So Cal Short Escape 10/4/2018 trip report

Eastridge

Earning My Ears
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
ABD started the Southern California short escape this year. I haven’t seen a long, detailed report on this trip so I’m posting this trip report. While this report will be comprehensive, I’ve deliberately left out a few details so you can have some pleasant surprises if you go on this trip.

Some general observations:
  • I haven’t gone on the 6-day Backstage Magic trip but this version appears to be a subset covering the most important parts of the 6-day trip. We didn’t go to Henson or Hollywood. But it appears to provide the same behind the scenes experiences at the Disney Studios, Imagineering, and the Disneyland Resort.
  • As such, this trip may offer the best “bang for the buck” of any ABD trip. It takes less time and costs less than Backstage Magic, but provides most of the exclusive experiences that I couldn’t otherwise access.
  • This trip was developed as an add-on to Disney cruises leaving San Diego, but the guides said most guests were booking this as a standalone trip.
  • This trip is selling well. Our group had 36 people, which the guides said was the largest group up to that point.
  • I may think I’m a Disney fan, but these So Cal trips attract guests who are far more fanatical than I am. For one couple, this was the start of their three week Disney park world tour. They were going to every Disney park in the world, starting in Anaheim, then to Japan and China, then France, and ending in Orlando. There were two women from Japan who previously worked at the Tokyo Disneyland Resort. I didn’t think that ABD even sold trips to people outside of N America, but somehow they booked this trip.
  • We had only 4 kids on our trip.
  • The weather was excellent (70’s and 80’s) but we went on Columbus Day weekend. The parks were packed over the weekend. On Sunday, we had to wait 20 minutes to pick up our breakfast order at Flo’s even though I used mobile ordering to order in advance. Fortunately ABD provides Fastpasses so the parks were enjoyable despite the crowds (more on that later).
  • Our guides, Lori and Natalia, were excellent. We have yet to have a bad ABD guide and I hope that never happens. ABD spoils and pampers you, so during my next trip to Disneyland I’m going to miss the VIP treatment.

Advice for others going on this trip:
  • This trip is exhausting. It requires waking up early and because Disneyland stayed upon until midnight, there is always the temptation to ride more rides. Get plenty of rest beforehand.
  • Therefore, if you are coming from the East Coast, I would strongly suggest coming in at least a day early to help adjust to the time change. This trip starts in the evening and runs fairly late the first night.
  • For several people in our group, this was their first trip to Disneyland. This might not be the best way to do Disneyland the first time, since there is a limited amount of on your own time and this trip focuses more on the special “behind the scenes” experiences.
  • I got MaxPass every day except Friday, when we didn’t go to the parks. MaxPass was very helpful, especially for grabbing a Fastpass to the “Monsters After Dark” variation of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride.
  • Some of the adults feared that seeing how some of the magic works might spoil things for the kids on this trip. But I hoped it would be inspirational, motivating them to pursue goals and dreams they might not otherwise have considered.
  • Some parts of this trip don’t appear to be wheelchair accessible. For example, you have to climb a bunch of stairs to access Walt’s apartment above the fire station. You might talk to a Vacationista if this is a concern.

Here are the pins we received:

 

Eastridge

Earning My Ears
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Day 1: Thursday Oct. 4 2018

This trip provides a 4-day park hopper ticket, so we flew in the morning of the first day so we would have some time in the parks before the trip really started. We were picked up in a limo, just for us. We got to the Grand Californian in the late morning and the guides were there to greet us. It was too early to check in, so they took our bags and handed us the room keys and park tickets. We then went into California Adventure for some rides and lunch.

In the early afternoon, the guides texted me that the room was ready. Since I already had the room keys, we went straight to the room and found our bags there. That enabled us to use the pool in the afternoon.

Here’s the view of the pool from our room. I think this was also the last time I looked out the window. We were so busy, we didn’t spend much time hanging out in the room.



At 5pm, the group met in the lobby of the Grand Californian and we introduced ourselves. Then we had dinner at Cafe Orleans in Disneyland. Everyone had their choice of appetizer, main and drink. Basically anything on the menu. Then we all had Mickey beignets for dessert.

