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July 28, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 7/25/14


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, July 25, 2014.

A wall up at the far end of the Mickey and Friends tram stop. As we drove around it was hard to tell what is going on. Maybe some paver work.

First stop today, DCA. Notice the light pole is still missing out front.

Walked through Condor Flats. On the GRR/Planes Billboard, the lattice work on the bottom left that was broken is now fixed.

Further along the trail they were setting up scaffolding on the side of the Grand Californian that is closest to GRR.

The covered area on the right is still behind walls and tarps. This project is taking quite a while.

Ornament Valley - Cars Land. They were just filling the queue as I walked by. The Racers had been closed for an extended period, over an hour a cast member said.

Walked through Ramone's. Some of the new pin-striped merchandise is on the shelves.

The far set of turnstiles has emerged from behind the scaffolding looking as good as new.

The normally peaceful stroll up Main Street was very loud today with what I am guessing is construction noise. It drowned out the background music and most of the other audio.

No water today in the hub.

Made my way to Adventureland to see if any of the elements for the upcoming game are installed yet.

The outdoor vending cart is gone from this area. Wonder if something to do with the game will be going here?

Some work going on by the Adventureland Traders

Curious how the game will work with the already usually congested walkway.

The work on the New Orleans Square roof tops looks to be complete.

The price of land has gone up in Frontierland for the Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush game, a 50% increase over last week when I walked by.

After eating at the Village Haus walked out and saw no line for Casey Jr. So hopped on for a ride.

Sat in the Caboose facing backwards, also had my choice of a private animal car Here is a video of the trip.

Some stills from the trip.

Interesting... the third character at the Royal Hall is just listed as a "Royal Friend". Curious who is rotating through there. I did not have time to explore this pass by.

Merida was out in the courtyard greeting guests. Her meet and greet area was temporarily closed due to the parade about to start.

Back to Frontierland.

Stopped by the Golden Horseshoe to see a performance by Miss Lilly & LB.

Spotted a former member of Billy Hill and the Hill Billies out roaming around.

Made my way up the Big Thunder Trail to the Music of Nashville to catch the final set of the day.

This week there was a different band performing: Smith and Wilkes, but one of the lead vocalists from last week remained.

A wide shot of the venue for this set. I was surprised by the small crowd. I would have thought a later set would be more crowded.

Here are a couple clips from this performance of the Music of Nashville.

This week the Frozen pre-parade was listed on the times guide.

It ran before both Soundsational Parades. Her eare pictures as it made its way through Fantasyland before the 6:30pm Soundsational.

Soundsational making its way toward the hub.

Noticed many of the props that were on the display cases are gone. Hopefully this is temporary. It smelled like wood in there, so maybe they were rebuilding/working on the display cases/racks.

Walked through the Mad T Party

Ariel was not moving/dancing in the Under the Sea scene this time by.

We stopped for several minutes in front of Ursula. So here is a video clip of her performance, including an announcement that we were delayed..

The Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand Californian is being renovated. While it is closed there is a temporary lounge set up with some tables outside.

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, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

July 23, 2014

Legends of Frontierland: The Adventures of Lasso Laura and Jiminy Jason


Contributing photographer Jason of and Disneyland blogger Laura Gilbreath spent some time Friday, July 18, 2014 exploring the Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush! at Disneyland.

Laura writes:
Legends of Frontierland is a new interactive guest experience at Disneyland this summer. From the information pamphlet:

"You are invited to play an immersive game in which you can create your own persona and frontier story. Start out as a friend of Frontierland or Rainbow Ridge and work your way up to become a legend."

As it was explained to us, the citizens of Rainbow Ridge are down on their luck - the gold mines are played out and their water has dried up. They've now got their eyes on the more prosperous Frontierland, and are trying to take it over, and the folk of Frontierland are trying to prevent that.

There's no charge to play and no age restrictions. The object seems to be to perform various tasks to earn "bits" so you can buy land. The bits look like wooden poker chips - each chip is 5 bits. You can exchange 50 bits (10 chips) for a gold nugget. With 100 bits you can purchase land for either Frontierland or Rainbow Ridge.

There's a land map at the entrance to Frontierland that shows the territory and who owns what. Here is the land map as we started the adventure.

You begin at the Trading Post where a cast member attempts to explain the game, and you decide if you want to play for Frontierland or Rainbow Ridge. You are given a map, a colored name tag, and a western name. If you don't have a name in mind the CM will help you choose. We chose to play for Frontierland, and our names were Lasso Laura and Jiminy Jason. Here's the inside of the map:

Jason writes: Our first stop was the Telegraph Station to see what was going on, since one of the easiest/most obvious ways to earn bits is by delivering telegrams.

Laura writes: There were several incoming telegrams at the time, but there was sometimes a line of people waiting for telegrams so they could have something to do.

Jason writes: Our first quest.. find Runaway Roseanna and deliver this telegram.

We started looking in the stores.

Having had no luck finding Runaway Roseanna, seems she ran away.. another cast member (missed her name) offered us some jobs to do to earn bits. She took us over to the Leather Shop where there were horses that needed to be ridden so Laura took the reins.

She then set off to ride around Frontierland.

She stopped long enough for a couple pictures before taking a second lap.

There are some props you can purchase to use in the game.. mustaches, hats, and other disguises.

A new outdoor vending cart along the Rivers of America. LB Enterprises, part of the Legends of Frontierland has opened a business selling various elixirs.

Laura struck up a conversation with LB and tried to convince him to join the Frontierland side.. no luck.

Laura writes: We were told that you could potentially earn quite a few bits for converting someone.

Jason writes: Each elixir has a song too.. here is LB performing the Charm song.

Stopped by the Golden Horseshoe.

