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Lance’s Armchair Imagineer #10 ‘Main Street U.S.A. and Critter Country’

# 10 Critters and Main Street and Critters! 11/01/13

Yours Truly with an old friend on the 10th Birthday of Disneyland (or thereabouts)

Hello everyone! Welcome back to Lance’s Armchair Imagineer! This entry will be a little schizophrenic since we’re covering the two areas of Disneyland we haven’t picked apart yet. Critter Country and Main Street U.S.A. Once we’re done here, we’ve worked our way land-by-land through both California Disney Theme Parks. It’s sort of a wrap of the first wave of these Blogs.

I’m sure we will continue to talk about other aspects of the Resort (Downtown Disney, the Hotels, etc.), but for now, I’m content to let the first 10 speak for themselves. What I’d really like is to start some dialogue with these and talk them out before moving ahead to other things.

Did you know, I wrote the first 11 Blogs before posting the first one?  It’s true. Wanted to give myself a good backlog, lead time, and some handy retro-writing. I also double back and tweak each one over time as new thought occur to me, new attractions are added and new ideas are inspired by YOUR feedback. The Forums on each blog are ‘living entities’. Always being added to….and they are half the experience.

Okay, let’s get started with CRITTER COUNTRY

Formerly Bear Country,  (and often mistakenly called Critter County) this is an attractive rustic cul-de-sac area the other side of The Haunted Mansion. Of course, Fantasyland also has a ‘breaking the berm’ addition in Toontown. Disneyland is outgrowing it’s original parameters. One wonders if the park will eventually expand past Tomorrowland to the East, Fantasyland to the North and Frontierland to the West (appropriately).

Critter Country has a trio of listed attractions:

DAVEY CROCKETT EXPLORER CANOES: This attraction allows groups of guests (with a cast member in front and in back) to paddle long canoes around Tom Sawyer Island. It’s more fun than it sounds!  Just be prepared to be splashed by less competent paddlers. If you go with a large enough group, let them know! If you can fill up two canoes (I think they hold 20 Guests each), they will line you up for a race! I did this once with a group and it was a blast (if exhausting). This is a seasonal attraction, available in the Summer.

THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH

I’m not a fan of this dark ride. I think it’s the weakest in that category for a number of reasons. The neon, black-light colors don’t evoke this gentle pastels of this pre-school property. It’s generally unambitious in execution and to add insult to injury, it replaced a masterpiece, classic (even LegacyDisney Attraction, The Country Bear Jamboree. A Walt-influenced, Marc Davis-designed unique Imagineering experience. As I said a few blogs ago, CBJ can reopen over in the Challenge Trail area of DCA. It will fit well there. The Winnie ride needs a serious re-do. More dimensional environments, a better paint scheme, etc.

As kind of a salt-in-the-wound feature. The three wall-mounted characters from Country Bears are still in the building! This homage to the original attraction just has the effect of making me question the sanity of anyone who would replace CBJ with Winnie. It’s near the end.

Winnie

When you see Winnie struggling in honey, look up and back over your shoulder and you’ll see this…

Heads

Your Humble Blogger and his good friend Lisa at a “Twisted Disney” party in the late 80’s. We were ‘Bear Heads’ (Ask your parents). (Yes, I drew those shirt designs after ‘Dead artist, Rick Griffin). Some 20 years later, It was Lisa’s daughter Denim I got hooked on Roller-coasters, starting with Gadget’s, then Big Thunder, then Matterhorn, then Space Mountain. Just call me the Uncle of bad-influence!

SPLASH MOUNTAIN

Let’s end this section on a high note. This Attraction is a definite Headliner (or “E-Ticket” for you longtime Disneyland-goers).

Probably the best ride at Knott’s Berry Farm is the Log ride. It’s a lot of fun with nice theming and a big thrill at the end. A definite childhood favorite of mine. It took a while, but Disneyland finally provided a competitive experience. Splash is a great log flume ride with beautiful theming and the repurposed cast from America Sings. The line on this one is always painfully long when you want to go on it (hot weather), so a Fast Pass is a must. There’s also a Single Rider option. The large drop at the end is Disneyland’s only extreme drop and only really wet ride, so bag those cameras and cellphones, fun lovers.

On a final note: Does it strike anyone else weird that a major attraction is themed after a ‘banned’ Disney feature, Song of the South?

This area also features a fantastic candy store where you can watch them make the treats, the inevitable retail outlet, and a Dedicated Pooh Character Signing Area.

The Hungry Bear Restaurant is to the right of Winnie. It’s a burger place with a, ‘eh’ menu similar to DCA’s Taste Pilot’s Grill. (It’s a short walk to the many superior eateries in New Orleans Square and Frontierland.) It’s worth noting that the lower deck is something of an oasis. Quiet, cool, and calm, with a very nice view of The Rivers of America. The kids can also feed the ducks here. It’s a nice little hideaway with a convenient bathroom.

Okay, time to double back to New Orleans Square for a fun Train ride around the Park to Main Street Station. Walt was well-known for his love of Trains. In fact, the VERY first notions of Disneyland started with a Train idea of some sort. The trains have four great Attraction Posters…and I had to post them all…

Many Trains have come and gone over the years in the park and we still have four routes. (Casey Jr., Big Thunder, and Monorail are the others) This is the most traditional and also provides the most comprehensive “Circle Tour of the Magic Kingdom”. I like to use the Train as a ‘shortcut’ when the park gets really crowded or to negotiate around parade crowds. I feel compelled to note that DCA is trainless, and so, not what Walt would have done…and there definitely needs to be some sort of transport between the front gate and the  distant boardwalk.  But, let’s get back to the land in question…

For those who don’t know, there is a special car named The Lilly Belle (after Walt’s wife Lillian). Sometimes, this enclosed car is attached to one of the trains. Club 33 Guests (see Blog #3) can gain admittance by asking…and so can the lucky and well-timed Park Guest if you ask politely at the Main Street Station early in the day. The car is a gorgeously-appointed luxury coach with gold-plated lamps, plush chairs, velvet curtains, etc. A Conductor will accompany you on your loop around the park with an interesting historical talk about Walt’s relationship with Trains, Train history at Disneyland, and other general park subjects. I’ve done this twice and it was fascinating and different each time. My all-time Favorite Cast-Member gave me the tour once and it was heaven on wheels. Make sure to get your punched Ticket from the Station Conductor. It’s a souvenir you can’t buy. (Ala the Steamboat Pilot Certificate).

Here’s mine. Notice the tiny Train punch?

Lilly Belle Ticket

Your Faithful Blogger in The Lilly Belle with The fabulous Cast Member and dear friend Roberta. Best. Tour. Ever.

Like Club 33, this car was meant as Walt’s Invitation-only hideaway. Sadly, smoking murdered him before enjoying either.

