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July 26, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Disney Infinity

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Comic-Con everybody!

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One of the largest pop culture convocations in the world was recently held yet again--San Diego Comic-Con.

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As they have done the last couple of years, Disney Infinity made their usual impressive showing with a pop-up location outside of the Convention Center, close to Petco Park. By hosting at an exterior location, people were able to get some hands-on experience with new Disney Infinity assets whether or not they were able to obtain SDCC badges.

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Inside, multiple terminals were set up for gamers to play with the new "Inside Out" and "Star Wars" playsets, along with the Toy Box Expansion games that are all features of Disney Infinity 3.0, set for release on August 30.

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A green screen experience and an art gallery featuring the concept and development art that went into the myriad of Disney Infinity figurines were also presented in a similar format to that of their E3 booth, which I wrote about earlier here.

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I had a chance to demonstrate my extremely limited platforming skills with the "Inside Out" playset, in which each of the emotions can be swapped out strategically to best meet the needs of a given level with their specific abilities (e.g., Anger can walk on lava, but falls through clouds; Joy can walk on clouds for a little while, but falls through if you take too long; Sadness can float on clouds all the live-long day.)

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The "Star Wars" sets are marked by a more sophisticated combat system, which has been retooled by Avalanche Software and Ninja (Devil May Cry) Theory to include better responsiveness and more combos and finishing moves.

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Darth Maul, no.

There were also a variety of events taking place throughout the day at the pop-up, such as scavenger hunts, pre-orders, and a live taping of Disney Infinity's popular web series "Toy Box TV."


Watch live video from Disney on Twitch

Finally, fortunate guests were able to take home one of a selection of upcoming 3.0 characters.

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In all, judging from the long lines that were constantly forming to get in, Disney Infinity had another hit on their hands with their SDCC pop-up store, and people lucky enough to get in and pre-order got a bonus figurine and a fun look at the game's next evolutionary step. Everybody wins!

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" I can't actually throw up in my mouth, but if I could I would do it!"


July 21, 2015

Happy 60th Birthday, Disneyland!

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"To all who come to this happy place... Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past... and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.

"Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America... with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."
-- Walt Disney, July 17, 1955

Disneyland 7/17/15

Disneyland celebrated its 60th birthday on Friday, July 17, 2015. Jason and I, along with thousands of other Disneyland fans, were there to help celebrate.

I will admit that I was quite concerned about what the crowds would be like on Friday, after the disaster that was the 24-hour day back in May. I arrived at the park about 6:40 on Friday morning, and I breezed through security. Guests were already being allowed into both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, so the lines at the turnstiles were very short.

Disneyland 071715 entrance

As guests came through Security they received a special edition of the Orange County Register, and at the turnstiles an "I was there" button. There were also special maps at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

Disneyland 60th birthday gifts

The Register had a special insert, “Premiere Souvenir Edition Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.” This was a reprint of a 16-page Register special edition published on Disneyland's opening weekend in 1955.

Disneyland 60th OC Register souvenir edition

It's very interesting! There's even an ad for "The Wizard of Bras" on Main Street. :-)

Disneyland Wizard of Bras ad

(These special editions were gone by 8:00, but they are still available from the Orange County Register. See this page for more information.)

Disneyland 1955

The maps for both Disneyland and DCA included the original Disneyland park map in addition to the current park map.

Disneyland and DCA 7/17/15 park maps

The map also included the list of special events for the day:
July 17 Celebration Ceremony - 10:00 a.m. at the Castle Forecourt
Pre-parade honoring 1955 Cast - 4:15 p.m., Parade Route
1955 Themed Photo Spots - Critter Country, Big Thunder Trail, Mickey's Toontown, Tomorrowland, Hollywood Land, Grizzly Peak Waterfall
Cupcakes - available in both parks
Anniversary Buttons - available at the entrance to both parks
1955 Dance Clubs - Tomorrowland Terrace, 7-11:30 p.m.; Carthay Circle, 6-10:30 p.m.

Once inside the park I found that Main Street wasn't packed, since guests were already being allowed into the rest of the park instead of being held at the end of Main Street. (A lesson learned from the 24-hour day?) There were enthusiastic cast members on both sides of the street greeting guests as they walked by.

Disneyland 60th cast members

Here's the pin that cast members received - very nice!

Disneyland 60th birthday cast member pin

There were lots of photographers on Main Street (and other areas of the park) with these signs - it was a very popular photo all day.

Disneyland 60th I was There

The Emporium on Main Street was quite busy with guests who were buying t-shirts, and pins and other merchandise that was only available for the day. There were men's and women's t-shirts that were package in a string backpack for $29.95.

Disneyland 60th t-shirts

There was also an annual passholder version (I'll admit that I purchased this one).

Disneyland 60th Annual Passholder t-shirt

I saw this pin, also.

Disneyland 7/7/15 pin

The shirts were also available at Disney California Adventure. There were plenty of them - good job Disney. There were also two new "Made with Magic" light-up items. Here is the Chernabog beverage sipper available at Disneyland:

Chernabog sipper

And the World of Color sipper available in DCA. Each is "only" $28 - but hey, that includes a beverage!

World of Color sipper

On Thursday a new "search" opportunity began at the two parks, the "Looking for Mickey Quest". There were different maps for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, each with clues inside to locations of various hidden Mickeys. For each clue there were three suggested answers about the specific location of the Mickey, with a "scratch-off" next to each to reveal whether or not it was the correct answer. There's no penalty for wrong answers. And as with other events of this type, you don't need to actually complete the quest to redeem it for the prize. When I purchased mine it was recommended that I immediately redeem them for the prize, which was the pin.

Disneyland Looking for Mickey Quest

Each map came with a lanyard - as you can see the lanyard was dated.

Looking for Mickey Lanyard

The "quest" is available until July 31, or while supplies last. The maps are $19.95 at Disneyland (which has 20 questions) and $12.95 at DCA (10 questions). No annual passholder discounts for this one.

DCA Looking for Mickey Quest

As I mentioned before, there were free Disneyland birthday cupcakes available at multiple locations in both parks. There were plenty of them.

Disneyland 60th birthday cupcakes
Disneyland 60th birthday cupcakes
Disneyland 60th birthday cupcakes

The 1955 themed photo spots were a nice addition to the day. The Skyway spot was in Toontown. These were quite popular, but I stood in line for this one, since Lee used to work at the Skyway when he was a Disneyland Cast Member.

Disneyland Skyway photo spot

There was an actual stagecoach at the photo spot along Big Thunder Trail.

Disneyland 60th stagecoach photo spot

And the final Diamond Celebration Photo Spot in Disneyland, at the Haunted Mansion was in place.

Haunted Mansion photo spot

Disneyland was getting pretty busy, though the crowds were still nothing like they were back on the 24-hour day in May. Disney seems to have learned a lesson from that. They really downplayed the actual birthday celebration, and there were no big premieres or events - even most of the merchandise went on sale the day before. But a lot of people came and stood waiting for the 10:00 Celebration Ceremony at the Castle.

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Though they didn't have to, since there were large viewing displays in multiple areas, including one in Carthay Circle in DCA. I was fortunate to have media viewing, but if I hadn't, I would've watched from one of the satellite locations.