After dinner, the guides took us to Haunted Mansion Holiday and provided front of the line access. Then we had a bit of time on our own, but at 9pm we could see Fantasmic from a reserved viewing area. This area was to the left of the central area reserved for the Blue Bayou dinner packages. It was close to the water, but parts of this area had partially obscured views due to the trees. We stayed to the far right to get the best view. Here are some photos showing how close we were. They were taken with a 50mm non-zoom lens so they approximate what it looked like in person:







After that, we were on our own. ABD provided one Fastpass that was good for anything except Guardians of the Galaxy. But we also had to be up early the next day...
 

Eastridge

Earning My Ears
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Day 2: Friday Oct. 5, 2018

We met at 7:30am in the lobby and then went to Storyteller’s Cafe for the character breakfast buffet. After that, we got on a bus for the drive to the Disney Studios.

At the Disney Studios we were allowed to take photos in most areas. We took photos at Pluto’s Corner, then went into the original animation building. There were plenty of sketches and artworks covering the history of Disney animation. The guides told stories about the animators and the women who painted the cels.









After that, we headed to the Frank Wells building that holds the Disney Archives, and the courtyard by the Team building. The archives has one of the original multiplane cameras and replica of an animator’s desk. The archives is a small room but there were many interesting artifacts. Here are some photos:













Is anybody old enough to remember the film The Black Hole?



These books looked interesting. Too bad we couldn't open the case and read them:





The courtyard had a Partners statue and many plaques with hand prints of people honored as Disney Legends. For example here is Marty Sklar’s plaque:







The six-legged water tower:



We then had some time to visit the Disney Studios store and eat lunch in the cafeteria. They gave us coupons to cover lunch. One option was to get Walt’s favorite chili. But we first spent a bunch of money in the store. Here’s a tip: the section in the back has more exclusive items, and most of them were available for purchase even without being a Disney employee.

We did not get to see Walt’s office or enter the current animation building (the one with the big blue Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat that is visible from the freeway).

After lunch, we got back on the bus and drove to Imagineering. Unlike the studios, photos were forbidden so the only photo I can include here is of the entrance. The sign above the entrance was a recent addition. Before that, the building was marked only by the address number 1401. Which is why every Star Tours flight is flight 1401.



Inside Imagineering, we had four experiences. First, we saw the big space where they build models of new lands. This one showed the upcoming Frozen land for Hong Kong Disneyland. Next, we went to the sculpture room which included the original Seven Dwarfs and Snow White statues that were installed by the wishing well in Disneyland. The third experience was an audio design room filled with hundreds of speakers. Those enable Imagineers to do audio designs for new attractions, even for moving vehicles where the environment is constantly changing. They demoed this by running us through the audio experience for Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland. The last experience was the DISH, which is a virtual reality room (a CAVE for those of you familiar with such systems) where we went through a virtual run through of the Shanghai Disneyland Pirates attraction. Normally people inside a CAVE wear 3D glasses but we didn’t probably because the group size was too large.

And then we had 20 minutes to spend too much money at Mickey’s of Glendale! They gave us a coupon to get a 40% discount off of one item. There are many Imagineering-exclusive items and pins so some people spent several hundred dollars in that store.

But we weren’t done yet (yes, this was a long day). The bus took us to the carousel in Griffith Park where Walt conceived of the idea of Disneyland. We met one of the owners and everyone got to ride the carousel.





The carousel claims to have the original park bench that Walt sat on and conceived of Disneyland, but Disneyland claims that their park bench is the one.



And we still weren’t done. The bus took us to Tam O’Shanter, a historic restaurant where Walt and the Imagineers frequently dined at. The prime rib dinner was good. They took each party to Walt’s favorite table.



Then we headed back to the Grand Californian. That evening, Disneyland had a hard ticket Halloween party. I had hoped that ABD would give us all tickets for that event but they didn’t. When I booked this trip, the Vacationista said they would likely give us tickets. But we were so tired after this day that I didn’t want to stay up late anyway, since tomorrow we had to get up even earlier.
 
  • Eastridge

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 24, 2018
    Day 3: Saturday Oct. 6, 2018

    The group met at 6am in the lobby. Yes, 6am! But there was a good reason. We were entering Disneyland before any other guests got in. We stopped at the railroad station, the Mickey Halloween statue and the castle to get some photos that are otherwise impossible to get: scenes of Main St. and the castle with nobody else in the picture!





