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Old 07-14-2012, 01:04 AM   #1
Sleepless Knight
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Setting Course for the Disneyland System: Birthday Episode II page 3

Hi everybody! Hi Doctor Nick.

It's literally been years since I wrote a trip report. In that time, I've maintained my annual pass to Disneyland and made many journeys to the Happiest Place on Earth including a couple of trips to Walt Disney World for extra measure. Since I am still seeking my Jedi Princess, most of my visits are solo trips, so the cast for this report is just me though from time to time I am joined by others.

As a way of introduction and possibly a warning, be mindful of what you expose your younglings to. Before I was born, my parents decided to put a poster of Mickey Mouse in what would be my nursery. Then when I was 2 years old, they took their Mickey crazed baby boy to Disneyland for the first time. Later that year, they took me along when they finally went to see Star Wars in theaters. Little did they know that those 2 decisions would continue to influence my life many years later. As you may have guessed from my user name and avatar, my favorite 2 movies are Star Wars and Sleeping Beauty.

So let's set Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine (or a Delorean if you prefer) and journey with me as we travel back in time for years of my Disney adventures.

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Old 07-14-2012, 02:27 AM   #2
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Chapter 1: A Journey Begins

I've never really been much of a runner. I hated running in school. When we had to run a mile in middle school, I finished a whole lot slower than the P.E. teacher wanted us to. Nothing really changed over the years. Periodically I'd incorporate running and/or power walking into periodic exercise attempts, but still didn't enjoy it. All I had to show for it was sore muscles and exhaustion.

But then 2008 happened. I traveled down to El Capitan Theatre to see Sleeping Beauty on the big screen. And since the theatre was so close to Disneyland and it was around Labor Day Weekend, I decided to make a long weekend out of it.

What an amazing experience. Seeing a classic Hollywood movie palace as it might have been in the so called golden days is amazing. And it's even better when you get to see a Disney classic there, especially when it's your all time favorite Disney movie on opening night. Since it was opening night, Disney held a special panel discussion with some of the artists who worked on the film, the voice of Princess Aurora herself Mary Costa, and Imagineer Tony Baxter. What an amazing night. I got my picture taken with Princess Aurora inside the theater and while standing in line to see Mary Costa, I came within 5 feet of meeting Richard Sherman. Unfortunately he left right before my chance came, but that's okay. As a side note, I had a unique character experience. Ms. Costa was kind enough to sign two items for me. A Sleeping Beauty storybook I bought at the Ice Cream Parlor next door and one of the beautiful lobby card style advertisements for the film. The next day I had the card on me at Disneyland when I came across Princess Aurora out by the main gate. After talking about how amazing her movie was, she went to sign in her usual spot on her hair below her face, she realized that someone else had already signed there. At this point, she commented that she wished her 3 good fairies were around so they could sign it as well.







What a great weekend. I know Sleeping Beauty like the back of my hand. I might even be able to quote the movie entirely if I really tried. Seeing the sheer scope and beauty of that film on the silver screen took my breath away. Even though I've seen it countless times, I felt a surprising tension as Maleficent transformed herself into a fire breathing dragon to stop Prince Phillip from rescuing Princess Aurora. What an impressive action sequence, one of the best of all time in film period, not just animation. Just as that sequence would inspire George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson, when I first saw it as a little boy, it would remind me of Star Wars. I'm thrilled that I got to experience it on the silver screen as it was meant to be. I wish Disney would release the classics in theaters more often. So if you're thinking of going to El Capitan and a Disney classic is playing while you're there, by all means, take the time to experience it.



Could the weekend get any better? Yet somehow it did. While walking through DCA one day, I saw Sully. I waved and told him that I'd been to Pixar a couple of months earlier and it was an awesome place before continuing on my way.



Yet while I walked, I kept hearing this sound behind me. A very loud sound. A loud clomping sound. When I turned around, I discovered that something very large following me. Sully had decided that I needed to get a picture with him and that I was to the be the very first guest in line.



But the best was yet to come. Maybe it was the Pixar t-shirt I was wearing, but Sully decided to scare me.



You know how people always talk about magical moments with characters? Well that weekend featured many for me. Remember how I mentioned meeting Princess Aurora on opening night of Sleeping Beauty at the El Capitan Theatre? Well as it turns out I was watching the Parade of Dreams a couple of days later and she recognized me. The next thing I know, Princess Aurora was waving at me.

This is almost the perfect picture. The Parade of Dreams encapsulated so much Disneyland magic and to catch this shot as the heroine of my favorite movie goes by this exact location in Disneyland was great. I just wish the Mouse was in this picture.