Laura writes: There's a talent agency at the Golden Horseshoe, which has a "Talent Wanted" ad on the map, so it's supposed to be a way to earn bits.

The only "Talent" thing we saw was people drawing. If that's the talent they are looking for then I'm out of luck, since I can barely draw stick figures. There were some pretty nice drawings!

Another way to earn bits is by playing cards. NOT poker, though. :-) They were in between card games, so I don't know how this works, either.

Jason writes: We returned to Frontierland after taking a detour to the Music of Nashville and finally found Runaway Roseanna. Laura showed her the telegram and convinced her to switch back to Frontierland from the Rainbow Ridge side.

Returned it to the Telegraph Office to earn 5 bits.

Laura writes: The Telegraph Office was staffed by Rainbow Ridgers, who were not at all impressed that I had converted Roseanna, so I didn't get any extra bits from them. But a fellow Frontierlander gave me an additional 5 bits.

Jason writes: As part of this event there are live performances inside the Golden Horseshoe again. This week the stage show was listed on the times guide. 11:15, 12:15, 1:15, 3:00, 4:00 and 5:00. Miss Violet was performing this show.

Laura writes: The show was pretty short, and featured just a piano player and a singer. Not much to it - so don't go thinking it's the classic Golden Horseshoe show of the past.

Laura writes: There are some special menu items at the Golden Horseshoe: "Outlaw Style" chili fries, chili bread bowl, or chicken salad, and root beer with different flavors added. None of it sounded very good to me, though.

Laura's thoughts: The game seemed popular, and there were quite a few guests playing - I saw a lot of yellow and orange name tags in that area. And there were a LOT of cast members involved exclusively in the game.

I found it very unstructured and it was not clear to me what we needed to do to play. It's not like Kim Possible or Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom where there are specific places to go and things to do. For this one you have to be willing to engage with cast members and other guests - it's not something to really do on your own.

The telegrams were the only activity that seemed pretty straightforward, but as I mentioned earlier, there were usually people waiting for a telegram to come in just so they would have something to do.

Other activities that people seemed to be doing were "capturing" outlaws who were on WANTED posters, and challenging someone to a "Rock, Paper Scissors" duel. I couldn't tell if you got some or all of their bits if you won. There was a jail - I don't know if the loser went to jail, or if there was some other reason someone got put in jail. Did I mention that this whole thing wasn't very clear?

But some people were apparently getting it because there was a lot of land purchased between when we first started playing around 1:45, and when we last went through the area around 4:30. The game ends at looked like Frontierland was going to hang on as the winners of that day's land war.

So...I thought it was an interesting idea, but the execution isn't quite what it should be. I might try again on a future visit and see if it's any different.

Hope you enjoyed this look at the Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush at the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

July 21, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 7/18/14


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, July 18, 2014.

Downtown Disney Summer Celebration continues this weekend with a Sand Volleyball tournament and exhibition. There was a youth tournament going on when I walked by.

In addition to Volleyball there is a shave ice truck by the court.

Also a DJ on hand throughout the event.

A couple of booths set up nearby selling merchandise.

I took the monorail to the parks. Thought this picture with the clouds came out well.

Passing over the sub lagoon.

The Tiki Juice Bar has a new bowl you can purchase your Dole Whip in, and the souvenir sipper is also back in stock. I caught up to Laura who was roaming the parks today while she was finishing up a Dole Whip.

The Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush and the Music of Nashville received top billing on the Times Guide this week.

Made our way out to the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree for the Music of Nashville which premiered today and will be playing Fri, Sat, and Sun for the rest of the summer.

Upon entering you were given a card with the cast of the show on it.

Laura joined the cast (well cut outs of the cast) for a photo.

The food location is moved further back and to the side now.

In addition to food it sells the Season 1 DVD set, too.

The food offerings.

Found a seat for the show. Plenty of seats still. Before the band took the stage an MC to introduce the show (both the one we were about to see and the TV show). She was giving away prizes, Season 1 DVDs.

Show time. The Kelly Rae Band takes the stage to perform music from the show as well as some other country songs. The audience was encouraged to get up and dance.

A couple clips from the performance. The Kelly Rea Band performing the Music of Nashville.

A wider shot of the Jamboree configuration for the show.

The All-American College Band performing on Main Street USA. Today a Disneyland film crew was recording their performances.

Made my way out to New Orleans Square to see it in the day time.

The new bridge/walkway over the Pirates exit.

The expanded bridge over Royal Street

The old Club 33 entrance still has its signage.

The new gates that block off the Court of Angels, there is a seam where the gates come together and you can see inside. The stairs survived but have safety enhancements (railings, lights). Also new statues at the base.

The new Club 33 entrance. It is a little more obvious now.

The new intercom features the Club's new logo.

Over the door.

Noticed there are now curtains on the now larger hallways overhead. They were all open this afternoon.

The other archway entrance to the Court of Angels. FYI this felt like plastic.

No work has been done to clean up where the balconies were cut for the new overhead walkway/bridge on this side yet.

A closer look.

On the other side some work is underway to finish it off.

A closer look

Splash Mountain turned 25 this week. To mark the occasion Disneyland Annual Passholders could stop by for a free commemorative poster.

A queue set up to distribute the posters.

A closer look at the poster.

Time for the 6:00pm All-American College Band pre-parade.

Walked through Toontown. No changes.. Roger is still missing from the fountain.

And nothing done to the Five and Dime

The 7:15pm All-American College Band set.

Made my way over to Disney California Adventure for the first time today. Carthay Circle this evening.

A seasonal smoothie at Schmoozies.

The Mad T Party was in full swing and the Mad T Party band was on the stage as I walked by.

Firewall Falls and Willy's Butte in Ornament Valley, Cars Land

Paradise Pier was busy with guests waiting for World of Color, here is Mickey's Fun Wheel.

