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March 19, 2017

First Bites at the 2017 Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The Disney California Food and Wine Festival runs from March 10 through April 16 this year. The schedule has been expanded this year with culinary demonstrations and wine, beer, and spirits tastings scheduled daily. A number of Premium events were also added, including Sweet Sundays (my favorite) and Winemaker and Brew Master dinners. There are new Festival Marketplaces and new entertainment offerings. With all of the new events the Festival has expanded into new locations around Paradise Bay and Hollywood Land such as Paradise Park and Paradise Gardens, The Vineyard Room, and Stage 17.

Jason already posted an overview of the Food and Wine Festival from opening day. I'm going to focus on some of the other things that I experienced on my first visit to the Festival, such as Marketplace items and demonstrations and tastings.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I went to the Festival on Tuesday. Disney California Adventure seemed surprisingly crowded for a weekday, but apparently it's Spring Break for some schools. Despite the crowds in the park, the lines at the Marketplaces were short. I saw much longer lines at the quick service restaurants like Award Wieners and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta.

One of my complaints about last year's Festival, as well as the Festival of Holidays, is that I thought the food prices were too high. That really hasn't changed. Last year the most expensive food item was $8.00, and this year it's $7.75 - but there are several at that price. There are more items in the $5.50-$6.50 range this year, but desserts are all $4.25 and over, up from $3.50 at the low end last year. Returning items like the Lemon Macaron, Cheddar Cheese Soup, and Pork Belly Bao all went up $0.50.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

One of the things we really enjoyed about last year's Festival was the shaded arbors next to many of the food booths - and many of those returned this year as well. There were also some high tables, and a few with chairs.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I tried a number of food items. As something a little different I'm going to assign grades to each, for Taste, Presentation, and Value. Though I'll warn you that nothing got an "A" for value. "Presentation" combines a number of factors such as creativity, interesting use of ingredients, and the way it looked. GIA denotes whether or not I would Get It Again.

From Nuts About Cheese: Baked ham and Swiss cheese croque monsieur roll with smoked pistachios. $7.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: B
Presentation: A-
Value: D
GIA: No
Comments: Small serving size.

From I (Heart) Artichokes: Artichoke carbonara with garlic aioli and smoked bacon. $6.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: B
Presentation: B
Value: C
GIA: Probably not
Comments: This was surprisingly spicy (spicy hot).

From Garlic Kissed: Black garlic-soy braised pork belly bao with pickled vegetables. $7.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A-
Value: C-
GIA: Yes
Comments: Basically the same as one of last year's items - but $0.50 more this year. But it's really good - I'd eat the sauce with just the bun.

From Lemon Grove:
Roasted cauliflower and Meyer lemon-infused Dannon Oikos Greek nonfat yogurt cauliflower puree with sundried tomatoes and fried capers. $6.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: B
Presentation: A-
Value: C
GIA: Maybe
Comments: This dish was really interesting. It took them a while to prepare it because so much went on top - sundried tomatoes, fried capers, diced green onions.

Duck confit on potato smash with Meyer lemon preserves. $7.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: B-
Presentation: B-
Value: C-
GIA: No
Comments: The duck was a little dry. The green stuff on top - pickled asparagus, I think? - was tasty. The "smashed potatoes" were smashed tater tots.

From The Onion Lair: French onion mac and cheese topped with parmesan crumble and chives. $7.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A-
Presentation: B+
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: The caramelized onions and parmesan crumble on top were delicious. It was a pretty good-sized serving, so it got a C+. :-)

From Off the Cob: Jackfruit carnitas banh mi nachos with cilantro crema and "pickled" de gallo. $6.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: D
Presentation: A-
Value: C
GIA: No
Comments: The "carnitas" are really made of jackfruit. But that gave them a weird texture and a really odd flavor that I found very unpleasant. But they still get an A- for presentation because it was a really interesting idea, and it looked good.

From Sweet & Sourdough: Bay shrimp Louie salad served in a mini Boudin sourdough boule. $6.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A
Value: B
GIA: Yes
Comments: This had a surprising number of shrimp in it, but there was too much dressing. It was very filling because of the bread bowl.

From LA Style: Chicken Teriyaki slider with spicy Dole pineapple jam. $6.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: B
Presentation: B
Value: C
GIA: Probably not
Comments: It had two pieces of chicken which were cooked well. I didn't care for the pineapple jam, which had red and green peppers in it, and was too sweet.

So...more misses than hits for me. I didn't get a chance to try any of the dessert items, though to be honest most of them did not appeal to me at all.

Festival Marketplace Menus

Annual Passholders can purchase a "Sip and Savor Pass". It's $45, and has 8 tabs that can be redeemed for any food or beverage item - excluding alcohol - at the Festival Marketplaces. I did the math - you want to use it for items costing more than $5.60. That still gives you a lot of choices, though.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Each Marketplace has a different AP button that you receive when you redeem one of the tabs there. I only have five of them so far. I think it's a decent value if you plan to purchase a lot of the $6.50-$7.75 items - it actually makes them more the price that I think they actually should be. :-)

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There are several ways to find out about Festival events. Everything is listed on-line at disneyland.com/foodandwine. A few different brochures are available at the park. The Food and Wine Festival Guide has a map of the Festival Marketplaces and the other event locations as well as an overview of the events. There's a weekly single page Festival Schedule which provides details on the times and topics of the Culinary Demonstrations and Wine/Beer/Spirits tasting seminars in addition to information on the Premium events like "In the Kitchen With...", Sweet Sundays, and the Winemaker/Brewmaster dinners. The regular park Times guide lists the schedule for the Festival live entertainment like bands, the Jr. Chef program, and the Jammin' Chefs.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I attended one of the winetasting sessions, which I had reserved in advance. These take place in the Sonoma Terrace area, as they have at previous festivals. It's a nice outdoor patio, mostly shaded by wooden patio cover. Check-in is at the entrance, by last name. The sessions are open to those age 21 and over only, and everyone is required to show id to get a wristband.

This presentation was by MacRostie Winery in Sonoma County. Most of these presentations include three wine tastings: we had two Chardonnays and a Pinot Noir. It was an interesting talk by the winemaker.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

This year the culinary demonstrations and beer/spirits tastings are being held in the Festival Showplace - Stage 17 in Hollywood Land. The culinary demonstrations are a pre-paid event this year where attendees receive samples - last year they were free, but no samples were available.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Inside there are two different seating areas - a larger one with a kitchen, and a smaller one for the beverage tastings. Check-in for events is at a table just inside the entrance. Upon checking in guests receive a paper ticket. The ticket is presented upon entering the line for the seating area.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Stage 17 is awfully dark...I prefer the outdoor locations they've had for these types of events in the past - particularly for the beverage tasting. The lighting was better over in the culinary demonstration area.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I attended a culinary demonstration by one of the Disneyland candy makers. The topic was Barks and Clusters.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The chef made the Sangria Bark, which is one of the offerings on sale at the Wineology Marketplace, and a chocolate cluster with hazelnuts and port wine-soaked cherries. The Sangria Bark was topped with fruits that had been soaked in sangria. We received samples of both of them. It was very interesting to watch a professional temper chocolate on the fly!