Lastly about the Train….you know about Grand Canyon / Primeval World, yes?  Many don’t. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just ride the Train from Tomorrowland to Main Street Station and it will blow your little mind. Those ‘Real’ Grand Canyon animals are actually taxidermy purchases, not the result of Imagineering. Creepy?  My Note here…replace those poor critters with some animating AA Figures ala Big Thunder Mountain.

Disembarking at Main Street Station

MAIN STREET U.S.A. is a beautiful transition from the real world into the fantasy that is The Magic Kingdom. This isn’t about Attractions, it is about atmosphere and shops and eateries, with a few exceptions. I don’t have any comments about the stores. There’s something for everyone. They change over time, but the overall experience remains the same. For inexpensive souvenirs, I like the Silhouette portraits. I have two on my wall. One at 6 1/2 Years old and another at 49.

6 1-2 Meets 49 sized

Main Street is also a great nexus of services. ATM, restrooms, lockers, etc. Let’s look at a few non-shops, starting with the very first thing on the right side as you cross under the Train Station.

THE DISNEY GALLERY: An absolute Must-Do. This beautiful gallery features rotating subject matter, relating to all the Disney Parks not just Disneyland. There is always a fantastic collection of artwork, models blueprints and misc. items. Previous subjects have included: Trains, Boats, Castles, and artist Mary Blair. Additionally, you can order high quality on-demand prints of the key artwork on display with size, surface, and framing options. I got a few of the Mary Blair prints myself (of her Tomorrowland Murals) and they are gorgeous.

Connected to the Gallery is GREAT MOMENTS WITH MR. LINCOLN

This venerable attraction features the first sophisticated Audio-Animatronic figure of the 16th President. Decades-old, it’s still pretty darn lifelike and inspiring. The entire production is very well put together and the lobby of the theater “The Opera House” is a great little museum in itself.

“What up, Y’all?”: Abraham Lincoln 1863

I will admit, this is also the best place in the park for an emergency nap, should you need one. This attraction was very close to Walt’s heart and I’m glad it’s still there for that reason. This was one of the 4 Attractions created for The World’s Fair before being integrated into the Park.

MAIN STREET CINEMA

Is basically a round theater with no seats and small screens circling you. Each screen is continually showing vintage B & W Disney shorts from the 20’s and 30’s. I find the whole thing overwhelming and tedious. Is there anyone who enjoys this? It’s empty whenever I’ve peeked in. I’m sure a better use can be made with this space. Perhaps turn it into an actual screening room and run older Disney shorts continually in a more traditional setting.

A few other Main Street items of Note. City Hall hands out Birthday, 1st Visit, Anniversary and other celebratory buttons as well as providing vital customer relation services and answers to any question you may have. The Firehouse provides some fun photo opportunities. You know about the lamp in the window above? Sure you do. At the end of every afternoon, there is a very Patriotic and impressive Flag Retreat Ceremony. Catch that at least once. I made a point of seeing it on Memorial Day and it was something special.

MAIN STREET VEHICLES

DSC_0913 mainstreet5 6MainStreetVehicles

These are are fun to try a time or two. The drivers are very glib and entertaining with patter worthy of The Jungle Cruise.

This is a great place to mention Parades and Fireworks since Main Street from the Square to the Hub is the best place to enjoy these events. These two shows change now and then, but they are always beautiful and detailed. As I write this, The SoundSational Parade is working Disneyland and Pixar Pals Parade is over in DCA. Both well-worth catching.

soundsational-lrg

The Fireworks show in Disneyland is always spectacular. I love the technological update, allowing Tinkerbell and Dumbo to actually maneuver through the air. In spite of my ‘Pixar in DCA’ attitude (see the first Blog), I’d love to see Buzz Lightyear or Wall-E zipping about up there too…and so would you.

How could I have notes about either elaborate, first class (and very costly) ‘free’ entertainments? I do not. But I have a little advice: Pick your spot about an hour ahead to get a good, unobstructed view. After the Fireworks, there is a mass exodus from the Park. Either get ahead of that mess if you’re leaving or get out of the way and avoid Main Street for a while.

Parade time and Fireworks lead to lower lines elsewhere. Take advantage. Both events clog up the center of the Park. Sometimes it’s faster to take The Train from one side to the other.

And with that, we have Main Street U.S.A. A very dense, useful, and picturesque area of The Magic Kingdom.

As we wrap up this tenth Armchair Imagineer, I’d like to thank you all for Reading and Imagining. May all your Dreams Come True (Disney and Otherwise)

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See you soon!

Lance

(Click the READ MORE button to see Reader Comments and, better still, to add your own!)

Posters from the past….

Adding insult to injury, losing the exceptional Country Bears was like losing three Legacy attractions. This show had no less than three versions which could be swapped out seasonally. The basic show, a Summer Holiday Version, and a special Christmas version. ALL are greatly missed. F*ck Winnie the Pooh!

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Lance’s Armchair Imagineer #9 ‘Frontierland’

#7 Go West, Young Disneylander 10/01/13

Howdy pard!  Welcome back to Lance’s Armchair Imagineer.

It should be pretty obvious, we’ll be talking about Frontierland this time.

I enjoy this rustic, atmospheric area of the Park celebrating the Pioneering Spirit. There’s a lot of ambiance and sense of place here. Not the authentic American West, by any means, but an idealized 50’s TV version (this is Disneyland, after all.) Let’s take a stroll through the stockade gates and amble forth into what was once the Largest Land in the Park.

Frontierland doesn’t have a great deal of attractions by number, but there are some fun things to explore and one great headliner thrill ride.

The centerpiece of this land is ‘The Rivers of America’ with its fleet of two large ships and many canoes (the latter is technically in Critter Country and we’ll get to it when we get to that area in the future). Of course, the ‘River’ circles Tom Sawyer Island.

When you first stroll into the area from The Hub, take a few minutes to appreciate the details here. The Stockade gate, the Frontier storefronts complete with wood plank sidewalks and hitching posts. There’s also a lot of ambient sounds and music to help set the mood. This goes for everywhere in Disneyland, you can just hear it here better because this area tends to be less densely populated than the other areas of the Park. A welcome respite. Note: The Gate has one of two ATMs in the Park.

On your right..

THE FRONTIERLAND SHOOTIN’ EXPOSITION. A Coin-Operated shooting gallery which sports some deceptively hi-tech targets. Nice to see that this venerable attraction is still here in this PC age. It’s harmless fun and beautiful to look at. My suggestion is don’t waste a single ‘shot’. You are paying for a set amount of trigger pulls. Use ‘em productively. The kids enjoy this and the Adults should give it a competitive shot once in a while. Note?  Maybe a Holiday redress.

No one appreciates my joke about retheming it to Bambi. Shoot over a lamp and start the forrest fire, get Bambi’s mom. Yeah. I didn’t think so.