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, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

July 19, 2014

Happy 59th Anniversary, Disneyland!


On July 17, 2014, Disneyland celebrated its 59th Anniversary.


Starting off with some numbers by the Dapper Dans ranging from "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room," to "Miracles from Molecules," the Celebration Moment continued as the quartet was quickly joined by a plethora of characters and cast members.



The host of the affair, the Mayor of Disneyland, announced that the Diamond Celebration of Disneyland's 60th Anniversary would begin in the Spring of 2015, and would kick off with a photo contest, rules here: (Entries must be received by 8/27/14)

Ultimately the new logo for the upcoming 60th Anniversary was unveiled with the typical Disney panache.



Afterwards, a reception was held in the Opera House for some lucky Disney Parks Blog readers which included commemorative cupcakes and multiple meet and greet and photo opportunities:


Mickey and Minnie...


The new logo...


Anna and Elsa (minus the four hour wait)...


And even Social Media Director and America's Sweetheart, Erin Glover!


Diamonds were certainly the motif of the day, from the decor, down to the giveaways.


Reception guests were gifted with several amenities, including a D60 diamond paperweight keepsake, and fastpasses in the form of the old-style ticket books.



While we wait for news of what to expect for next year's 60th Anniversary, it's probably worth noting that 59 years is nothing to sneeze at either. Happy Birthday Disneyland!


July 14, 2014

DisneyanaMania Convention: Coming Up and Looking Back.


This week, the Disneyana Fan Club will once again be holding its annual DisneyanaMania Convention.


Always a good choice for the Disney fan interested in learning more about the history and doings of the various facets of the company without the stress of some of the bigger conventions, DisneyanaMania is traditionally held over the weekend of Disneyland's anniversary, and includes two days of talks, various Disney celebrity-studded meals, and the Disneyana Collectible Expo.

Last year's convention covered a wide range of topics: Artist Dave Avenzino started it off with a presentation on how he develops and executes his popular line of dimensional, custom-made paper art.



Next up, Disney Legend Marty Sklar gave a talk similar to a few others he gave last year on the creation of his recent book "Dream it! Do it!" and the lessons he learned from his years with the Disney Company.


The traditional "Disneyana Fan Club Luncheon with a Disney Legend" is always a highlight each year for the sheer density of Disney luminaries that attend.




The award ceremonies began with a recognition of Tony Baxter's 47 years with Disney, "Making Magic."


The two present inductees into the Disneyana Legends roster for 2013 were Howard E. Green, VP of Communications for Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Bruce Reitherman, accepting for both himself and his father Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman.


Howard E. Green has been involved with publicizing Disney projects for 36 years, and has helped launch EPCOT Center, coordinated Mickey Mouse's 50th Birthday cross-country tour, and written decades-worth of press releases and related copy for Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.


Bruce Reitherman has been an actor, cinematographer, director, writer, and producer for various documentaries, but is famously known in Disney circles as having been the voice of both Mowgli in "The Jungle Book," and Christopher Robin in "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree."


His father, Wolfgang Reitherman, was one of Walt's famous Nine Old Men of animation, working on most of the classic animated features (giving life to action sequences such as the fight between Prince Philip and Maleficent in "Sleeping Beauty,") and directing "The Sword in the Stone," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," and "Robin Hood."


After lunch, Chris Ellis, an Orlando Cast Member with one of the largest vintage pin collections around, showed attendees a variety of historical pins and detailed some of his research in obtaining, categorizing, and evaluating them.


The final panel for the day was made up of Dusty Sage and Jeff Heimbuch from MiceChat, and Mousetalgia podcasters Dave, Kristen, and Jeff. They spoke on the state of present-day Disney fandom, and how their groups have interacted and worked with the Disney Company.


The next day was supposed to include a presentation with "Dog with a Blog," but there was a last-minute substitution with past Head Archivist Dave Smith who took questions from the audience.


Jeff Heimbuch returned for his talk on "The Five-Legged Goat," which is a term he's coined for various features with hidden back-stories that inhabit the various Disney parks and resorts.


Don Ballard, author of two books on the Disneyland Hotel, then spoke on some additional archival material he had recently found in one of Jack Wrather's (original owner of the Disneyland Hotel) storage vaults.


He showed a large variety of old photos and home film footage documenting the early history of the Disneyland Hotel and its famous and not-so-famous guests.


Eventually, of course, the need for capacity and the changing environment caused the gradual metamorphosis of the small but sophisticated structure into the larger buildings we have today.

Author Sam Gennawey spoke on the ill-fated "Mineral King" project that Walt had planned for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and detailed the history of opposition to it that led to its ultimate cancellation.


Finally, the convention's last panel ended on a highlight as Disney Legend and past Imagineer Rolly Crump reminisced about his time with the company and his interactions with Walt Disney.


He showed a good deal of his early artwork, and told anecdotes about his contributions to such famous and classic attractions as the Tiki Room and The Haunted Mansion.


Arguably his most famous creation was the Tower of the Four Winds he designed for the it's a small world pavilion at the 1964-65 World's Fair. Ironically, he wasn't particularly impressed with it after it was constructed, feeling it appeared less delicate in reality than it did in his concept.


That evening saw the Disneyana Celebration Banquet which was commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the film Peter Pan and had as its special guest, Margaret Kerry, the original model for Tinker Bell.


This year's DisneyanaMania Convention will take place July 16-July 20 at the Wyndham Anaheim Hotel in Garden Grove, and promises to be just as history-filled and exuberant in its celebration of Disney fandom as last year. If you are in the area and have an interest in learning more about Disney and the art and fandom it inspires (or even just in shopping the large group sale on the last day,) I encourage you to check it out. Tickets will be available at the door, and this year's schedule is available at

July 13, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 7/11/14


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, July 11, 2014.