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Later I attended a beverage tasting by ACE Cider. That was really very interesting, and I learned a lot about the history of hard cider! It was the drink of choice during Colonial times in America, until immigrants from Germany and Austria introduced beer brewing.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There's still availability for a lot of the wine/beer/spirit tasting sessions. They can be reserved on-line at disneyland.com/foodandwine. Monday-Thursday sessions are $15, plus tax and gratuity, and Friday-Sunday sessions are $20. Culinary demonstrations are $10 during the week and $15 on the weekend. Sessions can be reserved same day at the Festival Showplace if there is availability.

Also inside the Festival Showplace is a merchandise area - the same merchandise that is available at other locations around the park.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There's also a wine bar. 1 oz, 2 oz, or 5 oz pours are available of the different wines. The process is somewhat unwieldy, though - you have to go to the register to make your purchase, then take it to the bar area to get the wine. And at this point there aren't any prices posted anywhere! So be careful, because some of them are quite expensive: up to $24 for a 5 oz pour!

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I didn't try it, but one of the wines that really intrigued me is called Toad Hall. Somewhat more modestly priced - $57 for a bottle, and $15 for a 5 oz glass.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

One event that was part of previous Food and Wine Festivals, and is back this year is the Junior Chef program. This is a complimentary event for kids which takes place several times a day. Kids get to help Chef Goofy make oatmeal cookies, and at the end they get a sweet treat to take with them. The sessions take place outdoors in Paradise Park (though there are umbrellas to provide a little shade). It looks like they can accommodate about 30 kids per session, and each session takes about 20 minutes.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Another activity for kids (and adults) is crafts. In front of Ariel's Undersea Adventure are several craft tables where guests can color their own chef hats.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I made the most of my first Festival day, and was able to get a pretty good overview of the available events. I'm looking forward to returning a few more times during the Festival's run.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival







March 16, 2017

"Beauty and the Beast" Press Junket

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March 17th, Walt Disney Studios will once again captivate moviegoers with a Tale As Old As Time, their live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast."

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

To talk about the journey they took to revisit the animated classic, cast members Gugu (“Plumette”) Mbatha-Raw, Josh (“Le Fou”) Gad, Luke (“Gaston”) Evans, Emma (“Belle”) Watson, Dan ("Beast") Stevens, Bill (Director) Condon, Audra “Garderobe” McDonald, and Alan (music/score by) Menken gathered at a recent press junket.

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First, however, we were treated to a short concert by Alan Menken, in which he played us some of the old and new songs from "Beauty and the Beast," with the help of a couple friends.

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Select moments from the press conference video above:

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Condon on the process of adapting "Beauty and the Beast" as a live-action film: "Get over the terror first, I think...but then you know, you just start with that basic idea: You’re going to take it into a new medium, which is live action. They’re going to be actors. Emma’s going to be playing a character on real locations who has to fall in love with the beast. So all the behavior which is, you know, let’s face it...an animated film is sort of, you know, a little more exaggerated, has to come into reality, and once you start to investigate that, then you realize, wow, there are questions maybe you never asked before that you want to know about. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village where they’re outsiders, you know, and that leads to then new songs and suddenly you’re creating something new."

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Menken on developing "Evermore," a new song for the Beast: "In the Broadway show there was a song called 'If I Can’t Love Her.' But you know, each iteration of Beauty and the Beast is a different medium in a way. There’s an animated musical, there’s a stage musical, and there’s this--and they all have sort of different shapes. And the stage musical is definitely a two act structure, so we wrote this song for the Beast, because at that act break is the moment where the Beast out of anger has driven Belle away and it was important--we needed at that moment for the Beast to sort of howl for redemption or just say I’ve given up. But in the structure of a live action film, which is more of a three act structure, Bill felt, and I agree with him, that the more satisfying moment is the moment when the Beast lets Belle go because she’s no longer his prisoner, and he loves her, and the spell will not be broken now, but at least he knows what love is."

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McDonald on joining the cast of "Beauty and the Beast:" "...I said yes the minute that Disney called because you say yes when Disney calls. If they told me that, you know, you were gonna sell churros in the park, I’d be like, yeah, I’m there, I'll do it. But knowing not only did it have this incredible creative team but that Emma Watson was going to be Belle, and knowing how much Emma has affected girls of my daughter’s age--and my daughter is someone who now asks for people to donate money to charities for her birthday gifts instead of presents, and that’s because of you, Emma--so knowing full well that Emma was going to make sure that Belle was somebody who was independent, who was strong, who was educated, who was sticking up for girls and women, and who does all the rescuing in the film. That’s why I knew it was going to be important for me to be a part of and for my kids to see.

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Stevens on the physical demands of portraying The Beast: "Well, it was a very physical engagement, I think just to support that muscle suit on stilts was a challenge that I’d never really encountered before. I’ve definitely been taking a more physical approach to my roles in the last few years and just training myself in different ways. I think with the backstory we decided that the prince before he was the Beast was a dancer, that he loved to dance, and so I trained myself like a dancer and learned, you know, three quite different dances for this movie and worked very closely with Anthony (Choreographer Anthony Van Laast,) just in terms of, you know, his general deportment, both for the prince and the Beast, you know, and there was a lot of work dancing in stilts. And getting to know Emma, first and foremost, on the dance floor was probably, you know, I think it’s a great way to get to know your costar, and I’m going to try and do with every movie I do now, whether there’s a waltz in the movie or not.

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Watson on taking Belle into the real world: "...I think when I knew I was taking on this role, I wanted to make sure that I was championing that same spirit, those same values, that same young woman that made me a part of who I am today. And so, you know, every time we would address a new scene that Bill or Steve or Evan had put together, you know...I just always had the original DNA of that woman in mind, you know, and I had my fists up. I was ready to fight because she was so crucial for me. And you know, it was just taking what was already there and just expanding it. And I love that in our version Belle is not only kind of odd and doesn’t fit in, and you know, you see her reading, and you see her not really a part of the community. In our film she’s actually an activist within her own community. She’s teaching other young girls who are part of the village to read, and you know, moments like that where you could see her expanding beyond just her own little world and trying to kind of grow it, I loved that, and yeah, that was amazing to get to do."

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Evans on humanizing Gaston: "Well, I just think a villain shouldn’t start out as the bad guy. A villain should end up being the bad guy, and I think with Gaston, outwardly, you know, to a lot of people in that village, he is the hero. He’s a bit of a stud, you know. He’s got the hair, he’s got the looks, he’s always impeccably dressed, not a bad singing voice...

"...So that when the cracks start to appear, which they do very subtly, even from the door slam, you know, there’s something inside of him that he’s like...this is not what she’s supposed to be doing. And although he keeps believing that Belle will change her mind, that’s where the cracks appear in my thought process and then slowly, you know, the jealousy takes over, and who he becomes, especially Gaston as opposed to other Disney villains, he has no book of spells, he has no magic powers. He’s a human being, and he uses his status within that village to rouse a crowd and he does it all from just being himself, which is quite terrifying in a way. So I played on that, I played on the humanity of the character as much as he is larger than life. There was a lot to pull on, and obviously he was a war hero of sorts, we decided, didn’t we, Bill, from the past. That’s why his murals are all over the pub that he drinks in. And there is...this animalistic soldier, in him when he finally fights the Beast on the rooftops. You see this man out for blood, and it’s a scary moment to see the arc of somebody who was the loveable buffoon of the village to become the absolute Beast almost, the monster."

