stopher1's Solo Adventures: DL Nov/Dec '09
A Report compiled together from items originally posted as stand alone pieces on the DIS Dad's Club Thread, a heavily WDW experienced group of guys, with little to no DL experience - Dec. 2009 I was out in CA on business, having book-ended the business trip with DL visits staying at the PPH on the front end, and the VGC on the back end.
So for my friends in the DIS Dad's Club - a compilation of my posts. :santa:
Here we go...
So ok, I'm sitting in my room at the Paradise Pier Hotel waiting for the parks
to open - not til 10 today - but that's cool since DL was open til midnight last night, and I stayed until the very end when the end of day announcement was made "Ladies & Gentlemen, boys & girls, Disneyland has now ended it's operating day. Thank you for coming and we hope you'll be back soon. For your shopping convenience, Main Street will be open for an additional hour" AHHH, home. It sure was fun to be there. Can't wait to go back for a few hours today before I have head over to the office and start a week of meetings.
For your viewing pleasure, especially those of you who have not been to DL during the Christmas season - here is a sampling of my evening last night. Heavy on It's a Small World Holiday. Normally I'm not a huge IASW fan, though I do ride it, but I AM a huge SW Holiday fan - though I definitely prefer the DL original to the shortened/modified MK version, even with the controverisal additions made to the DL version last year (they added in doll-stylized versions of Disney characters to the respective world areas they are from ... i.e. Alice & Peter Pan in England, Mulan & Mushu in China, Aladdin & Jasmine in the Middle East, etc). The holiday overlay is now in its' 13th season and still going quite strong. If you ever have the opportunity to go to DL between early November & New Year's - take it!!! No other IASW currently gets this overlay.
Today I plan to get photos of the Haunted Mansion Holiday and will post them later as well. My camera battery died last night when I rode it...so I need to go back this morning. I definitely am not a fan of Nightmare Before Christmas, or the overlay, but since it's now in its' 9th season - there definitely are some diehard Jack fans that like it.
The Tree in Town Square
Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle
Believe...in Holiday Magic, the Christmas fireworks show...good, but nothing overly exciting
Years ago this "snow fall" enthralled my DW & I when we lived in Orange County... now after living in the midwest for 9 winters, I wasn't as "oohing" and "ahhing" as most on Main Street were. (And honestly, soap flake bubbles getting into your eyes & mouth just isn't fun either)
Like many of the DL attractions, the queue and loading platform at IASW are completely outside. A huge difference from the MK. Plus the oversized facade that the revised version at the MK is based on. Here covered in thousands of sparkling lights for Christmas. They have a little "lighting" ceremony every 20 mins or so, where it goes completely dark, then has a fun lighting projection show on it of lots of various holiday images on the normally white & gold surface, that then finally explodes in burst of color at the end of the 1 or 2 minute "show"
Entering the SW show building
The seasonal overlay isn't just a cosmetic exterior one either... once inside, you see all kinds of holiday delights, including Santa inside his workshop, and hear him reading a list of names
Each room is decked out for the holidays, and the soundtrack is modified! They took the original music, and interwined Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls and other Christmas music into it. It works wonderfully, and really is a refreshing change from that endless, tortuous tune.
They've definitely "fixed" the hula girls - sped them up quite a bit...man were they ever shaking their bottom halves
Getting ready to exit the show building and head back outside to disembark there lots of "kid type" stylized greeting cards
Back outside just in time to catch another glimpse of the great clock tower in action. The doors open every fifteen minutes and dolls dance around as the clock marks the time - very fun stuff
More later guys
Ok guys, here are a few more photos from my time at Disneyland and California Adventure this week. I'm staying in the Grand Californian right now, with a a view overlooking DCA's Paradise Pier. I'll post of photo of that soon too. It's gorgeous.
The Grand Cal has its' own private entrance directly into DCA. You can only use it by being a guest at one of the 3 DL resort hotels. Both the Paradise Pier Hotel & Grand Cal overlook it, but the PPH is across the street. The new DVC villas actually look out over Paradise Pier... in fact I'm sitting here in my room right now with the slider open, listening to screams coming from folks on the roller coaster and up in Mickey's Fun Wheel.
This photo is looking back at the hotel after entering DCA from the private entrance.
Once inside DCA, Soarin' is a short 2 minute walk in one direction, and Grizzly River Run (like Kali, but actually better) is 1 minute in the other direction.
I don't know how familiar any of you are with all of the construction that's going on at DCA over the next several years. Some of you are, and some aren't I'm sure. But basically Disney is pouring over a $1B into "remaking" this park that basically didn't pan out as the suits in charge back when it was being designed fiigured it would. It was "built on the cheap" - and unfortunately - it SHOWED! There are some beautiful areas of this park, and many, many tacky areas too. Here's a mini-map of what it will be like when everything they're doing is completed in 2012. The all new CARSLAND is in the top, and will have an awesome new racing ride, that's supposed to be "Test Track 2.0 or more" - using improved technology - but racing multiple vehicles at a time. The new Little Mermaid ride is under construction (also recently announced for the MK at WDW, Toy Story Midway Mania opened last year (it was actually approved for DCA first, then they decided to throw it in to DHS, and construction at DHS was less intensive, so it opened there first) - as well as a major retheming/makeover of the main entrance area and the Paradise Pier area and its' attractions; as well as the massive new World of Color show.