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Disneyland 071715

During the ceremony, Disneyland President Michael Colglazier announced the Million Dollar Dazzle program. Every month during the Diamond Celebration Disneyland will donate $60,000 to a local non-profit organization. The Girl Scouts of Orange County were the first recipients, and were in attendance.

Disneyland Million Dollar Dazzle Girl  Scouts

Richard Sherman and Ashley Brown performed "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins - one of Walt Disney's favorite songs.

Disneyland 60th Ashley Brown Richard Sherman Feed the Birds

Then they led all of us as we sang "Happy Birthday" to Disneyland.

Happy Birthday dear Disneyland

While there were a lot of people in the park early, a big difference from the 24-hour day is that many of them left after the ceremony. For the remainder of the day the crowds were those of a typical Friday in the summer time.

July 17 had been the announced date for the "new" Disneyland Band, and they made their first appearance in a not-on-the-schedule performance at 10:30 in front of the train station. I happened to be on my way to DCA, so I saw most of it.

Disneyland Band 7/17/15

It was a wonderful performance and I really enjoyed it - but they are much more like the Disneyland All-American College Band now. Their attraction medley (video below) has music and choreography similar to that of the medley performed by the College Band. And a number of the new band members were one-time members of the College Band.

I personally think that during the summer was not the right time to introduce the new band, just because it's similar to the College Band. It's two different groups doing similar performances. And I think this new band might overshadow the College Band, when it should be their turn to shine during the summer months.

As I mentioned, I was park-hopping when I was distracted by the new band...when I got to Disney California Adventure I found it was much less busy than Disneyland. There were also various photo opportunities available there.

DCA 7/17/15 I Was There

This may be my favorite of the 1955 photo backdrops: The Parking Lot. Because remember, DCA was built on the site of the old Disneyland parking lot! :-)

Disneyland 1955 photo spot parking lot

The other 1955 backdrop was in Hollywood Land,and featured the old Disneyland entrance sign, which would have stood not far from where the backdrop was located.

Disneyland 1955 entrance sign photo spot

One of the reasons Jason and I had gone to DCA was to see the Diamond Celebration Photo Spot in "a bug's land", which was supposed to be in place that day - but it wasn't. We asked a couple of cast members, but they didn't know anything about it.

We went back over to Disneyland to see the new band perform at 11:30 at the train station - which was the first performance listed on the actual schedule. :-) It was the same set that I had seen at 10:30. Their finale was "Hooked on a Feeling" (more well-known recently because of Guardians of the Galaxy).

We continued stalking the band after lunch, when they marched from Main Street to Frontierland, performed a song at the flagpole in Frontierland, and then performed the rest of the set in front of The Golden Horseshoe. This set included things like the theme from Davy Crockett, "You've Got a Friend in Me", and the theme from "Zorro".

Because we were at lunch we missed their 12:30 set, which was at the Castle, and then featured the new interactive "Diamond March" down Main Street.

While we were waiting for the band's final set, also in Frontierland (and with the same musical selections), we saw Tiana aboard the Mark Twain riverboat.

Disneyland Tiana

One of the other special events of the day was the afternoon pre-parade honoring the 1955 cast. We weren't sure what to expect with this, but thought it was nicely done. (This was a joint effort - Jason took the stills and I shot the video with his camera.)

Ron Dominguez and Bob Penfield were in the lead car.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Cast Members representing the current cast walked in between the cars.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Opening day cast member Harold Christopher.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

The Seven Dwarfs were on hand.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

A second Runabout car with Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Bob was playing to the crowd.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Tom Nabbe and Bill Sullivan

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Jack Lindquist (right) and Dick Nunis (left) in the fire truck.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Current cast members in the Omnibus wrap up the procession.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 17, 2015

Video of the procession.


After the parade Jason and I made a trip back over to DCA - we hadn't been out to Paradise Pier yet. The Citizens of Buena Vista Street were doing an impromptu photo shoot - I'd never seen all four of them together in one spot before.

DCA Citizens of Buena Vista Street

We found cast members at the cupcake location near the site of the former Maliboomer attraction trying desperately to give birthday cupcakes away. Who'd have thought that Disney would be unable to give away FREE cupcakes? :-)

Disneyland cupcakes

DCA was really not busy at all. We decided to check out the single rider line at Radiator Springs Racers, and we almost walked right into a car. The standby line was only 45 minutes.

Jason went back to Disneyland and I had something to eat, then hit the road for home.

Thank you, Disneyland, for throwing such a nice birthday party to let us celebrate 60 wonderful years!





July 17, 2015

Review: "Ant-Man"

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"I know a guy."
--Everybody

"Ant-Man," the final entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's "Phase Two," is a lighter, smaller film (in more ways than one) than its world-shattering brethren, and serves as a refreshing change of pace as we head into what appears to be a grimmer time for all our heroes.

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Our story begins when Scott Lang, a Quixotic modern-day Robin Hood, is released from jail from stealing one too many times from the rich and giving to the poor. Turning over a new leaf, his only concern is to be a part of his daughter's life from which his incarceration has long absented him.

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Unfortunately, his ex-wife and her policeman fiancé somewhat rightfully expect him to present himself as a financially responsible father figure before they will let him see Cassie, and in a world where not even Baskin-Robbins will give an ex-con a job, it looks like she might be ready to leave for college before he can fulfill his obligations. Desperation sets in and leaves him vulnerable when his good-tempered ex-cellmate Luis brings him a plan for a heist that could net him the money he needs.

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It turns out, however, that fortune comes in different manifestations, and what he takes from the Pym vault may bring him something more valuable than money--a second chance to prove himself a hero, both to his daughter and to himself.

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Like all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, the big splashy action scenes are expertly done and look wonderfully convincing as Scott navigates a miniature world of ants and water droplets and toys. Probably the most impressive effect however, is in the beginning flashback, where we see Michael Douglas some thirty years in the past as SHIELD scientist Hank Pym refuses to share his Pym Particles with a suspiciously militaristic world. Now, it's not like I don't know that Michael Douglas is some years past his "Romancing the Stone" years, but minutes went by before I remembered that, because the job they did digitally making him younger was amazing. Not a hint of the "Tron Legacy" plastic-y look, this looked like the real deal.

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As Pym, tortured by guilt over both the implications of his scientific discovery and his inability to keep his family together, Douglas does the masterful job that you'd expect from a star of his caliber. Strong enough to sell his past turn at super-heroics, he's professional enough to keep the more teary interactions with his daughter, Hope van Dyne, from becoming maudlin.

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If there is one aspect that rings a little tired, it's the variation on the "Chosen One" trope present in Hope van Dyne. As one more super-competent female character who is relegated to hating/helping/liking the goofier male character fulfill his destiny, she takes her place in a wide pantheon of girls from "Matrix's" Trinity to "Lego Movie's" Wyldstyle. It is true, though, that the movie is called "Ant-MAN," and at least here, we're given a rationale for her status and the hope that she will evolve past it in future movies.

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Ultimately, "Ant-Man" is a self-contained heist movie, as much as "Ocean's Eleven," with just enough references and cameos to connect it to the rest of the MCU. This does it the favor of not burdening it with the sometimes-ponderous backstory of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet that peppers the main timeline movies and keeps its storytelling light and nimble.