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Gad on horseback riding:
"I learned a couple of great lessons on this movie, one of which is that Jews don’t belong on horses. Specifically overweight Jews. My horse was an anti-Semite...they told me was trained for this movie but I believe they found (him) in the wilds of England...So Luke and I are walking into the village on our horses, and on action all our horses need to do is walk side by side, it’s so simple. Luke’s horse does it. The two of them worked on 'The Hobbit' together, 'Three Musketeers,' have this incredible background."
Evans: "We share a trailer."
Gad: "Mm, hm, they share a trailer. Mine is a cold-blooded killer. And he proceeded to moonwalk, he walked backwards. Then, he ran through multiple extras in the village, ran around--I didn’t even know it was possible--but ran through these like pillars around, up and back again. I heard 'cut' and I heard laughing, and the laughter was coming from the horse’s trainer, and he came up to me and he goes, 'I’m so sorry. I’ve never seen this happen before.' And it was so sad. It made me feel so awful about myself. Ironically, my horse’s name was Buddy. That is a true story. He’s nobody’s buddy. I’m begging Disney to press charges against him, and I’ve told my agents to never send me another script with a horse in it again."
Evans: "Unless it’s on wheels."
Gad: "Unless it’s on wheels. In the sequel to 'Beauty and the Beast' I drive a DeLorean."

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Mbatha-Raw on doing voice work: "...For me it was, you know, working on the French accent, you know, both myself and Ewan had the same dialect coach, and then just playing in the studio with Bill encouraging us to, you know, embrace that sort of inner child and that real sort of let’s pretend kind of freedom. And for me, you know, having done a few serious roles that year, you know, to be able to embrace the feather duster Plumette and to also be able to really not be limited by your own face and your own body that you can really, as I say, just play, was so joyful."

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Condon on representation and inclusion:
"You know, I talked before about how we translate this into a live act – that means filling out the characters. It’s also a translation to 2017, you know? And what is this movie about? What has this story always been about? For 300 years it’s about looking closer, going deeper, you know, accepting people for who they really are, and in a very Disney way we are including everybody. I think this movie is for everybody, and on the screen you’ll see everybody, and that was important to me, I think to all of us.

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Menken on doing justice to the original film:
"My mantra throughout the whole thing was don’t screw it up. I mean, for myself."

"Beauty and the Beast" will open in theaters March 17, 2017.

March 14, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - 3/10/17 - Food and Wine Festival Opening Day

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 10, 2017.

Let us start off with a video overview of the Star Wars / Rivers of America Construction site.

A couple pictures of the Star Wars / Rivers of America construction this week (I have many more in my full picture set on my site). The large show building continues to grow as more steel is lifted into place. Notice the new structures on the ground.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

A closer look. Speculation on many sites is these are AT-AT structures.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Trees have been planted on the new berm since last week.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

The 2017 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival kicked off today and runs through April 16th.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

The festival followed the signage format from the Festival of Holidays.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Here is a representative marketplace. Each has the main items on the top under the sign as well as with a picture on the booth. The other side of the booth has some info about the topic/theme of the booth. There is also a visual menu with prices near the queue entrance and a smaller text menu at each register.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Here is the full list of menus, with prices:
     Festival Marketplace Menus

A look at one of the merchandise carts.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Another merchandise location in Paradise Pier.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Paradise Park features concerts five times a day. Today Tomasina was performing (you may remember them from Tomorrowland Terrace). Upcoming groups are SMITH and Phat Cat Swinger.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Paradise Park also hosts a Jr. Chef event three times a day. Cast Members are preparing for the next event.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Paradise Gardens is the Festival Beer Garden.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

To the right when you enter is a beer sales area this year.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

New tables in Paradise Gardens.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Bands perform a half dozen times a day on the Paradise Garden Bandstand. Today was the Mariachi Divas. Future groups are m-pact, Faultlines, Quattrosound, and Streetlight Cadence.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

There is an AP Corner near Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Annual Passholder buttons.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

An ad for AP Items.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

They also had leftover recipe cards from AP Days out.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

The Garden Grill has a special menu for the event.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Not related to the Food & Wine Festival but thought I would mention that the pizza at Boardwalk Pizza has changed crusts recently.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

New MaxPass poles and a digital wait time sign are installed at Toy Story now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Walls are down on the FastPass distribution area too. Still no date announced as to when this will be operational but it seems like it should be sooner rather than later now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

The Jr. Chef event was going on as I walked by. There was a Disney camera crew there. Between the umbrellas and the camera guy it was hard to get any decent pictures.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Goofy was the star of the show.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

A couple video clips from the Jr. Chef show.

The Jammin' Chefs perform in Paradise Pier and feature Chip and Dale.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Some video clips of the Jammin' Chefs performance.

A second set of Jammin' Chefs video this time with a wider lens.

Ghirardelli was passing out chocolate bunnies today.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017
The Backlot stage is hosting Lifestyle seminars. On the stage Kris Bonner was talking about tomatoes.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Stage 17 hosts the Festival Showcase.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Inside the showcase is a shopping area then two presentation spaces.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

A large area for Culinary Demonstrations (there is a cost to attend these)

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

There is a smaller venue set up for Beer & Spirits Education & Tasting Seminars (also a fee to attend).

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Spring flowers were in bloom in Paradise Park.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

A large crane is onsite and parked behind walls onstage. It is holding a banner when not in use.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Moving over to Disneyland and looking at the new trees that partially obstruct the parking structure now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

From Critter Country a look at the current state of the Rivers of America as it races toward a summer reopening.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto were working the crowd line. They were high fouring (fiving) guests and waving.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Clsoed out my evening with Remember Dreams Come True.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

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, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.








March 13, 2017

Ten Minutes With Don Hahn

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Ever witty and urbane, "Beauty and the Beast" Executive Producer Don Hahn was gracious enough to give AllEars.Net a few minutes to talk about both versions of the Tale as Old as Time he has helmed, as well as thoughts on legendary writer, director, and lyricist Howard Ashman.

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On the beginnings of a new "Beauty and the Beast": "We had talked about doing a live-action movie for years, even going back to probably ten or fifteen years ago...the movie was well-received as an animated film and on Broadway as well, a few years later, so the chance to complete the trifecta and do a live-action film seemed logical.

"But the elements weren't together. We, at different times, tried different scripts, but it never really came together until this version, and thankfully so, because the effect of having Bill Condon, Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and having Alan Menken write new songs is kind of the perfect alignment of the planets for this movie to be retold again. So it's something we've talked about for a long time, but it's really about people. You know, computers don't make movies, studios don't make movies..it's about great people, and those people were available at this time, and lucky us to have them."

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On why a live-action version: "It probably brings a little more depth to the characters, because animation is a medium of caricature--you're kind of painting with a broad brush in animation...a simpler medium in some sense, and the movies are shorter, maybe 85-90 minutes. In a live-action film, it's incredibly direct to the audience. They see the living, breathing actors on the screen, and it's a chance to flesh out their stories more: To find out more about Belle, or where she came from, or who her mother is...just understand more about those characters so you can feel more deeply about them. So that's the approach, to say here's a movie and a story and how can we augment that in ways that are really meaningful and germane to the original story. You don't want to just explode it with new songs and Belle goes surfing or something. You want to be able to take it right to the core of what those characters are and what they mean, and again, I think that's the brilliance of not only what Howard Ashman and Alan Menken gave us in the original movie, along with a great crew of animators, but also what Bill Condon does in this movie, is to be able to reimagine in ways that are really central to those characters, and finding out who they are and where they came from and why they're longing for adventure and why they're cursed and why they would ever get together. So those are all things that you can explore more deeply and I think that's why this movie resonates with people, because it gives you all those layers of the onion to explore more deeply."