A little further along on your left is…

THE GOLDEN HORSESHOE SALOON. I have so many happy childhood memories of seeing the show here on my annual trip with Mom. It was the classic Wally Boag / Betty Taylor headlined variety show: The Golden Horseshoe Review which ran for a record amount of performances…but never seemed to get old. According to Wiki: This variety show ran a record 39,000 times and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running musical of all time. It was a lot of fun. It was so sad when we recently lost Wally and Betty. Betty never failed to pick me as the little boy in the audience to sing to. Talk about making me giggle and blush!

And it’s also nice to sit down and enjoy lunch while you enjoy the show. I love the chili in a bread bowl myself. Satisfying. Anyway, I consider this a Must Do….especially on days when you need a little break. It’s also a great lunch stop since a fun show is included. Get there 20-30 minutes before showtime to get a decent seat and grab your grub.

Currently, the theater has a few rotating acts (mostly Billy Hill and the Hillbillies or the comedy troupe Laughing Stock), all fun, though I prefer the former. My single note: I wouldn’t mind an occassional recreation of the classic Review show…for old time’s sake. If they can tribute Michael Jackson, I think the Disney legends Wally Boag and Betty Taylor are equally worthy within The Magic Kingdom.  Of course, you know me. I’d like to see a number of rotating shows in this venue….including special Holiday-Themed programs.

Across from the entranceway is the dock for both ships of the Rivers of America Fleet:

THE SAILING SHIP COLUMBIA is a gorgeous recreation of the famed sailing ship.  Because of Fantasmic, this ship isn’t as available as The Mark Twain, so when you get a chance, take her for a ride around the island.

There’s a fantastic historical narration, lots of soundtrack songs of the period and an actual Maritime Museum below decks.  It’s also just fun to run around on and explore. Love it just the way it is.

THE MARK TWAIN STEAMBOAT.  Walt’s love of Twain led to this recreation of a classic Mississippi Riverboat. Like the Columbia, the audio track is informative and entertaining. The ship is beautiful. You can take it easy on the lower decks just above water level or go above for a more panoramic view. Love it just as it is.

Here’s my great tip: Sometimes if you ask politely at the dock, you will be allowed to go up into the Wheelhouse with the Ship Captain! The view is the best, the Captain will answer your questions about the ship. You get to ring the bell and blow the whistle…and you’ll get an exclusive souvenir certificate proving the whole thing!

Great photo ops too as you can see.

Can you spot your Humble Author taking a spin around the river on this fine Dapper Day?

TOM SAWYER ISLAND: Just a nice environment to stroll and explore. Good for parents to relax while their kids run off some excess energy and get a little dirt on their clothes. In fact, this environment is a perfect example of Walt’s basic vision of the park….where parents and children can both enjoy themselves. Accessible only by raft, I miss the Mike Fink Keel Boats, but I heard they could tip over!

There are a lot of fun areas to explore and play. As you know, the runaway success of the Pirates of the Caribbean films has lead to (what I assume is a temporary) Pirate re-theming of much of the island (my closing picture is from there). It completely makes sense to do this until that trend runs her course…and the Pirate gags are fun.  They don’t allow anyone here after dark for obvious safety reasons, so no point in suggesting a Halloween overlay!

Honestly, I’ve never gotten around to the Big Thunder Ranch ‘Petting Zoo’ or whatever it is. The few times I tried, it was closed for one reason or another. I look forward to seeing what’s going on there when the timing’s right. The Big Thunder Bar-B-Q to the right of this area is great.  A little pricey because the delicious food is bottomless, but the entertainment is fun. I do wish there were an alternative entree menu. Less food and more affordable.

And now, the Special Nighttime Show….

FANTASMIC: This water-based parade-show is still going strong after two decades. It’s a gorgeous and a technically sharp production. You really have to get there early to get a decent seat. (Think the Parade times 3). There’s a pricey reserved seating option. Tried it once and was behind a large stone pillar and a guy the size of the Hulk. I didn’t see a damned thing for my 80 bucks (or whatever it was).  So, you have to get there early for that too and chose your seating carefully. On a technical level, I’m more impressed with the new World of Color Show over at DCA, but Fantasmic still has some amazing and exclusive features like live performers, the use of The Sailing Ship Columbia and the backdrop of Tom Sawyer’s Island.

The last listed Frontierland Attraction is also the Headliner.

BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN:

A great Thrill Ride with an attractive queue and some Imagineering-level theming and art direction. It’s definitely on the ‘must do’ agenda. I also appreciate the few echoes of the Vintage Nature’s Wonderland Train ride. There’s even a much-appreciated Fastpass option. No notes here.

And that’s the tour. I have some overall, general thoughts about Frontierland before I sign off.

The Frontierland of the 50’s and early 60’s was huge and kinetic. Horse drawn stages, the Mine Train, live Cowboys and Native Americans. It was larger and more alive. More evocative of the excitement of the Wide Open Spaces of the American Frontier. Of course, Westerns were much more popular in the pre-Star Wars, Anime, and Video game days.

I would issue a challenge to the WDI Wizards to take another look at Frontierland and figure out a way to get some of this back. A way to open it up. Unlike Tomorrowland which practically needs a bulldozer to save, Frontierland has a solid foundation on which to expand. It’s easy to be complacent since the area works as is, but isn’t it time to do something big and sophisticated here?  The breathtaking rockwork in Cars Land practically demands a similar effort in a land representing the Southwest, even more than it’s animated echo.  And of course, a wonderful outdoor Attraction to play against this backdrop. Bring back a little of this magic.

The legendary, never-realized Western River Expedition would do nicely.

Something to think about as we ride off into the sunset.

Please Pony Express me Your thoughts, feedback, and ideas!

Thanks for Reading and Imagining!

Lance

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Extinct Attraction Poster Theater Presents…

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Lance’s Armchair Imagineer #8 ‘Adventureland’

#8 Bound For Adventure 09/01/13

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Hello Bold Explorer! Welcome to this Adventureland Installment of Lance’s Armchair Imagineer.

The Adventureland area of the Park has some great attractions and a lot of atmosphere, so let’s not waste any more time, our safari awaits.

Overall, this land is meant to give the parkgoers a taste of foreign and ‘exotic’ lands…all spoken in English and without the dysentery.

Your Humble Blogger is a complete wimp when it comes to visiting….um, less-developed nations. So, the Disney versions are fine by me…EPCOT especially.

When the park starts getting crowded, Adventureland has a serious log jam between The Hub and New Orleans Square. especially around the Treehouse, Indy, and Pirates. I tend to avoid that route when it’s packed.

Working our way from the Hub side, over the wooden bridge, (take a look, the decor is pretty cool), the first Attraction on your left is…

THE ENCHANTED TIKI ROOM: This venerable and remarkably intact attraction is Walt’s very first in-Park use of Audio-animatronics. It’s a Classic and I’m so glad they haven’t messed with it.