Here's a pic of TSMM, with Califonia Screamin' right above it (it really does goe under the coaster - the entrance is in front of the coaster, the main show building behind it - which is why construction at DCA was more intense than at DHS!
And Mr. Potato Head, right out front and center. They weren't operating the Single Rider line the day I went, so I decided to skip it... I didn't want to wait 45 min. I'll catch it in FL in January.
Much of Paradise Pier is behind construction walls right now... here's one advertising the new World of Color show set to debut next March or April
Concept artwork for the new WOC show - taking the best of Fantasmic!, merging it with the best of the fountain show at the Bellagio in Vegas - adding about 15 years worth of new technologies - and bam! - should be a homerun.
Here's a look of Paradise Bay - as they continue getting the lagoon ready. The entire thing was drained last year, and they entire year has been spent retrofitting it for this incredible looking new show. There are something like 1,800 fountains in there. A whole new viewing area is being constructed to hold like 8,000-10,000 people. The new villas at the Grand Cal that DVC built have their own private viewing platform at the top (just like BLT's fireworks viewing platform) that you can only use while staying at the VCG on points - but of course, most of the DVC rooms themselves will have phenomenal views too.
here's a view of the massive show platform out in the middle of the water that they're finishing (that's the Paradise Pier Hotel in the top right, across the street, but at 14 floors, there are lots of great views into DCA)
And a view looking down at it all from the top of Mickey's Fun Wheel
The rounded structure near the left middle of this pic is Soaring Over California - and just a "little" above that to the right are the spires of Space Mountain.
For those that aren't familiar with the DL resort, DCA was built on what was originally the parking lot for DL from 1955 - 1998. The two park entrances literally face each other, and by my paces are 105 steps apart. Here's a view looking north from just inside DCA (standing underneath the "mini Golden Gate Bridge" that the monorail (or OBA) crosses over looking directly north to the entrance of DL and the Main Street station, with a view of the original Disney Mountain - the Matterhorn, celebrating 50 years this year. It was the original iron tubular roller coaster - built inside of a themed mountain to boot - Walt sure was cool. Not only did he give us a great coaster, but he had them put it inside a mountain as well. Growing up in So. Cal, whenever we went to DL, the sight of the Matterhorn from the freeway was always so cool! Still is, but I don't get to see it as often living in the Midwest.
Ok guys - I'll post some more later. I'm going to head back over into the park for a while to enjoy the nightlife, as well as the fireworks.
Some more pics from DCA...
when they redid the "Sun Wheel" into "Mickey's Fun Wheel" last year...some classic characters joined the fun. Here's our fav on one of the gondolas...
The old "Orange Stinger" swing ride has been dismantled, and in 2010 will be replaced by "Silly Symphony Swings", based on the Mickey's Band Concert cartoon from the '30's.
...in 2011 Ariel finds another home at DCA (currently she's the "star" of Ariel's Grotto, which is a character meal location along the waterfront), in the big new splashy dark ride. I'm sure the WDW version's queque will be more expansive and fun given the amount of available land there vs. DCA - but both should be really cool! My DD5 is thrilled, and cannot wait for this one to open!
...here's a view of the DVC Viewing Platform for World of Color. One of the other things about the Grand Cal rooms is that the soundtrack will be pumped directly into the rooms via one of the channels on the TV, just as DL's fireworks soundtracks are now - so in theory you could enjoy it from the privacy of inside your room too, without having to step outside onto the balcony - I guess that would be good on a cold evening. But certainly since the DVC rooms are so close, and truly do overlook the Pier, you'd definitely be able to hear the music from your balcony. The standard hotel rooms no, so having the music pumped in is ok, but I don't believe any video of the show will be broadcast, just the audio.
...there are so many areas of DCA that support the whole "built on the cheap" statement I made earlier. Too many "off the shelf" rides, boardwalk games, non-descript buildings - but there are a few areas that the Imagineers were able to plus without breaking the budget. This is an example. Paradise Pier is supposed to celebrate the beach culture of Southern California, as well as celebrating the multitude of beachfront amusement parks that dotted the CA coast throughout the 30's, 40's, '50's and '60's. This drinking fountain could have been just that, but they went the extra step, and gave it that "at the beach flavor". This is the kind of stuff I love to see.
...a quick trip into A BUGS LAND and the decorations at Flik's Fun Fair
After a while in DCA, I went across the esplanade into DL.
My favorite sign...
Walt's apartment, above the Fire Station - note the covered patio to the left, which was designed for his grandchildren to be able to play on, when they were staying with their granddad in the park
Like so much of the park, the Omnibus is decked out for Christmas...
Holiday Goofy greeting his fans...
"Mine, mine, mine!" , the birds squak as the subs pass by
One of the subs passing through into the caverns. I wasn't a huge fan of layering on the Nemo theme to the original submarine voyage...but was a huge fan of almost anything that would bring them back from "the dead". DL closed the subs in '98... and finally reopened them in '08 with this new theming. Anything is better than a 7 million (+/-) gallon lagoon sitting there idle.
While in line for the subs, an OBA came passing by overhead into the station
While on the subs, Darla can be seen...
