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View Full Version : Disney's California Adventure: The Press Gang in action (A trilogy in five or six parts). Part IVa -


SimonV
02-16-2001, 04:31 AM
(Disclaimer: yes, you’ve read it all before :D Just remember, you have been warned!).

Right, we have finally moved on to Day Four in the great Media Preview and, for a change, I have managed a half-decent night’s sleep. Admittedly, the alarm call comes in at 7am (so I can start tapping at the ol’ lap-top), but, as I have decided to skip breakfast, I don’t have to be at our ‘muster point’ until 8.45. With the gang all here, we head back over to the Media Center and I begin the first elements of my story back to the newspaper in London.

After a quick check of the Boards ( ;) ), it is time to go back into DCA for the rest of the story. Everything is up and running, with the exception of the big theatre presentation and the stunt show. With our relatively late start to the day, we have missed the dedication of Soarin’ Over California, which featured a flyover of two jets from the USAAF Thunderbirds team (I believe; I caught only a glimpse of them zooming over from my hotel window), but there is plenty more going on around the park, and the Sunshine Plaza is a positive log-jam of TV and radio crews all jostling for interviews and/or good positions to send their reports from (the crews around Grizzly River Run look to have got the best locations, IMHO, as the ride makes a spectacular back-drop to many a report).

Although it’s somewhat of a hassle, I nip back to the hotel after making contact with the office so I am not toting the lap-top around all day. That leaves me in Paradise Pier when I re-enter, and so it is a natural to re-start my ride experiences here. So, hello there Mulholland Madness! Now, I think I have already made my thoughts on the theming, or lack or it, here quite clear. It is a pretty standard small-scale steel coaster, with nothing left to the imagination – until you ride it! Because the cars are so small – only four-seaters – there is no bad seat to be had, and off you roll (pretty quickly it has to be said) up the ramp ready for the coast back down (roll, coast, geddit? {Groan!}). Anyone who has already ridden a crazy-mouse coaster will know what to expect, in that you whip round the corners VERY quickly and the whole car feels like it is going to come off the track at every bend. Here, the bends seem that much sharper and the car zips along that much quicker, so the effect of teetering on the edge is that much more pronounced, and, with the small size of your vehicle, you really do feel pretty precarious (and you also get thrown around quite a lot; whip-lash, anyone?). After the series of hairpin bends at the top, you have to negotiate a series of swoops down, with a few more hairy corners thrown in for good measure. It is a relatively short ride, I feel, but quite a laugh for all that. Now, if only they had come up with a good theme for the ride…………

Next, after teetering off MM, I head for the Sun Wheel, this magnificent-looking Ferris Wheel that is sure to be a park icon before long. Once again, there is only a minimal wait (but I get the impression the lines here could be uncomfortably long when the park is full) and then it is up, up and away for a great view over this half of DCA. The twist in the Wheel, of course, is that two-thirds of the cars are on rails within the main framework, which means that on the way up and on the way down, your car suddenly takes on a life of its own, independent of the main circular motion and sends you rockin’ and a rollin’ in quite unpredictable fashion, and usually quite high up, too :) If you can imagine a swing within a wheel, this is it. The only real drawback is the wheel seems to stop far too often for loading and unloading, so that you don’t ever get a full revolution of the wheel in to get the full swingin’ effect. Nevertheless, it is a fun ride and lasts the best part of 10 minutes.

At this time I am keeping a close eye on my watch because at 11.30 is the dedication of Muppet Vision 3-D, and I really want to see this. So, exiting the Wheel at 11.20, I manage a swift route march back across the park (about as far away as you can get!) to the Hollywood Backlot. I manage it with a minute or two to spare, and there is quite a crowd (not to mention a veritable forest of photographers – is that a good collective noun for them? How about a Focus? Or even a Zoom? No, I reckon it should be a Flash of photographers :D ). There is a makeshift stand (bleachers??), but I manage to perch on the edge of a kerb and so get a decent view of the podium where DL boss Cynthia Harriss and a corporate honcho from Henson Labs eventually ascend for the official opening of the attraction. From here, things take a real turn for the funny, with Kermit popping up between Cynthia and Henson-man and taking over proceedings. The basic premise is that the show is not ready to roll, and a 15-minute comedy skit ensues, with Kermit hamming it up {Hamming? Are you thinking more Miss Piggy, here? – Ed.} to great effect (“Disney are the only people to turn a parking lot into a state. As opposed to California, who turned a state into a parking lot!”), going on to introduce Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, who appear from a nearby packing crate. More mayhem and special effects ensue as the wacky ones make a complete mess of turning their gadget on to open the show – cue fireworks, clouds of steam, collapsing scenery and general funny stuff. Truly, this was a memorable opening event!

