Haunted Mansion, and while it's not as iconic or creative, it is a much shorter queue and entirely indoors. So if you're trying to find something to do inside, look no further than DCA's Little Mermaid ride. It's a great way to entertain the kids and not force them to wait in the sun.

3. Grizzly River Run



The line for this scenic summer favorite is always a mile long, but for those who like to get wet on water rides, you will get soaked. This attraction also offers Fastpasses, which are quick and accessible, and a single-rider line for those whose family or friends won't brave the rapids with them. The long lines are made up for with plenty of shade and  music, to make the waiting bearable. It's a fun twisting and turning experience that will be sure to cool you off from the summer heat.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean



This ride is just an all-around classic, and is perfect for summer. Why? It's inside and away from the sun, and waiting in line is never trouble. The classic animatronics and pirate songs never get old, and the immersive experience really feels like you are being transported back to the times of Captain Jack Sparrow. It's a ride that has stood the test of time, and many countless summers.

1. Toy Story Midway Mania


Toy Story Midway Mania is the ideal way to spend an hour out of your summer day at California Adventure. You wait for 45 minutes to an hour inside and out, and it's such a relief when the ride begins. The wait time might seem like a lot, but this is one of the rides worth waiting for. Rather than simply watching things happen like in most rides, you're participating in a shooting contest for points. Hit various targets to earn a high score, and keep coming back for practice. It's a great way to spend a care-free afternoon with a guarantee that no two ride-throughs will be exactly the same.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Midget Autopia

Autopia made its debut in Tomorrowland on opening day in 1955. It remains one of the most famous and beloved rides in Disneyland. However, there was once another, smaller speedway that occupied Fantasyland. In 1957, Midget Autopia was born; a child-friendly version of Autopia with non-functioning steering wheels. And it was kids-only.


It existed until 1966, when it was donated to a municipal park in Marceline, Missouri, the place where Walt Disney was raised. The ride was not built to last, and was taken down a few years later. The cars remained in a Disney museum in Marceline, but one was returned to its rightful home: Disneyland.


That car was bronzed and put on permanent display in Tomorrowland, where it sits in front of riders of the current Autopia. Most drivers young and old, will likely ignore this piece of history; unaware that it once gave children their first taste of the road. Still, it's great to be able to enjoy memories of that classic ride some 50 years later.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Space Mountain Re-opens

Originally posted on Saturday, May 4th, 2013.

Back in November, a Disneyland cast member was struck by a train while crossing the tracks on Space Mountain. Fortunately he survived, and sued Disneyland for over $200,000. During a ride inspection, it was determined that Space Mountain, Soarin' Over California, and Matterhorn didn't meet safety regulations and were all subsequently closed.

Yesterday the rides were reopened, and we at the Disneyland Report visited the park to welcome them back. Space Mountain riders enjoyed relatively short wait times (45 minutes) with no noticeable changes, as the new additions were mainly for safety reasons. So head over to Disneyland Resort today to celebrate Star Wars Day, and the reopening of Disney's favorite roller coaster.

Iron Man Exhibit at Innoventions

For the first time ever, a Marvel-themed attraction has arrived at a Disney Park. For a limited time, the top floor of Innoventions in Tomorrowland will be dedicated to the Iron Man film franchise, starring Robert Downey Jr. Now, you can see all of the Iron Man suits that appear in the movies, including the original Mark 1 suit and the new Mark 42.


It even has a motion-sensor activity where you can stand in a designated spot and watch an Iron Man suit on a screen imitate your moves simultaneously. There is also a small display of prop costume parts actually screen-used in the movies. So check out this exhibit before its run comes to an end.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hidden Gems: Autopia Statues

Autopia houses much history, as it has carried guests around Tomorrowland in small motor cars for nearly 60 years. For instance: did you know that it has been driven by many famous guests, including President Ronald Reagan, and members of the Rat Pack?

Yes, that is the real Frank Sinatra
But even today, it has a little bit of history still embedded in it. And I'm not just talking about the outdated Chevron cars...


