California Backstage Magic DISUnplugged Podcast Tour: 04/13/10 Trip Report w/Pics
My husband I were lucky enough to experience our very first Adventures by Disney Tour with the Podcast Crew (Pete, Walter, Kevin and John) and 44 DISers.
DISCLAIMER: Your CA Backstage Magic Tours may or may not include everything we did.
SPOILER ALERT: This Trip Report goes into detail about the Tour.
Here's our Trip Report ...
Sunday - April 11, 2010
This is the first and only trip we have taken on our own since our first child was born almost ten years ago. So, it took a lot of pre-trip preparation not only to make sure DH (Bill) and I had all our bags packed. But, I had to make sure the pantry was stocked and my Mom and the Nanny had all the information and tools they needed to care for our children for a week. My Mom watched the kids during the evenings and on the weekends. The Nanny was hired to watch DS4 during the daytime and take DS9 and DD7 to school and pick them up in the afternoon and entertain them until my Mom got home from work. I was exhausted before this trip even began. I didn't get any sleep on Saturday night. I was busy doing laundry and making sure Bill didn't oversleep. We planned to depart around midnight. I am better off not sleeping at all than trying to sleep for 2/3 hours and try to wake-up. I usually feel more tired. I reluctantly woke Bill up out of a deep sleep around 11:45. The bags were all packed and just needed to be loaded into his car.
Believe it or not, even though Southwest is based in Dallas (Love Field Airport), we found cheaper non-stop flights on Southwest out of Austin to LAX.
We left our home north of Dallas around midnight to make the four hour drive to Austin. Our flight wasn't until 9 am. Meaning, we needed to be at the airport around 7 am. We were parking the car at an off-site lot and taking the shuttle to our terminal. So, we factored in that time and stopping once for gas and leaving time for any unexpected stops. We arrived near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport around 5 am. We found the off-site parking. But, it was way too early to just sit at the airport. We passed a Waffle House on our way into the Airport. So, Bill made a u-turn and we decided to start the trip off with a nice breakfast. Since having kids, we haven't been to Waffle House that much. I got the cheese omelet and hashbrowns. The omelet was light, fluffy and oozing with cheese. It was yummy! Bill got the same with a waffle added. Of course, we both downed a couple cups of coffee. The caffeine was well needed! We slowly ate breakfast and still had over an hour before most people for our flight would arrive.
We decided to head back to the off-site parking. So, we could get our bags checked and just relax for a bit at the airport. I had two new books to read this trip and I couldn't wait to get started. Bill bought me Spinning Disney's World and Designing Disney right before the trip. Checking our bags was a breeze and at this time of the morning, security should have been quick. But, we encountered the Kansas State gymnastics team entering security at the same time as us. So, the line went from zero people to over sixty people in a matter of minutes. We had the time. So, this was only a minor inconvenience. I was getting a kick out of the students. More than half had on cowboy hats. I know I have nothing on me, but I always breathe a sigh of relief when I get through the metal detector without making it go off. However, it did go off. I took off all my jewelry and watch. The TSA Agent just did the wand and let me go on my way. I still don't know what made it go off because coming back home, I had on almost the same outfit and the metal detector didn't go off at LAX. Go figure.
Bill overheard a Southwest employee tell someone that our flight was overbooked and was telling me when the announcement came over the PA. They were "begging" for six people to fly out later. They offered all kinds of incentives (free flight later, $200 AND a free voucher for a one-way flight within the next 12 months.) It was very tempting. But, we had ABD waiting for us at LAX (or at least we thought). So, we stayed put. The flight was uneventful, which is always good.
This is what two adult looks like on their first trip without the children ...
We landed at LAX on time. What a chaotic airport! Bill and I made our way down the escalator to the exit expecting to see a smiling driver holding an ABD sign. However, we only saw RCI and Carnival cruise signs. Maybe, they were over by the baggage carousel. So, we headed over there to get our baggage and still no ABD driver. We got our luggage and decided to check outside. Maybe, they were waiting for us outside. No such luck. We waited more than 45 minutes before Bill finally called ABD. He got hold of a person that had no idea about our reservation and what he was talking about. Yes, very frustrating. It was a Sunday. So, we obviously got the low man on the totem pole. But, they took Bill's mobile number and said she'd call him back. Thirty minutes later, still no call. So, Bill called ABD back again. The person told him they hire out the drivers. It is a third party. She could see our reservation and arrival information in the system. But, didn't see where there was a confirmation on who was picking us up. So, she said she would call the shuttle service and call us back. Fifteen minutes later, she called back and told us our best option was to just take a cab to the hotel and they would reimburse us. It was a minor hiccup in the trip. So, we went back outside again and found the taxi stand. Our bags were loaded and we were on our way to Hollywood!
Photo teaser ...
Sunday - April 11, 2010 (Continued)
I have never been to LA. So, I was stretching my neck in the taxi trying to soak in the sites. The hotel, Hollywood Renaissance Hotel, seemed so far from the airport. Once the driver exited the highway, I got even more excited. I would finally get to see the infamous Hollywood. Like any major city, it has it's good and bad areas. My first sites of Hollywood were spray-painted buildings and people hanging out on the sidewalks. Yes, I made sure the taxi door was locked. The area got nicer and nicer the closer we got to the hotel. Phew! I was scared for a minute. But, I knew ABD was a class act and the hotel would be nothing but fantastic and I was right. I could see the high-rise hotel in the distance. When the driver pulled up out front, I honestly couldn't believe we were finally here and ready to start our California Adventure. It was surreal!
The Hollywood Renaissance Hotel
We entered the Art Deco looking lobby and found the registration desk. Bill nicely asked upon check-in if we could get a room with a view of the Hollywood sign. However, she said that was not part of the ABD standard room price. She must have seen the disappointment on our faces because she said, "Hold on. Let me see what I have." Still thinking we didn't get a room with a view, Bill accepted the room keys and off we went to find our room. We entered the room and it was really nice with a HUGE king bed.
Of course the first thing I did upon entering the room was check the view. This is what I saw ...
(this is super zoomed in.)
This is what it looked like without a zoom lense. Not a bad view!
Thank you to the woman at the check-in counter and to Bill for asking! Free upgrade. Yay!!!!!!!!
Sunday - April 11, 2010 (Continued)
After taking a little nap, we were famished for lunch. It was around 1 PM by this time. So, we exited the hotel right into the Highland Shopping Center. This hotel is in a prime location!!!!!
Me at the Highland Shopping Center. You can see the Hollywood sign faintly in the background.
Before getting lunch, we had to peek over the side of the shopping center onto Hollywood Blvd. This is the home to the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, El Capitan Theatre, Masonic Temple (Jimmy Kimmel Live) and The Disney Soda Fountain and Store. We could see all of these from the shopping center!
That's Bill above.