It’s always easy to get into and a good place to relax for a few minutes (Like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln in that regard). What I like most is that it feels very much in voice, music, design and tone like the Disney entertainment I know and love from my childhood. I hope they never change it.

That being said…. temporary Holiday Overlays might be fun! There have been some other versions of this show at other parks. One with Stitch and another starring Zabu and Iago ‘Under New Management’. I saw the latter. It was fun. I wouldn’t object to a rotating schedule of variations as long as the Classic version dominated the year.

I also really enjoy the courtyard pre-show and those yummy Dole whips!  Some tips: The Dole Whip line is shorter from within the courtyard. Also, did you know that there’s a ‘secret’ public 1-person bathroom?  It’s up the stairs to the left of the main entrance.  Built when they were planning the show as a restaurant experience. That idea was abandoned early on, but the bathroom remains.

Speaking of bathrooms, there’s a very convenient one just a little past The Tiki Room. We make a left here and you’ll see Aladdin’s Oasis on your left. I confess that I’ve never been here. I think it’s a children’s storytelling Attraction. Have to check it out at least once, I suppose. For Completion’s sake, if nothing else.

Make a right and the body of Adventureland stretches before you. When they added the Indy ride, this whole area got a serious makeover and it looks great. The stores are interesting with a lot of great details (which really goes for every retail place in the Park). On your left is a Classic Opening Day Attraction:

THE JUNGLE CRUISE:  I love this attraction. It’s a difference experience by day or night, and especially fun if you have a great skipper with a batch of fresh jokes. I went on a rainy night once and the skipper was exceptional. Best Cruise ever. This is an Attraction they have tweaked over the decades, but the experience remains basically the same, thankfully. I always live in dread of the day they decide to PC it up.

The Florida incarnation has a great beat where you cruise briefly within some temple ruins. That would be cool here.

An amazing thing is how isolated this Attraction feels. At the end, you’re just one wall away from Main Street U.S.A. but you’d never know it. The Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise sum up Walt’s Adventureland and I’ll always love them for that.

Grab a skewer at the Bengal Barbeque (a great treat) and we’ll look at the last pair of Adventureland Features…

THE TARZAN TREEHOUSE:  Formerly the Swiss Family Treehouse. Yes, I get that Tarzan is a more recent, familiar, and relevant film for your average parkgoer.  Doesn’t mean I don’t prefer the original. I definitely miss the kinetic waterwheel, settings, and Polka music (which must have driven the area Castmembers crazy after a while). That bamboo plumbing system was an amazing feature of the tree and Tarzan or not, I don’t get why it had to go.

(Original Attraction Poster)

Those hard, fiberglass figures are a bit off-putting too. Bring on the Audio-Animatronics. You’d have to encase the figures to isolate them from the elements, but that would be an innovative move. ‘Outdoor, up in a tree, Animatronic figures modeled after animation-styled characters.’ That would be a gutsy thing to attempt. True, the Jungle Cruise figures are outside, but you don’t get too close to them. The Treehouse would demand  a higher level of detail and realism.

Once in a while, I’ll take a stroll through the tree, but it’s hardly a Must-do since the reworking. Lastly, we finish with the headliner of Adventureland:

INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF THE FORBIDDEN EYE: This is a detailed and sophisticated attraction with a great deal of craft and Imagineering in the excecution. I like it a lot, but I also have some serious Notes.

First, the good stuff… The Queue for this line is nothing short of breathtaking. Vast, greatly detailed, filled with all sorts of interesting touches and story. It sets the Standard for this sort of thing (along with Roger Rabbit). I love the dual ideas of an ancient temple overlayed with an arceological dig from the 30’s. The ancient temple has many traps, some of which have been triggered, some have been neutralized. Of course, I LOVE the hallway with the lowering spikes…especially if no one’s triggered it and I get to give the guests a thrill by doing so! I can’t praise this queue enough. It is a masterpiece.

The ride vehicle itself is an engineering marvel. A moving platform zipping along a track. Brilliant. It really simulates a wild vehicle journey….especially with the added sound and music blasting from the vehicle. This vehicle was also adapted with great sucess in Florida’s Dinosaur ride in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

There are also a few incredible slight-of-hand tricks with the track itself. The multiple-choice opening and the boulder scene use some very tricky methods to fool you. Clever Imagineering.

Overall, the attraction is detailed, designed well and provides a thrilling experience. I’m really glad my mom had the chance to ride it a few times because she loved it. Some have criticized the Attraction for intruding a non-Disney film property into the Disney park. I understand this, but the details and time period of this property fit pretty seamlessly into Adventureland. Let’s say much, Much better than Star Wars does in Tomorrowland. This ride is a Must-Do.

This Attraction Poster is painted by legendary Movie Poster artist Drew Struzan, the artist responsible for most of the Indy movie 1-sheets. Smart of Disney to get him to do it. This one, I have on my wall.

Okay, here’s what I don’t like as much. There is a lot of cheesyness to elements of this ride, particularly the big foam snake (make it look real or don’t bother) and the painted blow gun corridor. Why aren’t these audio-animatronic figures (ala Jungle Cruise) or sculpted stone relief detail like every other wall in the entire attraction? The Day-Glow Blacklight painting is incredibly cheap and tacky compared to everything else in the ride (even that snake). No excuse for it in a modern Disney Park. And why is the maintenence door (?) always open at the end of the blowgun corridor? It can’t be part of the design, but it can’t be accidental every time I’ve gone on that ride since it opened. If the painted corridor doesn’t ruin the illusion, that certainly does!

The main room is very well crafted for the most part (sorry, fake snake), but I feel you keep figure-eighting through the same space. I think some of the sub-areas, (the snake room, behind the giant Mara Face, etc.) should be visually isolated and expanded from the main room. Also, is there a way to simulate being on a failing, swaying bridge? That’s a missing thrill. Challenging to engineer, but if anyone can do it, it’s those guys.

Below is a Blue Sky Imagineering concept illustration from Brian Jowers. See how it portrays that main room as a huge open space working on several levels. The Train and Jungle Cruise routes pass into and through this room (The Cruise looks like it could go near the edge of a waterfall!). There’s also an Indy Mine Car ride and mining ‘Skyway-type attraction integrated into the whole thing. This would have been glorious. Once you see this painting, you’ll never be entirely satisfied with what they did.

Overall, I think the attraction is under-manned with characters. There are three very nice Indy Audio-Animatronic figures, but I think the place could be populated with all sorts of interesting, colorful characters and creatures. Compared to Pirates or Mansion, this  A-List Headliner is woefully unambitious in this area. The ride isn’t equal to the perfection of the queue.

I do appreciate that this Attraction has its own unique story and isn’t dependent on any of the films and it is still a Must-Do….but if they ever get the urge to pump it up, I think that’s a great idea. As would be a thorough Halloween Overlay.