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While the film has more than its share of laughs, it also tries to maintain an emotional core of how people are shaped by the belief others have in them--whether it's Scott, trying to "become the hero (Cassie) thinks (he) is," or the villainous Darren Cross, trying to overcome his hurt at Pym's rejection, or even the comical Luis stepping up to infiltrate Pym Technologies.

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"Ant-Man," much like last year's "Guardians of the Galaxy," is both fun and funny. With it, Marvel Studios adds the heist film to its superhero subgenres next to "Winter Soldier's" spy thriller and "Guardians'" SF movie and gives us a breathing moment of levity before hurdling into next year's divisive and dramatic "Civil War" storyline.

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"Ant-Man" is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly,
Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I. ” Harris, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Directed by Peyton Reed and produced by Kevin Feige. The Executive Producers are Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Stan Lee, and Edgar Wright. Screenplay by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish and Adam McKay & Paul Rudd, based on a story by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish.

The film enters general release on July 17, 2015, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

**Looks like we're coming up on the end of the line.

July 11, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - The Food, Part 2

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Palo Brunch Desserts


Wednesday night was the Captain's Gala ship-wide menu. We were in Lumiere's again. We ordered a lot of different things - I think this is the most photos I have for one meal!

I started with the regional White Onion Soup with caraway and smoked salmon. As I recall the smoked salmon was not overwhelming and I enjoyed the caraway flavor.

White Onion Soup

Lee had the regional Smoked Salmon Timbal - salmon on the outside and cream cheese, smoked trout, and dill inside. Rich, but good. I had this as my second course.

Smoked Salmon Timbal

Terrie had the regional Baked Oysters on the Half Shell with spinach, onions, and bacon topped with buttered bread crumbs.

Oysters on the half shell

Paul tried the Marinated Tiger Shrimp with celery hearts and remoulade.

Marinated Tiger Shrimp

Terrie ordered the Beefsteak Tomato and Vidila [sic] Onion Salad.

Beefsteak Tomato Salad

There were two entrees Lee and I were interested in, so I ordered one and he ordered the other and we shared. I had the (not regional!) Roasted Red Snapper on a bed of fennel, olives, sweet peppers, and Yukon Gold potato ragout with saffron broth. The fish was good, but the broth was outstanding. So flavorful!

Roasted Red Snapper

Lee ordered he regional Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with creamy cheese polenta, sauteed wild mushrooms and merlot reduction. This was also excellent.

Pork Tenderloin

Terrie ordered the specialty of this particular menu: Oven-Baked Lobster Tail with sun-dried tomato, lemon pesto mash and roasted asparagus. It's very nice to have the servers remove the lobster meat from the tail! They do it so neatly.

Baked Lobster Tail

Paul tried the Seafood Salad with pan-seared scallops, baby shrimp, lobster medallions, leeks, fennel, dill, and romaine lettuce.

Seafood Salad

For dessert Terrie and Lee had the signature Warm Chocolate Lava Cake served warm with double chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Chocolate smiles all around.

Chocolate Lava Cake

I actually passed by the chocolate (yes, really) in favor of the regional dessert: Russian Honey Cake - layered with butterscotch cream and vanilla bean sauce. This was a lighter dessert, and I liked it - especially the honey cake part. It was moist and the honey gave it an interesting flavor.

Russian Honey Cake

Paul ordered two desserts: Banana Creme Brulee with caramel banana and Banana Foster Sundae with rum-glazed bananas, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce. He fully enjoyed both of them.

Banana Crene Brulee


Banana Foster Sundae

Thursday night we were in Animator's Palate - this time for the Animation Magic show dinner. It was also the night of the ship-wide "Freezing the Night Away" menu, but unfortunately because of the show dinner, we weren't offered the entire menu. :-( We had done the Animation Magic dinner before on the Disney Fantasy, but this was the first time we'd done it on the Disney Magic. It's the same - our servers handed us a big animation sheet and told us to draw in the boxes. Darma told us no words - that's the first time I've heard that, but obviously someone abused it at some point. :-( We'd worn our new Norway sweaters, and we were both inspired to put similar designs on our drawings.

Freezing the Night Away

Liliana made us a lovely origami centerpiece for our table - there was a flower for each of us.

Origami flowers

For this dinner, there is a set appetizer sampler and soup, and limited desserts. You get your choice of entree, and at least for entrees we had all of the options that the other two restaurants were getting. It was pretty much ALL regionally inspired on his night - except in Animator's Palate. :-(

Though the appetizer plate was not on the ship-wide menu, I still think it was "regionally inspired". It included Smoked Duck Breast with pickled red onions and Craisins, Dill-Marinated Shrimp with tomato mayonnaise and horseradish cream, Smoked Salmon Tartar with Sour Cream and Cream Cheese. The latter two quite definitely seem "regional". It was all pretty good.

Animator's Palate appetizer sampler

The soup was the one from the regular Animator's Palate menu: Macaroni and Cheese and Baked Potato Soup. It was just ok. I'm not sure macaroni and cheese and baked potato really go together. It had a lot going on.

Macaroni and Baked Potato Soup

As I mentioned, for the entrees we got to choose. And there were lots of interesting choices. I could've had this menu several times! Lee and I both ordered Anna's Honey-Mustard Marinated Salmon with sour cream, spinach, and Aquavit sour cream sauce. The salmon was very good, but I didn't taste mustard in it at all - and I like mustard. And I didn't eat the spinach. Cooked spinach is pretty icky.

Anna's Honey Mustard Salmon

But I got my vegetables another way because Lee and I ordered a second entree to share: Pabbi's Stuffed Cabbage Roulades. Savoy cabbage leaves stuffed with brown rice, asparagus, leeks, carrots, and lingonberry served with a dill cream sauce. We thought the cabbage was a little tough but we really enjoyed the filling. They needed more sauce, though. And I didn't detect any lingonberry in it.

Pabbi's Stuffed Cabbage Roulades

Other entrees were: Hans's Juniper Wild Boar Filet, Veal "King Agda", Kristoff's Rosemary-marinated Striploin, Bulda's Vegetable Lattice, and Alesund Smoked Trout Salad.

There were three desserts available, one of which was the Sweet Temptations sampler that at least offered some opportunity to taste some of the desserts available on the larger menu. Terrie, Lee and I had that. It included Olaf's White Chocolate Floro Dome, Almond Berry Crumble Cake, and Norwegian Pancake. The Crumble Cake was also available as a full-size dessert. It was a nice sampler. The "Floro Dome" was surprisingly good - it had almost a gingerbread-like center to it. The pancake was like a crepe with a lingonberry cream in it that I enjoyed.

Frozen dinner Sweet Temptations

Paul ordered the other dessert, Frozen Yogurt Romanoff Sundae with fresh strawberries marinated in Cointreau, vanilla frozen yogurt, and chopped pistachios.

Romanoff Sundae

After we received our desserts the show, featuring our drawings, started. Watching them come to life is really fun, and one of those "how do they DO that?" things. Lee and I are on the right in the photo below.

Animation Magic

And my animated self got to go log-rolling with Louis in the bayou - though I think we all know who won. :-)

Animation Magic

We learned the first time we did this that when put your name on your drawing you want to do something to make it stand out in the credits, so we advised Paul and Terrie of that, too.

Animation Magic credits

It was a really fun dinner, though I'm disappointed hat we missed a number of items from the "Frozen" menu - I had been looking forward to that.