...along with lots of other marine life. Once the subs pass into the caverns, then the same kind of animation technology is in place like the Nemo attraction at Epcot. This one at DL just has more, and is longer than Epcot's version - and takes place actually underwater. They developed some special kind of viewing boxes for underwater that house the actual animated sequences. Dory, Marlin, Mr. Ray, Bruce, the angler fish, Nemo...they're all there. It's cool, even if I prefer the original.
OK - now I'm off to enjoy the jacuzzi for a while guys. Gotta get my enjoyment out of this place for a while longer before I leave tomorrow! More later.
I am looking forward to seeing in person the updates at Space Mtn in WDW...but for now, here's a shot or two of the inside of the DL version's queue. This version was completely remade in 2005. The track was completely replaced. When SM debuted at DL in 1977, they had to do quite a bit in order to make it fit in with the smaller, more intimate park that is DL vs. the larger, more spacious park that is the MK. The entire building's circumference is smaller, and the entire thing had to be sunk down 15 feet into the ground to make it fit. They also made a single track, vs the dual tracks at WDW, but to keep capacity high, they did away with the single row seating, and put in dual seating rows (like at Splash in WDW). The redo in '05 added in an awesome soundtrack, via onboard speakers behind every person's head. The DL version also has an incredible up ramp, and some awesome graphics inside. At Halloween this year, they actually put in a special overlay called "Ghost Galaxy", and was jam packed pretty much all the time, with the FP's gone early in the day (this is one that definitely should have a single rider line!). I wasn't able to experience Ghost Galaxy, but my friends out here who did all said it was awesome. Sure to be repeated next Halloween season no doubt.
As promised earlier, I think I did anyway, here's a couple of shots of IASW during the daytime.
One of the things I really love about DL, is the real gold on the spires of the castle, IASW, Dumbo and several other places. I remember my first day orientation when I started working there, learning about how it was Walt himself who said they had to it there, because any cheap imitations would be too obvious to the guests. Again I say wow, what a cool guy. It just sparkles and shines in the sunshine!
Here the IASW clock is about to mark another quarter hour. The dolls come out from the center, and then in both directions, circle around to the sides and go back in as the giant center doors open and giant blocks tell the time
This is the original version of IASW that was at the New York World's Fair in '64-65. It was then transferred lock, stock & barrel to Anaheim. The only thing that didn't make it was the original sign out front - so a whole new facade was created for Disneyland. Mary Blair who designed much of the interior settings and color schemes designed the facade. (She's the same one who designed the great big mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary). Then when Walt dedicated it in '66, he had lots of children in various cultural costumes pour waters from the seven seas into the canal.
BTW - if anyone is interested in a map of DL or DCA, I grabbed way more than necessary so I could mail them out to anyone possibly planning a trip west. I definitely got a set for you Christian! If you want one, just PM me with your address. I think I've got 35 or more. I'll grab some more in the morning though, before I leave just in case.
Up at the ranch, the Big Thunder Ranch, that is - Santa has set up shop. Back in the '80's and well into the '90's, the ranch was home to a petting farm, and the Big Thunder BBQ restaurant (which I worked at for a short while during my tenure at the park). In the later '90's it became a shell of its' former glory when the restaurant was closed, and the animals finally disappeared by around 2000. But each year at Christmas, Santa reappears and brings his reindeer along. Santa will be inside the log cabin for photos, and his deer friends are around in the old animal corrals for all to see. They do have a few goats again, but it's nothing like it used to be with horses, cows, sheep, goats and the chickens of old. The restaurant has reopened, but nothing like it used to be either. But - open restaurants are certainly better than shuttered ones!
I remember so well back in '76 when the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland closed in Frontierland, to be replaced by the "Wildest Ride in the Wilderness" in '77. Back then, the Rivers of America were drained as well, and all of Frontierland became "the great wall of construction walls" at DL, just as Paradise Pier at DCA is currently surrounded by them.
Passing through Frontierland, along the river's edge into New Orleans Square, I enjoyed the new "Tiana's Showboat Jubilee". It was a fun little show, even though I have no clue about the new Princess & The Frog film yet. It definitely made me want to see it. The songs were quite enjoyable. I'm really hoping this return to traditional animation is a smashing success for Disney! I want more 2D animation.
Like WDW - the procession passes through the land, and then onto the riverboat. The Mark Twain, as I read online a couple of days ago, was actually used in the P&TF film. Apparently the crew animating the film made a day trip down to Anaheim in order to actually record the whistles of the Mark Twain in order to incorporate them into the film. Since the film is set in New Orleans, it certainly does feel appropriate to have the show in New Orleans Square here at DL. I haven't seen it in Liberty Square/Frontierland at WDW, but I'm sure it plays well there too.
Then it was on to the Haunted Mansion Holiday - where Jack Skellington and friends from Hallowweentown have taken over my beloved Mansion. It's actually this way now for more than 1/3 of the year... since it opens up this way right around Labor Day, and stays this way until after New Year's... such a bummer when you want to see the real version. I am NOT a fan of this overlay at all...but I cannot dispute its' popularity. 9 years running, with people clamoring to see it. And many people do love it. I don't. To each his own. Here are a few shots of it for those of you have not experienced it.
Then again later in the dark...
