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View Full Version : Disney's California Adventure: The Press Gang in action (A trilogy in five parts). Part One: Getting


SimonV
02-06-2001, 10:53 AM
Well, folks, this is a trip report with a difference, the big media event of 2001: The opening of Disney's California Adventure in the new Disneyland Resort, California (to give its full title. Did you know it was in California, by the way?).

For those who don't know me, one of my jobs (?) is working for The Sun newspaper in London, and, as the office's resident Disney expert (author, travel writer and general all-round know-all {And he's modest, too - Ed.}), I have been asked to cover the opening of the new park in Anaheim (Like, as if I'm going to say No :D ).

So, at 8am on the morning of Sunday, February 4, it is off to Heathrow Airport for Virgin Atlantic flight VS07 to Los Angeles, LAX, for the ten-and-a-half hour journey. Leaving behind a grey, cold, grey, damp, grey, overcast, grey, wet, grey, foggy, grey, depressing, grey, miserable Britain (did I mention it was also grey?), we head for a southern California currently experiencing a mini heatwave, with temperatures in the 80s and cloudless skies.

(Before I continue here, I should point out that I am fully aware I am hugely privileged to be doing this. Admittedly, I am having to leave my family behind for five days, but, as most people would probably give their right arm to be along for the ride, it is a small price to pay. So, as you read on, please try not to say 'Lucky %£"!!*&^' too many times. Those of a sensitive nature might also want to stop reading now)

The flight itself is pretty painless; the Virgin flight service is very good, the food pretty average and the in-flight entertainment mildly diverting (films include Almost Famous {OK}, Bedazzled {OK, I guess; plus it's got Liz Hurley} and Charlie's Angels {not OK at all, really; at best you could say it was good cartoon entertainment; at worst, you would call it complete tosh}, interspersed with various Nintendo games, at which I am a complete duffer - 'You have scored 3 points. Today's Highest Score, 245,876,000').

The UK Press Gang numbers around 25 and includes newspaper, magazine, Press Association and TV reporters/researchers. We also have our own celebrities along in a couple of TV presenters in the quite wonderful shape on Gail Porter and Tania Bryer. For those who don't know Gail, she is a young, trendy and good-looking presenter who has also done (pretty successfully) various modelling assignments in various states of deshabille. Here, she is fully clothed {Boo! - Ed.}, incredibly petite (I would guess she is barely 5ft) and totally unassuming. In real life, she also looks only about 16, which is definitely a few years below the real figure, but I would have to confess I don't know what her real age is. Gail is also here to present a special travel report for the Wish You Were Here? programme. Set the videos, folks!

(Incidentally, the total media number for the week, with both blanket US coverage and other TV/newspaper reporters from around the world, including Mexico, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and Germany, will be around 1,300. You can hardly move at times without tripping over a TV crew. The park will also be featured live on a GMTV special on Friday morning in the UK, in case I manage to post this part of the report in time :D )

We are greeted at the Arrivals area by a TV crew and various teenage 'fans' (they are actually Disney Cast members playing up for fun) to welcome the UK media. There are interviews and other fun stuff, but, when the TV crew come on the bus and try to get us to shout out en masse to their question 'And what are you going to do now you are in California!' Instead of the more dutiful cry of 'We're going to Disneyland!!' there is a mass chorus of "SLEEP!" And the TV crew exits looking rather hurt (you have to remember it has been a long flight, and the UK Press is not renowned for its more delicate sensibilities; or to put it more plainly, we are a pain in the a** {Too right - Ed.}).

Having left home at 8am, we arrived at Disney's new Paradise Pier Hotel (a completely refurbished hotel, formerly the Pacific, I think) about 5pm (with an eight-hour time difference, that's 1am to us transatlantic folks) and the check-in is very smooth. I have a room on the 6th floor directly overlooking the Paradise Pier area of the new park, so I have got a superb view of the new rollercoaster, California Screamin, and all the other rides. My first impressions are that it looks very 'busy,' that is to say it seems as if there is a lot packed in to this area. Unlike any other Disney park, you can see behind the facades which guests do not usually get a glimpse of, and it is a little disappointing to realise the theming of this area is only skin deep at best. I wouldn't say it looks cheap, but Disney have deliberately gone for the more two-dimensional postcard look here, and it definitely gives a different impression to all the other parks.

Having said that, it is magnificently lit in the evening, and I think guests who stand in the middle of this area will be quite overawed by this 'Light fantastic' appearance of the park.

The other notable feature is the Grizzly Peak area, with the water raft ride. The bear-shaped mountain is quite remarkable, and this is definitely more of what we expect from Disney Imagineering. Right next door is the new, 5-star Grand Californian Hotel, which looks big and smart from the outside (and even bigger and smarter on the inside, but more of that in a later instalment).

Having settled in and had a much-needed shower and change, I head for the very relaxed media reception in the Garden Pavilion next to the hotel pool. (Incidentally, the hotel rooms are standard Disney - large, bright, with two queen beds and a decent-sized bathroom; TV, fridge large wardrobe, but a bit short on drawer space). I won't be staying to eat as, purely by chance, my Canadian cousin and his family are in town for the week on vacation. An amazing co-incidence, and we have arranged to meet up in Disneyland at 8pm (which is now 4am, according to my body-clock).