However, with several hundred people now clamouring to enter Muppet Vision, I decide it best to head in the opposite direction and enter the fairly large but unprepossessing doorway to Disney Animation. Here is a major revelation, like, WOW! As you walk into the main hall, the Animation Courtyard, it just overwhelms the senses because it is so unexpected and so impressive. Basically, you have a huge foyer with a series of large screens all around the walls which all show varying scenes from well-known Disney pics. The same movie images are repeated on some screens but not others, and they change at regular intervals, accompanied by associated sound clips. The whole effect is so imaginative, it is like watching two or three movies at once in slow motion. Your head wants to swivel around 360 degrees to try to take it all in, and then you realise there are four separate exits off the main hall, all promising more animated delights. Head for The Screening Room and you are in a small movie theatre for the film Back To Neverland, with Walter Kronkite and Robin Williams showing off the method of animation (in fact, it is the same film from the Magic of Disney Animation in Disney-MGM studios in Orlando, only here in Anaheim the whole theming is so much more impressive). Cross the hall again and you enter the auditorium for Drawn To Animation, a truly hilarious live action-movie presentation, with an actor on stage as an animator, who reveals some more tricks of the trade with mischievous help from Mushu, the friendly lizard from Mulan (“Dragon, d-r-a-g-o-n, I don’t do that tongue thing!”). This 10-minute presentation is one of the funniest I’ve seen from Disney in recent years and is well worth coming in to see on its own. Take a look at the stage, and check out all the clever little props and other visual effects the Imagineers have created here. It’s a real joy.

You exit Drawn To Animation into a memorabilia hall called the Art Of Animation, a showcase of famous characters, how they were originally conceived, drawn and how they evolved into their final shapes. Here, you will learn that Buzz Lightyear was originally called Lunar Larry, and that Ursula started out as a far more slimline and even attractive character than she eventually became. It is fascinating stuff, and pays you to spend a good 15 minutes or so wandering around the cases of drawings, sculptures, models and film cells. Try to put a figure on all the artwork involved here – it must run into hundreds of thousands of $$$$s.

The final element of the attraction here is The Sorcerer’s Workshop, another 3-part interactive adventure into animation fun. Once again, the Imagineers have done a stellar job in creating a really vivid and exciting world, as you wander first through the initial courtyard, the Magic Mirror, where you can try your hand at basic cartoon drawing and see various ways in which animation was first handled (more fun than it sounds!). In the Magic Mirror, you have 3 stations to draw your own characters and then make them work on revolving platforms; the room itself is stunning, with the design so elegant and artistic. Then, at one end, the Mirror invites you to come on in to the Beast’s Library. And you really are in his Library here. It is fabulous; you sit at an elaborate desk – essentially a book ‘console’ – and are asked questions along the way which you have to respond to on the book’s touch-screen; questions like Do You Like Things That You Are Used to or The Latest and Greatest? Do You Prefer to Plan Things Out or Just See What Happens? Do You Like To Lunch With Nice People or Eat Nice People For Lunch?! The book then puts your own personality into a Disney character (Beware, oh DIS-ers, for I am the evil Captain Hook!). Again, the artistry of the room is amazing, and there is a neat film effect with a holographic rose and portrait of the Prince as a young man; as the petals drop, the portrait is disfigured, only to be restored again in dramatic style. Then you head into Ursula’s Grotto, where the Little Mermaid villainess attempts to ‘steal’ your voice as you provide the voice-over for some well-known Disney scenes. Again, the imagination of the hands-on activity and the terrific ‘undersea’ setting are wonderfully captivating, and it is fun just to wander around and see what other folks are doing.

And that is Disney Animation. You could easily spend an hour here doing all the various elements and then just sitting back and enjoying the awesome surrounds of the main Courtyard. Truly, this is a great and deeply-impressive, not to mention surprising, attraction.

From here it is but a short step to SuperStar Limo and one of the few disappointments in the park. Yes, I know, everyone else has already slagged it off as dull, puzzling and two-dimensional, but hear me out. Given the bad advance publicity, I went in expecting a real 24-carat turkey, but came out actually mildly amused and certainly with a smile on my face. The ride idea itself is quite ingenious as YOU are the new Hollywood star on the block, taken for a private Limo ride to various meetings, via well-known Hollywood landmarks. Yes, the scenery is a bit flat and some of the images slightly confusing (especially for us Non-American folks ;) ), but the ride vehicle itself is quite smooth and enjoyable and there are some laughs along the way. And the slight twist at the end as you see yourself as ‘the star’ is quite amusing. Having said all that, I DO wonder who the ride is actually aimed at. Young children will probably find it totally confusing, while teens will probably say it lacks any real excitement. Adults may well get the most out of it, but not if you are expecting anything startling. If you like, this is a Mr Toad for grown-ups, with the humour likely to go right over the heads of kids, so, in that respect, it is a bit of an oddity. However, if there’s little or no line, I would definitely say do this ride, if only to form your own opinion of a distinctly unusual Disney attraction. One other observation; the exterior design is distinctly two-dimensional, and, while I’m sure this is an extension of the postcard-type motif around the park, here it just looks plain tacky.