The shopping center and hotel are on the same side of the street as the Kodak Theatre and Grauman's Chinese Theatre. We'll see them later after lunch. After taking a couple of pictures, we decided to finally get some lunch. We found a Johnny Rockets in the shopping center. Burgers and shakes sounded good. They were busy. But, we still found a cozy booth in the back. Both Bill and I got a cheeseburger and vanilla shake. Yummy as expected! Bill had been posting our adventures on Facebook. I caught him in the act during lunch.
Bill making a Facebook and DIS post.
After lunch, we walked around upstairs for a bit and decided to venture down to Hollywood Blvd. It was VERY crowded! You step right onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stars left and right as far as I could see. It was neat to actually see them in person. I am one of those people that spent more time looking down than up. Sorry to the people behind me, I was walking like a drunk woman. We found some familiar names ...
Hollywood Walk of Fame
We decided to stop along the way for some photo ops along Hollyood Blvd ...
A crowded Sunday on Hollywood Blvd.
We are going to take a walking tour of Hollywood Blvd. with the ABD Tour on Wednesday on our way to breakfast at the Disney Soda Fountain. Today, we wanted to take our time to soak in the atmosphere and characters. There were people dressed up and down the street in costume. It was a site!!!!
The Kodak Theatre. Home to the Academy Awards.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
My kids (and Bill and I) like the Harry Potter movies. So, I couldn't resist taking a picture of their handprints and footprints. They even dipped their wands in the cement. Also, the other one below is such an old classic. Gone with the Wind is one of my all-time favorite movies.
We weeded our way through the crowds for about an hour and then decided to head back up to the safety of our room. On our way up we ran into a couple of DISers from the ABD Tour. We had all posted our pictures on the thread. So, we could put faces to names. It really helped out when meeting them in person.
Once in the room, Bill started not feeling too well. It may have been lunch at Johnny Rockets because I started feeling ill too. Not as bad as Bill luckily. It felt like food poisoning. Which was good and bad because we knew the sickness was only temporary and it would soon pass. (no pun intended). Bill went out to find some Tums while I relaxed for a bit. When he came back, we fell asleep for a few hours. The whole being up more than 24 hours was taking a toll on me too. Tomorrow, we planned to drive the Pacific Coast Highway. I wanted to be 100% to enjoy the experience. So, being the party animals we are, I ran downstairs to the Highland Shopping Center to grab some pretzels for dinner and we called it an early night.
Tomorrow, we would be cruising in a convertible on the PCH! Yahooooooooooooooo!
Monday - April 12, 2010
We awoke this morning to an overcast sky. The view was still spectacular.
Sunrise in Hollywood.
Our Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour didn't officially start until tomorrow evening for a Welcome Dinner. So, we had all of today and tomorrow to play tourist. Bill rented a car online prior to our arrival. There is a Hertz right inside the hotel. So, we quickly got ready and hopped into our silver Chrysler Sebring convertible that was waiting for us downstairs.
Bill enjoying the convertible.
Bill and I were both feeling much better today. Bill was still not 100%. But, being a trooper. The plan for today was to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to Monterey and maybe Pebble Beach.
First, we had to make a pitstop for coffee and a light breakfast. Bill travels to Seattle often on business and has come to really enjoy the coffee chain Tully's. We don't have them in Texas. He did a search online and found that there is only one in the LA area. Believe it or not, it is located inside Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. So, we typed the address into our trusty GPS. (We brought our GPS from home to help navigate the CA roads.) We were on a mission to find Tully's. On our way to Cedars-Sinai, it started to lightly drizzle. The weather forecast for today was scattered showers. This would be a battle we would fight for most of the day. It's no fun to be in a convertible, when you can't put the top down!
We had no problem finding Cedars-Sinai. I was going to run in and get our drinks while Bill waited. But, there was absolutely no curbside parking. So, he parked in the parking garage and we ventured inside to find caffeine. The smell of coffee was calling us. I am not a big coffee drinker. I usually get tea or hot chocolate when we visit Starbucks. The only time I drink hot coffee in the morning is if I am really really tired. On this morning, hot chocolate sounded good. To have a double dose of chocolate this morning, I got a chocolate croissant too. Yummy! Bill has a favorite cold frozen coffee drink he likes from Tully's. I had to look it up. It's called a Mocha Bellachino. He had a cinnamon roll to eat. We grabbed our goodies and headed back to the car. We planned to have breakfast in the car to make up some time.
Our Tully's breakfast.
Bill savoring his drink.
Traffic in LA is horrendous! We entered the highway to an already slow-moving traffic jam. Once, we got further from downtown LA, the traffic thinned out and I finally saw this sign ...
Bill and I both love the ocean and mountains. Why aren't we living in California?!?!?!? Oh yeah, the housing prices!!!! We had always dreamed of this moment, driving the PCH in a convertible with the ocean crashing. Pure heaven! The journey of a lifetime was about to begin.
Monday - April 12, 2010 (Continued)
Here are my first views of the Pacific Ocean from the PCH ...
The sun was trying to peer out from behind the clouds. This may be a great day afterall.
The view was great. But, where are the cliffs I see in all the movies? As I learned from this trip, patience is a virtue and will be rewarded later on. :thumbsup2
The PCH 1/101 winds near the ocean on 1 and then takes you onto 101 away from the water for a bit. We were a little worried because we hadn't seen the ocean for awhile. I didn't read about all the hills and non-beach roads in any of the guidebooks. They only show you the cliffs with the ocean crashing in the background. That's what I think of when someone says "Pacific Coast Highway". Again, be patient a little birdy tells me ...
On one of the roads, it looked like they cut right into the rock to make the road. I saw this road/rock on a car commercial last night!
We headed further north through avocado farms and luscious hills. But, where was the ocean????? We actually started to think we took a wrong turn. But, the woman on the GPS kept urging us on.
An avocado farm.
The hills. (It's okay to break out into the Sound of Music at this point. ;))
We were taken back onto the highway and decided at this point to take a break and get a cold drink. We saw the familiar golden arches in the distance and decided it would make the perfect stop. By this time, the sun was really shining. It was time to put the top down on the convertible!!!
We drove on 101 for about 40 minutes when Bill said it looks like clouds ahead. Should he pull over and put the top up? I told him to go with his instinct. So, he pulled over to the side of the highway. He hit the button to close the top (it looked very easy) and he pulled back onto the highway. Not five minutes later, the pitter patter of rain started to fall on the windshield. From then on, I let him dictate when the roof came on and off. He had a knack at it. The rain didn't last. Like the weatherman stated, it really was scattered showers that day. Maybe, they should have called it sporadic showers.
During our travels north, we went through a tunnel. It looked very familiar like it had been in some movies.
On the other side of the tunnel were more hills. After about another 30 minutes, we could see the ocean to our left again. In my mind, I knew I wanted to stop at the next major town. I wanted to stop and smell the ocean air and get some beach pictures. I don't have the greatest camera for taking action shots from the car.