And a couple on the inside... the stretching portraits are changed to look like stained glass windows that then "break" when the elevator starts stretching (because yes, at DL the Stretching Room IS actually an elevator, unlike at WDW. At DL, for operational purposes, the whole thing could not fit inside the berm, so you enter into the plantation house, and then have to get beyond the berm into the show building...so you go DOWN underground and then pass underneath the railroad tracks via the Portrait Corridor - [added in to the WDW version during the latest update when the cool endless staircase scene was added]. At WDW, 1) the water table is entirely too high to allow for going down too far, despite the MK being built on the 2nd floor with the utilidors underneath as the basement, and 2) the entire facility, house facade and show building are located inside the berm - so there was no operational need like at DL. So at DL the floor goes down and the ceiling is stationary, vs. at WDW the floor is stationary and the ceiling goes up.) Followed by a giant Jack in the ceiling vs. the traditional hanging corpse just prior to the doors opening into the Portrait Corridor and on to the doom buggies, or as the HMH calls them, the "black Christmas sleighs"
At the loading area...
...in the Grand Hall, there's a giant gingerbread carousel with Zero on it. The traditional blue china dishes have been replaced with black spiderweb plates, and there's a giant Nightmare themed CHristmas tree over near the ballroom dancers. The smell from that carousel is wonderful!!
I didn't get an attic shot, but here's Jack at the entrance to the graveyard
followed by some of his handiwork inside the graveyard
Oogie Boogie has replaced the Hitchhiking Ghosts, playing "game show host" to see what kind of prize each sleigh will get as they pass by the crypt mirrors. I got the "?" or "Surprise" one each time I rode. Little things were popping up with each mirror I passed, instead of a single item that was supposed to be next to me like the traditional hitchhiking ghosts are.
Here are a couple of shots of New Orleans Square decked out for Christmas
Ok - now I have to upload more photos. Maybe I'll get more done tonight, and maybe not...
sorry about clogging up this thread with my photos and stuff - I just didn't feel like doing a traditional TR. I'm having more fun this way.
Here's a view of the back cabin. I've ridden in it twice now, once on this trip. It can accomodate 8 guests. I can't remember if the front cabin is available to guests or not - but I'm pretty sure it is like the old trains were. Though it would probably only accomodate 5 or 6, since the driver's console is up there.
At DL, the monorail is primarily an attraction, not a transportation system. Sure the resort guests can and do use it as transportation, but it is primarily an attraction in Tomorrowland. From there you can ride over to Downtown Disney. You have to disembark, but if you want to continue back to TL, just jump back into line. There is an opening in the queue that will allow you back in without having to go out through the exit and show your ticket again. With that in mind - if you are a hotel guest, or you've left and visited DTD for lunch or dinner or some shopping & want to return to the park, there's a ticket turnstile just like at the front gate. This is the only other guest entrance to DL besides the Main Gate.
When it opened in 1959, it was the first daily operating Monorail in the western hemisphere. In the early '60's the line was extended from being just inside TL, leaving DL and actually going out through the parking lot and across a public road. Another first - crossing a public street! When they did that, the line was extended from 1/2 mile to over 1.5 miles (nothing compared to all the mileage of the WDW system, but the DL resort is much, much smaller too). With the extension, it then went on to the Disneyland Hotel (which wasn't owned by Disney back then - Disney didn't buy it until 1988). Walt's good friend Jack Wrather asked him back in the late '50's if he could open a hotel and use the DL name, to which Walt agreed and licensed. As it expanded in the early '60's, the Travelport was opened, which was the Monorail station, taxi stop, a bus depot and later a rental car area for travelers who wanted to explore more Southern California. Soon small bungalows were built nearby that hotel guests could rent that were more villa like in a Japanese garden setting with complete housekeeping facilities, ie. a kitchen (kind of a 1960's pre-cursor to today's DVC units!)
The hotel grew from it's original low level facilities into the 3 large current towers (all going under the knife to be gutted and completely renovated over the next 3 years. One of the 3 towers is currently closed as it is going through that process now). When Disney bought the property in 1988 (I was a cast member back then - I remember what a GREAT BIG DEAL it was that we "finally" owned the Disneyland Hotel!) a great big renovation was begun to make the rooms "more Disney". They were nothing like you would find today, but they were far improved over their former state.
When the plans for DCA began coming together in the mid-'90's, the Travelport was demolished. By 2000 it was gone. The original Monorail station structure was refurbished/remodeled, but remains in the exact same location. It just isn't directly located at the DL Hotel anymore, but rather within the confines of the all new Downtown Disney District that was forming in between DL and the Hotel property. The bungalows and other outlying buildings were demolished to make way for the Rainforest Cafe, ESPN Zone, AMC Theatres & more. No more can you just take the monorail to the hotel - but rather to DTD, where you then walk to your hotel, through the last portion of DTD.
In the old trains, all of the seating was pretty much foward facing, with pairs on each side, a space in between, and then a full row behind that (repeated throughout). These new trains have outward facing seating instead. IMO it's definitely better to be outward facing to actually be able to see what you're passing over, instead of just facing forward and have to crane your neck to see!
The lighting is really, really cool.