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Old 07-14-2012, 04:21 PM   #3
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I'm on board. Great start.
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Old 07-14-2012, 06:16 PM   #4
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Chapter 3: Explaining Disney Magic

Before we continue on with my assorted Disney adventures and experiences over the years, I want to explain how I approach the Disney experience. More than a few times I'm either outright asked why I go to Disneyland so often since I don't have any kids. As I've thought about this, I've found at least part of my answer. By profession I am an accountant, like my father before me. As such, this means that monthly deadlines rule my life. And 6 months out of the year, I face strict IRS imposed deadlines that increase the workload. The clock and calendar dictate what I must do.

All that goes away at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. There the clock tells me when I get to do something fun like ride Space Mountain or when I get to eat a favorite meal such as the Santa Maria Tri Tip at Ariel's Grotto in DCA. When I walk through the entrance gates at Disneyland, I feel the tension and stress from long hours and never ending work wash away. I feel like a kid again without a care in the world. And every once in a while, we all need that. But there's more. The little touches make all the difference in the world which I will demonstrate with 3 experiences I had at Disneyland. Note that none of these experiences happened to me, but rather were moments that I was blessed enough to witness.

The first occurred late on Friday evening during the Labor Day Weekend 2008 trip. After watching the Main Street Electrical Parade, I went back to Disneyland and noticed a large crowd on Town Square by the Disney Clothiers store. Large crowds in this area generally mean one thing. A character. As a wookiee sized man I can usually see what characters are out simply because I can see their head above the crowd. But this time around I couldn't.

Wondering what was going on I stepped closer to discover that there was a little boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old at the most with a severe and very apparent physical disability. He could not walk and had to crawl to Mickey with the help of a walker. Mickey saw this and immediately sat down to meet this little boy. And at this moment, this little boy, who has known so much more of the hardships of life than is fair for a little child to know, was like every other little child in the world. He was meeting a lifelong friend who knew him and loved him. And so the two old friends sat for what seemed to be 5 or 10 minutes, laughing, playing, and hugging each other while the little boys parents looked on, with tears in their eyes and photographs being taken to preserve this special moment forever.

As is always the case when Mickey is around, there are plenty of other guests who want to meet the world's most famous mouse. But in this instance there was no grousing or frustration from those waiting in line who felt like the characters were taking too long to take a picture with a guest. The little boy's parents gently tried to get him to go back so Mickey could meet his other friends, but the little boy wasn't having it. All the while, Mickey treated this little boy like he was the only one there. Eventually the parents succeeded in letting him share Mickey with others and as the moment ended, a few onlookers applauded, the kind of applause meant to tell Mickey that we had all witnessed something beautiful and touching.

The second moment occurred on this same visit, but a day later during the Parade of Dreams. There was a boy who appeared to be 14 or 15 years and probably had Downs Syndrome. He was so happy and excited to see the characters as each float came by. When that last magnificent castle float came by, his excitement went off the charts as he jumped up and down and waved excitedly at the princesses. For longtime Disneyland visitors who remember the Parade of Dreams, it had a showstop where some of the characters got off the floats and twirled those banners ala Fantasmic. In this instance when the showstop came, Princess Aurora stepped off the float, went up to this boy, and gave him a big hug. If you thought he was excited before, that was just the beginning. His smile grew even larger than before as he became Prince Phillip.

The next one occurred a couple of years later. I was enjoying dinner at Ariel's Grotto as the princesses were making the rounds. Have I mentioned that I love the tri tip? At one point this past April, the midst of the stress and tension of the April 15th tax deadline, I was briefly comforted by the mere thought of eating the tri tip from Ariel's Grotto. In short, eating dinner solo at a princess character meal can be a fun experience. I've had CMs tease me by asking I wanted a crown to which I replied that the tri tip is that good. Plus, I've discovered a whole new world of fun character interaction through meeting the princesses, but we'll get to that later on. In this case a nearby family with teenage girls was celebrating something and wanted to know if Belle was there that night. The CM explained that she was off reading with the Beast, but she would see what she could do.

A few minutes later, the CM returned with a little girl maybe 5 years old dressed as Belle and introduced her to the table as Belle. In that moment, that CM and the guests at the table made the little girl's night. The guests applauded happily and posed for pictures with the much younger version of Belle.

