44 DISers invade LA! DIS Unplugged/DU Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic! Pictures!


<font color=green>Survived the big crash<br><font
Nov 10, 1999

As you may or may not know, during the DIS Unplugged’s first Podcast Cruise in December of 2009, another trip was announced. The DIS Unplugged and Dreams Unlimited were going to offer a special Adventures by Disney trip – the Backstage Magic Tour in California – in April 2010. As soon as my husband, Phillip, and I heard the announcement, we knew we had to find a way to be on this trip.

Phillip and I had been planning to return to Disneyland in 2010 anyway (we’d only been once, back in 2001 right after the Grand Californian and Disney’s California Adventure opened) and we were due for another visit. The idea of adding the whole Adventures by Disney aspect AND being able to do it with a group made up of only DISers, led by Pete, Walter, John, and Kevin, made it a must-do.

So way back in May of 2009, I hovered over my computer on the assigned evening, waiting for the link to book to be announced as live on the Podcast Board. As soon as it went live, several of us started booking. My DIS friend kab407 (Kathy) and I began texting each other about how we were both dancing in our respective kitchens as we got through the booking process and got our confirmation messages! We had made it into the group of 36 who would be able to make this trip!

Dreams Unlimited managed to sell out the trip within just a day or two. Considering the apparent struggles that ABD has faced of late, this made ABD sit up and take notice. They even allowed Dreams to extend the total number on the tour to 44, to accommodate a few additional folks who wanted to go along.

This group of 44 spent the year getting to know one another on our own dedicated thread at the top of the Podcast Board.

Our group’s first thread: April 2010 ABD Backstage Magic: California Here We Come!!!

Some of us had been on the first Podcast Cruise or had met at other DIS meets. Over half of us actually ended up attending DIS-a-Palooza in December 2009, where we met in person and gushed about how excited we were that the ABD trip was coming on so quickly. Kevin even opened a special chat room for us on Thursday nights for the month prior to the trip, initially to make the “big announcement that was going to make our heads explode” about a special extra that was being added to our experience. We learned that, thanks to a west coast DISer who is a member, Dreams had been able to coordinate a special breakfast at Club 33 for all of us during the Disneyland portion of the trip! Club 33! A dream come true! One of those bucket list things that you assume you’ll never get to cross off of your list! We were also told that ABD had some other surprises in store for us so, by the time we were ready to go, I think everyone in the group was ready to burst with excitement!

Once it was time for the Adventurers to start heading toward California, a new thread was started for our group.

Our group’s second thread: ABD 2010: DISers Go West - Let the Fun Begin

There was also a “live” thread where folks posted during the trip and friends grabbed Facebook photos and posted them on the DIS: This is the place for live photos and updates from the DIS ABD Backstage Magic trip!

What follows is my very detailed trip report for this Adventure, with pictures. If you are planning to take this trip in the future and don't want spoilers regarding special surprises, you probably shouldn't read any further. Also, remember that this was kind of a "special" trip, so, even if you do go on this adventure in the future, none of these activities are guaranteed. (That's my disclaimer.)

Hollywood, here we come!


<font color=green>Survived the big crash<br><font
Nov 10, 1999
Pre-Tour Day (Monday 4/12):

Because Northwest had merged with Delta between when we booked our flights and when we flew, the times had changed significantly. We ended up on a 6:30 a.m. flight out of Indianapolis, which meant we had to set our alarm for 4:00 a.m. on departure day! When you’re looking at a 3 time zone difference, this early morning is not helpful.

Our flight was uneventful and we arrived at LAX at 8:00 a.m. California time. Our ABD transportation representative was waiting for us at baggage claim. He helped us with our checked bags and we were in the towncar headed for Hollywood before we knew it. It was rush hour in LA though, so it took over an hour to reach the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel, located next door to the Hollywood and Highland complex, where the Kodak Theater (home of the Academy Awards) is located.

I should pause here to explain the “flattie situation.” As you can imagine, there were several DISers who are regular posters on the Podcast Board who simply couldn’t find a way to make this trip. Prior to departure, some of us tried to brainstorm everyone we could possibly bring along as a “flattie.” Tonya2426 (Tonya) then took it upon herself to use her Cricut and incredible creativity to create a legion of approximately 50 flatties! These flatties had been divided into three groups and sent prior to the trip so they could arrive from all parts of the country with Tonya, Aspen37 (Anna), and me. They were then to be distributed among the group for fun during the trip. You will see a few flattie pictures in my trip report and even more if you click on the other links I posted above.