By an even more amazing feat of organisation, we do actually meet up first time, at the appointed hour in the middle of a PACKED theme park enjoying a long, hot day. It is a wonderful evening, warm and starlit, and we manage to find a table at the River Belle Terrace to sit down, grab a drink and have a chat. My cousin Derek, his wife Diana and their children Devon, 13, and Sandra, 12, are part of the Canadian branch of our family and hail from Vancouver Island. They have been saving for this trip for almost 3 years, and they arrive, purely by chance, at the same time as this Press trip. Just what are the chances of that??

Anyway, we catch up on a few years' worth of family news and then sit back to watch the Fantasmic show on the Frontierland lagoon, which is just superb. Unlike the Disney-MGM Studios version in Orlando, which has its own purpose-built auditorium, this takes place in a more make-shift manner, and has a more intimate style as people crowd around the lagoon (and they are seriously crowding here!). The show itself, which sticks to the same basic plot as Orlando, still has a number of different elements, plus different light and special effects, which make it a real joy to watch. If you think you've seen Fantasmic in Florida, you still need to see it here, too. Absolutely five-star entertainment (although it strikes me as a bit loud and scary for toddlers - those fireworks and special effects seem a lot closer here).

Derek and family then head back for their hotel as we exit along with about 30,000 others at the same time, and I walk back to the Paradise Pier through the new Downtown Disney district (all part of the $1.4billion outlay on the new Disneyland Resort). I'll say more about this later, but suffice it to say, first impressions here are very favourable indeed. You have to wind your way through the whole Downtown area to get back to the hotels, and it is a really up-scale development, full of eye-catching architecture, great lighting and superb window dressing. The shops are all real individuals and the restaurants also add to the up-scale feel (although Derek and family weren't impressed when they tried to get dinner here at 5pm - too crowded and too expensive, they said. I guess price could be an issue here). A couple of areas, notably the Catal bar, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen and the House of Blues, have a strong outdoor element to them that gives the whole district a different feel to the Orlando version, which tends to be more 'indoor' somehow. However, my one initial reservation, is that while it makes for fantastic eye candy, it remains to be seen how practical and useful it is for Joe Tourist. There is a feeling this area has been created with the local restaurant/shopping scene in mind, and that therefore they have gone for the glamorous, up-scale style which is not necessarily what theme park folks want at the end of the day. There doesn't appear to be a more budget-priced dining option and children may not find much to interest them here.

Anyway, back at the hotel, the official press reception is gradually retiring to the bar (no surprises there :D ) and people are definitely starting to wilt after such a long day (it is now 10pm, or 6am UK time!). In the best traditions of British journalism, a couple of us manage to keep the bar busy until 11.30 before calling it quits. Before turning in, I call home, where my wife is busy getting the boys ready for school and nursery. It's a bizarre world, really.

More tomorrow.

simon.veness@virgin.net

charlie,nj
02-06-2001, 01:01 PM
Simon,

Great trip report!

(you lucky @#^!&)

mikamouse
02-06-2001, 01:24 PM
I cannot wait to read more!!! great report...indeed! :D

mikamouse

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RoutemanDan
02-06-2001, 01:45 PM
Excellent report! Looking forward to your next installment :cool:

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Floydian
02-06-2001, 02:41 PM
Good thing you write so well. Otherwise, I'd lobby to have your reports outlawed, as they're cruel to those of us with REAL jobs. ;)

I want more! NOW! :D

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snoopy
02-06-2001, 03:24 PM
Ha, Charlie stole my line. :)

What a fun first installment, Simon! Can't wait to read more!

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teri
02-06-2001, 06:35 PM
Can't wait to read the rest!

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Sharon A.
02-06-2001, 06:55 PM
More, more, more! (Kinda demanding, aren't I?)

Bob O
02-06-2001, 07:32 PM
Very good trip report, im looking forward to the rest!

Princess Annjanette
02-06-2001, 07:55 PM
This was just great! So much fun to read! Please keep them coming.

Annjanette

Edayy
02-07-2001, 02:12 AM
Excellent first report Simon i can't wait for the others!!!

Eda

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luvdsny
02-07-2001, 10:21 AM
Dang! You're good. :) I just flowed with this...

Can't wait for more...really, this was very fun to read. :)

Thanks for sharing. :)

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ZerasPride
02-07-2001, 12:18 PM
I usually print off trip reports and read them in the evening but once I started with yours, I couldn't stop! Can't wait for the next installment!

Lisa

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Astrid
02-08-2001, 11:49 AM
Simon, you have such a tough life, my heart bleeds for you!!

(PS. Don't the Sun need any more reporters out there!! - please!)

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wdwnut
02-08-2001, 12:05 PM
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It was a pleasure to read.

Rajah
02-09-2001, 10:12 AM
Next!! :D :D :D

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snuggles
02-16-2001, 04:52 AM
Great report Simon! Cant wait to read the rest :)

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Marla Hellwig
03-06-2001, 04:36 AM
Oh boy - a great time is being had - lucky dog ya! The things some people get to do with their job - ha. A great start and can't wait to read the rest of your reports. Thanks for posting!