Some of the items we missed:
Elsa's Coronation Scallops
Arendelle Gravlax
Duke of Weselton's Favorites
(I'm very curious about what those were)
Oaken's Red and Yellow Beetroot Salad
Sven's Carrot Soup

Friday was a day at sea. We slept in, and started our day with brunch at Palo. I think this is my favorite meal on a Disney cruise ship. We had a reservation at 10:00, when the restaurant opened, and we were the third party seated.

Palo

We were able to get to the food tables before too many guests had been there to mess them up. :-)

Palo Brunch

Everything is so colorful and beautifully presented.

Palo Brunch

I tried for an artistic look for my first plate. Anything with a sticky bun on it is going to look good, to me, though. :-)

Palo Brunch

Lee's plate:

Palo Brunch

I went with something different for my hot entree this time: Eggs Julia. Which is Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon. It was delicious, and I totally cleaned my plate.

Palo Brunch Eggs Julia

Lee ordered the Frittata. Unfortunately he didn't realize he should request "no tomato". But he ate most of it anyway.

Palo Brunch Frittata

I enjoyed trying a number of different desserts. The fruit with the champagne gelatin was good - though I can't say the gelatin really tasted like champagne to me. Mostly it was just lightly sweet. The nutella mousse filled puff was pretty good.

Palo Brunch dessert

In place of dessert Lee ordered a second hot entree: Palo Buttermilk Pancakes.

Palo Brunch pancakes

We were back in Carioca's (for the third time) for the final dinner: 'Til We Meet Again. I think this was the only dinner when I didn't order any of the Regional dishes. Terrie and Paul were in Palo for dinner, so Lee and I were alone at our table. As an appetizer Lee and I both ordered something we have enjoyed in the past: Grilled Potato and Goat Cheese Napoleon. It was a much larger serving than we have had before. And really stuffed with goat cheese. I love goat cheese, but there was too much on this, and neither of us finished it. Just too rich.

Potato and Goat Cheese Napoleon

As a second course I ordered Cranberry Salad, with field greens, sunflower seeds and Craisins. It is normally served with blue cheese, but they left that off at my request.

Cranberry Salad

Lee had the Lobster Bisque.

Lobster Bisque

My entree was Trenette Pasta with buttered shrimp, tomato, and basil. And plenty of fresh grated parmesan. The pasta was very good, the shrimp was ok. There could've been more sauce, too.

Trenette Pasta

Lee tried the Tandoori Lamb Duo, with jasmine rice, mint chutney, and raita.

Tandoori Lamb Duo

I ordered Sweet Temptations for dessert. This included Celebration Cake, Chocolate Decadence and Cappuccino Mousse. The Chocolate Decadence was a regional inspiration, with a hazelnut biscuit crust, though I don't think I tasted hazelnut. The Cappuccino Mousse is the meringue finger thing. This is another of those desserts where the description bears little resemblance to the actual dessert. I've mentioned this before, but there's a definite disconnect between the people who write the menus and the people who actually prepare the food. It seems especially pronounced in the desserts.

Sweet Tempations

Lee always orders Baked Alaska. He must enjoy it.

Baked Alaska

On the Magic and the Wonder they still do the parade of servers waving flags on the final night. I've always thought this was a nice ending to the final dinner.

Til we Meet Again server procession

Saturday morning breakfast - our last meal on board. Sigh. It's always a bit quiet. Partly because a lot of us are still half asleep, but also because we are sad to be leaving the ship. It's a pretty limited menu, since they need to get us out of there quickly. I had Eggs for the Road with scrambled eggs, bacon, and a side of whole wheat toast. Having seen the eggs all week in Cabanas, I requested the eggs be scrambled dry. :-)

Eggs for the Road

Lee ordered the Chef's Farewell, an open faced omelet with bbq chicken, green peppers, onions, and Swiss cheese. He almost always orders this.

Chef's Farewell

It's kind of a shame that our dining experience ends with a whimper like that. There's only so much that can be done on the final morning, though.

For the most part our dining experience this time was very good. I really enjoyed the addition of the items that were "Regional Inspirations" to all of the dinner menus. My only real disappointment is that we did not get the opportunity to experience the full "Freezing the Night Away" menu because we had the show dinner in Animator's Palate that night. That's a real drawback to the show dinner setup there.

And with that, I'm finally done telling you about our Norway cruise. Thank you for reading! Until next cruise...





July 10, 2015

Norway Cruise 2015 - The Food, Part 1

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Disney Magic Palo Brunch

It's not a set of cruise blogs without some information on all of the dining, too!

We've been on enough Disney cruises that we are familiar with a lot of the menu items - they don't change that frequently. One thing we really enjoyed about this cruise was that there were some new offerings: each menu featured some "Regional Inspirations". Generally there were two of these in both the Appetizers and Soup/Salad categories, three in the Entrees, and one Dessert. Now, some of them were variations of what was on the regular menu, but quite a few of them were new. It was great to have all of these new options on every dinner menu! I tried a lot of them, and for the most part I enjoyed them. I don't know if this is something Disney Cruise Line is just doing on the Magic this summer, where there are new itineraries and so many guests are repeat cruisers, but I really liked having some more interesting and different options.

After boarding the Disney Magic in Copenhagen we went to Carioca's for lunch. It's a buffet, and seemed to have the usual selections. I didn't notice any regional choices, but I also wasn't looking for any. It seemed like the usual selection of salads, shrimp and crab, and hot entrees. They had potato leek soup, which is always one of my favorites.

Carioca's plate

We were back in Carioca's for dinner that night. I know I've mentioned this before, but we always seem to get the same dining rotation, where we start in Carioca's (or the equivalent).

Our assistant server was Liliana (Lily) from Portugal and our server was Darma from Indonesia. Lily was a little bit feisty and we really enjoyed that. As the server, Darma always made menu recommendations - which we almost always ignored. :-) It got to be a joke after a while. They both did a very nice job for our table.

Darma and Lily

We were at a table for eight, but there was only one other couple at our table. Terrie and Paul were excellent dinner companions and we enjoyed spending time with them. We always had a lot to talk about.

This dinner was our first experience of seeing the "Regional Inspirations" on the menu. Lee and I both tried the Bergen Fish Soup with cod dumplings. It said "dumplings", but there was only one. It was a creamy soup, and I thought it had a very nice flavor - not fishy at all. Maybe a bit too salty. The fish dumpling had a mild fish flavor. We both enjoyed it.

Bergen Fish Soup

My next regional choice was New Potato Salad with chevil and green beans. This was really a green salad with some sliced new potatoes in it, along with the green beans. Very fresh and tasty.

New Potato Salad

Lee's regional choice was Deep Fried Lobster Croquettes with lentils and creamed horseradish. He thought it was good.

Lobster Croquettes

For our entree we selected the same regional: Pan Seared Halibut on minted smashed peas with shredded potato cake and a chive cream sauce. The fish was very nicely cooked. I was happy that the peas were only slightly minty - hardly even noticeable. That's a good thing.

Pan Seared Halibut

We actually didn't go regional for dessert. :-) That choice was an Orange Almond Torte. I had one of the no sugar added desserts: Silky Dark Mousse de Chocolate with whipped cream and berries. It was ok. I scraped the chocolate off the top - it was that weird gelatinized chocolate that I don't like.