First stop today Disney California Adventure

The area outside the Fly n Buy in Condor Flats now has Planes: Fire & Rescue merchandise.

Went for a trip under the sea. It was only a couple minute wait.

Walls are still up as they continue to work on the wood out on the Pier (I did not hike around today).

A 5 min wait for the Flying Tires so went for a spin.

The Red Car News Boys arriving for their show.

A video clip of the Soarin' preflight video now featuring a special appearance by the crew from Planes Fire & Rescue. (I missed the very beginning thanks to the slow loading CMs)

Walls up on the far right (east) side of the Disneyland entrance. Assuming it's the same type of renovation that was done on the west side recently.

Guardians of the Galaxy poster has replaced Captain EO as you enter Main Street.

A quick look at the Disneyland times guide. Note the 59th Anniversary Celebration will be at 10am on Thursday. Also Legends of Frontierland gets top billing.

Walls and scaffolding are up as work gets underway for the new walkway on the east side of Main Street USA.

The new/temporary First Aid location is now open. This is the former locker location at Center Street.

Walls up at old First Aid and Wish Lounge location.

A new interactive experience has taken up residence in Frontierland. It is called the Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush! I did not participate in the activities on Friday. The group I was with was not interested in it, not even the 7 year old with us. Maybe next week Laura will give it a try. I did a very quick walk around and snapped some pictures of the primary areas. First stop when you enter Frontierland is the Trading Post. Here you pick up the game map/rules, your name badge and come back to to purchase land.

A look at the current land situation.

The telegraph station is where messages are sent and received.

In the center of Frontierland is a jail, which was empty when I passed by. There was a recent jail break and some Rainbow Ridge players were hiding from the law.

Inside the Golden Horseshoe there are some activities as well as entertainment and food offerings.

A high stakes card game going on at one of the tables.

Some special items added to the menu for the game.

A video clip of the opening of the show featuring Miss Lilly and a piano player (missed his name).

Another clip from their show.

Took in a showing of Mickey and the Magical Map

The current dessert offerings at Tomorrowland Terrace (no shoe string fries this week.. so wonder if that means they are not returning).

Storm Trooper mugs are still available.

Dance the Magic performed a pre-parade. It featured several hundred dancers who filled Main Street and danced down the parade route.

Some video clips of the Dance the Magic performance. The groups were from around the world. We saw at least one from Australia.

The tree growing near the Alice in Wonderland Restrooms

Took a quick walk through New Orleans Square as the sun was setting. Most of the scaffolding and tarps are removed. The walls are still up and you cannot pass through though.

A look into the hallway. Guessing the work is not complete and the windows will receive some sort of covering. It seemed really odd to look right into Club 33.

La Mascarade d'Orleans has reopened.

The pins are gone and more unique/land specific merchandise now fills the store.

If you visit be sure to look up.

The French Market with the super moon rising behind it. Above you can see into Club 33.

A grand piano near this window.

Made my way to Main Street for Magical to wrap up my evening. Tonight both Tinkerbell and Dumbo participated in the show. The last several viewings one or both were not there.

On the way out noticed a sign for the First Aid location I missed earlier.

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, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

July 11, 2014

The Pacific NorthWest Mouse Meet: Disney Time in the Emerald City



Now in its sixth year, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet (PNW,) was held on June 28th, 2014.


Led by Planning Committee Chairman Don Morin, PNW seeks to give regional (and a few not-so-local) fans an event to gather, learn, and celebrate their common Disney interests.


One of the highlights of PNW is the wide roster of Disney luminaries they get to come and give talks and sign items each year.


This year, PNW featured three great speakers: Glenn Barker, Don Hahn, and Tony Baxter.


Glenn Barker was the Manager of the Audio/Video Department of WED throughout the 80's, eventually becoming a Principal Media Designer--his current position. He has created the soundtracks for Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Matterhorn at Disneyland, and was responsible for recording many of the orchestral soundtracks for the different EPCOT pavilions.

Soundworks Collection: Walt Disney Imagineers from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

He gave a great talk on his history with the company, and demonstrated some of the component sounds that contribute to the depth of a given auditory environment. He also showed ride videos which showed off how the soundtrack matches and enhances the ride experience.

The next speaker was Producer/Director/Author Don Hahn, who notably produced "Beauty and the Beast" and "Lion King," directed the documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty," and authored, most recently, "Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self."


His talk centered around the concept of creativity, how it can be fostered, and how it often starts from the simple declarations "I am here, I am a unique voice, this is my world, let me show it to you."

The last speaker of the day was Disney Legend and past Imagineer Tony Baxter.


His talk was very similar to the "Undiscovered Disneyland" presentation he gave at Expo 2013, but with different video showing Disneyland of the past. As always, it was a fascinating look at how the topography, the cast members, and the guests at Disneyland have changed over the decades.

Outside of the talks, there was still more for guests to enjoy: The day started off with a small orchestra playing Disney tunes for the masses of people waiting to "rope drop" the event.


Over at the charity raffle, where guests could try to win prizes such as a private Imagineer-led tour of Disneyland or hand-drawn art by Uncle Scrooge artist Don Rosa, incentives to purchase tickets included a poster from the recent film "Maleficent," signed by producer Don Hahn.


The charities for this year were Ryman Arts and Seattle Children's Hospital. Between the raffle, an extra Tony Baxter talk on Sunday, and donations from MEI & Mouse Fan Travel, $9,000 was raised for them.


There were also a number of "Picture Spot" locations around the convention center, representing all the different lands of the park.




Should your interests run towards old-school Disney video gaming, 62-bit Gaming had you covered.


There were also several tables of merchandise dealers, authors, vendors, podcasters, and even a snack booth, should you get hungry.