If you've seen the movie Clueless with Alicia Silverstone, you might remember during the movie she is raising money and goods for the "Pismo Beach Disaster". We saw a sign coming up for Pismo Beach. It was a familiar name. So, we decided to stop there for lunch and to relax. It is a cute little seaside down where all roads leads to the coast. We parked the car at a town lot right on the beach. We did zero pre-trip planning on lunch for today. We decided to go with the flow. I stopped a group of twentysomethings and asked where they recommend we eat lunch. All three at the same time said The Splash Cafe. That was a good sign. They were all in agreeance. It is known for it's clam chowder. Growing up in Massachusetts, I was born eating clam chowder. I am always up to try a new recipe. So, off we went to find The Splash Cafe. By this time, we were hungry.
It didn't take us long to find the restaurant. The town only consists of a few blocks. Bill still was not 100% better. He had the after food poisoning sour stomach. So, he decided to skip the milky clam chowder. He ordered the fish and chips. One thing to note when orderding fried fish on the west coast, it is going to be frozen and can sometimes taste frozen. Bill didn't like his fish at all. He ended up sending it back and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. I did order the infamous clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. OMG! This was so good. Pictures can't do it justice because you can't smell the yumminess. The bread was toasted and buttery, the clam chowder was tasty, thick and full of clams. Sometimes, I am leary when a place prides themselves on a certain dish. However, here it was well warranted. If you are ever in the area, make sure to pop in for some clam chowder (just stay away from the fried fish!).
Check out The Splash Cafe website HERE.
The Splash Cafe - Pismo Beach, CA
My bread bowl clam chowder.
Bill's fish and chips.
Monday - April 12, 2010 (Continued)
Stopping off at Pismo Beach was our first taste of getting out of the car and experiencing the ocean. So, I went a little picture happy here. Here are some pictures from Pismo Beach ...
The sun was brightly shining. Time to put the top down again! Here are some car shots in Pismo Beach ...
I was only "posing". Bill did all the driving this trip.
It was time to bid Pismo Beach a farewell. There was more to see ...
Somehow leaving Pismo Beach, we didn't hear the GPS woman when she told us to turn. It must have been all the wind ripping through our hair with the convertible down. We ended up at a dead end. This is when the term "it's the journey, not the destination" came into my mind. We never would have found this little gem, if we hadn't gotten lost. Someone how we ended up at Harford Pier. The only way I remember the name is because I took a picture of the sign. It looked like whale watching and fishing tours leave from the dock here. It was very picturesque. When I stepped out of the car to take some pictures, I was almost attacked by squirrels. They were everywhere! There was even a sign warning not to feed them. I had never seen so many squirrels hanging out at the beach. They surely were lost. After a quick stop to take some pictures, we make a u-turn to head back the way we came to find the road we missed.
Pictures from Harford Pier ...
(not a bad place to get lost to!)
Beware of the attack squirrels!
Monday - April 12, 2010 (Continued)
Once we made the stops in Pismo Beach and Harford Pier, I wanted to see more than just the roads along the PCH. So, when we came upon Morro Bay, Bill made me happy and pulled into town so we could explore more. Who knows when we will get back to these parts again. I wanted to savor the experience of traveling the PCH. What caught my eye at Morro Bay was this HUGE rock sticking out of the water. You couldn't miss it. We could see it from miles away. As we got closer, we had to check it out.
Pictures from Morro Bay.
We drove to get a little closer to Morro Rock.
I honestly knew nothing about Morro Rock until I came home and did a search online.
Morro Rock is a 581-foot volcanic plug located just off-shore of Morro Bay, California at the entrance to the Morro Bay Harbor and a causeway connects it with the shore, effectively making it a tied island. The area around the base of Morro Rock can be visited. The rock is protected as the Morro Rock State Preserve. Climbing on the rock or disturbing the bird life is forbidden by law.
Morro Rock was first charted in 1542 by the Portuguese explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who called it El Morro which is the spanish geographical term for a crown-shaped rock or hill. Since then, it has become an important landmark to sailors and travelers.
You learn something new everyday.
After admiring the view, we headed north once again. We were driving up 1 when we saw a sign for an overlook to view Elephant Seals. Up for more nature, we stopped to check out the view. We could see the seals napping on the rocks. My camera is not the best to zoom and get a crisp picture.
Here are some pictures of the seals on the rocks.
Monday - April 12, 2010 (continued - this was a long, long day ... )
"On the road again" - Willie Nelson
We got back on 1 heading north when we spotted hundreds of elephant seals on the side of the road. Bill braked and made a u-turn back. When we got out of the car it was kind of eerie. They weren't moving. Were they dead????? Once we got closer, one of them poked his head up and let out what sounded like a loud burp. They were alive alright. Just napping in the sun.
We got within a few feet of them, with a fence between us. They weren't afraid of us at all. It was really cool to see them this close in their natural habitat. It was moments like this, I wish the kids were here. They would have loved it!
Elephant Seals along the PCH.
(Looking at this picture, you can see now why we thought they were dead! No movement.)
(This little guy kept coming closer and closer. He was not shy!)
After visiting for a bit, we headed back north on a mission to find the section of the PCH we had been dreaming of.
We drove through a little more of this scenery ...
Then, we finally came to this ...
It was breathtaking. Pictures cannot do it justice. We stopped for a few pictures ...
This trip up the PCH was taking longer than anticipated. As you can tell from the pictures, it was getting dark and cloudy. On with the top again. At first our goal was to be in Monterey for lunch, now we were "hoping" for sunset.
Bill drove the little car through the twists and turns of the PCH. I wasn't even driving and it was making me nervous. Thank goodness we were heading north. We had the protection of the rocks on the right of us. However, the rocks can be deadly too. We saw a few rocks slides while making our way north. There was even one section with a road crew clearing the road. You could still see the mud on the road from the rockslide. It was scary!
The further north we went, the more beautiful the scenery got. It was amazing! Of course we had to stop for some more photo ops ...
More beautiful Pacific Ocean photos.
The sun was starting to set. We hurried off to Monterey.
After driving for another 30 minutes, we knew there was no way we were going to make it to Monterey before sunset. So, Bill pulled off the side of the road and we watched the sunset on the PCH. It was so peaceful and romantic.
Sunset on the PCH.
After we watched the sun disappear for the evening, we hopped back into the car. By this time, we were famished. We hadn't eaten since lunch. So, it was Monterey or bust for dinner.
We pulled into Monterey in pitch dark and a sprinkling of rain.
This is where our GPS came in handy once again. Bill made reservations in Monterey for lunch, which we missed. He really wanted to have dinner at the restaurant. He had already pre-typed in the address before our trip. So, we followed the GPS to the Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. I am sure during the daytime it is beautiful and bustling with activity. At night, it was romantic with only a handful of patrons. We parked the car and made our way to the Old Fisherman's Grotto Restaurant on the Old Fisherman's Wharf. (That sounds like a tongue-twister!)