On Howard Ashman: "Howard was a really interesting guy. He was tremendously schooled in musical theater--I'm making a documentary about him right now so he's kind of on the tip of my tongue these days--he grew up in Baltimore, he studied theater and got his masters degree in theater from Indiana University, and came to Broadway kind of as an outsider, but he was tremendously learned. He knew every lyric and everything from Lerner and Lowe to Rogers and Hammerstein, and not only the lyric but why they fit into this song and why they fit into this movie or this show.

"So when we would sit there working with him, and he would say 'well this dance with Belle and the Beast...it's like 'King and I,' when Yul Brenner puts her hand on his waist--that's like the consummation of their relationship.' And so suddenly the dance with Belle and the Beast became an homage to 'King and I." So there's all these callbacks: Gaston was loosely based on a kind of arrogant male character from 'Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.' So he had this tremendous knowledge, and also one of the most funny people I've ever met (and you know that by his lyrics,) and then one of the most articulate people. He could easily have been a trial attorney. If you want to argue with him, you better have your case completely prepared, because he would articulate and be able to quote chapter and verse of any Broadway musical and the reason why this song fit or this lyric fit...and we did disagree with him from time to time and he was collaborative. It wasn't like he was a brick wall, he was really collaborative, but he made you bring your best game.

"So when the songs came in on 'Beauty and the Beast,' there was one day where we got in a cassette tape, back when we had cassette tapes, and it was the 'Belle' song and 'Be Our Guest' on the same tape. And imagine putting a tape in the machine and listening to this four-or-five minute opening number and how brilliant it was and how storytelling it was and how it introduced us not only to Belle but to her father and to the character of Gaston and LeFou and how all that was able to tell story and plot. So a brilliant man, sad to lose him in the middle of this animated movie and he never got to see the finished product. So much of this live-action movie is not only an homage to the original movie, but a kind of celebration of the great work that Howard had done.

"He was great. He would quote Gilbert and Sullivan and kind of an operetta feel to the opening of the movie...and there are some songs that are really original like 'Kill the Beast' is a pretty original and somewhat risky song--to do a song that late in the movie...to have the villain's song be that late. 'Beauty and the Beast' is also a really odd song because it's very poetic; there's not a lot of plot in it, but as the audience, you're sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for these characters to fall in love. Howard was able to bring that to us just through the use of these few selected words. It's funny, at the time Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the head of the studio, wanted the song to be longer, and Howard said 'well I can't' and Jeffrey said 'of course you can' and he said 'no, I've used all the rhyming words, so all that's left with rhymes with beast would be 'yeast' and 'priest' and all these words that are totally useless.' So he was just a clever, wonderful man."

On Dan Rather's theory of "Beauty and the Beast" as AIDS metaphor:
"Well I was there and knew Howard pretty well. Howard was not a political person; he was the consummate professional, and so first and foremost that song ('Kill the Beast') would be about Gaston and Belle and the Beast. Nobody knows, but I'm almost positive it wasn't an overt commentary on the AIDS crisis.

"But having said that, on some subliminal level, it was, because with lyrics like 'we don't like what we don't understand, in fact it scares us,' it's a commentary on fear, and on fear of the Beast, and on the fear that was certainly circulating in the AIDS crisis at the time, and circulates today. I mean, human beings have always been this way, so to comment on something about the Fear Of Each Other is so thematic towards the AIDS crisis but even more so Howard was, I'm sure, professionally and specifically talking about the fear we have about somebody who's different than us. And how relevant is that today? To be able to talk about a movie like 'Beauty and the Beast' that looks beyond the facade of people, into their hearts...I mean, that's what the movie is about: Don't judge a book by its cover. Look inside Gaston and find out he's a pig inside. Look inside the Beast and find out he's this warm, wonderful big-hearted guy who made a mistake and is now living with the consequences. So there's certainly overtones of what Howard was going through in that song particularly; whether it was intentional or not, we'll never know, but it services first and foremost 'Beauty and the Beast' but it's a bittersweet thing to think about how it might be a commentary on his life."

"Beauty and the Beast" opens in theaters March 17, 2017.

March 8, 2017

Disneyland's Red Rose Taverne and AP Days

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Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

Disneyland has re-imagined the Village Haus Restaurant in Fantasyland and transformed it into the Red Rose Taverne. The decor and menu is inspired by the new Beauty and the Beast movie.

The Taverne opened on February 24th, and it has been extremely popular. There were 1-2 hour waits to get in the first weekend! We visited mid-afternoon on Friday, March 3, and were able to walk right in. But there were still plenty of people inside and business was brisk. (As Jason reported in his blog, later that evening the line was out the door again, so timing is everything!)

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

For something that is supposed to be temporary, I thought it was very well-done. The ordering area has always felt like a village town square, and of course that ties in very well with Beauty and the Beast and the opening scene of the movie. It's quite charming.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

There are dining rooms on both sides of the restaurant. The one on the left is Belle-themed. There's murals on the walls and lots of books, cabinets, and china.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Red Rose Taverne china
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

And several stained glass windows.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

The stained glass roses on the exterior windows are really beautiful.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

The room on the right is Gaston-themed. Where of course they use antlers in all of the decorating. :-)

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne
Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

The menu offers items like Beast's Burger, Slow-cooked Beef Poutine, and Chicken Sandwich a la Lumiere. One of the available sides is Pomme Frites - fries with Parmesan cheese. For dessert there's a Grey Stuff Gateau and a Lemon Rose Cake. There's also a specialty beverage: Gaston's Brew - apple-mango punch with passion fruit foam.

Red Rose Taverne Menu

At the registers these Mrs. Potts crispy treats were available.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

When the restaurant opened, these rose beverage cups were available, but they sold out quickly. No word on whether or not they will be back.

Red Rose Taverne rose cup

I ordered the Enchanted Cauli-Flower Sandwich. A grilled cauliflower "steak" with lettuce, tomato, tempura-fried green beans, and lime aioli. I ordered it with the pommes frites, but sliced apples are also an option. This was really good - the cauliflower was cooked perfectly - not too soft and not too crisp. The roasting/grilling brought out a nice flavor, and I enjoyed the tempura green beans, too. The pommes frites were very good, though not as good as the ones at Cafe Orleans. They needed some garlic.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

Lee tried the Poutine Flatbread - slow-cooked beef, pommes frites, roasted garlic aioli, cheese curds, gravy, and herb oil. He really enjoyed this as well. It also had pickled onions on top.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

For dessert we of course had to try the Grey Stuff Gateau. It was red velvet cake with a raspberry filling, covered with white chocolate mousse and pearls.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

It was delicious. The raspberry filling was an actual raspberry. Lee got that in his half, though I could taste some raspberry flavor in my half. The mousse wasn't too sweet, and didn't have that cloying mouth feel that mousse/icing sometimes leaves behind.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

Jason noticed this little detail above the exit as we were leaving. Very cute!