The party continued on at the official hotel as well, with a window-decorating contest that produced some fairly impressive entries, complete with sound and moving parts.


New for this year, was an additional talk given by Tony Baxter and Glenn Barker at the hotel the next day--"History of EPCOT and the Journey Into Imagination Attraction." This was on the process they went through, conceptualizing and realizing the original Imagination pavilion.


Starting with his aborted concepts for both the Sea and the Land pavilions, Baxter traced the evolution of the Imagination pavilion through development, sponsorship, casting, and construction.


The talk culminated in a viewing of the ride-through video reconstruction showing the final product.


As a special treat, we were also shown a video in which Tony Baxter and a few other Imagineers participated in the old Image Works attraction "Dreamfinder's School of Drama." Afterwards, some lucky audience members won copies of the new Marvel comic book "Figment," which Tony Baxter signed.


So all in all, PNW continues its run as an exceptionally well-organized convention. If it seemed a little more subdued this year, it made up for it with the additional talk on Sunday, which went a long way towards my only issue--its length. For people not in the area, the costs of a plane ticket, rental car, and hotel do add up when balanced against the (typically) one day of content. Personally, however, having been to around three or four of these by now, I would say that I have never finished the weekend thinking it had not been worth my time or money. If you have the opportunity to attend PNW next year (and book fast when those tickets come out, because they sell out in a matter of days,) I encourage you to put it on your Disney fan calendar--it's well worth the trip.


Information about PNW can be found at their website,

July 7, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort Part 8


A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 6, Tokyo DisneySea

We were up about 7:00, and had our usual yogurt/pastry breakfast. The storm was over but it was an overcast day. The temperature was in the high 40s. Downright balmy. :-)

After breakfast it was time to start packing in earnest. I had plenty of room in my suitcase still, but I knew the weight was going to be an issue. I gave a few things to Lee (some of it was for his family and co-workers anyway) and packed the heavy stuff in my new shopping bag. Good thing it was a heavy-duty bag, since it weighed 15-20 pounds.

I'd asked the front desk about luggage storage, and they told us to call Bell Services and someone would come up to the room to get it - but it sounded like one of us had to be there when they came. So I went down to the lobby to check out (no express check-out), while Lee waited for the bellhop.

It was all fairly painless (other than the hotel bill). I've never paid hundreds of thousands for anything before. But somehow it doesn't seem so bad in foreign currency... :-)

By 8:55 we were on the monorail headed to Tokyo DisneySea - Lee had purchased our one-day tickets the night before. The monorail goes by a big parking lot, which was empty. When we'd ridden it the day before I'd noticed that someone had set up the orange cones to read: "30", so I was looking for that, and this time I was able to get a photo of it.

Because the park had been open for an hour there were NO lines at the turnstiles and we walked right in. The Tokyo DisneySea marching band was performing just beyond that, and we enjoyed watching them finish their set. There were a couple of women in their band, and that was nice to see. Lots of choreography and good band music.

We went to the lobby of the Miracosta where we met up with Deb, Linda and Jack - it was the first time Lee and I had been in the Miracosta. It doesn't have nearly as grand a lobby as the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. And it's more of a Venetian theme, so it has a much different look. However, it does have an entrance right into TDS...

Jack and Pete were leaving late that morning so they had been busy packing, but Jack took us up to their room so we could see what it looked like. Their room looked over one of the Venetian "canals", so we could see gondolas.

The room was very nice, but I liked ours at the Disneyland Hotel better - it seemed like ours was larger. I was glad we'd chosen to stay where we did (it saved us money, too - the Miracosta was significantly more).

We said our good byes to Jack and Pete...that was hard. We'd had such a great 10 days! They were headed to Disneyland in California, and then back to their respective homes in New York.

Lee and I went back into TDS and just wandered around the Mediterranean Harbor and American Waterfront areas.

When we went through Cape Cod (home town of Duffy the Disney Bear!), Lee saw a sign for a hot berry tea beverage and he wanted to try it. When he got it, I pointed out that the cup had a picture of Duffy on it...he had been Duffy-ilated! Resistance is futile!

Even though it was Friday the park didn't seem as crowded as it had the rest of the week - but that only meant that standby lines were 90 minutes instead of 120+. :-)

It was about 10:30 and we were ready for our early lunch. I'd seen the Horizons restaurant in Port Discovery and thought it looked interesting. Their menu featured shrimp tempura and pork cutlets - it looked good. We got the "set" which included rice and choice of soup, as well as dessert and beverage. Kirin apple tea was available, so we were able to have that one last time! They didn't seem to be big on vegetables in Japan - both our entrees were accompanied by one floret of broccoli and one of cauliflower.

Deb and Linda joined us partway turned out that Deb and Lee both had the pork cutlet (above) and Linda and I both had the shrimp tempura (below). We were all happy with our meals, I think, and we enjoyed spending some time together.

We said goodbye to Deb and Linda for now - but we'd see them at Aulani in a couple of days. We continued wandering around the park, and visited the Lost River Delta again. The standby line for Raging Spirits was "only" 110 minutes, and Indy was 90. Practically walk-ons. :-) Really, the park was noticeably less crowded than it had been on our previous two visits. Though the lines at the snack kiosks were still quite long.

We took a last voyage with Sindbad and Chandu - by far my favorite attraction at TDS.

Next we took the Disney Transit Steamer from the Mediterranean Harbor to the Lost River Delta. There are waterways that connect the various ports in the park, and small steamers that travel between three different ports. But all passengers must disembark at each stop, so you can't stay on board for a round trip. On the day we were there they were only running steamers between the Mediterranean Harbor and Lost River Delta - there's also a port at the American Waterfront.

While we were on board we saw the volcano erupt. It does that multiple times a day, but there didn't seem to be any particular schedule that we could find. Lots of fire and flames and smoke.