We found the restaurant without any problem. It was the only place on the wharf showing signs of life. We were seated right away to a table right on the water. Again, I am sure it is beautiful during the daytime. At night, we really only saw hints of water and docked boats lit from the moonlight and the candles on the table. It was a very romantic restaurant. The servers were very attentive.
Old Fisherman's Grotto Restaurant.
You'll never guess what I got for an appetizer?????? If you guessed clam chowder, you are correct! Bill was feeling better by this time. So, we shared a bowl of clam chowder. Which turned out to be this big shell of never-ending clam chowder. We ate and ate and the bowl never seemed to get lower. For our main course, I got scallops and Bill got coconut shrimp. Both were just "okay". But, the clam chowder stole the meal. It was delicious!!!!
The clam chowder.
After dinner, we walked around the deserted wharf for a few minutes and then hopped back into the car.
Old Fisherman's Wharf Statue.
The plan was to drive back to Hollywood. However, it was around 9 PM and we had been going all day and poor Bill had been driving all day. So, after he almost nodded off on the highway. We pulled off around 10:30 PM and found a Holiday Inn Express for the night "somewhere" along 101. We still had a room back at the Hollywood Renaissance. But, there was no way we were making it back there tonight. We both took showers and in no time were catching some zzzzzzzzzzz's.
Tomorrow, we would make the drive back to Hollywood and start our Adventures by Disney Tour with fellow DISers!!!!
Tuesday - April 13, 2010
We woke up around 7:30 am and slowly made our way down to the continental breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, we were back in the car on our way back to Hollywood.
We took the "speedy" way back, no PCH today. However, we found a different kind of beauty today. We traveled along miles and miles of vineyards and mountains. California has it all, the ocean and mountains. Y'all are lucky!
Some beautiful vineyards along the highway.
After the rolling hills of the vineyards, we started to see more mountains to our left and higher hills on our right.
We made a pit stop to stretch our legs and admire the beauty around us.
Pictures from our pit stop.
Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. It was time to put the top down on that convertible!
We were getting closer and closer to LA. How could we tell?????
Los Angeles is notorious for traffic. We found this to be true on our way out and into LA. We were starting to see familiar street names and soon it was time to exit at Highland Avenue for the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel.
We pulled into the hotel around 1:00 PM. The Hertz rental desk is right inside the parking lot entrance. So, I ran in quickly while Bill waited with the car. Within a minute the Hertz Agent was taking the car and we were off into the hotel.
We noticed an Adventures by Disney table set up in the lobby. So, we went over to check-in. This was our first encounter with our Adventure Guides Michael and Jaime. They were very friendly and handed us our Adventure Guide for the week. It gave a detailed itinerary of the week. At this time, we gave them our lunch order for the next day at The Jim Henson Company. We ran into some fellow travelers while at check-in, including Kevin and John from the DIS-Unplugged Podcast. Everyone was friendly. You could see the look of anticipation on everyone's faces. We have waited almost a year for this Tour to finally start. It was surreal that our Welcome Dinner was that evening. Bill and I visited for a little and then excused ourselves. We needed to head up to our un-used room to get refreshed for dinner that evening.
ABD California Backstage Magic Tour - DAY ONE (April 13, 2010)
Welcome Reception and Dinner
When Bill and I entered our room, I noticed the light was flashing on our phone. I had the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. So, I assumed it was housekeeping wanting to know if we needed service. To my surprise, it was someone wanting to deliver something to us. A few minutes later there was a knock at our door. A man delivered us a little package from ABD.
Here are our ABD "goodies".
Included in the package was an ABD duffle bag, (2) pens, (2) wipes, (2) binoculars & cleaner cloths.
Yay! We were starting to get ABD presents. There were more to come!
Upon check-in earlier, we were instructed to meet outside The Twist Restaurant and Lounge, located inside the hotel, later that evening. After a much needed nap and shower, Bill and I headed down to finally meet our fellow Adventurers. We had been chatting online and on a thread for almost a year. We felt like we knew everyone already. Also, Bill and I attended DAP this past December at WDW. So, we got to meet some fellow Adventurers in person. It was going to be fun to see some familiar faces and make some new friends.
When the elevator door opened, we could hear the chatter of people. It was time to get this party started! We made the rounds introducing ourselves and giving hugs to old friends. It was funny, when making introductions, our first name was followed by "my screen name is ... " If you were an outsider walking by, it may have sounded odd. Kevin from the Podcast handed a little gift to everyone from the DISUnplugged Podcast crew. He gave us a sun visor with DISUnplugged ABD 2010 on them. It is a great hat and very appreciated! We’ll definitely be wearing them in the parks. Bill was glad because he now has a hat to go with his DISUnplugged t-shirt. He’s coordinated.
After a little mingling, we were led into a conference room where drinks and finger food was waiting. This is where our Adventure Guides (Michael and Jaime) made their official introductions and gave us an outline of what was in store for us this week.
Our Adventure Guides Michael and Jaime with Bill and I.
The ABD DISer Mixer.
After a little more mingling, we filed out of the conference room on our way to dinner. This is the first time the Adventures by Disney sign came out. We would follow it for the next five days. The group of 40+ took over the Hollywood and Highland Center on our way to dinner located at Trastevere Ristorante. We were escorted to the back of the restaurant where a whole room was set up just for us. You couldn't help but notice four podiums in the front of the room. I assume those were for the game show I had heard so much about at the Welcome Dinner. The doors to the patio were open to show a spectacular view of LA.
The view from our private dining room. You can see the Capitol Records Building.
Waiting on the tables were breads, bruchetta, antipasto and salads. So, as soon as we sat people started munching and socializing. We had a limited menu to order our main course.
Bill and I ordered the Penne al Pomodoro e Basilico. Nothing else on the menu sounded appetizing. When our main course arrived, I was a little underwhelmed. The past was very bland. It was so bland, I tried to spruce up the dish by adding some eggplant and peppers from the antipasto plate. Nothing helped the poor pitiful pasta dish.
Dinner at Trastevere Ristorante.
Before we knew it, it was time to play Disney trivia. The host needed four players. To get his players, he asked a question and the first person with the correct answer won a spot at a podium. I'll be honest, the questions were VERY easy. My children probably could have answered them. I did get picked to answer a question. I remember the question, "Which Disneyland attraction has a basketball court in it?". I've watched enough Disneyland travel shows to know the answer is ... "The Matterhorn Bobsleds". Yay! I won a spot at a podium. However, I decided to pass the baton to my husband Bill. He is a very shy person in group situations. I knew this would be a great ice breaker for him, and it was! He was great and a real sport when one of his questions had to be sung. Where's the video camera when you need it?!?!?!
Bill making his way to the podium.
For the evening, Bill's name was "sucker". Those on the trip know why ...
Bill and the other contestants for Disney Trivia.
When looking at this picture, have the song "We are the World" in your mind ...
All of the contestants were funny and knowledgeable of Disney trivia. In the end, Kim won "big cheese" Mickey ears ...
Bill got a consolation prize of a Donald Duck Kooky pen. It is really cute.