It is moments like these that make all the difference in the world. As much as I still remember the heartwarming moments I witnessed, I believe they have become the stuff of family legends and fondest memories for the guests who experienced these moments for themselves. The beauty of Disneyland and Disney World comes because in one way or another these kind of experiences happen to so many guests in so many ways.
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Old 07-14-2012, 06:47 PM   #5
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What an amazing experience so far! We are headed to CA for the first time next month and I saw that Cinderella is playing at the El Cap when we are there. You think its worth checking out? Its opening weekend, how would I find out if any special events are happening?

Can't wait to hear more about your trip!

Randi
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Old 07-14-2012, 08:34 PM   #6
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What an amazing experience so far! We are headed to CA for the first time next month and I saw that Cinderella is playing at the El Cap when we are there. You think its worth checking out? Its opening weekend, how would I find out if any special events are happening?
Hi Randi. Thanks for reading. I absolutely recommend seeing a movie at the El Capitan when they're playing a Disney classic.

El Capitan has 2 kinds of seating, reserved seating and open seating. The reserved ticket is more money, but it also comes with popcorn (you add the butter flavoring yourself) and a soda/water, etc. per guest and you will literally be shown to your seat by the usher. It almost feels like you're at a big premiere or something. Be absolutely certain that you are in your seat 30 minutes before the movie starts. Why? Because they have an organist playing a wide variety of Disney classics on the pipe organ before the movie. So amazing, that in the words of my favorite fanboy hamster Rhino, it's beawesome! The organist finishes with the final number (always from the film being shown) before the organ goes down into the stage and the curtain begins to rise.

I've seen Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast there, so after coming attractions, they had the respective princess come out, welcome everyone, and then she danced across the stage to her song. I presume this will also happen with Cinderella. Please note there is not a meet and greet opportunity with the character. I've heard that they also have stage shows for other movies, but I haven't experienced those. I know they did a Christmas carol sing along with Kermit and Miss Piggy for The Muppets.

Then the movie starts. They also have booster seats for younglings that are a little short for a stormtrooper and specifically sized for younglings 3-D glasses if you're seeing a 3-D movie.

The only reason I don't fully endorse seeing a first run movie (such as Brave or The Avengers) at the El Capitan is the cost. The general admission tickets are likely to be more expensive than your local cineplex. And the reserve seating tickets (which do come with popcorn and a drink) are over $20. However when you're talking about a movie that you cannot see in theaters, I think it's well worth the time.

As far as special events go, I would check out El Capitan's website. In the case of Sleeping Beauty, the panel discussion only took place on opening night. All other screenings were what I described above. There is also a character breakfast option available next door at Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store, but you must buy a reserved ticket to get the character meal. You cannot get the character breakfast without a movie ticket. The cost includes photographs of your party and the character and you can also bring your own camera. Note that the character breakfast is the only way you can do a meet and greet with a character before the movie.
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Old 07-14-2012, 09:03 PM   #7
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We wanted to do the El Capitan this time around but I just wasn't sure if 1)Is it worth the money and 2) the time to drive there from Anaheim and back can be pretty demanding. We got caught up in rush hour traffic at a little after 3pm and it took awhile to get back. We have visited the ice cream parlor next door and this time around we really debated whether or not seeing Brave. Tough decisions always have to be made.
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Old 07-14-2012, 09:21 PM   #8
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RE: Explaining Disney Magic.

Loved this post. Your first paragraph is how I feel as well. Funny. Two people from different parts of the country with the same love for Disneyland. Thank you Walt.
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Old 07-15-2012, 01:18 AM   #9
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Thanks Mike. Sometimes I think people get caught up in this notion that Disneyland is for kids only, so they overlook the value it provides as an escape from the pressures and stress of life.

I hope you do get a chance to get the full El Capitan experience sometime. Just sitting in the theatre and listening to the pipe organ play these classic Disney songs is tremendous.

It's actually kind of funny. I kind of lucked into finding out that they also showed old Disney classics there. I decided to check it out once on my drive home from Disneyland and saw the posters advertising Sleeping Beauty as coming soon. That was actually the reason why I went down for Labor Day Weekend and wound up getting interested in the 1/2 Marathon.
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Old 07-15-2012, 01:28 AM   #10
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I remember seeing the Disney classics (specifically Sleeping Beauty) in the theater as a kid. It is crazy that the modern day equivalent is the "rerelease" of Disney movies in 3D. We will be seeing Nemo in 3D when it comes out. And I will likely take them to the sing along Mary Poppins that is showing nearby next weekend (we did the sing along Little Mermaid and it was awesome!!! They handed out goody bags with props to use at certain times!) But this other movie experience you are talking about sounds amazing. Something for me to do with my kids when they are a little older, perhaps.