We watched Mythica again, this time from a spot closer to the water. The volcano was in the background, and that's probably the best viewing point we had for seeing the floats, but we weren't next to one of the docking areas where we could see the characters and dancers...though that wasn't a big deal to us.

It was a cloudy day, so we didn't have the nice blue sky in the background and the pictures aren't as pretty. But the winds were calmer so we saw the kites, which we hadn't seen the previous two times. It's a pretty impressive spectacle - it was probably Lee's favorite thing in Tokyo.

We were keeping an eye on the time since we had to get back to the hotel to catch our bus to the airport - we didn't have enough time to do any attractions, and we weren't really interested in shopping. Besides, if we'd bought something we'd have to find a way to carry it home! :-) But we still had sad faces when it was time to leave. :-(

Getting back to the hotel on the monorail was very fast. We still had plenty of time before the bus. Deb had told me about the Cinderella-themed convention areas in the Disneyland Hotel so we checked that out. Lots of beautiful paintings of Cinderella and her prince.

And there was a large china cabinet, where several of Cinderella's mice peeked out of the cups. It was a lovely area.

Our bus was supposed to leave at 5:00, and we went outside to the bus stop. The bellhops came out with our luggage on a cart, and told us the bus would be late - it was about 30 minutes late. But we had plenty of time, so it wasn't a problem. We hadn't actually looked around at the front of the hotel at all, so we had a chance to do that - there's a large fountain at the entrance.

I think it was closer to 6:00 by the time we left. On a Friday afternoon heading towards Tokyo I thought there might be traffic, but it took less time than it had on Sunday.

I'd used frequent flyer miles to book business class from Tokyo to San Diego, so getting checked in was really easy - though even if we'd been traveling coach there weren't any lines at check in! We got through Immigration and Security with no problems - the airport actually seemed pretty empty.

On the other side we found a noodle place and enjoyed one final Japanese meal, before going to the KAL lounge to hang out while we waited for our flight.

We were flying to San Diego via Honolulu. I was surprised to see that most of the people waiting for our flight were Americans and not Japanese - it was more Americans than I'd seen since we left San Francisco 10 days before!

The plane was a 747, and we were on the upper deck - I'd never flown on a 747 before, so that was pretty exciting. The seats reclined almost flat - enough that I could sleep on my side. They served dinner after we took off, but I was more interested in sleeping. Lee had dinner, though. I was actually pretty comfortable and slept for several hours, though I woke up once it started getting light outside - which was about five hours into our seven hour flight. I watched a movie and they fed us a small breakfast.

We left Tokyo at 9:20 p.m. on Friday, and landed in Honolulu at 9:20 a.m. on Friday. So March 14 was like Groundhog Day for us - we got to live it twice. :-)

Coming Next: Aulani!

July 5, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort Part 7


A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 5, Tokyo Area Sightseeing

Before the trip, Linda, Lee, and I had decided that if we were going all the way to Japan, we wanted to see a little more of it than just Disney. Linda had found a company called that offered a lot of different tours from Tokyo, so we'd taken a look to see what we might be interested in doing.

Most of the tours of Tokyo proper seemed focused on shopping, which was of no interest to any of us. We found one that took us outside of Tokyo to Kamakura and Yokohama and visited a number of sights, including a garden, and that looked interesting, so we booked that one. It was offered on limited days of the week, and Thursday was the only day that worked with our it turned out, that was a good choice.

The bad thing about the tour was that they didn't pick us up at the hotel, and we had to get ourselves to the Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal in downtown Tokyo. That meant navigating the railway system. :-) Linda had talked to the hotel concierge and had gotten pretty good directions from her on what we needed to do. And really, we figured that we are three fairly capable adults, so it couldn't be that hard. (No, that's not foreshadowing.)

We were supposed to be at the bus terminal at 8:45, and we'd been told it would take us about 45 minutes, so we all met in the hotel lobby at 7:30.

First step was to take the monorail to Ikspiari (Ik-SPEER-ee, in case you've forgotten), which is also the location of the Maihama station for Japan Railway. We had to buy a ticket to our destination at the automated kiosks. The concierge had told Linda how much it would be, plus there was a map that showed the stations and the fare. The kiosks had instructions in English as well as Japanese.

This first station was pretty easy, because there's only one train - we just had to make sure it was going the right direction. It was already fairly crowded with commuters heading into Tokyo, and got more crowded at each station. We had no problem figuring out where we needed to get off (Tokyo Station). We needed to transfer to another line there, but there were lots of signs, so we had no trouble getting to the next train. It was a lot of walking and a couple of escalators, but all underground. Very clean and not horribly crowded. Really quite organized. And as this was one of the main stations, there were lots of signs in English.

We had a very short wait for our second train, and got off at the Hamamatsucho station and made our way upstairs to the bus terminal. There were several different bus tour companies but we found the correct one and checked in. It took us about an hour from the hotel lobby.

We had assigned seats on the bus, which was interesting. I guess they do that so people don't rush the bus to get the best seats. This was an English tour, so other than a couple of Germans, everyone else on the bus was American, Australian, or English. There were about 20 of us - it was more westerners than we'd seen in all three days at the Disney parks! We'd also gotten used to having casual conversations when no one around us understood what we were saying, and we quickly realized that now the people around us understood us and we needed to be more careful! :-)

Our tour visited Kamakura and Yokohama. This day the weather had deteriorated and it was overcast and foggy, with rain forecast in the afternoon. So it wouldn't have been a very good park day anyway. Our tour guide was a Japanese woman named Katie, who spoke excellent English. We started off driving through downtown and on the edge of Tokyo Bay, so she pointed out the sights that we were seeing (like the Tokyo Tower). Unfortunately the visibility wasn't very good because of the fog, so the views of Tokyo Bay were disappointing compared to what they would have been any other day of our trip.