After the game, it was time for dessert. A tiramasu was placed before me. Again, it was "okay". I'm not a big tiramasu person. I like my cake and pudding as two separate desserts.
During dessert, one of our fellow Adventurers (Matthew) announced that he made everyone a special t-shirt for the trip. There were 44 of us. That was VERY generous of him. Also during dessert, Bill and I passed out Texas pralines to the group. We couldn't come empty-handed meeting our new friends. Throughout the trip, other fellow DISers gave out little gifts too.
Before we knew it, dinner was coming to an end. We were on our own for the remainder of the evening. Upon exiting the restaurant, the Guides were waiting with our official ABD lanyard or pin pouch and "pin for the day". Each day of the Adventure you are given a different pin to represent that day. Also, each day has a "theme" and "word of the day" to represent the day's activities.
Today's Theme: It All Started With A Mouse
Word of the Day: Mickey
Pin of the Day:
After leaving the restaurant, Bill and I wanted to call it an early night. We had to be downstairs bright and early to meet for our breakfast at the Disney Soda Fountain and Store. So, Bill and I went up to our room. However, after being in the room for less than an hour we both were still hungry. Neither of us ate that much at dinner. So, I pulled out the room service menu and we both agreed pizza sounded good. We ordered two sodas and a margherita pizza. To our surprise when the tray arrived, the chef included two complimentary cookies. Both the pizza and cookies were yummy! We fell asleep with full bellies and dreams of what tomorrow would bring.
Pictures of our real dinner for the evening.
ABD California Backstage Magic Tour - DAY TWO (April 14, 2010)
Breakfast at Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store
El Capitan Theatre
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Today's Theme: Lights, Camera, Adventure!
Word of the Day: Hollywood
Pin of the Day:
It felt as if I had just fallen asleep, when the phone rang with our 6 am wake-up call. Normally, I lay around a little longer after the alarm goes off to truly wake-up. I couldn‘t wait to get out of bed this morning. Today was our first full day on the Tour. I have to tell you, if you plan on going on this tour, get some rest BEFORE the trip. You are going to need it!!!! We had to be downstairs around 7:30 am to meet our Guides and fellow Adventurers. Today was a packed day from beginning to end. Knowing of the fun ahead, Bill and I hopped out of bed with a little pep in our step and full of anticipation. I can’t believe how quickly I can get ready without three children to help. Bill and I were ready in record time! We actually sat down and relaxed before heading out the door. Soon, we were on our way down to meet the others in front of Twist (our meeting location).
We made our way down to the lobby in front of Twist with DISers chatting away about what they did last night. It was funny. We were on the elevator = silence . As soon as the elevator door opened, we could hear the DISers before we saw them. This was a rowdy bunch! We jumped into the group. Once all the Adventurers arrived, our herd followed the Guides through Hollywood and Highland Center to the Kodak Theatre. Here we took our first official group picture.
The Guides made the mistake of asking for those that want them to take a picture with their own camera to leave it with the Guides. Before they knew what hit them, the Guides had 20 cameras laid before them. It was a site that would be repeated a few times this trip. We all now know what it feels like to be a celebrity. We stood and smiled for over 20 pictures to be taken. It was like the Oscars! We were certainly in the right place for it. After our “photo session”, we made our way down the stairs to street level where the Guides gave us a little history of the Kodak Theatre. They pointed out where they have rods to drape curtains during the Academy Awards to cover the storefronts. It looks totally different in person than on tv. I will definitely be looking more closely next year at the red carpet and it’s surroundings.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
The group moved next door to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Again, the Guides gave a little history and pointed out some of the more notable handprints and footprints cemented in front of the theatre. We didn’t dilly dally around here too much. We had a schedule to keep. Breakfast was waiting for us across the street at Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store. For some of this Tour, I personally felt it was rushed. But, I know it was because we had a larger group and it took longer than anticipated to get us from point A to point B. We quickly made our way across Hollywood Blvd to Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store.
Our Guide Michael giving the history of the theatre and the infamous handprints our front.
You will notice that Marilyn Monroe's slab has a jewel for the "i" in Marilyn. We were told that initially she wanted it to be a diamond. But, she was talked out of it due to obvious theft of the stone.
Hi ho hi ho it's off to breakfast we go ...
The restaurant was open special this morning for our ABD breakfast. When we walked in, the place was already set for our group with fresh fruit waiting on the table and a menu just for us. I’m not a big waffle or pancakes person. However, whenever we visit a Disney property, I always have to have a Mickey waffle. They just taste so much better than a “normal” waffle. When I saw Mickey waffle as an option for breakfast, I knew exactly what I was getting. I got the Mickey waffle with a side of bacon. When my plate was placed before me, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The Mickey waffle was HUGE compared to the ones you get on Disney property. I want that waffle iron! Breakfast was warm and yummy.
A special Menu just for us ...
Breakfast with our new friends.
My Disneyfied breakfast.
We found the Disney vault!
Our table companions were great and the conversation flowed through breakfast. During breakfast, the Manager asked some Disney trivia which was fun. Also during breakfast, Kevin from the Podcast came around and gave everyone a paper towel from Club 33 as a teaser to our breakfast in a few days. After breakfast, we were given the opportunity to shop at the Studio Store inside the restaurant. I browsed, but didn’t find anything I couldn’t get at Disneyland. So, I didn’t buy anything to Bill’s relief.
Bill and I hanging out at the counter.
After breakfast, we were ushered next store to El Capitan Theatre. Waiting in the lobby were ushers with cups of popcorn for everyone. I followed the trail of popcorn into the theatre. The theatre is beautiful. The first thing I noticed was the Wurlitzer organ center stage. I don’t know that much about organs. But, I could tell it was something special. The craftsmanship was amazing. Standing next to the organ was Rob Richards, the House Organist. We were told to sit in the first two rows. After everyone was seated, we were given a private concert by Mr. Richards.
Rob Richards and the mighty Wurlitzer.
Wow! That organ is amazing with the sounds it can produce. When Mr. Richards was done playing, he gave us a little history of the organ and demonstrated some of it’s unusual sounds. Then, he opened up the floor for questions. Also, during our time seated, the Manager gave us some history of the theatre and it’s extended renovation/rebuild. Our time with Mr. Richards came to a musical end when he started playing the pre-show music for Alice in Wonderland and we got to experience a real pre-show at El Capitan. It was truly magical. It made me want to come back and see a movie here. Also, the theatre and organ were all decorated for the movie Alice in Wonderland. You were surrounded by the theming for the current playing film. Very neat!
The theatre decorated for Alice in Wonderland.
We were invited backstage of the theatre and then onto the stage by the Stage Manager. The Stage Manager gave us a little more history of the theatre and told us about live theatre productions put on there. Everyone we encountered at El Capitan had such passion in their voices when they talked about the theatre. When I saw the theatre tour on the itinerary, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I enjoyed the experience more than I thought I would. It was very interesting.