    We were met by Disneyland Ambassador Alexa, who talked a bit of her role in the park.



    Left: Adventure Guide Natalia. Middle: Disneyland Ambassador Alexa. Right: Adventure Guide Lori



    After that, the park opened and we saw the horde of people charging in. We had a character breakfast at the Plaza Inn. Then it was time for some rides. We rode the carousel and Peter Pan. Peter Pan had a long line by this point, but the guides walked us to the front of the line.

    After that we saw Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and then Walt’s apartment above the fire station! We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the apartment, but we could see everything. I had never had the opportunity to see this previously so this was a special experience.



    Then it was time for the first backstage attraction experience. Photos weren’t allowed anywhere backstage so I don’t have images for you. We rode Indy (again being brought to the front of the line) and then went backstage to the garage facility where they maintain the vehicles. We got a good look at one of the ride vehicles and the mechanisms that make it work.

    Then we had a 1 hour lunch break on our own. After lunch, we had the second backstage experience: Radiator Springs Racers. For this ride, we had to get into the Fastpass queue rather than heading straight to the front of the line. It is a measure of how much ABD spoils you that I was thinking “aw, we don’t get to go straight to the front?” Then we saw the garage facility where they maintain and repair the cars. We could also see displays that showed where every car was and the status of every moving show element.

    The third and last backstage experience was Soarin. They ran one show just for our group, where we had the best seats, in the center. Then at the end we walked to the front of the stage and went behind the screen to see the projections from the back. We then went into the backstage area to see the materials they use to blow the scents toward the audience for specific scenes.

    At that point we had a few hours of on our own time. ABD provided five Fastpasses, good for any attraction except Guardians of the Galaxy. Since I bought MaxPass early in the day and was able to accumulate extra Fastpasses (including Monsters After Dark at 5pm), we had short lines for everything that we wanted to do. The Fastpass system crashed for a couple of hours during which nobody could get new Fastpasses, but our existing Fastpasses were honored, so we had a huge advantage and it made the experience enjoyable despite the crowds. To give you some idea of how crowded the parks were, Radiator Springs Racers had a 2.5 hour wait and Guardians of the Galaxy was almost 2 hours, without a Fastpass.

    At 6:15pm there was a dessert party in a room in the Grand Californian hotel. This wasn’t dinner, but they had a spread of desserts. They didn’t do a slide show. Apparently that is only on the longer ABD trips.





    Normally this trip provides reserved viewing for World of Color. But WoC has been broken for a long time, so instead we met the guides at 8:30pm in a reserved viewing section to see Paint the Night. Here are a few photos of the floats, including the new float with The Incredibles:





     

    Eastridge

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 24, 2018
    Day 4: Sunday Oct. 7, 2018

    We could have gotten early entry into California Adventure this morning, but we were too tired to wake up that early. There were no additional ABD activities and we didn’t see the guides today, but they were still around and if there were any problems we could have contacted them for help.

    This day was all on our own to get remaining touring done on the last day of our 4-day park hopper ticket. Our flight out was around dinner time so we had some time to take advantage of that last day.

    The limo picked us up 3 hours before our flight and we had no problems getting home.

    Overall this was an amazing trip. The two middle days are just packed with activities and special access that you can’t do on your own. If you are a fan of Disneyland or Walt Disney, this is a great trip.
     

    OKW Lover

    Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle.
    DIS Lifetime Sponsor
    Joined
    Apr 29, 2004
    Thanks for this review - enjoyed reading it and pretty much agree with your opinions. We just got back from the full Back Stage Magic trip a week ago.

    Here’s the view of the pool from our room. I think this was also the last time I looked out the window. We were so busy, we didn’t spend much time hanging out in the room.

    This looks exactly like the view from the room we had last week. 3013?

    The carousel claims to have the original park bench that Walt sat on and conceived of Disneyland, but Disneyland claims that their park bench is the one.
    There was more than one bench at the carousel back then (as there is now) so both claims could be valid.
    We were met by Disneyland Ambassador Alexa, who talked a bit of her role in the park.
    We met Alexa as well. Can't tell you how hard it was to refrain from saying "Alexa....Open the Park" (Amazon joke :duck: )
     
    Last edited:

    kaseyC

    Mom to 3 lovely Princesses
    Joined
    Mar 25, 2002
    Thanks for your review. We are booked for this short escape before our Wonder Spring Break cruise in March.
     