So I'm packing my gear now, as I get ready to check out of my studio at VGC here in the next half hour. Have been sitting with my slider door open listening to all of the pre-opening ride checks over in DCA (they opened just a few moments ago at 10 today). I'll be then heading over to my SIL's house for the duration as I hang with my nephews. Then, unfortunately, I don't get to go home yet, as my time away from home has been extended. This week I got the 'bonus' of getting to fly to Atlanta and inventory / set-up that office as the VP there is no longer in our company's employ. Add the fact that that office had just physically moved the week prior, it'll be fun times I'm sure. Not only do I get to ensure everything that should be there is, and replace anything that's not, I also get the fun of setting up a new space. This will be the third office I've physically set up in my 9 years with the company - so they definitely like/trust my way of doing it. But it extends my time away from home from 8 nights to 12. My DW and kids are NOT happy right now. BUT, at the same time, as my DW said on the phone earlier in the week after a day of texting back and forth about the change in plans, she's thankful that I still have a job, so we agreed to not overly complain about the extra time away - grumble a bit maybe, but not complain.
I have a "few" more photos that I want to share with y'all (I'm getting into my ATL speak now) - but it'll have to wait until later tonight or tomorrow. Have a great weekend guys.
Ok, so here are a few more photos from my recent DL visit. I stayed at the Paradise Pier Hotel on the front end of my trip for one night, with DCA & DL that evening and the next day... then did the work portion of my trip... followed by 2 nights in the new DVC Villas at the Grand Californian Hotel. I had a studio, with a theme park view room. I was on the 4th floor (of 5), and looked directly out into Paradise Pier. Immediately below me was the DVC BBQ deck on the ground floor, with two amazing grills available to use for DVC members. The Mulholland Madness roller coaster (to be rethemed to Goofy's Sky School later in 2010), was directly to my right as I stood on my balcony. Right in front was the Jumpin' Jelly Fish attraction with the Mickey's Fun Wheel and Malliboomer behind that. Off to the left just a bit was the Golden Zephyr and Paradise Bay (where the new World of Color show will be) with California Screamin' and Toy Story Midway Mania directly beyond the bay - and directly to the left of me was the construction site for the new Ariel's Undersea Adventure Little Mermaid ride to open in 2011. Here's a view out of my window, followed by some general resort photos.
This is Mickey's Fun Wheel and the Golden Zephyr
The BBQ deck, just feet away from the perimeter wall of the DCA park (Mulholland Madness is just behind the fence... I could hear it VERY WELL from my room when the sliding door was open!)
My room was right up there in the top... looking up from the pathway walking from the bbq deck around to the pool deck - the DVC Member World of Color Viewing Platform is atop the red portion of the building. Not sure how it will work, but it sure looks to be a cool, exclusive option. Members will only be able to use it while staying at VGC... not while staying at the other DL hotels on points
Here's a pic of the tree inside the Great Hall (lobby) of the hotel
Looking down at the new Mariposa pool (from the elevator lobby on my floor) that was added with the new DVC wing
Some pool complex photos...
The original pool
The slide, with the new DVC wing behind it. The new wing used to be an "event lawn"
A close-up of the new pool & jacuzzi. The jacuzzi is about 2.5x the size of the original jacuzzi. Quite choice too. I was in it several times. Reminds me how much I want one here at home. Beyond the pool you can see the new Cabanas that can be rented. They are quite choice, by the way. If you have the means and want to spend a full day at the pool, they can be rented for something like $200 or was it $250 for 8 hours. I believe it was $150 for 4 hours.
You get designated deck chairs outside, plus a couch, chairs, table, stocked refrigerator, ceiling fan and flat screen HD tv inside.
All I could say was "WOW" when I saw them up close.
here's a view of the "connection point" - where they added on to the hotel. It's an L shaped addition, with the short end of the L being the new DVC wing, and the long end regular hotel rooms.
Here's the corner of the L, and notice how the balconies are closer together for the regular hotel rooms on one side, and the more expansive windows and less frequent balconies for the villas on the DVC side
Here's a pic of the giant fireplace inside the lobby. There's another one on the outside as well with an intimate little patio and rocking chairs. Makes for a nice place to sit and enjoy a drink or conversation. I didn't get one of the outdoor fp, since a group of women were doing yoga in front of it when I wanted to snap a pic, oh well... use your imaginations
Here's a view of the main entrance to the hotel, with the Porte Cachere for dropping off luggage or utilizing the Valet Parking. Valet Parking puts vehicles below the new wing in the underground parking garage... self parking means parking across the street and then walking back. It's only a 2 minute walk though (depending on the traffic light) It was designed in the ARTS & CRAFTS stylings of that design movement from the early 20th century very, very popular throughout So. Cal - and was designed by the same architect who designed the Wilderness Lodge. They both feel quite similar inside, and as such, are considered sister hotels. This was the first Disney designed hotel at the Disneyland resort - the other two, not so as I mentioned in a previous post back in the 190s page range
A few of the room...
And then, on Saturday morning the World of Disney store was having their own version of a Black Friday kind of sale for AP holders (me) and DVC members (also me). They were having discounts of up to 50% on select merchandise, and lots of other doorbuster type stuff for 30-50% off. The doors were slated to open at 6:30 am. I braved the crowds to be one of the first 1,000 in line for a free gift. Not something I enjoyed doing, but with Christmas coming up I wasn't sure if I'd find anything to add to under the tree or not. I learned afterward that there were over 2,000 people in line that morning, and the first couple lined up at 3 am. Craziness! This photo was taken from where I stood in line before they opened the doors. The queue was wrapping quite a bit. I arrived downstairs to get in line around 6:10ish, and when I approached the door and got my wristband for my free gift (just a little Vinylmation figure, nothing overly exciting) I was told that I was in the upper 700's in line.