Backstage at El Capitan.
A nice thing about Disney having their own theatre is that they can showcase current releases and display props and costumes from the movie. We headed downstairs where they had props and costumes on display from the movie Alice in Wonderland. The costumes looked so small. Johnny Depp must be tiny!
(Thanks Lynne and Heather!)
Bill and I enjoying El Capitan.
After a quick break, we followed the crowd out of the theatre next door to the Masonic Temple, home to Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
At this point, we had to put our cameras away. So, I will have to post the pictures from the Guides when I get my disc. We all huddled into the lobby area and were met by two Jimmy Kimmel Live! Staffers.
Bill and I have seen Jimmy Kimmel Live! on tv. So, we were familiar with the show. It was neat to see the “infamous” Green Room with the pool table and bar. We also, got to see the control room with it’s millions of little buttons. I had to contain myself to not push a button. They use every inch of that building for the production of the show. Some rooms were smaller than a closet! While touring the building, one of the JKL Staffers told us that when Toy Story came out, they turned the building into an interactive set for people to come and experience. It sounded neat. As we were in a room, he would tell us what it was used for during the Toy Story experience. As we toured the building, you couldn’t help but notice little carvings and granite work. It was initially a Masonic Temple afterall. The craftsmanship was still evident and preserved. It was nice to see they didn’t change everything inside the building. Having never seen a show studio, I was anxious to go down the stairs into the studio. It was much smaller than I thought it would be. Everything was so close. TV really does make things look bigger. Our Guides took a group picture in the studio.
Onstage at JKL.
Then, we were led outside where they shoot outside concerts. They had a full concert stage. A JKL Staffer told us it was chaos when they had the Jonas Brothers perform outside. Little girls were hanging from the fence. Before I knew it, we were heading outside the gate and onto a waiting motor coach to whisk us to The Jim Henson Company.
ABD California Backstage Magic Tour - DAY TWO (April 14, 2010)
Los Angeles Tour
The Jim Henson Company and Lunch
On our way to The Jim Henson Company, our driver pointed out some buildings of interest along the way ...
The Comedy Store (Owned by comedian Pauly Shore's Mom)
Chateau Marmont (Where Lindsay Lohan lived for awhile)
Kat Von D's Tattoo Shop (High Voltage Tattoo A.K.A. LA Ink)
The Viper Room (Where River Phoenix died.)
After our two cents tour of Hollywood, we finally arrived here ...
Kermit had his hat tipped and waving us onto the lot.
There was even a welcome sign to greet us ...
We were finally at The Jim Henson Company lot!
Once inside, we took a group photo in front of the company sign. This is where 20 cameras were turned over to the Guides like at the Kodak Theatre. Even people from The Jim Henson Company were helping to take the pictures. We were quite the spectacle and not too be missed on the lot that day.
A group photo at The Jim Henson Company.
After the picture, we were split up into two smaller groups. We were in Michael's Group. However, before entering the building, we had to put our cameras and phones in a box. They were serious about no photopraphy in this building because their software is proprietary. Once all cameras were safely locked away, we crammed into the front room where Grant (our Studio Guide) had a computer set-up to show us how the puppeteers can use these hands to create movement on the screen. They are currently working on Sid the Science Kid. The show is created with live humans and a computer program. It looked like a science experiment. We got to peek into some work room and even saw some past puppets used in tv and movies. Then, it was time to head out and retrieve our cameras.
Next, our group headed to a soundstage to see where they film the human portion of Sid the Science Kid. They have also used the sound studio for movies. It was huge! After that, we were led into a screening room, where I made the mistake of choosing a bean bag instead of a chair. I almost fell asleep during the presentation. I honestly, don't remember what the movie was about. When we exited the screening room, it was time for lunch.
There were tables and a tent set-up on the lot for us. Lunch was catered-in. We ordered our lunch the day before during check-in. I ordered a cheeseburger and salad. Let me say, this has been a great experience and I can eat when I get home. My burger was burnt, dry and not very good. While eating, Grant brought out a real puppet for us to take pictures with.
DISers devoured the lunch table. This is what was left ...
My Rating: ::MickeyMo
Bill and I with our new fuzzy friend (and Grant).
After lunch, we were free to roam and take pictures. Also, one of the Guides mentioned that we could go into the Reception Office in groups to see the Company's awards, Chaplin safe and more puppets.
Inside the Reception Office ...
We even got to touch an Emmy!
A visit from a familiar friend.
The Jim Henson Company lot used to be home to Charlie Chaplan Studios. His presence is still there in pictures and the infamous safe. He used to keep his shoes from The Tramp in the safe. At one point A&M owned the lot and kept master recordings in the safe. We are the World (both versions) were recorded here. The day we were touring the facility, I could hear music coming from the studio. I'm curious who was in there recording that day. The property was declared a Historical Landmark in 1969.
Here's the plaque in front of the building.
Charlie Chaplin's presence is still on the lot.
Bill trying to break into the safe from outside.
I think I am lost. How'd I get to England?
The lot was full of all kinds of photo ops. Before the trip, I tried to do a little research on each location. Since this was once Charlie Chaplin Studios as previously mentioned, Charlie left his footprints in the once wet cement outside of the studio's Sound Stage 3. It was rumored this is what inspired Sid Grauman to create his famed Chinese Theatre forecourt. The original prints were taken by Red Skelton for his home, but there is now a replica in it's place.
I was so happy to see this ...
This is a working lot and not open for public tours. They didn't have a gift shop or commissary. That may have been a blessing in disguise. Our group loves to shop!!!!! You CAN get Muppets items on Disney property.
Too soon, it was time to leave this quaint lot. This property is very peaceful in the middle of the chaos of Hollywood. Back on the motor coach we went.
COMING UP: We get to revert to our youth! All Aboard!
ABD California Backstage Magic Tour - DAY TWO (April 14, 2010)
Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn - Griffith Park
We took a little drive from The Jim Henson Company to Griffith Park, home to Walt's Barn.
Walt Disney's dreams for Disneyland began when he watched his daughters ride on the carousel in Griffith Park. He wanted to create a place where parents and children could have fun "together". Thanks Uncle Walt!
Walt Disney's Barn
Anyone familiar with Walt Disney, knows he had a passion for trains. He had a train 1/8th scale track on his property in Holmby Hills, California. He named the railroad Carolwood Pacific Railroad after the street he lived on (Carolwood Drive). Also, on his property he had a barn where he monitored the trains and brainstormed on future projects. The new owners of Walt's property were going to tear down the barn. Luckily, Walt's daughter Diane saved the barn and had it disassembled and then reassembled at it's current home in Griffith Park. The barn opened on July 19, 1999 to the public for tours and train rides. The barn is normally only open the 3rd Sunday of each month (free to guests). They open it special for the ABD Tours.
Knowing the history of the barn, I couldn't wait to get off the bus and see Walt's Barn in person. It was just as I had pictured it.
"The Gang" hanging out at Walt's Barn.