What many have mistaken for a replica of a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride car, is in fact the real deal. It has been bronzed and put upon a pedestal to imitate a statue. So if you rode Mr. Toad's Wild Ride before the 1980's refurbishment of Autopia, you may actually have rode in this vehicle. But it doesn't stop there. Another statue on Autopia is from an older ride known as Midget Autopia; an Autopia designed for children.


Since there's a lot to say about this ride, we'll post a full article soon. For now, enjoy these two nods to the past.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Corn Dogs

One of the best and quickest food experiences you will find at Disneyland is the famous Main Street corn dog truck. Served out of a traditional 1920's-era catering truck, for 6.19 you can get a large hand-dipped corn dog and a choice of either chips or apples. That price might seem hefty, and, well it is. But if you enjoy corn dogs, prepare to take a bite out of one of the best corn dogs of your life.

The sweet, crispy layer of batter and the salty, flavorful hot dog inside are a deliciously contrasting blend. One of my favorite things about these corn dogs is that the stick only goes about an inch deep, so you can cut the dog with a knife, or bite into it without worrying about eating around the stick.

As mentioned before, the price is pretty steep, but you do get a snack with it. If you're looking for a cost-efficient lunch, you may want to find a pretzel stand or something else. But the amount of food you're getting is quite filling, and certainly worth a try.

Price: 6.19
Location: Next to the Plaza Inn



Friday, May 3, 2013

Mickey and the Magical Map

To kick off the summer, Disneyland is reintroducing the Fantasyland Theatre, a large venue which has been void of stage productions since "Snow White: An Enchanted Musical", which debuted back in 2004.

In Mickey and the Magical Map -- a spin-off of the beloved segment from the 1940 Disney film Fantasia, Mickey will once again don his wizard robe and hat as the sorcerer's apprentice.

Mickey will travel between many familiar locations in time and in the world, visiting the universes of The Jungle Book, Tangled, Mulan, and more. The show will feature new technologies like cutting-edge projections, innovative special effects utilizing light and sound, and the new animatronic character costumes whose eyes and mouths move.

Be sure to catch Mickey and the Magical Map, taking the stage on May 25th.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Captain Hook's Galley and Skull Rock



History

Originally known as the "Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship", Captain Hook's Galley was a restaurant within a pirate ship-- as the name would suggest, a replica of the ship belonging to Captain Hook of the beloved 1953 Disney adaptation of Peter Pan. The galley was permanently situated in a shallow pond in the center of Fantasyland, surrounded on all sides by still-standing attractions such as the Mad Tea Party, King Arthur Carousel, Storybook Land Canal Boats, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Due to an initial sponsorship with Chicken of the Sea, the galley served tuna-centered dishes, even after the name was changed.

Original location of the galley
Sometime later, the galley was joined by a faithful recreation of the infamous Skull Rock, to further expand the small, Peter Pan-themed pocket of the park. It stood over the water behind the ship, creating an iconic view that represented Fantasyland for many years. In 1982 when Dumbo and the Carousel were relocated, Captain Hook's Galley and Skull rock were both removed for good.

Captain Hook's Galley and Skull Rock today


The empty spot where the galley once was
Unlike many other former Disneyland attractions, no traces of this old restaurant remain in the park today. However, in Disneyland Paris, you can still visit a Captain Hook's Galley restaurant and Skull Rock, similar to the ones removed from Disneyland long ago. They are appropriately situated somewhat near Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Disneyland Paris version of Skull Rock looks more grim
Here in California however, Disneyland had its own revival of the ship and rock formation. At the Disneyland Hotel's Neverland Pool, a small-scale version of the ship was docked on dry land, beside a Skull Rock water slide. It was a nice nod to the forgotten attraction, but the Neverland Pool too became just a memory, as it was remodeled in 2011 and now contains no references to Peter Pan. Perhaps someday Captain Hook will return to pillage Disneyland, and reclaim his territory in Fantasyland.