Exiting the Limo ride, I grab a quick lunch at Hollywood and Dine, a counter-service food court where you have the choice of Chinese, Pizza, Burgers and a Deli in a film cafeteria setting. The burger here was pretty good, but the dessert cake was way too sickly for my taste, and I am afraid I left it after a couple of bites. As an example of prices, a Roast Beef Deli s/wich is $8.99, Kids Meal $4.49; Pizza is $5.49 and $5.69; Kids meal at Burger Bar is 3.99; a portion of f/fries 2.09; a Cheeseburger with fries is $5.79; and beverages $2.19.

Moving swiftly on, I walked into the Muppet Vision attraction with hardly a soul around. Ah, here’s why, a show has just started, and I am first in line for the next one in 15 minutes. With time to kill, I wander around the pre-show auditorium and still manage a smile a two at all the sight gags they employ here. The TV pre-show is also amusing (and yes, I have seen it a good few times in Disney-MGM) and the time passes quickly before it’s 3-D show-time! I am sat right in the middle about a third of the way back but for some reason (my eyes, perhaps?!) the 3-D glasses don’t work that well for me (not that I don’t know what’s coming!). Not to worry, it is still good fun and I love waiting to see how the trick with the cannon-damaged walls is done at the end.

Now, with time running out before the 3.30pm curfew when much of the park will be closing to prepare for the evening events, I hot-foot it over to the one big attraction I have been saving up. Soarin’ Over California gets the big-time approval of EVERYONE that I have talked to, and it is time to see if it lives up to its (and its creators’) hype. The entrance way seemed a bit flat, IMHO, but perhaps it was because I was in a hurry to get inside and check things out. Once in this aircraft hangar of an auditorium, you form up into lines very much like Universal’s Back To The Future ride and get a TV monitor welcome to the delights in store. Then, the door opens and you file in to this HUGE circular arena with these strange, long, seated contraptions. They are built in banks of 12 or 14 (I think) and you take your seat in the long row and fasten your seatbelt. Then, before you know it, you are whisked up and into the ‘sky’ as the massive screen seems to envelop you. The sensation is so smooth and exhilarating, you are quickly absorbed by this unique flight over the sights and landmarks of California. Unless you are in the front row, there is the slight irritation of seeing people’s feet dangling up in front of you, and several of the scenes cut away too soon for my liking, but the feeling of flight is so convincing you actually pick your feet up several times for fear of hitting the top of a tree or something! The soundtrack totally suits the mood, but, as an out-of-stater {Try foreigner – Ed.}, I would rather like to know what and where all these wonderful pieces of scenery are in California, so, to my mind, they are either missing a subtle voice-over narrative or a quick-screened annotation of where each scene is. (For the record, the media sourcebook lists the areas as The Golden Gate Bridge {I think even I might have guessed that!}, Redwood Creek, Napa Valley, Point Loma, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite Valley, Camarillo, Anza Borrego State Park, Coronado Naval Yards, Malibu, Downtown LA, and a certain Land in Anaheim {Now, where could that be?!}). Also, the switch from scene to scene can be rather abrupt sometimes, and I am a little surprised the imagineers haven’t been able to come up with a smoother or more ingenious transition from image to image. However, those are very minor gripes in the overall scheme of things. Soarin’ is a mind-bogglingly impressive ride, both for the technology and the real sensation of movement it engenders. I can’t imagine many people will walk out of here unmoved, and it only remains to see what the lines are like here to pass a final judgement on its workability. For my money, put this together with the rollercoaster (Soarin’ and Screamin’ !) and you have two attractions that are well worth the entrance fee, and which you can keep riding (crowds permitting) for maximum enjoyment each time.

Suitably enriched by the ride experience, I wander off into the afternoon sunshine (actually, there is a chill breeze that takes even my transatlantic appreciation down a notch or two) for a look at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, the kids’ adventure play area, which is imaginatively themed and looks pretty good fun for the 4-12 year brigade. It employs fairly traditional formulas for climbing, sliding and exploring, similar in many ways to the Boneyard at Animal Kingdom, and it should be a good outlet for mom and dad to let their offspring loose for a while to expend some energy. The Trail also includes the Ahwahnee Circle for Native American story-telling, which may actually have more appeal for the likes of us foreigners (it looks a touch ersatz for genuine Native American folks), so I’ll have to leave that to your own judgement. It strikes me as neat and educational anyway. The Trail itself is a multi-level, in-and-out, criss-crossing play area with a whole series of different climbs, rock climbs and challenges, with names like Squirrel Scramble, Rock Slide, Eagle’s Ascent and Hibernation Hollow, and, while it will surely appeal to the more energetic kids, will some of today’s generation of computer-gamed-weaned youngsters expect more?