(Thanks Anna for this one!)
Bill and I in front of Walt's Barn.
Again, we split up into two groups. One group was to ride the train, while the others got some history of the Barn and an opportunity to purchase some items. We got to venture inside Walt's Barn first. All of the workers at The Carolwood Pacific Historical Society are volunteers and have a passion for trains and keeping Walt's legacy alive.
The plaque outside the barn.
It was surreal being inside Walt's Barn with his tools and knowing, Walt stood here.
Inside the barn.
This is actual track from Walt's home.
Jennifer taking one of a thousand pictures this trip.
After our tour, we did a little shopping while the others finished up their train ride.
Then, it was our turn. It was time to ride the 1/8th scale train. It was fun to watch all these adults getting excited about a train ride. We straddled the train and were ready to go. At first, I was a little nervous all these adults would tip the poor train. But, she was strong and chugged along. It was fun to be out in the open enjoying the sites atop this train. Now, I know why Walt liked it so much. You couldn't help but have a smile on your face when getting off. The train track went pretty far into the property. It was a nice day for a train ride.
Big kids having fun.
It seemed like the time just flew by and before I knew it, we were heading back to the motor coach. It was finally time to head back to the hotel and have the evening to ourselves.
While on the motor coach, our Guides said that the people from Jimmy Kimmel Live! gave them 12 tickets for tonight's taping. Since, there were 44 of us, they did a lottery on the bus for the tickets. They used our lunch order tickets and put them in a hat. Bill and I were really interested in seeing a live taping. So, we kept our fingers crossed when they were calling out the winners. After they called out a few names, I heard a familiar name "Bill Taylor". Yay!!!!! Bill won us tickets!!!! Our evening was now spoken for.
Once back at the hotel, the Guides handed out our pin for the day as we were getting off the motor coach.
COMING UP: Taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and an "Adventure" to find IN-N-OUT for dinner.
ABD California Backstage Magic Tour - DAY TWO (April 14, 2010)
Jimmy Kimmel Live! Taping
Dinner at IN-N-OUT
We were told to be in front of the Masonic Temple at 5:30 PM to get in line for Jimmy Kimmel Live! That was less than an hour away. We rushed upstairs to get refreshed. Rushed is a very good word. Because before we knew it, it was time to head across the street to meet the others.
DISers waiting in line for the Jimmy Kimmel Live! taping.
Waiting outside the studio were our Guides and some of the other Adventurers. There were two lines forming. One line had stand-by people trying to get into the taping. The other line had us and some other already ticketed guests. While waiting in line, some JKL Staffers came out and offered us energy drinks. I guess they wanted the crowd loud and hyper for the taping. Once all of the Adventurers attending the taping arrived, our Guides left us with a JKL Staffer. While waiting in line, we noticed Eric Estrada (from Chips) come out of the building. This was our first celebrity sighting this trip!
Patiently waiting outside Jimmy Kimmel Live!
We waited about 30 minutes, then we were led into the building. Before gaining access to the entryway, we had to go through a metal detector and check any big bags and cameras. No cameras allowed! Once through security, we were held in the front hall before the stairs going down to the studio. We were shown some clips of the show (we had already seen the clips during our tour earlier that day). Then, we were led into the theatre by groups. We had prime seats on the upper level with a clear view of the stage/desk and band. This was exciting! Once everyone was seated, a comedian came out to warm up the audience. He was funny and had the crowd practice cheer numerous times. While waiting for the show to start, Huey Lewis (singer) popped out to say "Hi". He wasn't on the show that evening. I have no clue why he was there. Before it was time for taping, the audience was allowed to use the restroom in sections. When it came to our section, it was funny, our whole section got up. Before I knew it, Jimmy Kimmel came out and we cheered long and loud. We were a rowdy bunch! It was fun. The guests that evening were actress Alyssa Milano and producer/author Jerry Weintraub. I knew who Alyssa was from Who's the Boss. Bill and I recognized Jerry from the movie Vegas Vacation. I guess he's a big producer too. The band we saw play, The Specials, was not the one they showed on the program, Gloriana. I seem to remember during our tour earlier, one of the JKL Staffers mentioned Gloriana played the night before. So, they must piece shows together sometimes.
Here's a link to the show we saw ... Jimmy Kimmel Live!
We couldn't take pictures. Bill was able to screen shot some from the show.
Us in the audience at Jimmy Kimmel Live! Bill is in the striped shirt and I am next to him.
After the taping, we flowed out onto the sidewalk of Hollywood Blvd. We all looked at each other and were HUNGRY! So, we were on our way to find an IN-N-OUT.
A California Institution ...
It was not too far. I haven't a clue why they call it IN-N-OUT, because they are always busy and it is NOT quick. We had them on our trip to California last year. It should be called IN-N-WAIT. As expected, it was crowded. We all placed our orders and luckily found enough tables to fit us all. It was a Wednesday night and we were out. This felt odd. We hardly every go out on "school nights". It was fun! Our number was called and Bill went and got our burgers and fries. I was so hungry at this point, a shoe would have tasted good. The cheeseburger was hot and good. I could have done without the fries. They were just "okay".
Bill and I at IN-N-OUT.
My Rating: ::MickeyMo ::MickeyMo
After we all finished our meals, we headed back to the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel for the night. We had to be up bright and early for breakfast at Twist.
It was a very full day. I had no problem falling asleep this evening. I was off to never never land and dreaming tomorrow's purchases at Mickey's of Glendale.
COMING UP TOMORROW: Disney Imagineering, Disney Studios and we make the move to Disney's Grand Californian Hotel.
ABD California Backstage Magic Tour - DAY THREE (April 15, 2010)
Walt Disney Imagineering
Today's Theme: Making the Magic
Word of the Day: WED Enterprises
Pin of the Day:
Looking at the tour itinerary prior to the trip, I knew we had a lot of ground to cover today. Bill and I hopped out of bed with no hesitation this morning. I had every intention of packing our bags last night. We move to Disney’s Grand Californian today. But, I fell asleep while “relaxing”. So, after getting ready, I hastily packed. We had to be downstairs for a buffet breakfast at Twist. We were instructed to leave our bags in the room and they would pick them up and transport them to our new home.
We entered Twist and found a table with others to dine at. Once seated, we hopped right back up and hit the buffet. There were lots of fresh fruits and the normal breakfast buffet items (bacon, sausage, biscuits, hashbrown potatoes, etc …). I piled up on cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple. I can’t get enough of fresh pineapple. I’m not for pre-cooked eggs on a buffet. So, I was delighted to see an omelet station. I ordered a ham, cheese, spinach and peppers omelet. It was hot and yummy. The fruit was juicy and very refreshing. During breakfast, Kevin came around and handed everyone a swizzle stick and chocolate from Club 33. Another teaser for our upcoming breakfast at Club 33 TOMORROW!!!! Thank you Kevin!