The drive to Kamakura took about 1.5 hours. Along the way she told us some of the history of Japan, and also gave us a quick lesson on Japanese customs, like bowing, and how deeply you bow to whom. We learned some Japanese phrases, like "Good Morning", "Good Afternoon", and "Good Evening". And "Goodbye", "Thank you", and "You're Welcome". I was surprised that "Please" wasn't one of them. She also taught us to count to 10. (Ichi, ni, sun, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyu, ju.) It was very interesting, and it made the time pass quickly.

Our first stop in Kamakura was a Shinto shrine - the Hasedera Temple. The grounds were so pretty - a koi pond with blooming cherry trees around it.

We went up the hill to where the shrine itself was.

From that area we had a view of the water, too.

Our next stop was the Great Buddha at Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura. This is a well-known outdoor Buddha, made of bronze. It used to be in a hall, but the building was destroyed by storms (and then rebuilt) several times, but way back in the late 1400s they gave up and left it outdoors. It's about 45' tall.

Lunch was included in the tour, and we went to a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama. The restaurant was in an office building, which seemed unusual to us. It was on a pretty high floor with a view of Tokyo Bay. Though as I mentioned before visibility wasn't very good because of the clouds and fog.

We were surprised that on a Japanese tour we were getting a Chinese lunch. :-) But apparently Yokohama has the largest Chinese population in Asia (outside of China, of course). When Japan first opened to the west in the 19th century they needed interpreters, so many Chinese came to fill that role, and stayed.

Lunch was good - multiple courses served to us individually rather than family style. One of the dishes was cuttlefish, which I didn't care for - it was tough and had an odd texture.

When we went out to the bus after lunch it was raining lightly - up until then it had been mostly dry, except for light drizzle a couple of times. We stopped just outside Yokohama's China Town and walked down the narrow streets that were lined with all kinds of shops and food places on our way to a Chinese shrine - the Kan-Tei-Byo Temple. It was really beautifully carved and painted.

Back to the bus, and a short drive to Sankeien Garden. By the time we arrived at Sankeien Garden it was pretty obvious that the rain had settled in and was going to stay for a while. :-(

Sankeien Garden, while it has lots of plants and trees, is largely an architectural garden, where the original owner collected and preserved historic temples and Japanese houses. We couldn't go into them, but there was one that was open on the sides so that we could look into it and see quite a bit of it.

In the museum/visitor center there was an area where we could participate in a tea ceremony if we wanted to (nominal extra charge for that). The ladies performing the ceremony were dressed in beautiful kimonos. It was very nicely done. Linda and Lee did that while I wandered around the museum. I'd wanted to see more of the garden, but being out in the rain was not very appealing.

After the tea ceremony Lee and I took the long way back to the bus so that we could see a little bit more of of the garden, like some of the blooming cherry and plum trees.

That was our last tour stop. It was about 4:00 and we had about a one hour drive back to Tokyo. The bus was not going to drop us back at the bus terminal, but in either the Ginza or Shinjuku districts (shopping, for those so inclined), so on the drive back to Tokyo Katie went to each group on the bus and gave us directions on how to get back to our respective hotels from those places.

For us she advised walking from our drop-off point in the Ginza back to Tokyo Station, which would take 15-20 minutes. From the maps we had we saw that there was a subway station near where we would be dropped off, but she said that was the Metro and not Japan Railway, implying that it would be much more complicated to return that way.

When we got off the bus it was still raining, and we really weren't thrilled by the idea of walking to Tokyo Station in the rain. And we were right next to a Metro Station, and Lee had an app that told us how to get back to the Maihama Station from there. The trick was that we had to transfer from the Metro line to Japan Railway. First step was to purchase a ticket to get us on the Metro to our transfer point. That was pretty easy, since the ticket machines had an English option. We could choose where we wanted to go, and it told us how much we needed to put on the ticket. (Both the Metro and Japan Railway use the same kind of ticket so we could have purchased one ticket that would have had the correct fare to take us all the way to Maihama, but because of the transfer we didn't know what the additional fare was.)

Lee again navigated us without error to the correct platform going the correct direction. We got off at the transfer station, and followed the signs to the Japan Railway station, where we again needed to buy a ticket. And here's where the comedy began. :-)

The ticket machines did not have a mode that would allow us to select our destination and tell us the fare required. There were two signs on the walls illustrating the Japan Railway system - one had the train station names in English and Kanji. The other had the fare amounts but all of the station names were in Kanji. They were not right next to each other. So, picture if you will three otherwise capable adults running back and forth between these two signs trying to match Kanji characters to English station name to determine the proper fare. "Ok, it's on the red line, and it's just two symbols, and one looks like an archway with lattice work on top, and the other looks like the gate thing from Tron, with two little tick marks on the side." (We realized later that we should've just taken a picture of one of the signs!) Afterwards we all started laughing at how ridiculous we must've looked. :-) I was actually surprised that no one offered to help us...we'd read that the Japanese will often go out of their way to help those who obviously appear lost. And in the Metro station a Japanese man had tried to help us with our Metro ticket purchase.

Tickets in hand, we followed Lee to the train platform, just as a train was pulling in. He said, "I think this is going the right direction...if the next stop is Etchujima then we're on the right train." And it was. Our hero. :-)

It was about 5:15, which I thought would be a crowded commute time, but the train wasn't as full as it had been in the morning. We still had to stand, but it wasn't bad. It was still raining and it was very chilly when the doors of the train opened at an outdoor platform. (As we traveled away from Tokyo the platforms were above ground and they were covered but not enclosed.)

We got off at the Maihama station, and went into Ikspiari to get some dinner.