In need of some more sustenance after all this hectic activity (well, I did walk up a couple of towers and across a couple of bridge ;) ), I decide to chill out for a while at the Pacific Wharf area, where I haven’t spent much time to date. As I have already mentioned, the eight-minute Boudin Bakery Tour is quite amusing; it sounds dull but is better than that; while the Mission Tortilla Factory is only mildly diverting (and of little use for kids – did I also mention one of their fascinating facts? In a single day, the Mission Tortilla Rancho Cucamonga facility produces more than 6,300 MILES of tortillas!!). As you exit into the courtyard area, there are four more food and beverage outlets (with some examples of prices) – the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill (grilled chicken tacos – 2 for $6.99; nachos $7.29); the Pacific Wharf Café (Monterey clam chowder $5.99; Bakersfield broccoli and cheese soup or Santa Rosa pork chowder also at $5.99; Golden State Salad or Newport Nicoise 7.99; San Francisco Shrimp Louie $8.99; Sonoma chicken and apple salad $7.99. Boy does their baking smell good here!); the Lucky Fortune Cookery, featuring Pacific Rim food (Dim Sum Delights, 2 egg rolls $4.29; California Rolls (6 pieces) $6.49; Chinese chicken salad $8.79; Rice Bowl, teriyaki chicken or teriyaki beef $7.49; Noodle bowl, chicken wanton and noodles or beef and wheat noodles $7.99; you can also see fortune cookies being made - Wow! Not); and the Pacific Wharf Distribution Co, for Karl Strauss handcrafted beers (for some reason, this proved immensely popular with the British media :D ).

After refuelling, there is still one final, essential last task of the day – some shopping. With two boys at home, it is vital I return with a few suitable souvenirs, and the Greetings From California store by the main entrance is perfect for my task here. With a huge range of toys, clothes and other mementos, I am soon loaded down by a couple of bags-worth and can happily stagger off back to the hotel, going via the Grand Californian exit – with a peek into the magnificent Napa Rose restaurant, and its equally impressive price-list! Standing in the lobby of Hotel is a magnificent experience, with the wealth of dark wood, the clever light fittings, the grand manner of the furnishings, the massive fireplace, with a real fire right inside, all giving the place a wonderful ambience.

I have been in the park for some five to six hours, with virtually no queues anywhere, and yet I have still done only about half the park on this occasion. To me, that means either there is a lot more here than most people give it credit for, or there is going to be a serious issue with crowds. But, if Disney CAN handle the crowd-flow part of the equation, I am starting to get the impression this WILL be a very enjoyable park. Indeed, the longer I spend here, the more DCA grows on me and impresses. It could well be a case of like Animal Kingdom in Orlando, where it is perhaps short on out-and-out attractions but full of wonderful visual touches and detail that still make it a really thrilling day out.

More soon………(The Grand Celeb Party, and Riding Screamin' at night!)

simon.veness@virgin.net

snuggles
02-16-2001, 06:31 AM
:)

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Credit Man
02-16-2001, 09:25 AM
Great post-Tough job!

Sharon A.
02-16-2001, 11:10 AM
Only one more installment left. :( I think you need to go back so you can write some more.

teri
02-16-2001, 11:44 PM
Wow! Does this sound appealing!!! :cool:

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cuterlt
02-17-2001, 07:15 AM
I can hardly wait!!!! Thanks for the wonderful previews...

Lisa - 39, work with abused children; DH Kim, 46 - school police detective.
No kids
Lisa - 91 DL; 96 DL with 10 year old and 4 year old nephew and grandma; 97 DL with DH; 98 DL with DH; 9/99 WDW with DH, stayed offsite at Courtyard by Marriot (ICK); 9-2 to 9-6-2000 at BWI
WE'RE GOING TO DISNEYLAND! 3-11-01 to 3-15-01

luvdsny
02-17-2001, 03:15 PM
I think it's interesting that you comment on DCA growing on you...because I really didn't get too excited about Animal Kingdom, but I did appreciate all of the little details. :) I hope I am pleasantly surprised by this new park. :)

Great report! :D :)

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Mary Jo
02-18-2001, 09:55 PM
<font color=navy>:D

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Marla Hellwig
03-06-2001, 06:52 PM
Another great job in reporting. Thanks for posting!