For those of you who have not yet been to the DL resort, the Grand Californian straddles the edge of Disney's California Adventure park (it's actually billed as being INSIDE the park), and has it's own private entrance into that park. It also straddles Downtown Disney - so much so, that a portion of DTD is actually the lower floor of the hotel, with rooms up above. Here are some views of the DTD with the hotel rooms above... and the DTD entrance directly into the hotel
Once you pass through the DTD entrance into the hotel complex, there is an outdoor courtyard (used for private parties, receptions, etc), above which the OBA passes as it continues on its' route to the DTD station
I will post a few more shots in a while.
Ok, I'm going to try to finish up my photo essay for you from my final day at DL a couple of weeks ago... for those just joining in - I started this "report" back in the early 190's pages - and pretty much every so often throughout, in case you want to go back and see more photos from Disney's California Adventure, the Grand Californian Hotel and Disneyland.
At DCA, the overall theme was designed to be California and what kind of fun you can have within the state - without actually going and experiencing it for yourself. Kind of lame IMO. That would kind of be like designing a theme park about Florida in Florida. Kinda dumb. But that's what they did. The park opened in 2001 to much fanfare, and basically fell flat on it's face. It was designed and built "on the cheap" - even though the expansion of DL (creating a new "resort destination" with a 2nd theme park, DTD district, the beautiful Grand Californian Hotel and the addition of (at the time) the world's largest parking garage - holding more than 10,000 vehicles) - even though that expansion cost the company more than $1.2 billion in the late '90's and early part of this decade... thanks to that the poor management decision, the WDC is now pouring an additional $1B into revamping and plussing DCA in order to actually make it a stand alone park worthy of that $79 daily admission price.
Since it's opening, DCA has struggled to pull in the daily attendance figures that was assumed would come - despite several very expensive additions & changes meant to draw those people in. The complete new land "A BUGS LAND: Flik's Fun Fair" didn't do it. The $100M addition of Tower of Terror didn't do it - though it helped get it over into the 20,000's regularly. The Monsters Inc: Mike & Sully to the Rescue attraction didn't do it. Even Toy Story Midway Mania didn't do it - though that finally did get the numbers up into the 30,000's regularly. Initially they thought that 50,000 per day would show up to experience it... after the first couple of weeks, they strugged to meet 15,000. After 8 years, they still struggle to go beyond 30,000. DL by comparison can and does draw between 60-80,000 visitors. DCA has sadly become known as DL's overlow lot! But that is (hopefully & finally) about to change for the better with the initial opening of World of Color coming in the Spring - followed by additional changes to the Paradise Pier area throughout 2010, the opening of the new Little Mermaid ride in 2011 and CARS Land in 2012. (Opening Cars 2 in theatres in 2011 will certainly help add to the draw for Carsland, I'm sure).
Another big renovation that they are doing at DCA is the main entrance area. Originally it was designed with two very large tile murals (think the of the one done by Mary Blair in the Grand Canyon Concourse of the Contemporary or the Cinderella story one inside the breezeway of the Castle at the MK done by Dorothea Redmond and you'll kind of understand) - made to look like giant postcards highlighting CA experiences - on both sides of the entry turnstiles. Just before that, as you approach the gate area - very large letters (10 or 11 ft tall) spelling out the word C A L I F O R N I A. Well all of that will change in later 2010 through 2011 as the entire entrance plaza will be redone. The entire area will be rethemed from a mishmash of CA "stuff" - including the mini version of the Golden Gate Bridge that the monorail runs across. A brand new entrance themed to the Hollywood of the 1920's & '30's will be built (looking very familiar to all you Studios park fans out there), adding in a new "street" (think Main Street) from the entrance up into the current Sunshine Plaza - where the roads then branch out to the various "lands" of DCA (think the hub). Since the entire entrance plaza is being rethemed/rebuilt - they are currently figuring out ways to be able to move people in and out of the park with all that work going on around... it won't be easy. Temporary alternate entrances have been considered... who knows what they'll actually end up doing. It will be interesting to say the least.
Anyway - long story for these couple of photos... here are the beginning and ending letters of California decked out for Christmas. Note who's there on the "A"
Inside the Hollywood Pictures Backlot is the Art of Disney Animation building which houses a bunch of different animation themed rooms & experiences (including Turtle Talk with Crush) - there is an amazing Zoetrope themed to Toy Story. It's awesome. These pics don't do it justice, but if you've ever seen a Zoetrope in action, you'd really like this one.
Back across the Esplanade and into Disneyland...
In Town Square I boarded the Streetcar - I love riding up and down Main Street. The Dapper Dans jumped on and actually serenaded us as we rode - that was pretty cool.
Turning from Town Square headed up Main Street, with those fun Mickey garlands
Arrival at the hub - Sleeping Beauty Castle
After riding UP Main Street on the streetcar, I hoped onto the top level of the Omnibus and rode DOWN Main Street. The Fire Engine was parked waiting for guests and enjoyed the level of decorating detail on the Fire Engine
Going back down Main Street with Town Square
The Cinema at DL still shows 6 classic MM cartoons each & every day
Here's "Tilly" the "ticket taker" at the Cinema
Note where here "hometown" is...