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

The restaurant is really lovely. I enjoyed everything that we tried, and I hope I get the opportunity to return. It will be interesting to see how long this restaurant overlay remains in place. Since the Star Wars-inspired Galactic Grill is over a year old, I suppose the precedent exists for it to stay around for a while. With the Big Thunder Trail closed (due to Star Wars Land construction) there hasn't been much reason for guests to visit that quiet corner of Fantasyland until now. It's certainly proving to be very popular.

It's the final week of AP Days at Disneyland, which have a Main Street Electrical Parade theme. The final button is Elliott the dragon.

AP Days

And the pennant available for coloring is Elliott, also. I was surprised that the craft offerings were also different every week.

AP Days

The "make-your-own Electrical Parade" sheet features the last few floats in the parade.

AP Days

The Country Bears were again the featured characters at the meet and greet - we saw Wendell and Liver Lips. They alternated with Shaker and Big Al.

AP Days

Lee hadn't seen the Beauty and the Beast sneak peek, so we saw that at Disney California Adventure. I was able to get a photo of the enchanted mirrors in action.

Disneyland Red Rose Taverne

The next big event at the Disneyland Resort is the Disney California Food and Wine Festival, which starts on March 10 and runs through April 16. There are more food booths and more events this year, and I'm looking forward to it.








March 7, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - 3/3/17

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 3, 2017.

These pictures take a look at some of the ongoing projects as well as my regular assortment of random pictures. Laura will have a separate post on the Red Rose Taverne and AP Days Week 4.

Starting off the day at the Mickey and Friends parking structure with an overview of the Star Wars and Rivers of America Construction.

Looks like vents have been added to the top of the marina structure as the rocks on the park side continue to take shape.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Forms for the ground level of the circular part of the building are being constructed.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Steel continues to be erected for the large show building. Notice what appears to be a new floor taking shape on the left between the ground level and upper floor.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

A closer look at what looks to be a new floor taking shape.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

On the far side of the site more rock framing being installed and dirt being moved around.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Gaston and Belle were out in Fantasy Faire talking with guests.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Noticed these moisture monitors around a pine tree on the walkway to Frontierland.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Approaching the construction at the end of the Big Thunder Trail. More color has been applied.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Here you can see the trestle has been painted brown (it was white when installed).

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Looking through the fence.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Some renovation work happening aboard the Mark Twain.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

No signs of a cover for the projector out on the island. Just the netting which is rolled up today.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

The Columbia was in the harbor today. More rigging has been set up.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

The bowsprit of the Columbia has been re-installed.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

As you enter Critter Country you can see the trestle is taking shape.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Looking through the fence. You can clearly see the river path as it makes it turn. The small posts on the right are the concrete pads the steel guide rail for the ships will go on.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Goofy strolling near the Carthay Circle Restaurant.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

The Food and Wine Festival kicks off next weekend. The Marketplaces were set up and had their name signs. No menu signage yet.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Over at the Guardians you can see a couple new elements sticking out the top. On the backside the tarps and scaffolding are coming down.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Mr. and Mrs. Incredible walking by the Hyperion.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Marketplaces line the parade route.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Poles for FastPass/MaxPass at the entrance to Toy Story.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Here you can see the wrap for the tower has been removed on the side.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

More marketplaces.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017


The Curlsurf shop opened a few weeks ago in Downtown Disney.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

On the bridge area there are some new tables and chairs.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

A little dark but you can see a line extending out the door for the Red Rose Taverne but not that bad compared to last week.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Over at Tomorrowland Terrace (or Galactic Grill) the lines were to the steps so just as busy as the Red Rose Taverne maybe more so.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Found a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Prior to the start of Remember Dreams Come True they made wind announcements but the show started on time. But then come the Indiana Jones segment it stopped.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 3, 2017

Here is the announcement that played when the lights came back on.

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, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.








March 5, 2017

KINGDOM HEARTS HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue

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"May our hearts be our guiding key." --King Mickey

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Recently, Square Enix released the latest in their Kingdom Hearts compilations, "Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue."

For a long time I had wanted to play the Kingdom Hearts games--described as action/RPGs that combined Disney characters and settings with a Final Fantasy aesthetic--but never had a Playstation growing up because my parents believed my time was better spent going to school and learning a trade, but my Dickensian childhood is a different story. When I finally did get a PS4, I was all overjoyed at the prospect of being able to finally to get them...only to find out that all the games had originally been released on different consoles (PS2, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, and PS Portable) and none of them were forward compatible. Subsequently, Square Enix released two remastered collections of most of the series called "Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix" and "Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix," but only for the PS3, and also not compatible with the PS4.

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So I was pretty happy when it was announced that the next compilation was coming out for the PS4. This third one is the last before the eagerly awaited in-production "Kingdom Hearts 3," the announcement of which I covered at the 2015 D23 Expo. It includes three different parts: "KINGDOM HEARTS Dream Drop Distance HD," "KINGDOM HEARTS 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A fragmentary passage –," and "KINGDOM HEARTS χ Back Cover."

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"Dream Drop Distance" is an adaptation of a game initially made for the 3DS and the latest game released as part of the main Kingdom Hearts story line. The cumbersome-named "fragmentary passage" is a new game showing the events following the prequel game "Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep" from one of the character's point of view, and "Back Cover" is an hour-long movie showing backstory of the series' beginnings and connective tissue of "Birth by Sleep" and the mobile game "Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ."

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Starting off with "Dream Drop Distance," I quickly made my first discovery concerning Kingdom Hearts: It has an enormously complex story line and coming in on the last act is maybe not the easiest way to understand it all. There isn't a whole lot of introduction to the characters or the situations (understandable, as they might reasonably expect you to have picked up some of this during the earlier seven games) so you kind of have to roll with it. During the course of the game you actually do end up unlocking summaries to the previous games, and if you're not planning on playing those or you don't mind spoilers, those are good resources.

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For those who just want a thumbnail of the pertinent backstory without totally spoiling everything, here's my understanding: There are a large number of worlds, some of which are themed to various Disney stories, but only one true world called Kingdom Hearts that was initially the source of light for all. Eventually, however, a brutal Keyblade (weapons wielded by those found worthy) War resulted in it being locked away, and it can now only be forcibly accessed by the power of the Seven Princesses (Snow White, etc.) whose hearts are made of pure light and which combined can summon the door to Kingdom Hearts. This makes them a subject of great interest to people like Maleficent who seek to exploit them, and King Mickey, Donald and Goofy, who seek to protect them. The main protagonists are two boys, Sora and Riku, who have apparently gone through the ringer during the course of these games, getting alternately possessed by darkness, losing their hearts, getting their hearts back, getting other people's hearts back, and generally going through a variety of separations and reunions facilitated by your Disney friends.

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Your chief opponents throughout all of this are creatures called the Heartless who come at you in everlasting waves as is the way of video games. It ultimately turns out that there is a Heartless mastermind behind all of this who, with the help of a mysterious Organization, may have been orchestrating events from the very beginning of the tale for his own nefarious purposes.

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To give you an example of how convoluted this series is, you may have wondered why this collection is numbered Kingdom Hearts 2.8--it's because it's supposed to come after the second (2.5) compilation, but also includes the new game "Fragmentary Passage" (numbered 0.2 because it comes after "Birth by Sleep" which is considered the first game, or 0.1) so 2.6 + 0.2 = 2.8. Math everyone!