Well, I think that wraps up Adventureland for now. It’s definitely an integral area of Disneyland and we can all be grateful so much of Walt and opening day still thrives here.

Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this Land of Adventure.

Thanks for Reading and Imagining!

Lance

(Click the READ MORE button to see Reader Comments and, better still, to add your own!)

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Lance’s Armchair Imagineer #7 “DCA Right Side’

#7 DCA Musings Part 2 08/01/13

Hello and welcome back To Lance’s Armchair Imagineer!  This time, we cross that compass back into DCA for a look at the other side of this vastly improved Amusement Enterprise. (See my Blog #5 for the rest of DCA).

To the right of the new entrance area is Condor Flats. Only one attraction here, but it’s a real crowd-pleaser. SOARIN’ OVER CALIFORNIA. A quantum leap in technology from the Star Tours days, this virtual hang-glider ride gives the park guests a fun and interactive arial tour of California. Various effects and aromas are shot at the audience which add a dimension of realism. The movement is soothing and, well, soaring. This Attraction is one of DCA’s best and it is a Must-Do. It’s justifiably popular, but there’s a Fastpass Option and it is a fairly efficient line in general. I’m glad my mom had a chance to ride this one. She loved it.

My note here is predictable. I’d love to see a variety of films: Soarin’ Over America, Soarin’ Over Europe, Soarin’ Over Asia, etc. This would be especially helpful in EPCOT where the California-themed filmed is simply called ‘Soarin’.

Condor Flats also has an aviation-themed burger place called Taste Pilot’s Grill. I think the burger/chicken tenders type menu is average for a Disney eatery..but I’m happy to see the recent addition of condiment pumps to replace those little, horrid to-go ketchup packets. (it is even possible I said something into the right ear who made it happen.) This is definitely a run-of-the-mill burger joint…luckily, DCA has a number of great food options.

Across from Soarin’, there’s a cute little outdoor review called MINNIE’S FLY GIRLS.

A trio of ‘Stewardesses’ and an ‘airline mechanic’ are joined by Minnie for a half-dozen or so aviation-themed numbers, Andrews Sisters style. It’s cute, quick, and worth catching if you’re in the area at the right time.

Around the corner from Condor Flats is Grizzly Peak. DCA’s iconic ‘castle’ is a towering  rocky Sierra type mountain which evokes a roaring Bear. it’s pretty cool. This mountain is the centerpiece of the whitewater ride GRIZZLY RIVER RUN. Nicely themed, this Attraction, like all rides of this type (The Magic Mountain version is called Roaring Rapids) is like being in a roulette wheel. If it spins a certain way at a certain time, you will get drenched. At the very least, your feet will….so dress accordingly. (Word to the wise…I always have a sealable sandwich bag to protect my phone).  No notes here. This ride is exactly what it should be with some very attractive theming. Well, I’d love to see more audio-animatronic fauna. Bears playing in the water, beavers building a dam, etc. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be staying at The Grand Californian, you can dress for this then run back to your room for a change into dry clothes.

Also in the area is the REDWOOD CREEK CHALLENGE RAIL. This is a kiddie paracourse. Another DCA area for parents to sit around while their little ones let off steam. You know I have a knee-jerk reaction against this sort of pre-school attraction and DCA is loaded with them. They’ve recently incorporated a little ‘Wilderness Explorer‘ theming from the movie Up. (to replace the Brother Bear theme) That’s a smart idea. That being said, this is an area I explored once and never need to see again. I feel like I’m in a children’s playground. It’s a little creepy for a non-parent! I would strongly suggest that half this area be repurposed to reintroduce Country Bear Jamboree…which will work well in this wooded setting next to Grizzly Peak.

Something I do like to visit every time is the WDI BLUE SKY PREVIEW CENTER. It is a constantly changing display of upcoming Theme Park Attractions. There’s artwork, models and all sorts of very interesting preview material including a short film. Not only a great peek at coming attractions, but a look into the world of Imagineering. This is something I love…but I bet you knew that. Adjacent to this is The Wine Country Trattoria restaurant. One of the fanciest eateries in DCA. The Lasagna is crazy delicious. They have an extensive wine list, but I’m not the person to rate that. I have no palate for wine. it all tastes the same to me!

Our next stop is PACIFIC WHARF This is a nicely-themed outdoor food court area with a number of great lunch and treat options. There’s also a BAKERY WALK-THROUGH TOUR, but that’s a curiosity at best. I’d be surprised if it survived the next wave f changes.

The highlight of this area is the newly-opened GHIRARDELLI ICE CREAM PARLOR. Swing by the entrance for your complimentary square of fantastic chocolate. This San Francisco Native appreciates that scrumptious taste of home!

Now we cross over to the right side of the loop of Paradise Pier. The large water area with the ugly pluming hosts WORLD OF COLOR in the evening. This water, laser, special SFX show is a stunner. It’s-state-of-the-art, gorgeous, evocative and difficult to describe. I think it has leapfrogged the Fantasmic show by a mile. Like Fantasmic, the Parades or Fireworks, it takes a little planning and patience to get a decent view. I like getting the dinner at ARIEL’S GROTTO, one of several DCA restaurants (Carthay Circle and Wine Country Trattoria are two more) where a meal tab will entitle you to a reserved spot in a great viewing area. There is a also a Fastpass option. This is a Must-Do. It is a delightful feature of this show that the end number is sometimes swapped out to promote the current Disney film. I’ve seen Pirates 4, Tron, and Brave all featured. You know how much I like multiple show options and flexible attraction design.

I have a few comments:  As I’ve mentioned before, I think the plumbing for the show should submerge during the day..it has that capability. It’s an eyesore when not in use. Remember Walt’s attitude about The Haunted Mansion?  The Park should look clean and nice. Also, some rising bleachers in front of Little Mermaid would be very welcome. I’m not sure if this is possible.

Speaking of Little Mermaid, that Attraction is right here near World of Color. The full name is THE LITTLE MERMAID: ARIEL’S UNDERSEA ADVENTURE. Disney’s latest ‘Dark Ride’. I have mixed feelings about this attraction because while there’s a lot of great work here (especially the amazing main figures and the overall size of the attraction), I see a lot of cut corners….I think that this attraction’s shortcomings were imposed on the Imagineers, not caused by them. Artistically, it works fine, but I wish for the same amount of detail and immersion as Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin or Snow White and Pinocchio. That being said, it’s much better than Winnie the Pooh. It’s definitely worth a spin and the line is never too bad. I stand by my comment in the first Blog that this attraction belongs across in Disneyland. Repurpose the skeleton (ala Superstar Limo into Mike & Sully) and this could be an Up dark ride with suspended cars like Peter Pan. I also think Mermaid would be more popular in a more appropriate setting.