My Rating: ::MickeyMo ::MickeyMo ::MickeyMo
After breakfast, we were instructed to meet in the lobby. Some people went up to their room to finish packing. We were done. So, we hung out in the lobby a bit socializing with the others. We had to wait longer than anticipated because another group was boarding their motor coach. Finally, we had the green light and we were boarding our motor coach on our way to Walt Disney Imagineering!
A little background on Walt Disney Imagineering …
Walt Disney Imagineering (also known as WDI or Imagineering) is the design and development branch of The Walt Disney Company. They are responsible for the creation and construction of Disney theme parks worldwide. It was founded by Walt Disney in 1952 to oversee the production of Disneyland Park. It was originally known as WED Enterprises, from the initials Walter Elias Disney.
The term Imagineering comes from Walt Disney’s blending of the words imagination and engineering. The name represents the skill set embodied by the employees of WDI. These employees, known as Imagineers, are renowned for their ability to blend creativity, expertise, and technological advancements like Audio-Animatronics to create “distinctive experiential storytelling”.
(I obtained the above info from wikipedia.com I knew the history of WDI. But, I couldn’t word it so eloquently as above.)
There was a lot of chatter on the bus this morning. There was a lot of anticipation for our next stop. This is where the magic is created. We pulled up to a very non-descript office building. The only way you could tell it was a Disney property was that the building number was in what looked like a Cast Member name badge.
Walt Disney Imagineering Building
As expected, we had to leave our camera on the bus during our tour here. Our ABD Guides did take some pictures here. So, I will insert their pictures in this section of the Trip Report when I get them.
Everyone was handed a visitor pass with their name on it. I proudly wore mine on my ABD lanyard. Then, we entered the building and were ushered into a room set up with chairs and a screen. We were shown a movie about Disney, Imagineering and what they are currently working on and the future. It was interesting and a film every Disney buff should be able to experience.
Waiting for the movie to start.
When the movie ended, Imagineer David Fisher talked a little more about the Company and upcoming projects. While he was talking, a curtain behind him opened up. To our surprise, Lucky the Dinosaur appeared.
Lucky the Dinosaur in action.
Bill and I with Lucky.
Lucky is the first free-roving audio-animatronic figure ever created by Disney's Imagineers. The flower cart he pulls conceals the computer and power source. Lucky is capable of moving, vocalizing, and responding to guests.
Everyone, including myself, was excited to see Lucky. He is in semi-retirement now. So, the only place you can see him is at Disney Imagineering. Mr. Fisher didn’t sound too confident that Lucky would get back out into the parks. Our ABD Guides offered to take a picture of each couple with Lucky. I can’t wait to see our picture!!! He was so cute and cuddling his head up to people making noises.
After everyone had their picture taken, we were split up into our two groups. Our group first went to the room that houses the models made to help in the creation of Audio-Animatronics and statues. The first thing I noticed when walking into this room were the original Italian marble statues of Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. The ones currently in Snow White’s Grotto in the Disneyland California Park are replicas to preserve the originals from the elements. If you are a Disney fan, I am sure you know the story behind the size issue of the statues. In error, the Snow White statue is the same size as the dwarves. Using forced perspective, the Snow White statue was placed at the top of the grotto, to make it appear as if she is taller than her dwarf friends.
Snow White's Grotto at Disneyland California.
Our group with the statues at WDI.
It was neat to look at the different models and know that they played a part in a theme park attraction somewhere on this globe. While in the room, we were introduced to Joe Cocker, or at least the robot version of Joe Cocker. The Imagineers created an Audio-Animatronic figure that sings and makes movement like the singer. We were given our own little concert. It was kind of creepy though because we saw the inside of the figure with no covering (skin). Before I knew it, the other group was in the doorway waiting to come in. So, we took a quick group picture in front of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs statues before exiting the room on our way to an audio room where they record sound effects for attractions.
Some models you may recognize.
In the audio recording room, we were told to take a seat and put on headphones. Then, the room went dark and we listened to a recording of sound effects with doors opening and closing, people walking, etc… The room had a 360 degree range of recording and sound. It was very interesting. I am sure Bill would love to play the audio to The Matrix in there.
After our short time there, we were led back into the models room to continue the presentation. Then, our large group was led into a huge room next door where they create the models and life-size sculptures of everything for the parks, resorts and cruise ships. When first walking in, the most notable thing was the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion model. Our Imagineering Guide admitted that some of the things in the first released sketch of the expansion have been scrapped and that it is still a work in progress. The major thing I noticed that was scrapped was a meet and greet home for Cinderella was no longer on the model. We stopped and admired the Fantasyland expansion model for a bit and then we moved on to where we saw HUGE statues in the making. The ones that stood out the most to me were these big brooms with buckets (like the ones from The Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia), which I later learned are for the new DCL Disney Dream presently being built in Germany. We sail on her in 2011. It will be fun to see those huge brooms painting the ship in person, knowing we saw them at Imagineering first.
DCL Disney Dream
(The above pictures are from disneyparks.com)
Also, in the way back, I could see the sculpted seats for the Enchanted Garden dining room for the new ship. The room was full of all kinds of random pieces. There were some animals that we were told are for the new kid areas on the ship. Then, there were semi-constructed items I couldn’t identify. I was stretching my neck all around to take in the sites and creations being made before us. This is where the ideas come to life. It was magical to be in that room. Too soon, we were being moved out of the room. But, no one lingered because our next stop was Mickey’s of Glendale.
Mickey's of Glendale is the Disney Imagineering onsite shop where you can get Disney Imagineering merchandise. Our massive group moved through the campus pretty quickly. Soon, we were standing in front of the store. We had one and a half hours to shop, pay and get back on the bus. Before entering the store, we were each given at 40% off coupon for one item. That would come in handy! It was finally time to shop. Ready, set, shop! It was like Black Friday. Disers running left and right into the store. I has a list in my mind of what I wanted to get here because you can only get Disney Imagineering items like pins and clothing here.
DISers take over Mickey's of Glendale.
Some exclusive Disney Imagineering Merchandise.
Here’s the run down on what we got at Mickey’s of Glendale:
(3) collared shirts
(2) note cubes
and a partridge in a pear tree. (Bill – Did I miss anything?????)
I was told they open the campus one day a year for “outside” people to shop at the store. I might have to look that date up the year we plan to come back to California. After seeing all the goodies, I wouldn’t mind shopping here again! Besides the Disney Imagineering items, there were park items too like stuffed animals and t-shirt and generic Disney clothing. We knew we could get them at DL or WDW. So, we stuck to Walt Disney Imagineering items only.
We finished up pretty quickly compared to others and sat outside under a shaded table. It was a gorgeous California day. After about 1 hour and 45 minutes, the group made it’s way onto the bus with “armfuls” of bags. We only had one large bag. But, we did see some people with four and five large bags.
The bus driver had cold water waiting in a cooler and the ABD Guides handed out snacks on the bus. Both were well needed at this time. We were on the road once again.
Next stop ... Walt Disney Studios
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