There were a lot of fast food type places as well as some table service restaurants. We found a noodle place in the food court that looked promising. Pan-fried noodles and veggies with either pork, beef, octopus(!) or all three. Linda and I had pork (which was ground pork) and Lee had beef. We were the ONLY westerners anywhere to be seen. We were able to find a table and we enjoyed our nice warm noodles - I even managed the chopsticks without too much trouble. (Lee and Linda were pros - showoffs!)

By the time we finished the seating area was full and people were obviously looking for tables, so we gave ours to a nice Japanese family. We went upstairs to look around Ikspiari a bit.

It's essentially just a large shopping mall. It has a Disney Store, a Disney information booth and ticket booth, and a gift store that sells a lot of the food-type gifts that are available in the parks. Most of the shops and restaurants are NOT Disney at all. I saw a bakery that had some yummy-looking pastries so we went in there to get some dessert for later and some breakfast pastries for the morning. I had a chocolate filled pastry of some kind that was really good. I don't remember what else we got for breakfast the next day, but those were also good.

We went into the Disney Store but it was pretty disappointing - just a generic Disney Store for the most part - no park merchandise at all, and I don't remember anything that was Tokyo-specific other than pins.

It was still raining, and we were very tired - it was 7:00 or so and we'd been out since 7:30 that morning! The main part of the mall wasn't totally covered so we had to dodge raindrops as we moved between places sometimes.

So we caught the monorail back to the Disneyland Hotel - it's the first stop after Ikspiari. We still had to go from the monorail station to the hotel out in the open, but it wasn't too far. Still, we were very glad to get back to our room where it was dry and warm. Lee and I made some tea and enjoyed our pastries.

Not too long after we got back we could hear it pouring rain outside - the rain was so heavy that it was sheeting down our window! Wow. Needless to say, the 8:30 fireworks were cancelled that night. We felt sorry for anyone who was out in the would've been miserable with the rain AND the cold AND the wind. (For those was our fifth night in Tokyo, and the fireworks had only been shown once. That's even a worse cancellation rate than Disneyland in Anaheim.)

It was our last night - we would be leaving Tokyo the next evening, so we had to begin the sad chore of packing...complicated by the fact that I'd bought even MORE gifts and on the flight to Tokyo my suitcase was already over the 50 pound weight limit. I'd purchased a large Tokyo Disneyland shopping bag (which zipped closed) so I figured I'd use that as a carry-on, and put the heavier, denser items in it.

Since our flight didn't leave until 9:20 p.m. we'd have most of the day to visit a park before catching a bus to the airport. We'd decided to visit Tokyo DisneySea that final day, but we weren't planning to be there at park opening. Instead we'd get up and pack, check out, and leave our bags with the bell desk while we went to the park.

It was still raining when we went to bed, though at least it was no longer raining neko and inu! :-)

Coming next: A final day at Tokyo DisneySea

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 7/03/14


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Thursday, July 3, 2014. Included are photos from the renovated Alice in Wonderland attraction, as well a preview of the July 4th fireworks.

I started off this afternoon on Buena Vista Street at Disney Calfiornia Adventure.

Entering Cars Land. Firewall falls in the background.

Only a 13-minute wait posted for Tower of Terror.

The All-American College Band on the Hollywood Backlot Stage. Drummer Steve Houghton performed with the band today.

A couple clips of Steve Houghton performing with the All-American College Band.

Heading into Disneyland. Signage for the Annual Passholder preview of the Sneak Peek of Guardians of the Galaxy this evening.

The Dapper Dans of Disneyland in their patriotic finest.

A couple clips of the Dapper Dans of Disneyland performing

Alice in Wonderland officially reopened July 4th, but it was in a soft opening mode. A look at the newly expanded outdoor section of the track.

It was about a half hour wait.. so here are some more pictures of the outdoor portion while I waited.

Only one small portion of rails on the far side of the downhill.

Here you can see how wide the track is now.

A POV video of the attraction, stills on my second pass through later today.

No wait for corn dogs this afternoon.

Props/sets are being set up for the upcoming Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush experience that starts this coming week.

Signage for the new experience.

The back side of the jail.

The Jamboree area is still closed.

Signage up for Guardians of the Galaxy in Tomorrowland.

Space Mountain has returned to operation.

Some walls still up off to the right at the exit to Space Mountain. Overall this area seemed brighter to me.

Soundsational was stopped as I passed by.

The Dapper Dans arriving for the nightly flag retreat.

Carrying on the patriotic theme.. heading for the Main Street Opera House.

The US Capital Building.

The Spirit of Independence

President Lincoln

The fries at the Tomorrowland Terrace are back to the regular ones.. the shoe string fries only lasted a couple weeks.

Time for the Annual Passholder preview of the Guardians of the Galaxy Sneak Peek. It started at 6:30. I showed up about 6:35 for the 2nd showing. No lines to speak of. They scanned my annual pass as I entered the queue and I walked right in.

Movie posters lined the walkway. Notice the overhead LCD screens are gone.

As you entered they gave you this little card with your 3D glasses.

I made my way to Town Square for the All-American College Band. For the 7:15 p.m. set the TA, Alex, was leading the band and Ron was enjoying the performance from the audience.

The band opening up their set with Bubbles was a Cheerleader.

The Matterhorn as the sun was setting.

Back in line for Alice in Wonderland. Waited about half an hour again.

The opening sequence features projections

A film clip integrated into the attraction.

The flower sequence features more projections.

A look at the outdoor portion.

Here you can see the one portion of rail along the left side.

The Guardians of the Galaxy sign at night.

A couple pictures from Disney's Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky

Some clips from Disney's Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky

Here is a recording of the full show from last year (it was the same this year).

As I was on the escalator noticed they had a queue set up for the elevators at the Mickey and Friends parking structure.

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, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

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