Dark Chocolate Mousse cake

Lee ordered Coconut Tres Leches- coconut cake with three milks, layered with coconut cream. This was excellent - we both thought it was one of the best desserts we had all week.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Most mornings we went to Cabanas on deck 9 and had some combination of oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, bacon, pastries, and omelets. The scrambled eggs were always scary - they were too runny for our taste, though Lee tried them once. The pre-made omelets were a little rubbery, but we never took the time to get them made to order.

Cabanas Breakfast

Cabanas Breakfast

On our first sea day we went to Lumiere's for lunch. The last couple times I'd had lunch at Lumiere's/Triton's I'd been disappointed, but this was pretty good. No regional selections on this one, though. I started with the Ginger-infused Carrot Soup. A little ginger goes a long way with me, but this was very good. It was a cool day and I appreciated something warm. I mentioned Julia in my previous blogs - this was the meal where she was our assistant server, and so diligent in refiling my teacup with hot water. It's rare for me to get even one refill, so it was most appreciated.

Carrot Ginger Soup

As an aside...one thing we've noticed when we have a table service meal for breakfast or lunch (so not with our usual dining team), is that we rarely get the same kind of prompt and dedicated service. So when we do, it's especially noteworthy.

Lee ordered a Vegetable Quesadilla with guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo. It was a really good quesadilla.

Vegetable quesadilla

He also had an Apple Walnut Salad .

Apple Walnut Salad

My entree was Lemon Chicken Salad - a pan seared chicken breast served over greens and papaya. This was very tasty! I liked the chicken, but the papaya was the best part - it was ripe and really good, though it was odd that the skin was still on it.

Lemon Chicken Salad

Lee tried the Glazed Meatloaf with smashed potatoes, buttered carrots and long beans. He says it was very good meatloaf.

Glazed Meatloaf

For dessert we tried the Hot Chocolate Fudge Pudding. We were pretty sure this was going to be more like a lava cake than pudding, and we were correct. It was still good, though - one of the better desserts of the week.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Pudding

We were back in Lumiere's for dinner that night - it was Formal Night, though we just had the regular Lumiere's menu - plus the Regional Inspirations. Terrie and Paul offered to let me take photos of their food, too. It's good to have indulgent table mates. :-)

Disney Magic Lumiere's

As a Regional appetizer I ordered the Smoked Salmon Potato Lefse with sour cream, asparagus, and dill. This was excellent, and a much larger serving than I expected. With the salmon and the sour cream it was a bit rich, and just one of those rolls would have been an acceptable serving size. Which didn't stop us from eating all of them - I had two and Lee had one. :-)

Smoke Salmon Lefse

Lee's first course was the same thing I ordered as my second, Ham and White Cheddar Croquettes with apple-cherry chutney. This was good, but I think my favorite part was the chutney. It was made with tart cherries and had a nice bite to it.

Ham and Cheddar Croquettes

Paul ordered the Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp with horseradish cream, asparagus and dill dressing. I think this was the one where Terrie had a bite that was mostly spicy horseradish. Whew.

Lobster and Shrimp

Lee and Terrie ordered French Onion Soup. This is always a winner at Lumiere's. This may be the first time I haven't ordered it, but I was focusing on trying the regional dishes.

French Onion Soup

Paul ordered Gaston's Escargot Gratinee, which he kindly offered to share with all of us - we passed. :-) He had no problem finishing it without our help. :-)

Escargot

Instead of an entree I ordered the regional soup, Yellow Pea with Crisp Bacon and a side of steamed broccoli. The soup was very good, though I can't tell you that yellow peas taste much different than green peas. :-)

Yellow Pea Soup

Lee ordered a regional entree: Roasted Rack of Lamb with creamed potatoes and buttered brussel sprouts in a rosemary red wine sauce. This didn't really seem that different from the lamb that is usually offered on Lumiere's menu. The lamb was cooked nicely.

Rack of Lamb

Terrie ordered a different regional, Mini Potato Dumplings in a thyme rosemary cream sauce. She didn't really care for it. I've had something similar before, and also was not impressed - it was pretty heavy.

Mini Potato Dumplings

Paul tried the Ahi Tuna Nicoise. This was definitely one of the prettier dishes, and he really enjoyed it.

Ahi tuna Nicoise

I passed on dessert that night - nothing appealed to me. Yes, Lumiere's offers a chocolate souffle, but they ruin it by adding Grand Marnier to it. Chocolate and orange...yuck. (Terrie and I bonded over our mutual love of chocolate and dislike of chocolate and fruit together.)

Lee tried the regional dessert - Summer Berry Pudding. Berries layered with white bread with double cream on top. He liked it.

Summer Berry Pudding

Terrie, on Darma's recommendation, ordered the Peanut Butter Mousse. This was not at all what I expected from the description: Dark chocolate infused peanut butter, chocolate crisp base, and whipped cream. She was very happy with this.

Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

(Speaking of chocolate crisp base - on NO menu did I ever see a "chocolate wafer" mentioned. They learned their lesson on that one. :-) )

Paul is a creme brulee fan, and ordered the Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee. He gave it two thumbs up.

Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee

When we returned to the ship after our day in Stavanger we went to deck 9 to get some pizza. Even at the pizza place they had some regional flavor - I got the last piece of smoked salmon, onion, capers, and dill pizza. It was very good!

Smoked Salmon Pizza

That evening we were in Animator's Palate for the animation show dinner. This is more of a modernization of the original Animator's Palate show dinner, where the restaurant transforms from black and white to color over the course of the evening, rather than the Turtle Talk show that's on the Dream and Fantasy. But now the pictures are animated, rather than just changing color.

Animators Palate

Animators Palate

My first appetizer was a regional: Jarlsberg Cheese and Carrot Souffle. This was outstanding - I think it was my favorite appetizer of the week. Before this trip I didn't know that Jarlsberg cheese came from Norway - I thought it was a variety of Swiss cheese like Gruyere or Emmentaler. (Our guide on the Troll Road excursion later told us that it was made not far from where we were - and that we can buy it much more cheaply in the U.S. than they can in Norway!)

Jarlsberg and Carrot Souffle

Paul also went regional with the Smoked Salmon Tartare, with dill, capers, onions, and horseradish cream. (There were a lot of dishes with horseradish cream! Must be a common condiment in Norway. Lots of dill and smoked salmon, also.)

Smoked Salmon Tartare

Lee and Terrie went with Darma's recommendation - Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes.. Lee has had this before and still enjoyed it this time.

Black Truffle Pasta

For my second course I stayed with the regional choice of Split Green Pea Soup with buttered croutons. This was just ok - not as good as the yellow pea was the night before. So I guess there is a difference between green and yellow peas!

Split Pea soup

Lee went with the tried and true Butternut Squash Soup. It was nice and thick and creamy.

Butternut Squash soup

Terrie ordered the regional salad: Spinach Leaves with red beets, orange segments, and marinated white beans. None of which are very evident in this photo.

Spinach Salad

The three regional choices on the entree menu were mostly variations on regular menu items. I tried the Lemon-Thyme Marinated Chicken Breast, served with sour cream mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables and grain mustard jus. The chicken was tender and cooked well, and I enjoyed the mashed potatoes.