Anyway, as a fellow Sleeping Beauty fan (and major Simpsons fan: did you go to Upstairs Medical College too?), I'm following along!!!
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Old 07-15-2012, 09:24 AM   #11
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Thanks for such a detailed response! I am going to try to fit in a showing of Cinderella. I was also looking at the 1 day tour offered by Disney after reading ALL of your trip reports! I guess I spent part of my Saturday night with you...my husband and son were watching Young Frankenstein for the zillionth time and I was with them but engrossed in my DIS research.

So, after reading all of your great reports and seeing your trip to the Walt Disney Studios I was prompted to check out the details for the Adventures by Disney one day tour that includes the Studios. It looks amazing, but I am torn about the cost. It would be almost $600 just for the day for the three of us. Everything else that is included we were planning on doing on our own and is inexpensive....but there is no way into the Studio without this tour. So basically its $600 to get onto the lot and see where all the magic happens! I can't decide!

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Old 07-15-2012, 07:05 PM   #12
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Great report! Thanks for posting!
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Old 07-15-2012, 07:42 PM   #13
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I remember seeing the Disney classics (specifically Sleeping Beauty) in the theater as a kid. It is crazy that the modern day equivalent is the "rerelease" of Disney movies in 3D.
Hi Nancy. I really wish they would rerelease the classics again. I think there's a market to see these films without the 3-D. The panel discussion I attended was amazing. Getting to meet Mary Costa was a great way to finish the night, but just hearing people talk about making the movie and hearing Tony Baxter talk about redoing the Castle Walkthrough was a tremendous experience. And it was really fun having a Disney experience being presented for the fans as opposed to the general public. I think the kid beside me would have died happy that night simply because he got to see Tony Baxter in person. And for what it's worth, I did get the opportunity to meet Tony Baxter at the Walt Disney Family Museum in 2010.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3inthefamily View Post
Thanks for such a detailed response! I am going to try to fit in a showing of Cinderella. I was also looking at the 1 day tour offered by Disney after reading ALL of your trip reports! I guess I spent part of my Saturday night with you...my husband and son were watching Young Frankenstein for the zillionth time and I was with them but engrossed in my DIS research.

So, after reading all of your great reports and seeing your trip to the Walt Disney Studios I was prompted to check out the details for the Adventures by Disney one day tour that includes the Studios. It looks amazing, but I am torn about the cost. It would be almost $600 just for the day for the three of us. Everything else that is included we were planning on doing on our own and is inexpensive....but there is no way into the Studio without this tour. So basically its $600 to get onto the lot and see where all the magic happens! I can't decide!

Randi
I appreciate your kind words. I just hope my adventures proved beneficial or at least entertaining. Are there other areas in which you could reduce costs to make the Studios happen? I believe the Studios are not to be missed if this is economically feasible. I could probably make your decision a lot easier and simultaneously more difficult by talking about my 2009 visit to the Studios as part of The Princess and the Frog Experience Disney put on.

Since I'm not sure what to talk about next on account of this report being a catchup report right now, I'll let you make the call. More on El Capitan or more on the Walt Disney Studios? I will cover the other one in a future update anyways.

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Great report! Thanks for posting!
Thanks and welcome aboard.
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Old 07-16-2012, 03:49 PM   #14
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Since I'm not sure what to talk about next on account of this report being a catchup report right now, I'll let you make the call. More on El Capitan or more on the Walt Disney Studios? I will cover the other one in a future update anyways.


Both!! I love hearing about all of it!

I'm overwhelmed planning this trip. It is our first to Southern California. We are staying 6 nights at GCV and 3 nights in San Diego at the Hotel Del Coronado. We are going to do DL with a 3 day pass. Not sure what days to go, but I am guessing weekdays are best? We received free front of the line passes to Universal from a friend. I was not planning on going but for free...why not? I am really excited for the studio tour portion. We also want to see all of the LA sights, Hollywood, Malibu, etc. I am trying to map it all out and every time I sit down to do so it gives me a headache! I think maybe I will try to start a trip report and get some feedback on this one!
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Old 07-16-2012, 11:03 PM   #15
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What are your dates again? In a weird way, I've found most Saturdays during the busy months to be great since they block out all the passes except the premium. And I think starting up a TR is a good idea. Sometimes it just feels good to get trip planning questions off your chest and get feedback. It can help confirm or help you feel better about a decision.
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