The Ursula figure is one of the smoothest and most fluid (no pun intended) Animatronic figures ever. It’s stunning and I’d love the ride to pause for a few minutes while I’m in her scene so I can enjoy her entire act! The bar has been raised.

There’s a cute in-joke in this ride. When you reach Ariel in the Under the Sea scene, look over your right shoulder across to the wall. You’ll see The Incredible Mr. Limpet poking out of the seaweed (He cameos in the film as well).

 

Think I’m making that up?  Ah, silly reader. Here’s the very last moment of  “Under the Sea” Freeze-frame your own.

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Next down the boardwalk is Jumping Jellyfish. A kiddie parachute ride, not worth the time if you’re over 8. Also, the Golden Zephyr. That one’s a lot of fun. A beautiful, old style spinning rocket ride that takes you over the water. Faster and more fun than it looks. Adding a little Disney Theming would be a good idea. I suggest The Rocketeer.

In this area is a very nice revamped eatery. Mediterranean in theme. Paradise Garden Grill. The live Turkish Jazz is different and appealing, I’ve also enjoyed the energetic Irish Folk Group here.

The food choices are unique, tasty and it’s a picturesque lunch spot…especially on a nice day. This is a vast improvement from the cheesy fast food area that was here previously.

In this area is also GOOFY’S SKY SCHOOL. This is a lightly themed ‘Mouse Coaster’. Remember, when the park was first built, it was done on a serious budget. Many of the rides were ‘out of the box’ carnival rides dusted with a little theming. This is one of them (like the retired Maliboomer). My overall comment here is that I go to a Disney Park for a Unique Disney experience. A State-of-the-Art Imagineered experience available nowhere else. Many of the DCA rides are available at non-Disney parks. This is a problem. Fortunately, the recent overhaul of the park has gone a long way to correct this issue. A few rides along these lines remain and In this Armchair Imagineer’s opinion, they should be seriously themed up (like the Silly Symphony Swings) or replaced entirely. I vote the latter for Goofy’s Sky School. I’m sure they can come up with a better attraction using the space and concept. The re-theming is superficial at best. More successful are the next three items.

SILLY SYMPHONY SWINGS, MICKEY’S FUN WHEEL, and GAMES OF THE BOARDWALK. All three of these attractions are perfect examples of stock amusement park experiences Imagineered into more unique Disney Park attractions.

They’ve also reengineered the Swing ride so it no longer has a weight limit…..appreciated by this Blogger.

Also, take a spin through the circus-type retail stores to the right of the games. They have some fantastic details. While you’re at it, take a good look at KING TRITON’S CAROUSEL. It’s really gorgeous.

TOY STORY MIDWAY MANIA is one of the best Imagineering experiences in the park. The real time CGI (not unlike Turtle Talk With Crush) is amazing to watch, the gameplay is smooth, fun, and varied. The attraction overall is gorgeously designed and, yes, this is a Must-Do. I think Lassiter rode Buzz and said “Oh. We can do better than that”  and they did.

Because it’s me, I have two comments about this otherwise exceptional Imagineering triumph.  First, it needs a Fastpass option. this ride has a perpetual 45-90 minute line. Always. Even worse, the queue is a tedious, winding series of Magic Mountain type switchbacks.

My second criticism comes from the first. The simultaneously built Florida version has an amazing queue. It’s as dense and well-designed as Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin. You’re in Andy’s room at toy scale. Gigantic toys and games make up every detail of the room. many classics not seen in the Toy Story films. it’s a huge amount of fun just to wait in line. Here are a few photos from Florida so you can see what I mean…

The first time I rode this and Tower of Terror, I was in Florida. Excited when I heard they were also in California, I was very disappointed in both for the truncated versions that materialized. To repeat myself from an earlier blog, while the lack of an interesting queue is a shame, the evisceration of Twilight Zone from the Tower of Terror is inexcusable. The first is probably just a question of space, the latter is clearly a cost-cutting measure. They should tear down the tower and build it correctly!  I’m repeating myself from Blog #5 here.

Yeah. I’m really displeased about that. Moving on….

The last Paradise Pier attraction is the CALIFORNIA SREAMIN’ coaster. It’s a fantastic medium-sized coaster. Fast and very smooth, makes a great loop and always worth doing. Smooth as glass, the opposite of the bumpy Matterhorn. There’s a Fastpass option, but the line isn’t always daunting. On an off day, you can usually get onboard in under 15 minutes. A Must-Do. I wouldn’t mind if a little Disney theming creeped in. This could be a better Goofy attraction than Sky School. I’d love to hear his silly yell as you loop the loop.

Our last stop on my Two-Blog tour of DCA is definitely my least favorite item this side of Innoventions. That’s right kids…it’s Duffy Time!

DUFFY THE DISNEY BEAR (C) tm is a merchandise character that, for some head-scratching reason, was very popular in Disney Tokyo Seas. It’s been reported that this bland, generic teddy bear in a sailor suit is more popular in the Tokyo parks than Mickey Mouse. Go figure.

Anyway, never missing an opportunity to make a merchandise buck (something I understand, per se), Duffy was introduced at the other Disney theme parks. He has a permanent merchandise and character greeting area on the bridge crossing over to Paradise Pier from the Pacific Wharf. This non-character has been forced on the Disney park-going public with an unjustified aggression. He’s been shoehorned on menus, in parades, merchandise bins,  Mouse Ears, you name it. Luckily, he seems to be more of a DCA thing than in Disneyland proper…..mostly. He’s forced on us in the Disneyland Christmas and Halloween Parades.

Why do I hate this bland, generic ‘character’ so much?  I guess it’s because he’s 100% merchandising contrivance. There’s no supporting body of work. No films, stories, show, anything. Duffy purely exists as a product. Aren’t there enough actual Disney/Pixar/Marvel/Henson/Gibli/ect. characters around to exploit without needing to make things up and force them on us? He’s a Big Zero. It’s just such an obvious ploy. “We command you to love Duffy!”  Listen. I do not mind Disney coming up with new things to make money. They’re a business. The better they do, the more stuff we get. I do object to the contrived lack of creativity and integrity here. I hope it’s not the start of a very wrong-headed trend.

He needs to go.

On a related note, I just don’t understand this Vinylmation thing at all. Mickey-shaped plastic figures painted to look like everything under the Disney sun? Seems contrived and calculated as hell to me to create a new ‘collectable’. I think they will be the Beanie Babies and Pogs on the future….ugly, worthless, overpriced dust-collectors that are ultimately meaningless and difficult to resell.

So, folks….don’t give me a Duffy Vinylmation! (Yes, indeedy, there is such a wretched thing) It will become a Pug Chew toy in five seconds flat!