Lemon Thyme Chicken

Terrie had another of the regionals: Pork Cordon Blue - breaded pork loin stuffed with ham and gruyere cheese served with snow peas and roasted potatoes. She did not really care for it - it was a pretty heavy dish.

Pork Cordon Blue

Lee and Paul had one of Darma's recommendations: Ginger-Teriyaki Dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin with wasabi mashed potatoes, bok choy, and tamarind-barbecue reduction. Other than the bok choy, Lee thought it was excellent.

Beef Tenderloin

Just before dessert we had the show part with Sorcerer Mickey and the parade of servers, now wearing their colorful vests.

Sorcerer Mickey

For dessert I ordered the regional Helsinki Blueberry Crumble Tart with vanilla frozen yogurt and a blueberry whipped cream. I really enjoyed it. Paul had the same thing, though he requested vanilla ice cream instead of frozen yogurt.

Blueberry Crumble Tart

Terrie and Lee had the traditional Crunchy Walnut Cake with dark chocolate mousse and raspberry coulis. This one needs a better description - it's really a dark chocolate mousse, and there's nothing cakey about it. I've always enjoyed it, but since I went with the regional this time I recommended it to Terrie, and she liked it.

Crunchy Walnut Cake

Darma decided that we needed additional dessert, and brought each couple a lemon souffle to share. It was good, but we were all really stuffed after that.

Lemon Souffle

Tuesday night was the ship-wide Prince and Princess menu. We were back in Carioca's. My first regional of the evening was Cream of Potato Soup with leeks, carrots, celery, bacon, and knockwurst. It was delicious, and I could've eaten a lot more of it as a main course with some bread.

Cream of Potato soup

Terrie had the regional Gravlaks. Or "rotten fish", as our guide on the Trollstigen called it. :-) Terrie said it was basically just smoked salmon.

Gravlaks

Lee and Paul had Princess Tiana's Sauteed Shrimp on jambalaya rice. Lee says it was yummy.

Sauteed Shrimp

My second regional course was Egg and Bacon Salad with baby lettuce, spring onions, radishes, and Akavit dressing. This was really very nicely presented, and very tasty.

Egg and Bacon Salad

Lee and Terrie had Snow White's Wild Forest Mushroom Soup. They said it was very good. It's never a flattering photograph, though. :-)

Wild Mushroom soup

As an entree, most of us had the regional Baked Fillet of Turbot with creamed potatoes, sauteed fennel, and a dill cream sauce. I thought it was very good.

Fillet of Turbot

Terrie tried the Roasted Portobello Mushroom Triangoli Pasta topped with sour cream, pesto swirl, and sweet butternut squash sauce.

Mushroom Pasta

I didn't go regional for dessert, as Prince Charming Flourless Chocolate Cake was on the menu. Layered with vanilla and chocolate cream, with hazelnut chocolate sauce. In the past I think this was a chilled souffle (which was very good). This was good but not great.

Flourless chocolate cake

Lee had the regional dessert: Traditional Bread and Butter Pudding - lightly toasted bread and raisin pudding with rich custard sauce. Lee says it was REALLY good. As in "one of the best bread puddings he had every had" good.

Bread and Butter Pudding

Paul is an ice cream guy, and he enjoyed Princess Aurora Sundae - rocky road ice cream topped with cookie crumbs (not wafers), chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

Princess Aurora Sundae

Even more food coming in Part 2!






July 9, 2015

Tanabata Festival at Tokyo Disneyland Resort

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So I recently returned from a quick trip to Tokyo Disneyland Resort, where they just finished "Disney Tanabata Days."

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One of the shortest of the holiday seasons there, the celebration lasts about two weeks, and serves as the bridge between Easter and Summer events. There are no big shows as there usually are for the bigger holidays--just a small greeting at DisneySea, and a character cavalcade at Disneyland.

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The story behind Tantabata is, as most good Japanese folk stories are, pretty tragical. Although there are many versions, the popular one starts with the Princess Orihime doing a fairly good job weaving cloth for her father Tentei, the Sky King. She becomes sad, however, because with all the weaving, she has no time to meet anyone. The King, in an effort to make his daughter happy, fixes her up with Hikoboshi, a cow herder (?) The two instantly fall in love and marry...except now they spend all their time with each other, and not weaving and cow herding. Eventually this angers Tentei, and he separates the two on either side of the Amanogawa (Heaven's River) so that the two would never meet again.

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Eventually Orihime cries to the point where Tentei relents and says that if she finishes her weaving, she and Hikoboshi might meet each other one day a year--the seventh day of the seventh month. Unfortunately, he doesn't provide a bridge for them, so the first time they try to meet, they are unsuccessful. Orihime then cries again, and eventually magpies come and promise to come and make a bridge over the river so the two can finally be together.

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If it rains, however, the magpies can't manage it, and so it's said that rain on July 7th means that the couple must wait another year to try again.

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Tanabata is also known as the Star Festival, because Orihime and Hikoboshi are also the stars Vega and Altair, and the Amanogawa is the Milky Way.

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The cavalcade and the greeting are both accompanied by the traditional Tanabata song, mixed in with "Wishes," which is less traditional.

The translation of the song:

"The bamboo leaves rustle,
shaking away in the eaves.
The stars twinkle
on the gold and silver grains of sand.
The five-colour paper strips
I have already written.
The stars twinkle,
they watch us from heaven."

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The paper strips mentioned in the song are also known as "tanzaku." People write down their wishes on them and then tie them to bamboo along with other decorations. At the Tokyo Disney Resort, there are Wishing Places in both parks and all the monorail stations--each with their own tanzaku.

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Some people draw elaborately on their tanzaku. Hopefully their wishes all come true.

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Special menus for the season were available in both parks, and in ToonTown "gachapon" machines (capsule, or when I was younger, bubblegum machines) dispensed seasonal items to long lines of guests.

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A separately ticketed Tanabata show was also performed in DisneySea. These tickets were not purchasable online from overseas, or at the parks--only with a domestic credit card or at the "Loppi" machines that are omnipresent at the Lawson convenience stores. You can actually purchase tickets to any number of activities from these machines, including the popular Ghibli Museum, but the machines are not in English and the menus are sufficiently complex as to make it almost impossible for someone to know how to navigate them without a reasonable grasp on Japanese writing. Fortunately, the store workers are generally happy to assist you in getting what you need, provided you're able to communicate that to them.

The show ticket also included a day's admission to the park, so some planning was required to make sure you didn't pick a day already covered by a multi-day ticket, as those tickets can only be used consecutively. As an added bonus, ticket holders received a bag with a program, stickers, and special tanzaku.

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The show itself was fairly straightforward, with musical numbers starring the usual characters and a presentation of wishes towards the end. Little of it was in English, but it was largely understandable and the musical numbers, including "Wishes," were very familiar.

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On the whole, although it's probably not a large enough affair to merit a special trip across the Pacific solely to see it, Tanabata is an excessively pretty celebration that also offers some Japanese cultural insight to the park guest.