These were the flatties that traveled with Phillip and I from Indianapolis to LA:

We arrived to find DIS friend kab407 (Kathy) having coffee at the Starbucks in the lobby. We checked in, learned our room was available, dropped off our luggage in the room, took a few quick photos out the window of our amazing view (the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, and downtown LA), freshened up quickly, and met Kathy at the concierge to book the Haunted Hollywood Tour that we had previously discussed taking. Once we were signed up for that, we had a couple of hours to explore the area and have a quick bite to eat at the Disney Soda Shop.

While we were eating lunch, we learned that Russell Crowe was getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, so we were able to watch the hubbub and celebrity arrivals from the Soda Shop across the street. We caught glimpses of Ron Howard, Jay Leno, and even Russell Crowe himself as they arrived for the ceremony.

It was then time for our tour. The three of us found ourselves in a 15-passenger van with the top cut off (!!!) with a tour guide who could have been Kato Kaelin’s cousin. Seriously. Surfer dude. Entertaining, definitely “different.” Since it was just the three of us, our tour morphed into kind of a two-hour mish-mash of haunted spots (famous murders, etc.), general Hollywood/Beverly Hills tour, and movie star’s homes. It was actually pretty cool.

There was a much-needed nap in here somewhere, I believe after we returned from our tour.

Finally, our night ended with several of us heading over to the bar at the historic Roosevelt Hotel with Kevin and John for "the best burger in LA." The Roosevelt is amazing and it absolutely has to be the model for the Tower of Terror ride! The burger WAS indeed very good, as were the sweet potato fries and beer. (Thanks Chris and Tracey! ;))

The famous Shirley Temple/Bill Bojangles Robinson staircase:

By the time we walked back to the Renaissance, were exhausted! We CRASHED!

To be continued...


<font color=green>Survived the big crash<br><font
Nov 10, 1999
Tour Day One (Tuesday 4/13):

Our tour was scheduled to officially begin this evening with a welcome reception and dinner, but we had the morning and afternoon to ourselves.

Phillip and I had decided to visit the Peterson Automotive Museum (we’re big car nuts and had been there on our previous trip out west) that morning and Kathy decided to go with us. We grabbed a taxi out front and headed 4 or 5 miles to the museum. This is a really nice museum with some static displays and some that change. There’s an amazing streetscape in the downstairs gallery and lots of interesting vehicles. It was a good time and well worth the $10 admission fee.

We then walked a few short blocks to the LA Farmers Market to have lunch and browse the shops. This is such a cool place. It’s been there since the 1930’s and there are great food stands and interesting places to shop. We would definitely return there when we go back to Los Angeles.

Another quick taxi ride found us back at the hotel for a quick nap before formally meeting with our group in the evening.

Theme: It all started with a mouse…
Word of the Day: Mickey

We all first met in a conference room in the hotel where there were soft drinks, water, and appetizers. Our guides, Jaime and Michael, introduced themselves and talked a little bit about what was to come, including the fact that they were “changing some things up” about the tour for our group. It seems that going forward, ABD may be trying to incorporate a Club 33 meal for these tour groups as well, but it was made clear that our visit there was through the hard work of Dreams Unlimited and the generosity of a DISer who is a club member. We were given our tour itinerary booklet and the first of several pins based upon the Theme of the Day or the Word of the Day.

This is where flattie distribution central was set up for the group!

We then walked the short distance through the Hollywood and Highland Center to the Trastavere Ristorante. This was the first sign that ABD and the facilities they’ve used in the past just hadn’t thought through all of the ramifications of having a group twice as large as what they were used to, as the tables and chairs were configured in such a way that we were shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors. We began to take it upon ourselves to do a little bit of rearranging and then everything was fine.

This was the only disappointing meal of the entire trip. It reminded me of a Fazoli’s instead of a high-end Italian restaurant. The consensus was that it was “okay,” but nothing to rave about. Each of us had our choice of white or red wine with dinner, if we wanted it, which was nice.

The DIS team had done their best to prep ABD regarding our group prior to the trip, explaining that we were probably not the typical folks they were used to. For instance, everyone in this group is a Disney fanatic and more knowledgeable than the average fan, we would be more interested than most in the special shopping opportunities for merchandise not usually available to non-Cast Members, etc. Regardless, the ABD team did the standard Disney trivia game after dinner and, it was cute and went over okay, even though everyone in the room knew all of the answers to all of the questions.