The day I was there just happened to be one of the days that the Candy Palace had their handmade Candy Canes (recently featured on HGTV apparently)... they are extremely limited, only made 4 or 5 times during the season. You have to line up and get a number in order to be eligible to purchase one. Each batch is limited to only about 30-40 and each purchaser can only buy up to 2. No more than 3 batches per day they offer them. I was fortunate enough to be able to be in the line for the third batch and walked away with 2. Yay. But at $9.99 each, I wouldn't want to buy more than that! Here's pic. I successfully got them home break free (they wrap them in bubble wrap), and they will go into my DW and my stocking on Christmas Eve. Note the size - I laid it next to my watch for comparison purposes.
In Tomorrowland I caught most of the Jedi Training Academy show. I've seen it on both coasts now. I know it originated with Star Wars Weekends at MGM, but I prefer the show at DL. The stage they built in FL is great, right there at the Star Tours attraction & Endor village, but there's just something more dramatic and fun about the hydraulic stage at Tomorrowland Terrace which rises up from underground when Darth Vader appears after all of the kid picking and initial moves training of the padawans (plus its just a few short yards away from the original Star Tours).
In December 2008 they finally reopened the walk-thru diorama inside the castle that tells the story of Sleeping Beauty. It closed right after 9/11 - and due to ADA issues wasn't able to reopen once they closed it. But they were able to get around that with a special "alternate viewing" experience that they designed when they redid it all. It's an awesome experience, and I'm so glad that it's reopened. Another one of those neat little experiences that just sits there on the sidelines drawing people that know about it, or stumble upon it. Not a major experience in any way (definitely not an E ticket), but well worth the visit. It originally opened back in 1957 I believe, when Walt wanted to "plus" the park with something new. The castle was originally built with nothing inside, and so it was "fit" inside the structure with narrow steps and the occasional alcove for more story elements. The dolls and animated figurines were crude, but stylized to look like the film. With this refresh - it was definitely improved. Some great new technology was added, incorporating actual animation of the three good fairies & Maleficent turning into the dragon.
Some more decoration - this time on a lamppost near the entrance to Frontierland
The Pet Cemetery at the Haunted Mansion. This is located along the queue, as you wrap around the grounds to enter the actual house facade
Here Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas is highlighted as well
The Sailing Ship Columbia - unique to DL, circles round Tom Sawyer Island. At nighttime, it is used in Fantasmic! as Captain Hook's ship
Here I am ready to embark on a fun-filled canoe excursion on Davey Crockett's Explorer Canoes - one of my favorite attractions!
Watching the canoe ahead of us after they embarked on their journey - these, along with the rafts to the island are most definitely free floating - no tracks, unlike the big ships have - if you don't believe me, read my earlier post about the when I worked at DL and the summertime CM Canoe Races! :)
Here's the queue area for Indiana Jones & the Temple of the Forbidden Eye (opened in 1995 for DL's 40th). This particular ride was the basis for Dinosaur at AK - in fact, once you board the vehicles, the ride is identical on the inside, minus the Indy theming plus the Dino theming. I remember riding Dino for the first time several years ago thinking "I know what's coming next" and sure enough, the movements and turns were the same all the way through. I took these shots AFTER getting off the ride, which broke down while I was on it (at the very end thankfully). As I was exiting the show building, the CM's were announcing that it would be down for an hour or so, so the line was pretty much non-existent by the time I got outside
The temple itself, located just above the exit
Inside the queue, further on in line, way down into the show building
The load area
The point where the ride broke down - at the end of the ride, just after Indy has saved us from the big bad ball rolling straight for us
This is the entrance into ToonTown, which geographically is located on the northside of the park, right next to IASW. It was opened in '91, and as a land, was the first land to be entirely located OUTSIDE the berm of the train. Back in '72 Bear Country (now called Critter Country) opened up as a new land that was half inside and half outside the berm. Prior to that, only show buildings for attractions were added beyond the berm to make things fit (POTC was the first to go beyond the berm, followed by the HM) - but the entrance to the respective attractions was certainly located inside the berm of park. The individual attractions moved you under the berm and outside into the show buildings seemlessly without the guest even realizing they'd done so - POTC via the boats of course, and the HM via the Portrait Corridor after stepping out of the elevators after being lowered underground. Today there's also Splash Mountain & Winnie the Pooh Adventures in Critter Country and the Indiana Jones Adventure in Adventureland that are also located outside the berm - both Splash & Winnie you enter the building inside the berm an work your outside the berm without really knowing it, but at Indy you walk underneath the train tracks through a long sloping queue process after entering the entrance to the Temple facade. But with ToonTown, you simply walk down under the tracks' bridge above to get into ToonTown. About and hour before the fireworks each night, the entire land is closed, since the fw's are literally shot up in the air directly behind the back wall of the land
ToonTown is filled with lots of fun interactive stuff, and just plain silliness
Roger Rabbit's CarToon Spin - this is a pretty fun attraction
Mickey & Minnie's houses
Chip & Dale's Treehouse
Gadget's Go Coaster
Goofy's Bounce House
The Enchanted Tiki Room is also another of my favorite attractions. My DW thinks I'm nuts...but I don't care. It's CLASSIC Walt through and through. DL still has the original 1963 version of it too, unlike that mess that made at the MK when they tried to update it with "Under New Management" - let alone what they've done to it over in Tokyo when they incorporated Stitch (haven't seen it yet, can't judge, but man, enough Stitch already!) PLUS, the added benefit, is that right there at the entrance is the Dole Whip stand and you can take your whip into the show with you!!! Which I do every single time - even on a day when I see it twice or more...which I did. Bought a whip each time! YUMMMMM.