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[For more information on Tokyo Disney Resort, you can check back on a variety of excellent blogs AllEars has done over the years...and when you get tired of the good ones, there are mine, as well:
http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2008/04/a_trip_to_tokyo_disneyland_par_1.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2008/04/a_trip_to_tokyo_disneyland_par.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2008/04/a_trip_to_tokyo_disneyland_par_3.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2008/04/a_trip_to_tokyo_disneyland_par_2.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2008/04/tokyo_part_5_1.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2008/05/a_trip_to_tokyo_disneyland_fin_1.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2011/11/holidays_at_the_tokyo_disney_r_1.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2011/12/holidays_at_the_tokyo_disney_r_2.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2011/12/holidays_at_the_tokyo_disney_r_4.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2011/12/holidays_at_the_tokyo_disney_r.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2012/01/holidays_at_the_tokyo_disney_r_5.html ]

July 8, 2015

Disneyland Trip Report - July 3, 2015

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Lee and I visited Disneyland on Friday, July 3. We hadn't been able to get to the parks since the end of May. Our main goal for the day was to see the All-American College Band. We were hoping that some of the 4th of July festivities might also take place on July 3 (that's happened in the past), but not this year.

We arrived at the Toy Story parking lot about 9:45. I've given up trying to get into the Mickey and Friends parking lot when coming from the south - if I get re-routed, it adds an extra 20-30 minutes to the whole parking experience. In addition to the parking ticket, the attendant also handed us this pamphlet. In nine different languages it says that Selfie Sticks are not allowed in the parks, because they "have become a growing safety concern for both our Guests and Cast." There were also signs at the tram stops and outside the bag check tents. I don't know if it was because of the selfie sticks or for some other reason, but the bag checkers were doing a more thorough job, so that process took a little longer.

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We went into Disney California Adventure first, though at that point (10:00) neither park had much of a line at the turnstiles. We met up with Jason and his family and went to Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe - aka Starbucks. In case you didn't realize it, they serve one version of the special Diamond Anniversary Cupcakes here. :-)

Disneyland Anniversary Cupcake

This one is the orange cupcake with berry filling. In the name of research I tried it, even though I think orange as a cupcake flavor is just wrong. The sacrifices I make! :-) For a flavored cupcake it was pretty good, though I prefer the lemon version that is available at Disneyland (and I still can't believe they didn't make a CHOCOLATE cupcake!).

Diamond Anniversary cupcake

In addition to the berry filling (which there wasn't much of) there were little bits of fruit in the cake, which I think were currants. The cream cheese icing was very tasty but there was a LOT of it - Lee used some on his scone and there was still a lot left. The "pearls" were interesting - we never really figured out what they were. Some kind of candy-coated crispy thing. And the blue icing is very blue, and it will dye your tongue and your fingers, and anything else it comes into contact with.

Diamond Anniversary cupcake

Also offered here was a 4th of July cookie. I didn't think there was much of a 4th of July presence in the parks this year - usually there are banners on Main Street and Buena Vista Street, but this year it's all of the Diamond Anniversary stuff instead.

Disneyland 4th of July cookie

In addition to the band, the other group we wanted to see was the United States Air Force Honor Guard. For July 2-6, there were several different military groups that were performing in the parks, and on Friday it was the Air Force group. We saw their first set in Disney California Adventure (Jason also saw them later in Disneyland).

U.S.  Air Force Honor Guard

They did some really well-choreographed and synchronized routines. Jason has more in his blog, but here is a short video he put together of some clips. They told us that those rifles they are flipping around to effortlessly weigh 13 pounds!

While it wasn't a hot day, it would have been very warm standing in the sun in those dark uniforms. I'd find it very challenging to never change expression or scratch an itch or wipe my face, but they did it.

U.S.  Air Force Honor Guard

A sneak peek of the upcoming Ant-Man movie is showing (appropriately) in the "It's Tough to be a Bug" theater. Where it takes advantage of all of the special effects used for the regular show. :-)

Ant-Man sneak peak

The Ant-Man suit was on display outside. I can't say that seeing the preview really gave me much desire to see the movie. But there were quite a few people in the theater. And there were Disney survey takers outside afterward asking about the experience.

Ant-Man suit

For lunch we went to Flo's in Cars Land. It had been quite a while since we had eaten lunch/dinner there - much of the menu has changed since the last time we ate there. I had the Spit-Fired Rotisserie 1/4 Chicken served with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. The chicken was ok - the roasted vegetables were actually very good.

Flo's Rotisserie Chicken

Lee tried the BBQ Pork Ribs with Coca-cola barbecue sauce, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. Lee enjoyed them, and said the sauce was very good. I thought the ribs were a little dry.

Flo's BBQ Ribs

Flo's offers their Pie-o-Rama for dessert. Mud pie and apple cheddar are always available, but there is a seasonal, which was coconut cream. That's Lee's favorite pie, so we tried it. But it was disappointing - the filling didn't taste much like coconut at all. Most of the coconut flavor came from what was sprinkled on top.

Flo's Coconut Cream pie

We didn't really have any plans until 3:00, so I suggested the Wilderness Explorer Ceremony at Redwood Creek. It was very exciting - we learned the Wilderness Explorer Oath, the Wilderness Explorer Call. Ok, so apparently I was the only person in our group who was excited. :-)

Wilderness Explorer ceremony

There was our senior scout, and Russell, and we even saw Kevin! I don't remember Kevin's appearance from the last time I saw it (which admittedly was a number of years ago).

Wilderness Explorer ceremony

We made a short detour into the Grand Californian Hotel to see the Sleeping Beauty Castle Cake in the lobby. It's very pretty. Lots of marshmallows, white chocolate, rice cereal, and fondant.

Sleeping Beauty Castle Cake

The 2015 All-American College Band's first performance of the day was their jazz set at the Hollywood Backlot stage. This is their 45th season - 45 years of bringing together some of the best college musicians to perform at Disneyland during the summer. These kids are so talented. This set even included vocals - one of the guys sang "Zero to Hero" from Hercules.

College Band Jazz set

Time for a snack - so we went to Ghirardelli. I had my new favorite Nob Hill Chill. The hot fudge sundae you can drink. :-)

Ghirardelli Nob Hill Chill

Over in Disneyland we checked out the second of Enchanted Windows on Main Street. This one switches between Cinderella's transformation and dancing at the ball. The reflections make them very difficult to photograph, especially during the day.

Cinderella Enchanted Window
Cinderella Enchanted Window

We continued to stalk...I mean follow...the College Band, as they performed during the nightly Flag Retreat. There's only 21 of them, but they put out a lot of sound!

College Band Flag Retreat

The parks were surprisingly not that busy, especially considering that it was a holiday for many people. Maybe most were waiting until July 4 to visit. The line for Splash Mountain was over an hour, but all of the other big attractions were less than an hour. Peter Pan just re-opened after a pretty lengthy refurbishment and it was very popular, with a 50-minute wait. Lee and I didn't get there but Jason did, and he has video and photos in his blog.

At 6:15 we watched the band perform their set at Sleeping Beauty Castle. Their medley of music from different Disneyland attractions is always very popular.

College Band Sleeping Beauty Castle

They marched down Main Street, stopping to perform a couple of different songs.

College Band Main Street

The band didn't have much of a break before their next set in front of the train station. This year they are performing a Stevie Wonder medley, as well as their Earth, Wind, and Fire finale. They are so talented and so much fun to watch!

College Band Train Station

I'd hope to eat dinner at the Plaza Inn, but the line was way out the door. Lee suggested Jolly Holiday Bakery. I had the Artisan BLT. I'm not exactly sure what was "artisanal" about it. :-) But it was tasty. I really like the house chips they serve here.