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As far as gameplay is concerned, "Dream Drop Distance" is the longest of the two and follows Sora and Riku on their keyblade mastery test. There are seven sleeping worlds that the pair needs to reconnect to the realm of light by unlocking the seven Keyholes of Sleep. Each boy has different objectives and slightly different stories that unlock as they progress through each world. The player is automatically switched between them after a certain amount of time fills up the Drop Gauge, and the active character falls asleep. This can be something of a pain if not managed correctly (there are different mechanisms to prolong or shorten your time,) as if you're in the middle of a fight and drop out, you'll be returned to the beginning of it when you drop back in again.

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On the whole, "Dream Drop Distance" is reasonably entertaining, but is heavy on platforming and combat, as you'd expect from a 3DS port, and the story is largely confined to cut-scenes which are puzzling and enigmatic if you aren't familiar with what has gone before. The environments are very pretty and the the specialized Reality Shift attacks keep things interesting as they change to match each world.

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Of the Disney-themed worlds, there are representations of "Pinocchio," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Tron: Legacy," "Fantasia" and "The Three Musketeers." Out of the bunch I found the Tron world had the most distinctive look and the light cycle racing the most entertaining of the mini-games.

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"Fragmentary Passage" on the other hand, I found to be fantastic. The art on it is just gorgeous in HD and the plot is much better integrated into the game--probably closer to the main "Kingdom Hearts 1" and "Kingdom Hearts 2" games.

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Fully understanding the story on this one is, again, largely dependent on knowing what went on in "Birth by Sleep," but since we're talking about the events in one game versus seven, it's a lot easier to grasp. The protagonist, Aqua, was one of the three early Keymasters who originally got Sora and Riku involved in the whole keyblade trade when they were kids (err...younger kids.) Clearly, something went south in that game, and Aqua was stuck in the Realm of Darkness for some indeterminate time. This game follows her travels in a fractured version of Cinderella as she struggles with hoards of Heartless and her own feelings of inadequacy.

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Both the combat and the platforming are visually stunning and varied enough so that it never feels repetitious. Each area Aqua works through feels like a completely different experience. The game isn't terribly long but it reaches a satisfying conclusion with a team-up with Mickey at the end.

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One thing that was a little surprising to me in both games is that the Disney characters weren't as involved as I expected--while they pop in occasionally, for the most part they're limited to the cut-scenes. This may be because again, these games were not the major installments in the series, but more of a bridge between what has gone before, and the upcoming "Kingdom Hearts 3."

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On the whole, this was a fun collection that, while worth playing all on its own, would likely be more enjoyable if you already have a background in Kingdom Hearts lore. If that's not you, fear not--Square Enix has announced that "KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX" is being released for the PS4 which will include almost all of the earlier content.

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"KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX" is available now for preorder at the Square Enix online store for $49.99, and will be out on March 28, 2017. "KINGDOM HEARTS HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue" is currently available for the PS4.

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*A copy of "KINGDOM HEARTS HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue" was provided to me for the purposes of review without restrictions on expressed thoughts or opinions.*

March 4, 2017

2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, Half Marathon

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Princess Half Marathon

Sunday, February 26 - Princess Half Marathon

With almost twice the number of runners there had been in the 10K, we knew we needed to arrive early at the start area. We met our friends Kim and Charlie in the lobby of Kidani Village at 3:15 and drove to Epcot. The buses had started running at 3:00, and already there was a whole lot more traffic than there had been the day before.

Still, we were on the early side and it didn't take too long to drive to Epcot and park. We learned a long time ago that driving ourselves is not an excuse to sleep for an extra hour. We really need to leave about the same time as we would if we were taking a bus. The main advantage to driving is that if the weather is bad, we have a place to stay inside where it's warm for a while!

We had no bags, but bag check really wasn't backed up anyway. I wanted to do character photos again - the choices were Tiana/Belle and Merida/Pocahontas. Both lines were already very long, and it was only 3:50! I chose the Merida/Pocahontas line. The line was so long that it was Merida when we got in line, swapped to Pocahontas, then swapped back to Merida before we reached the front! We were in line for almost an hour...I had no idea it would take that long.

Princess Half Marathon Lady Tremaine Drizella running costume

The weather was just about perfect. It was a little cooler than the day before - about 57. But most importantly, the humidity was way down, so it was really so much more comfortable for running than it had been on Saturday. I had a large trash bag that I wrapped around me - I needed just a little something to block the breeze and help me stay warm.

Lee and I were running with two other people, Eddie and Liz, who were coming from two different resorts. Liz texted us that she had a long wait for a bus, and then the bus was stuck in traffic. And Eddie was driving, and he was also stuck in traffic. We weren't all able to meet up until almost 5:00 - and the race started at 5:30!

And then we had the 1/2 mile walk to the start corrals...which was still very crowded, even with less than half an hour to the start of the race. As we were walking, Eddie got a text that the start had been delayed because of traffic. Given the experience of our other two runners, we were not surprised! Even with the delay we were still walking to our corral when the cast member sang the national anthem. I think we made it into the corral just after Corral A started, so we were barely in time.

Princess Half Marathon

The corrals were further up on World Drive this year, so it was a slightly longer walk. We knew the course had been modified through Magic Kingdom, so assumed that was the reason for it.

We again ran as a Cinderella group this year - but this time there were four of us. Lee and Eddie reprised their Drizella and Anastasia costumes, Liz was our Cinderella, and I was Lady Tremaine. (Most people didn't seem to know who I was, and it occurred to me in the first mile that I should have brought a stuffed gray cat with me.) Not surprisingly, the guys got all of the attention again, and had lots of people who wanted photos of them or photos with them. :-)

Cinderella Anastasia Drizella Lady Tremaine running costume

The corrals again were being sent off in waves. We were in the back of corral D, and went out about 9 minutes after the official start of the race. My understanding is that there was 62 minutes from the start of the race until the final wave of the last corral. Yikes.

Princess Half Marathon

The waves did seem to help - the one-lane sections of road we had around miles 1 and 2 did not seem as bad this year. Still, it's always good to get onto World Drive where there are four lanes to run on!

It was very nice to see my friends Gail and Julian cheering on the overpass about mile 1.4 and stop for a quick hug.

The first character stop was the pirates about mile 2. Loooong line already and we didn't stop. Followed by the heroes a little later with another long line.

The mile markers were very popular photo stops, so I took very few photos of them, but we had to stop at mile 3 since it was Cinderella!

Princess Half Marathon

I think Mrs. Incredible was the next character we saw, near the speedway. The line didn't seem too long, but took longer than I expected. There were villains later, but they always have a huge line and we didn't stop.

Princess Half Marathon Mrs Incredible

With the change in the course, the mile 5 sign wasn't at the corner past the Contemporary Resort where we turn left to go into the Magic Kingdom - I think we were almost backstage before we saw it.

And then we were on Main Street. Lee and Eddie delighted the spectators by having a hand fight as they ran down Main Street. Unfortunately the PhotoPass photographers didn't catch them in action, but it was really funny.

Princess Half Marathon

We did stop for a photo near the castle where Sam and Chuck from Mickey Milers were cheering.

Princess Half Marathon

Buzz Lightyear was in Tomorrowland, and the Queen of Hearts was next to the Mad Tea Party, but we didn't stop.