Lastly, DCA didn’t open well. Lots of out-of-the-box experiences, lots of cut corners, many uninteresting (and even a few downright awful) attractions, all spread thinly over a questionable theme. Poor Whoopi Goldberg was in two of the worst! I took a weekday tour when they first opened. It was a ghost town and it took me less than four hours to see every corner of the place and check out every attraction…but the admission fee was the same as Disneyland which takes at least two or three full days to see everything.

Ending on a positive note. With all the recent upgrades, improvements, additions, and enhancements, this park is finally a worthy companion to The Magic Kingdom. It only took 5 years and over…

ONE BILLION DOLLARS

… to turn things around. Disneyland will always be the Best, but DCA has finally risen to the level of a decent Disney Park….just back off on the kiddie rides and Duffy has got to go.

If you have any thoughts, I welcome them with open arms.

Thanks for Reading and Imagining!

Lance

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Lance’s Armchair Imagineer #6 ‘Fantasyland 2’

#6 Where Dreams Come True Too 07/01/13

Yours Truly and an Old Pal.

Welcome back for the rest of Fantasyland! I really tried to get this all to fit in one blog, but the addition of Fantasy Faire just made that Land burst at the seams! It is the most dense land of the park…not that it’ll stop me from wanting a lot more attractions…as many as will fit…and then expand the area to cram in even more fun! Why? Because the majority of Disney’s animated features are great ride fodder and mostly suited to this land. To be fair, a Disneyland Castmember friend accused me of being ‘A Completest’. (Not the first time I have been labled as such). Can’t say I disagree….except, I really don’t need to see a Fox and the Hound dark ride…ok?

Let’s kick this off with a good look at an attraction people feel very strongly about one way or the other. Perhaps Disneyland’s most controversial.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD: This ride sure has it’s detractors. They complain about the cutesiness of it all, the endlessness of it, but mostly the song. I am a staunch defender of this Attraction. In fact, I rank it fourth after Pirates, Mansion, and Radiator Springs Racers on a number of points. It is Immersive, it is highly detailed, it reflects a singular and unique artistic style, and it has scope. Also, how many other 15-Minute Attractions are there? Also, I should mention, not everything is for everyone. This one aims a little young. I can’t think of any ‘kid ride’ with so much scope and craft.

The design of this attraction (inside and out) is courtesy of one of the most talented stylists to work for Walt. Mary Blair. Mary’s sense of color and design made her a well-regarded commercial Illustrator before Walt recruited her for the company, where she eventually art-directed the color for a trio of feature films: Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and Peter Pan as Walt’s favorite color stylist. Walt then drafted Mary into the Theme Park side of things with the assignment to design this attraction in record time for the New York World’s Fair. (Later, relocated and expanded for Disneyland). Mary has also designed some outstanding Murals for the Disney Parks.

When you ride Small World, look at all the charming, stylized settings, be aware of the perfect, harmonious colors chosen for everything. Revel in the sheer size of the attraction and how much work it must have taken to populate enormous room after room with detail. Just look at it. It is amazing.

Mary didn’t work alone. Her main collaborator in the endeavor was Alice Davis (Marc’s talented wife) who designed and supervised all the gorgeous doll costumes throughout. They number in the hundreds. Both women worked closely together to insure a harmony between character and setting. They became life-long best friends from this assignment.

Here are Alice and Mary creating some magic for us all.

Mary is gone, but Alice is still with us, bless her. She was recently honored with a Disney Legend ‘credit’ window on Main Street next to her husband. A well-deserved and overdue acknowledgement of her contributions to the park. (I believe Alice also costumed Mansion, Pirates, Lincoln, and Carousel of Progress, Etc.). Next time you ride any of those attractions, take note of those costumes. They are amazing and packed with detail. Mary’s husband Marc was the creative lead on the project and designed most of the gags. Imagineer Rollie Crump designed the ride’s layout as well as the exterior clock mechanism. Legends all.

Which brings us to the dreaded Song. Well, folks, it’s a happy song sung by children. How else should it go? It was written by The Sherman Bros. Disney’s greatest song writers (Mary Poppins, Jungle Book, etc. etc). It’s what it needs to be. Here’s the unfortunate problem. The ride is so vast, so thorough that you are forced to hear the same song for about 15 minutes. No song can withstand that kind of repetition!

…especially if it’s sung loudly by enthuseastic children! I guess it’s a necessary evil. While I like the craft of the song, I do understand how it’s hard to take after a few cycles.

My good friend Mark is a bit of a musicologist. We were talking about this very thing and I think we came up with The Solution: Commission a modern composer (a John Williams or Michael Giaccino) to work with Richard Sherman. Rescoring and rearranging the entire attraction. Of course, you use the song as a base, but you vary it with clever arrangement. Pump up the cultural instrumentation. With some sophisticated sound engineering and keeping the tempo the same, it should transition smoothly room-to-room. Play with many ways to vary the sound of that song and it won’t be so repetitve. The last room could be acapella and sung in multi-part harmony for a large, rich finale!

In Florida, the Attraction is basically the same, but the exterior entrance is a mere tent! No Stylized Skyline, or Topiary Garden (You should take the time to explore the one in California!), no Giant Clock (Man, I wish I could buy a working miniature of this clock!).  I assume that Walt Disney World just can’t have something so delicate in a State where the occasional hurricane would tear it to shreds!

Here’s a tip: At night, there is a light show projected on the exterior of the attraction. Don’t dismiss it. This is an amazingly beautiful ‘Bonus Attraction’ of Small World.

A last point about It’s A Small World.  A few years ago, there was a contoversial addition throughout the ride of about a dozen Disney characters. Lilo & Stitch in Hawaii, Peter Pan and Tink flying above London, etc. I personally don’t have a problem with this because these characters were re-designed to fit in with the ‘dolls and toys’ aesthetic of the existing ride (see my last blog for comments about The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean). and I don’t mind a little Disneyfication here and there. If we go back to my First Blog, you’d think I want to ditch the few Pixar characters, but not really. Here they’re only represented as dolls. Some examples from Davelandweb.com (who has also been the source for my better Attraction Poster Graphics). Dave has a mind-blowingly comprehensive Disneyland Photo archive. Check it out.

PRINCESS FANTASY FAIRE: A newer addition to Fantasyland on the outside of the castle (where the bandstand used to be on the Hub). Clearly an answer to the demand for more Princess stuff, this is a quaint, little area with a surprising amount of things packed into a small area. It’s well-themed and the thoughtful greenery placement blocks it from visually intruding on the hub.

There’s a smallish tented theater where simplified and charming ‘Princess Stories’ are acted out for the kids. I saw Tangled and Beauty & the Beast. Both were cute and it was easy to get a seat. You know I love multiple shows in the same location. Changing them out in the same day is the way to go when possible.

There’s a dedicated Princess signing area built on the same idea as Meet Mickey. They serve up multiple Princesses and a themed backdrop for your picture. Good idea.

There are a few other themed features of this small area that are fun to explore.