  • CaliKris

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 24, 2015
    Thanks for your review! We are booked for this short escape in October 2019. We assume World of Color will be back by then and Star Wars Galaxy's Edge will be open, so it will be interesting to see how the trip is different.

    Where was breakfast on the last day?
     

    Eastridge

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 24, 2018
    Where was breakfast on the last day?
    Day 4 was completely on our own. We had breakfast in Calif Adventure (at Flo’s). On day 3, ABD provided a character breakfast at the Plaza Inn.

    I think the 6-day Backstage Magic trip provides more meals, including a nice dinner at Carthay Circle
     

    Eastridge

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 24, 2018
    Day 4 of our itinerary says breakfast included. Maybe that has changed for 2019.
    I looked at the new 2019 itinerary, and yes, it appears they added breakfast on Day 4.

    If anybody from ABD is reading this, here's a suggestion. Put that breakfast in Galaxy's Edge, before the park opens. Doesn't have to be an expensive meal. The group will love you just for giving them early access into that land.
     
  • Mathmagicland

    Disneyland - the original since 1955
    Joined
    Jul 26, 2014
    Thanks very much for your trip report. Being a Disneyland passholder, I have debated taking this trip wondering if it would be worth it. Your trip report has me leaning towards taking it as the backstage aspects would be very interesting.
     

    OKW Lover

    Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle.
    DIS Lifetime Sponsor
    Joined
    Apr 29, 2004
    Thanks very much for your trip report. Being a Disneyland passholder, I have debated taking this trip wondering if it would be worth it. Your trip report has me leaning towards taking it as the backstage aspects would be very interesting.
    I'd encourage you to take this trip! Its definitely the back-stage aspects and the access to Imagineering and Disney Studios that are the stars of this trip. I'd suspect a DL APholder would find that really intriguing.
     

    dina444444

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 8, 2013
    Thanks very much for your trip report. Being a Disneyland passholder, I have debated taking this trip wondering if it would be worth it. Your trip report has me leaning towards taking it as the backstage aspects would be very interesting.
    I was on the dis exclusive regular backstage magic trip two weeks ago and I am a local annual passholder. I thought it was well worth the money for the experiences that you can’t get otherwise.
     

    Mathmagicland

    Disneyland - the original since 1955
    Joined
    Jul 26, 2014
    I'd encourage you to take this trip! Its definitely the back-stage aspects and the access to Imagineering and Disney Studios that are the stars of this trip. I'd suspect a DL APholder would find that really intriguing.
    I was on the dis exclusive regular backstage magic trip two weeks ago and I am a local annual passholder. I thought it was well worth the money for the experiences that you can’t get otherwise.
    Thank you both - I’m checking out dates & pricing now :earsboy: Need it fit it in around some other travel if it is this year, I’ll have to see what can work out, otherwise maybe next year.
     

    CaliKris

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 24, 2015
    I think this Short Escape is ideal for locals. We used to be DL locals (now living in Nor. Cal). We have no desire to see Hollywood or take a week off work for a So Cal trip, so this shorter version makes the most sense. We get to see behind the scene of DL, Studios, and Animation without the touristy Hollywood stuff which we have done more than enough times. These are experiences not available with the DL AP.
     

    eltorodiablo

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Dec 26, 2014
    We're booked for this trip in the beginning of March. First ABD, first time in Disneyland, first time in CA! We have several days before the ABD starts, staying in LA for a few days to see more things we want to check off the list, and then a day early in Disneyland. Can't wait!
     

    Eastridge

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 24, 2018
    We're booked for this trip in the beginning of March. First ABD, first time in Disneyland, first time in CA! We have several days before the ABD starts, staying in LA for a few days to see more things we want to check off the list, and then a day early in Disneyland. Can't wait!
    If your trip is in March, then maybe you’ll get to experience World of Color. Hope they will have it running by then.

    Since you are arriving early, you might ask a Vacationista how early the guides will be in the lobby on the first day. You might not be able to get the 4-day pass before the parks open that day.
     

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