After dinner and the game, we filtered out of the restaurant, where we were handed an Adventures by Disney pin and our choice of either an Adventures by Disney lanyard or belt pouch. I chose the lanyard and Phillip chose the pouch (since he wears a belt every day). The belt pouch was actually very nice and it was subtle. It made a perfect camera case for him for the trip and I’m sure he’ll use it on future Disney trips too. (They said that the belt pouch was a new choice.)

By the time we got up to the room, our friends Kathy and Tonya were both texting us because it was way too early to call it a night. We decided to go back over to uWink at Hollywood and Highland, an interesting bar where you order from screens at the table and can play games with the other guests. We made Facebook and DIS Boards posts that that was where we were headed and soon we were joined by a few other Adventurers (Karen, John, and Katherine). We had a few drinks, played a few games, and had some fun with our flatties.

Then it was time to head back and get some rest. Tomorrow was to be our first big day!

When we returned to the room, we were quite entertained (well – Phillip was) by an LAPD helicopter that was hovering over the building across the street while officers were obviously trying to track someone down.

After that excitement, we were finished for the day.

To be continued...


<font color=green>Survived the big crash<br><font
Nov 10, 1999
I'm seriously loving my outfit. :goodvibes :lovestrucprincess:
I'm sure Paul does NOT feel the same way. I don't know what got into Tonya and I for a couple of days when we dressed him in sparkles. :blush: I redeemed myself later by getting his flattie into a beautiful Mulan's hands.
  • OhMari

    WDW PreTrip and Trip Moderator
    Apr 23, 2000
    I'm so glad you came to the TR board to tell us about your Adventure with the Podcast crew. Welcome, welcome. I only read a few of the podcast's, I wish I could read more, or get my own Ipod to listen.:rotfl:

    Sweet first 2 days, and what a view.


    Queen of the Moisture Festival. Allora!
    Nov 10, 2007
    Yay, Dodie, you started your report! I am still in recovery mode but hope to process through pictures and start an report soon. I'm especially looking forward to seeing all the millions of pictures we collectively shot. Even though I was super tired last night and had to be at work at 7:30 this morning, I started looking at my pictures last night and stayed up until midnight!


    Lives for vacation
    Sep 28, 2004
    Loving your report so far! I was just in LA in January for 2 days and I already want to go back and see some of the stuff you mentioned! Would you recommend the haunted Hollywood tour?


    DIS Veteran
    Apr 14, 2006
    Hi Dodie!

    I'm enjoying your rather unusual report... thanks so much for posting it here! It gives those of us who don't normally hang out on the Unplugged board a chance to "meet" you all! :goodvibes

    I love how you gussied up all the flatties! LOL



    <marquee><img src=http://photopost.wdwinfo.com/dat
    May 20, 2007
    I'm sure Paul does NOT feel the same way. I don't know what got into Tonya and I for a couple of days when we dressed him in sparkles. :blush: I redeemed myself later by getting his flattie into a beautiful Mulan's hands.
    It was so much fun putting Flat Paul into sparkly clothes since it was so out of character for him in real life!!! (We only tease the ones we love.) :love:


    <font color=green>Survived the big crash<br><font
    Nov 10, 1999
    Tour Day Two (Wednesday 4/14):

    Theme: Lights, Camera, Adventure
    Word of the Day: Hollywood

    This was the first of our early starts. We met on the mezzanine of the Hollywood Renaissance and headed toward breakfast by walking through the Hollywood and Highland Center and the Kodak Theater. We learned about how they convert the area for the Academy Awards and talked a little bit about the tributes to “old Hollywood” in the architecture of the complex. This was also our first opportunity for a group picture. Group pictures were quite an undertaking, as the guides offered to take pictures with our cameras as well as their own.

    Breakfast was at Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store. The shop isn’t usually open for breakfast and they had never served this many people at one time before, but it was obvious that they had coordinated their efforts and we were all treated to our choice of breakfast and given the opportunity to shop in the gift shop, which stocks primarily pins that cannot be purchased anywhere else. (They also had some Alice in Wonderland merchandise.)

    Then we made our way to the El Capitan Theatre next door. The theater is beautiful. Amazing. Gorgeously restored. Phillip and I, personally, didn’t see a movie there later, but I know some in our group did.

    We were first treated to a demonstration of the theater’s massive Wurlitzer organ.