This year the course went back into the new part of Fantasyland, past the Storybook Circus and Beast's castle. Gaston was posing near his tavern, and we HAD to stop. The line wasn't too long, but when we were about 6 people from the front, Gaston had to go on a break. The cast member told us it would be about 5 minutes, but it was over 10. I get it...since Gaston is a face character they can't just swap in a different one like they do with the others. We were seriously debating moving on when he came back.

He was really an excellent Gaston - I wish I'd taken video of him. So fun to watch him with the ladies - especially those dressed as Belle. But he really wasn't sure what to make of the guys in the stepsister outfits. :-) He shook their hands as we were leaving and said something like: "Good job."

Princess Half Marathon Gaston

We were hoping to meet the stepsisters and stepmother again this year, but with the focus on Beauty and the Beast this year, the next character stop was the Beast. Since we'd already waited about 20 minutes we weren't really interested in another long line.

I was surprised when we ended up running through the castle. The course map seemed to indicate that we would loop around past "it's a small world" and Peter Pan's Flight into Liberty Square. Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff were up on the balcony at the back of the castle. We were able to run through the castle. There were a couple of photographers, but the main photo stop was at the bottom of the ramp and off to the left, where multiple PhotoPass photographers were taking posed photos. Very popular, but we ran on through Liberty Square. Woody was greeting guests in Frontierland not far from the Mile 6 sign.

Princess Half Marathon

We ran backstage next to Splash Mountain, and that's where the princesses were. One line got us two photos - with Cinderella and Prince Charming, and with Snow White and her prince. (But aren't they both named "Prince Charming"?) Another long line...15 minutes, I think. Cinderella didn't quite know what to make of us - she said something like: "I love to see families together", but her prince was more in the spirit of it.

Princess Half Marathon Cinderella

Snow White and her prince got more of a kick out of us.

Princess Half Marathon Snow White

We'd lost a lot of time because of the two very long character stops, and were really dreading "Cone Alley", the one lane stretch from the exit of Magic Kingdom until we were past the Polynesian. It wasn't too bad, though.

We passed character stops with the penguins from Mary Poppins and the Genie, but had to stop with the "bachelors" in front of the wedding pavilion - because they had the glass slipper. The guy on Eddie's left looks very worried! Too funny.

Princess Half Marathon
Princess Half Marathon

It was nice to get back on the four-lane part of World Drive again. The sun was up and it was a beautiful morning - but it was clear and sunny, which can mean pretty warm conditions for running. Fortunately it stayed cool and there was a little bit of a breeze. And as I mentioned before the humidity was way down. It was really just about as good as it gets!

There was a long line for the heroes but a short line for the pirates. No PhotoPass photographer there, but there was a cast member to take photos. Jack Sparrow certainly took a long look at the sisters.

Princess Half Marathon pirates

Yay...mile 10!!! Just 5K to go. Sarge was encouraging runners as we took the cloverleaf up onto the overpass above World Drive and back towards Epcot.

Princess Half Marathon

No characters on the return to Epcot, though I saw Gail and Julian again about mile 11. Liz's mom, Molly, was waiting for us outside the entrance to Epcot and took this photo.

Princess Half Marathon

There was a character just backstage at Epcot, but I don't remember who it was...except that it wasn't one we cared about. :-) We popped into Future World with about 3/4 of a mile to go. Princess Daisy was waiting at the turnaround point near World Showcase Plaza with no line, so we got a nice photo.

Princess Half Marathon Daisy

We stopped for a photo in front of the fountain, too.

Princess Half Marathon

The PhotoPass photographers took a couple good ones of us as we ran through Future World towards the finish. The one of Lee is my favorite from the entire race weekend.

Princess Half Marathon
Princess Half Marathon

As we approached the finish line, Eddie and Lee were again "fighting" - so engrossed in beating the other to the line that they didn't notice Cinderella blazing by them to finish ahead of them. :-) The race announcers got a big kick out of it.

Princess Half Marathon

We finished in 3 hours, 10 minutes - those two long photo stops really slowed us down. But it was about having fun and not getting a good time. And we had fun!

We got our half marathon medal (sooo pretty!), our Glass Slipper Challenge medal, and our Coast-to-Coast medal. It's the 10th year for Coast-to-Coast, so it received a slight re-design this year. It's larger than in previous years.

Princess Half Marathon medals

We all had finisher photos taken together for the half and the challenge.

Princess Half Marathon

Lee and I had a third photographer to visit because of the Coast-to-Coast medal.

Princess Half Marathon

Once we exited into the finish area we got into yet another line to get beer and champagne. Fortunately that didn't take as long as the character lines!

We munched on some of the contents of our runDisney boxes (sigh) while we were waiting. The boxes were slightly different between the 10K and the half. The open box is the 10K box. The bar and apple berry medley were substituted for the Builder's Protein bar and the dried cranberries in the half marathon box.

Princess Half Marathon snack box

Oh, and that reminds me...one of the things I really like about the Princess and Tinker Bell half marathons is that they give us a bag after we finish to put our drink bottles, food boxes, etc. into. That makes everything so much easier to carry. Why don't they do that for the other race weekends?

Princess Half Marathon bagt

Our friend Charlie finished and met us at the beer line...after the guys finished their beers we went back to the car. But the traffic to get out of the parking lot was awful - it took us about 30 minutes to get out of the parking lot. They really needed some cast members directing traffic in that area. That was the only real negative of the day, though.

The next day we went to Epcot - I wanted to get a picture with Belle and my race medals. We were waiting for rope drop at Chefs de France for the 11:00 meet and greet with Belle. There were a number of other people with the same idea - there were more adults than children!

Princess Half Marathon Belle

We saw a couple of people ahead of us who had Belle sign the back of their half marathon medal, and I thought that was a great idea!

Princess Half Marathon

It was another really fun race weekend. While I think the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland is my favorite set of races, Princess Half Marathon Weekend might be the most fun I have at a race weekend. It's such a fun atmosphere, and despite not being a girly girl, I still love the Disney princesses.

Next year will be the 10th Princess Half Marathon and the 5th Glass Slipper Challenge, so it will be interesting to see what the theme is for that. And how much bigger the race is. There were 20,595 finishers this year - 18,499 women and 2096 men. That's about the same total it's been the last few years, though this year there were more men than in any previous year. The biggest year was the 5th anniversary, when there were 22,739 finishers, and it seemed very crowded that year...I hope it won't be that big next year, but I'm afraid it will be since it's an anniversary year.

Thanks for reading!








March 3, 2017

2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo and 10K

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Princess Half Marathon

This is the 9th year for Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend. It's always a fun one for me. Even though I don't like the 10K and half marathon courses I still have a really good time!

Disney figured out yet another way to capitalize on the upcoming live action "Beauty and the Beast" movie by making it the theme of the race weekend this year. Besides, it really was Belle's turn - Ariel got it last year, and Anna and Elsa the year before that. :-)

As usual, the Expo was held at the Wide World of Sports complex. I went on Friday afternoon - the Expo had opened Thursday morning.

Princess Half Marathon medalPrincess Half Marathon Glass Slipper Challenge medal

Bib pickup was in the HP Field House. There was a nice backdrop just inside the entrance.

Princess Half Marathon

If you have your race waiver already printed (which I did), then bib pickup is almost always an easy process, and this year was no different. There are printers available for those who don't have their waivers. Sometimes there are lines for those, so it's always better to just bring the waiver with you.