The Tiki Room is physically located right at the entrance to Adventureland - here's the sign which is geographically just AFTER the entrance to the ETR. One of the fun things to notice whenever you get there... is that the roofline is shared by the Plaza Pavillion (a former restaurant which is now the Annual Pass Processing Center - and is part thatch on one side, part gingerbread and curlicues on the other - as the PP sits on the actual hub and the ETR, right next door, is technically part of Adventureland. It's masked very well, but when you pay close attention, you'll see the transition between the two distinctly different themes that share the same building.
The Dole Whip stand physcially sits between the ETR turnstile and the Adventureland sign (the thatch you see, and the first two fireposts are coming out from the roof of the stand, as well as the "A" side of the Adventureland sign which is structurally attached to the stand's roof), and it has service on the outside (path side) and the ETR courtyard side - so you can be waiting in the courtyard for the show and buying your D.W. at the same time.
Some of the tiki gods and goddesses that decorate the waiting courtyard
The signs look great at nighttime too!
The teacups look awesome at nighttime too. At DL they are exposed to the elements, so when it rains they aren't quite as fun. The covering designed for the MK is more practical yes, but you just can't beat the look of the giant turntable with all those oriental lanterns hanging down above
Here's a shot from Fantasyland of the Wicked Queen looking out of her window, above the entrance to the queue for Snow White's Scary Adventures. She opens the curtains and looks out every few minutes
Here are the Dapper Dans, later in the day, performing in Town Square
They were setting up for Candlelight while I was there. At DL the Candlelight Processional is only two nights, on one weekend each December as it takes place in Town Square in front of the Train Station, and is quite a disruption for the entire week leading up to it. For a while (maybe 2 or 3 years) during the late '90's they moved it to the stage at the former Videopolis Theatre, but there was such an uproar that it was finally moved back to Town Square and hasn't gone anywhere since. This extraordinary event dates back to 1956 and Walt himself. I was in it 2 years back in the late '80's, standing right up there on the Living Christmas Tree front and center. (I still have my sheet music!) That was an incredibly fun experience. I still haven't been able to get to it at Epcot yet, but someday I will. Twice I've been in Epcot during the Christmas season and had the opportunity to go, but didn't make it either time for one reason or another - honestly can't even remember why now. But someday I will get to it there and see how it is similar/different.
Here's a view of Space Mtn at nighttime
and one last one of the castle at nighttime
OK guys - I'm done. I'm sure I've bored a bunch of you, but thanks for letting me share some pics of my trip with you all. I'm headed down to WDW in just about 3 weeks - so watch out. I won't do it again in this forum, but since that will be very different than the total of 2.5 days I spent in the CA parks recently - I will do a separate TR since that will be an 8 night trip staying in 2 different resorts, hitting all of the parks and some other activities. I'm looking forward to getting "home" to our "home away from home" - Animal Kingdom Villas. We'll also be staying in the Treehouses for the first time - so I'm really excited about that. We'll be taking my parents (flying in from Oregon) and my brother (flying in from Hawaii) who haven't been to WDW in more than 15 years each... so it will be VERY NEW to them, since so much has changed and been added since they were last there. It'll be like taking newbies! Plus we're trying some new restaurants as well as some old favorites - so we're pretty stoked about it all. My mom is excited to be able to get a new family portrait taken - so we're trying out the PhotoPass Portrait session there at AKV. I'll let you know how it turns out and if it's worth it or not.
Your photos were great and I really enjoyed your chatty/informational style! You got some great Small World pictures in particular, and I enjoyed hearing about the DVC buildings as I'm not very familiar with those at all.
I do feel like I have to defend the ORIGINAL Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough, though--when it originally opened, it actually looked quite a bit like the one they have today. (You can hear all about it on the latest Sleeping Beauty DVD.) Sometime later--I think the 1970s, maybe 1980s?--they replaced the old artistic dioramas with dolls like the old Main Street displays. As a kid I liked the dolls but I now realize they were artistically lacking. Then for this latest version, they looked at the original blueprints for the original version of the castle and rebuilt many of those elements, though they made some improvements and the experience is not identical. That's why the walkthrough has some Maleficent scenes that don't even take place in the movie itself (I THINK the original walkthrough came out well before the film).
It's really fascinating to hear how the effects were designed for such a small space. Lots of Pepper's ghosts!
You make some good points, which I do concur with you on... but at the same time, this TR was originally crafted through a multitude of posts for the guys in the DIS Dad's Club - probably 95% of whom have never even been to DL! Some parts had lots of details and others didn't. So what I wrote was kind of in that vein - informational, but trying not to be too much so, while at the same time promoting numerous differences between Walt's original Magic Kingdom and the other one that the Imagineers designed after his death. Both wonderful places, similar yes, but very, very different too.
Great photos and info!
I'm headed to DLR this weekend and I loved seeing your photos. We're staying at the Grand Californian which is a first for me. I've been going to DLR since I was a kid, but still learned a few things. I'm so excited to hear the Enchanted Tiki room is still the original - I was very disappointed in the new version at MK.
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