    Here is a short video we recorded of the Wurlitzer demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jxMmTUgEOU

    We were then taken backstage and onstage to truly understand the workings of the theater.

    There was also an exhibit of costumes and props from Alice in Wonderland displayed throughout the lobby areas and downstairs.

    We then walked next door for a tour of the Jimmy Kimmel Theater, which is actually an old Masonic Lodge Hall. Because this is a working studio, we were not allowed to take any photographs or video.

    I was actually surprised at how small and thrown together everything seemed to be. The equipment didn’t even appear to be state of the art. It’s like Jimmy and his friends just decided to put on a show and ABC gave them just enough to do that. It was actually pretty cool.

    The green room was the best part. It looked like someone’s basement rec room from the 1970’s. There was a bar, a pool table, some pinball and video machines, and some seating. Apparently it’s quite the party while filming is going on.

    The guides later held a lottery by pulling names to see who would get the 12 tickets that the group was allotted to actually go to the taping later that day. The studio was so small that, if all of us had gone, we would have taken up well over half of the seats. Phillip and I wanted to go, but our names weren’t chosen. Those who went had a good time.

    We then boarded our motor coach for a quick Hollywood tour and trip to the Jim Henson Studio. I can honestly say, as a Muppet and Henson fan from WAY back, this was almost my favorite thing on our itinerary.

    This studio actually used to be Charlie Chaplin’s studio back in the silent film era and has been other things since then, but the coolest thing is the feeling/vibe you get while you’re there. The buildings are historic. The grounds are beautiful. You can feel the history and the current creativity everwhere.

    How many Henson employees does it take to take a group photo of this group using everyone’s cameras?

    We saw a lot of this during group photos on our trip:

    We were divided into two groups to make our tour more manageable. We viewed a Henson Studios background movie, saw a live puppetry demonstration (by an awesome Henson employee named Grant who is the host of the Henson.com podcast and has since joined the DIS Boards – Hi ToasterBoy!), did a small walking tour, and saw how they do the computer generated animation that they do now for shows like “Sid the Science Kid” on PBS. We then had a lovely outdoor lunch catered by the studio, followed by a quick trip into their reception area to see the many Emmy awards and other awards and, finally, the opportunity to have our pictures taken with Grant (aka ToasterBoy) and his panda puppet friend, a dinosaur from “The Flintstones” movie, and a huge Kermit.

    Then it was time for another real treat! We boarded the motor coach again for a trip to Griffith Park. Griffith Park is where Walt first sat watching his girls on the merry-go-round and thought to himself that there ought to be a place that children and their parents could enjoy together. (Hmmm. Wonder what THAT place turned out to be?) It is also the home to barn that used to be in Walt’s backyard. The one that housed his miniature trains. It has been moved to Griffith Park and railroad enthusiasts manage replicas of Walt’s trains, a barn full of memorabilia, and lots of track! We were going to get to ride the trains! (This was something that Phillip was really looking forward to. Apparently it’s usually included in this tour, but they don’t include it on the itinerary because its availability is dependent upon the availability of the volunteers.)

    I can’t describe how much fun this was. We were divided into three groups. Each group was to have a turn riding the train and then was to have a chance to peruse the memorabilia and shop for souvenirs by the barn. Kevin and John weren’t interested in riding the train, so they told Phillip to go again for them. I think he ended up riding three of the four times it went around the park.

    Here is a short video we took while riding the train with our friends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC4ZW4zct-w

    We then reboarded the motor coach and headed back to the hotel. Some of us were going to see Jimmy Kimmel Live. Some of us were going on a side adventure to the nearest In-N-Out Burger. We were in the In-N-Out Burger group.

    Our ABD guides must have been worried about us, because they escorted us the few short blocks to the In-N-Out, even though they turned around and went back, not eating with us. They obviously didn’t understand the power of the lightsaber. We can and will follow it (and Tonya) anywhere.

    The place was packed. The food WAS good. After we ate, Tonya and I sat on the sidewalk where she dumped out flattie clothing and accessories and we all redressed our flatties. The locals thought we were insane.

    I borrowed Alissa's picture for this...

    On our way back to the hotel, we paused to look at the footprints and handprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater once last time and did a little bit more shopping in the Disney Soda Shop store. We called it a night after that. We were going to have to pack everything up and be ready to vacate our rooms by 7:00 a.m. for breakfast, because tomorrow we were moving to Disneyland!

    To be continued…