I have my weirdest note ever here: The Hunchback-themed Music Box needs the handle of the hand crank to rotate. It’s VERY difficult to get it to proper speed as it is constructed without another point of articulation. (hard to explain here, I know).  Let’s do it with a picture:

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MICKEY AND THE MAGICAL MAP is the newest Fantasyland addition and I made a special trip to the park just to see it for this blog! (A great sacrifice as you can imagine). It’s a multi-media stage show where Mickey Mouse reprises his role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice though a series of adventures, frames a number of well-performed Disney songs. It’s no fun if I give away who shows up. The show is worth catching. One character is conspicuously missing from his musical number…which I understand is a temporary technical issue with the articulated mouth on the character costume. I look forward to seeing him in the show.

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No notes here other than my ‘usual’. They can rotate musical numbers once in a while after they get a little stale.

I was thinking about this notion I seem to have about multiple attractions and you all should take it with a grain of salt. Most Park Guests are infrequent travelers from afar or locals who can go maybe once per year. Everything is new to them. Annual Pass-holders such as myself can be a little spoiled, over-critical and we go so often, we like to see new stuff whenever possible (I’ve heard the term “Passhole”). I know before I moved to drivable distance to the Park, we’d go once or twice a year and I didn’t mind revisiting the entire experience. Hey. Disney started it with the Holiday Overlays, Star Tours, and,of course, Country Bear Jamboree! Even World Of Color has variable elements to promote their new films.

This doesn’t mean I won’t ‘Blue Sky’ alternate show ideas for existing venues…especially when they are stale (like Captain Eo or Muppet-Vision 3-D)

So, take away from my opinion what you will…as always.

Which leaves MICKEY’S TOONTOWN.

Overall, I applaud the artistic quality of this Land-within-a land. The fact every single surface is curved and sculpted is pretty cool (Kudos to my dear friend Alison who did much of the prototype sculpting). It was doubtless a lot of work to plan and execute (The Mountain backdrop is a great touch).

I have an overall concern (‘complaint’ is too strong a word). This is definitely a ‘kiddie’ area. Most of the things here are designed with the Littlest Park Guests in mind. One of the founding tenants of the park was that Walt wanted a place where parents and children could enjoy things together. That being said, I’m sure those stroller moms don’t mind being able to enjoy some down time as their little kids run around like maniacs in Goofy’s Playhouse or Donald’s Boat or the Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse or Minnie’s House. So, I understand the impulse to do this (A Bug’s Land in DCA is pretty much Kiddie Ride Central), but they shouldn’t overdo this sort of thing.

These are all attractive, fun children’s play areas and they are all worth a look to explore the Theming and Detail. The ‘real world’ could benefit from playgrounds of this calibre. Same goes for all the Roger Rabbit inspired interactive Cartoon Gag Area (to the Left of Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin). It’s a fun area to play out all the gags and explore around. I don’t do this every time I visit the park, but it’s fun to visit once or twice a year.

GADGET’S GO-COASTER: This is a good ‘training coaster’ for the younger park goers. In fact, on a memorable trip, I took a friend’s young daughter for our shared Birthday (it was the year you got a free Birthday admission). She was definitely coaster-skittish at first, but she was game to try Gadget’s.  She loved it.

It was a simple matter to progress from that to Big Thunder, Matterhorn, and ultimately Space Mountain in the same day! By day’s end, she was a coaster freak. Now, a few years later she sports a well-worn 6-Flags pass. My point is, Gadget’s is a good place to start. It’s a little kiddie for me, but I enjoy the theming a lot and I’ll give it a spin if there isn’t much of a wait.

MEET MICKEY: This is a pretty great idea. Every youngster needs to get that perfect picture with Mickey Mouse. This attraction guarantees just that. No longer do you have to rely on dumb luck hoping to encounter the beloved mascot as you enjoy the Park. As a matter of fact, I think it is a magnificent idea to have permanent, dedicated character areas with attractive settings and assigned professional photographers (but you have the freedom to use your own camera if you wish). Sometimes, those kids really want to be in a picture with a character. Also, as souvenirs go, it’s one of the best.

In case you didn’t know it, there can be as many as four different Mickey’s working back there. They have different costumes and sculpted matching backdrops. If you ask, a Cast Member will steer you towards the one you want (assuming availability). Your choices are: Steamboat Mickey, Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, Band Concert Mickey, and Through The Mirror Mickey (His Basic look). I do have a note here. I wish Steamboat Mickey were Black and White with those old school cartoon eyes. There’s a great looking version on the Mark Twain during Fantasmic. They should use that. The Queue itself is a gorgeously-themed toon version of Mickey’s dwelling which transitions into a cartoon movie studio. Very clever and well done.

TOONTOWN TROLLEY: This hasn’t moved in some time. Probably a good idea with all the toddlers stumbling about. Now, it’s just a cute part of the ambiance. Of course, this is a parody of the Los Angeles Red Car which is re-created over in DCA.

ROGER RABBIT’S CAR TOON SPIN: Saving the best for last is this decidedly non-’kiddie-ride’. This is arguably Disney’s best Dark Ride ever. The Queue (starting at the hilarious stone fountain) is gorgeous and detailed.  I heard a cast Member refer to it affectionally as “Our Million-Dollar Queue” Almost an attraction in itself, the queue is loaded with gags, references, animation, and ambiance. Arguably, this line rivals Star Tours and Indy as the most interesting and entertaining line wait in the Park. It is a bit tight, claustrophobic, and loud so my heart goes out to you if you’re near a shreiking toddler in there! That got me running out once.

The Attraction itself is a thrilling, dense, clever, kinetic, funny celebration of animated lunacy. Clearly, there was a very strong artistic vision when this attraction was on the drawing boards. Where were these designers when the relatively mediocre Winnie the Pooh and abominably awful Superstar Limo were being Imagineered? (But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is one of those Disneyland ‘Must Do’s’, even if you skip the rest of Mickey’s Toontown. You can spin the ride vehicles 360 as you whip along the track via a center wheel ala the Mad Tea Party.  Great idea.

In addition to the Princess Fantasy Faire, there are also many dedicated Character Signing areas in Fantasyland, which are probably subject to change. Currently, there’s a Villain area, one for Brave, another for Tangled, and the ever-popular Pixie Hollow where the little Princess in your group can meet Tinkerbell and her friends. (Formerly a Meet Ariel area). It’s nice that this Tink doesn’t try to kill any potential rivals as she did in the film! Though not the target audience, I appreciate Disneyland‘s effort to satisfy this need for little ones to meet and greet with their favorite characters. I wish they did this when I was little.

Well, that’s Fantasyland. Definitely a dense, immersive experience and most of it works wonderfully just as it is. Please share your thoughts. I’m always eager to hear them! Thanks for Reading and Imagining!  and always remember…

Dignity is the Key.

Lance

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