Jolly Holiday Artisan BLT Sandwich

Lee suggested the Bakery because he recalled the excellent Oven-roasted Turkey Sandwich he'd had before, which is what he ordered this time. It's REAL turkey breast, and that makes a huge difference.

Jolly Holiday Turkey Sandwich

I wasn't paying attention to the drink menu, and missed my opportunity to try another of the specialty tea beverages that are available during the Diamond Anniversary. Jolly Holiday offers the Frozen Pomegranate Silver Sparkler, which I really like, but there's also another one I hadn't seen before: Very Berry Diamond Tea. It's $3.59, or $7.59 with a diamond glow cube.

Jason texted us to tell us there were still spots for Paint the Night where he was standing on Main Street. We hadn't planned to stay for the parade and fireworks, but at this point the start of the parade was only 30 minutes away, so we figured we should grab the opportunity. While we were in the back of the section, it was still a really good view of the parade.

Paint the Night Tinker Bell and Peter Pan

And this is still a spectacular parade. This was only the second time we'd seen it, so I'm still seeing and especially hearing new things. I really like the music.

Paint the Night Cinderella float

The dancers' costumes are fantastic, but they are in almost constant motion so it's very hard for me to get good photos of them.

Paint the Night Coral Dancers

As soon as the parade ended we rushed into the street to get in place for the fireworks. We were next to the Crystal Arcade, so we had a fairly clear expanse of buildings on either side of us. The immersive effect of being on Main Street is something you really have to experience with this show.

Disneyland Forever Tangled Projection

The crowd really gets into it when they hear The Lion King music begin.

Disneyland Forever Lion King Projection

The search lights overhead are interesting to watch, also.

Disneyland Forever

Oh, and there are fireworks, too. :-)

Disneyland Forever Mermaid fireworks

While roaming around the parks earlier in the day we had picked up this S'mores Mickey Crispy Treat. We tried it the next day at home. It was just ok. The graham crackers had gotten soft. If they had been crisp it might have been better - but I still don't think it would have made much difference.

S'mores Mickey Crispy Treat

We had a wonderful day at the parks - the weather was great, and the crowds weren't bad at all. Though we didn't really experience the crowds that much since we weren't trying to do attractions. We can have a good time just wandering around and taking advantage of all of the entertainment options.






July 6, 2015

Photo Update from Disneyland Resort 7/3 - U.S. Air Force Honor Guard & Peter Pan's Flight Return

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, July 3, 2015.

In this posting I will take a quick look at the recently reopened Peter Pan's Flight attraction and then the rest of the post will be of the United States Air Force Honor Guard that was performing for the 4th of July holiday weekend.

For my full set of pictures and video visit my site. Laura will have a post with food and her pictures from the day, soon.

I arrived at Disneyland prior to opening due to light traffic. The hope was to experience Peter Pan, which had reopened earlier this week, with a minimal wait. I was in the hub and only a few guests back of the rope as the park opened. Here is a video featuring the opening announcement then what happened at rope drop as a large number of guests ran and walked quickly toward Fantasyland and I was in the middle of the crowd.

The scene as I inched through the Castle and into Fantasyland.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015


A posted 70 minute wait time.. this was 8:08am

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015


The queue was moving at a normal pace and looked like we on pace for a 40 minute or so wait then something happened and they cycled through and emptied all the boats, shut down briefly, then restarted the attraction which introduced a 15 minute or so delay. As we approached the load/unload area a look at the murals and ships.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

8:58am - Just about to board.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015


A video of my first ride through the updated Peter Pan's Flight attraction. It was just after 9am when I returned to Fantasyland and was ready to move onto my next attraction of the morning so just under an hour wait.

Overall I thought the upgrades were a nice refresh of the attraction. They were not as noteworthy or impressive to me as the Alice in Wonderland ones.

This weekend to celebrate the 4th of July Disneyland hosted several military groups. The first being the United States Air Force Honor Guard. This group performed three shows at Disney California Adventure then twice over at Disneyland Thursday through Sunday. Here they are arriving for the 11:30am performance on Friday..

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

A video of most of the United States Air Force Honor Guard performance.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015


Several clips from their performance taken with my SLR camera

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015


I also attended the 3:15pm performance in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. The United States Air Force Honor Guard approaching.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015


Video clips of the United States Air Force Honor Guard performing in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle

They wrapped up their day with a pre-parade march and performance before Mickey's Soundsational Parade. The group gathered with Mickey & Minnie for a picture before the march.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Time for the pre-parade

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

They stopped on Main Street for an abbreviated performance.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 3, 2015

A video clip of the United States Air Force Honor Guard marching by.

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







June 30, 2015

Another Look Disneyland Forever from Small World Mall

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, June 26, 2015 -- he takes a look at Disneyland Forever as viewed from the Small World Mall area.

I posted the full picture set from this trip on my site. I found a spot in the terraced viewing area of the Small World Mall where I could see Paint the Night then Disneyland Forever without having to move.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


After Paint the Night guests were cleared out of the area near "it's a small world." Those of us on the terrace side of the parade route were allowed to stay. Guests were pushed back/being held before the main courtyard.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


At 9:30 the projectors were turned on and an alignment test was run.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Shortly after Disneyland Forever started.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Video of the opening of Disneyland Forever


Rapunzel from Tangled

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Winnie the Pooh

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Video clip of the Winnie the Pooh segment


The Lion King - Circle of Life

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


In case you were wondering, there was a fireworks show going on overhead. My focus this evening was the projections so the lens I chose was not wide enough to get both the projections and fireworks. They do not really align, so it would have been fireworks bursting off to the left and projections to the right in the pictures.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Little Mermaid segment

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


This video features Under the Sea, Finding Nemo and Frozen segments.


The finale to Disneyland Forever


A couple clips comparing the projections from Main Street and its a Small World.


After the show this mob of guests was between me and the exit.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Eventually, I made it to the hub as a Kiss Goodnight was wrapping up. Here is a video clip of the castle as the song ended. After this continued on to the Town Square then exited the park. It took about 15 minutes from when I started walking until I reached Town Square including the stop at Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Hope you enjoyed this look at Disneyland Forever. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







June 29, 2015

Photo Update from Disneyland Resort 6/26 - Grand Californian & Downtown Disney

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip on Friday, June 26, 2015.

This picture set takes a look around the Grand Californian and Downtown Disney. The Grand California has a digital sign for the Word of the Day.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


The Grand Californian Word of the Day sign in action.


The lobby of the Grand Californian is hosting a Sleeping Beauty Castle Cake
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


The back side.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


The front of the castle cake:

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Another DVC kiosk/stand/information area. This one at the entrance/exit to the Grand Californian from Downtown Disney.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


The Downtown Disney Monorail station word of the day sign is also digital.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


A mural created to mark the opening of Inside Out is in Downtown Disney.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Another side of the Mural (there are three)

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


The last side.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


A Disney Performing Arts stage has been set up at the far end of Downtown Disney near the Disneyland Hotel.There is very limited seating and no shade at all.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


The schedule for the day.., times would be helpful.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


This is the Arizona Dance Studio group

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 26, 2015


Hope you enjoyed this quick look at the Grand Californian and Downtown Disney. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







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