Shirt pickup for those of us running the Glass Slipper Challenge was also in the Field House. I really love the blue and purple shirts! But the VERY pink Glass Slipper Challenge shirt? Not so much. I was having flashbacks of the 25th anniversary "Cakestle" nightmare they did for Magic Kingdom. <SHUDDER>

Princess Half Marathon 2017 race shirts

No gray shirt for me this time - yay! But those who ran the 5K ended up with a gray one. :-(

Belle and Rapunzel were posing for photos in the Field House. Belle's line was quite long, but Rapunzel had just come out, so the line was still pretty short.

Princess Half Marathon Rapunzel

The main expo was in the J Center (formerly Jostens Center), but there were plenty of cast members to direct us and some signs to entertain us as we left the Field House.

Princess Half Marathon
Princess Half Marathon

I was there about 1:30 in the afternoon. It was busy, but not super crowded.

Princess Half Marathon Expo

Since I already had my shirts I went straight for the Official Merchandise area. I was somewhat surprised that there was no line to get in. Though there were plenty of taped queue lines on the floor to indicate that there had been lines! Once inside, it seemed to me like there was an excellent variety of merchandise still available. Maybe Disney has finally gotten a better idea of the quantity they need to order of certain very popular items.

For example, there were still LOTS of wine glasses - and those are usually gone early on the first day.

2017 Princess Half Marathon wine glasses

The Princess Weekend runDisney shoe ornament was also still available.

2017 Princess Half Marathon shoe ornament

As were all of the mini-medal and race pins.

2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

Plenty of magnets, too.

2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

There was some 5K merchandise.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise

With something in the neighborhood of 24,000 people registered for the half marathon, there was lots of half marathon merchandise.

Princess Half Marathon

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

A number of Glass Slipper Challenge shirts and jackets.

2017 Enchanted 10K

A few items that I'd seen at previous expos.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise

More generic runDisney merchandise.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise

I think these mugs are probably available around the resort, but I thought they were really cute - and definitely matched the weekend's theme!

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise

The "I Did It" shirts were all very nice - but while the 5K and 10K shirts were unisex, the half marathon and Challenge shirts were women's cut.

2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

There were still a lot of Dooney and Bourke bags left. The only thing that I know of that was sold out at that time was the pink Tervis tumblers.

2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

I wandered around the Expo a bit - it was most of the usual exhibitors. I must admit that seeing the new medals for Tinker Bell weekend almost makes me wish we were running that this year.

2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals

Upstairs, in the area where the speaker series used to be (there did not seem to be any speakers this year!), there was a Beauty and the Beast set up with the rose. Very long line for that.

2017 Princess Half Marathon

Off to the side was the magic mirror, and it displayed various characters.

2017 Princess Half Marathon

A new (to me) exhibitor was Sparkly Soul, which offered a variety of headbands and hair ties themed to different princesses, and I bought a couple of items. I also took a couple of the GoGo SqueeZ applesauce packets that were offered - I like those. So below is my Expo haul:

2017 Princess Half Marathon

We went back to the Expo on Saturday afternoon. I was surprised at how crowded it was - much more than Friday afternoon. But apparently there were about 17,000 people running the half marathon only, and many of them didn't pick up their bibs until Saturday. There was a significant difference in the availability of merchandise by then - the wine glasses and ornaments were gone, and so were a number of other items. We have a friend who is an exhibitor, and a lot of her stock was running low. Which is a good thing! She'd much rather sell it than take it home. :-)

I was much more pleased with the Expo overall this year than in previous years. While I didn't really buy merchandise, it was really nice to see that it was available, and that there was still a very good selection on the second day of the Expo.


Saturday, February 25 - Princess Enchanted 10K

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

Ahh...another race morning, another much-too-early wakeup call. 2:30. I was targeting a 3:15 departure. Though I miscalculated - I thought the buses started running at 3:00, but they didn't start until 3:30. Otherwise I would have said we should leave at 3:45.

We drove our rental car from Animal Kingdom Lodge. Since we were quite early there was no traffic at all, and I think we were parked by 3:30. We were so early that they weren't letting people through the security check yet! But that opened after we'd stood there for a minute or so.

The really nice thing about being there so early is that there were very short lines for the characters! I think there were maybe eight people in front of me for Aurora.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Aurora

But the lines built quickly, and by the time I'd had my photo with Aurora the line for Jasmine was 5 minutes long. As you can see, I wore my Belle costume again. Lee put together his Maurice costume at the last minute, but it turned out well, I think! Jasmine was very good - she was engaging with the runners and doing different poses with them.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Belle Maurice running costume

The character lines were getting very long already. I believe that Cinderella and Snow White were alternating with Jasmine and Aurora but we didn't get back into line...just waited around for friends to arrive. We'd lucked out and had a bench to sit on. So there are some advantages to being early! We had fun watching all of the people and all of the different costumes. Not surprisingly, Belle, either in the blue dress or yellow dress, was a VERY popular choice, but most of the other Disney princesses were well-represented, also. A few people dressed as Mrs. Potts and Chip, or Lumiere and Cogsworth. And quite a few as Gaston.

It was a great temperature for running - about 60 degrees, though it was quite humid. I had a mylar sheet to wrap around me - I was a little chilly just sitting around without it.

I believe this was the largest 10K I've been part of. There were about 14,000 registered, and 11593 finishers. We've learned from previous experience that there are lots of porta-potties with shorter lines once we go into the "runner's only" area near the corral, so we did that, and entered our corral about 5:10. We were in Corral A.

One thing I really enjoy about the 10K is that it isn't a long walk to the corrals and the start. Maybe 10 minutes before the start of the race they walked us to the actual start line. The current Miss America and a representative from Children's Miracle Network Hospital spoke, and then a Disney cast member sang the national anthem. It was nice to see race announcer Rudy Novotny again - we miss him at the Disneyland races. But we're very happy to see him in Florida!

2017 Enchanted 10K

And then it was time for the race to start! I was surprised that they separated the corrals into waves - we were in the second wave of Corral A, which started a minute after the first wave. Maybe it was to introduce even more separation. The race starts on a nice wide road for the first mile, so it really wasn't much of an issue.

2017 Enchanted 10K

I hadn't decided if I was going to run this race for time or take photos, but I started off running for time. So I didn't take a photo of Moana on the overpass, shouting encouragement to "voyagers". I would have stopped for Elena of Avalor at Mile 1, but the line was already long. Tinker Bell and friends were between mile 1 and 2. But I did stop for the Hag just past mile 2. The line didn't look too long (though it took longer than I thought it would), and I've never had my picture with her before! I think it turned out well. The Disney PhotoPass photographers again did an excellent job throughout the weekend. That has been a huge improvement over the previous third party vendor. And since we are AP holders, all PhotoPass photos are included as an AP benefit, which includes race photos!

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

OK...so now I was apparently running the race for fun and not time. :-) There are a lot more character stops than there were when Disney originally rolled out the first 10K on this course. The course itself is still very boring, since it's on roads and backstage at Epcot for the first 3.5 miles. It's always really nice to finally come into Epcot between Norway and China and see the torches around World Showcase Lagoon and hear the music!

Dopey was out at Germany and Pinocchio at Italy, but the lines were a little long. Marie at France had a short line, but I didn't stop. Lee did, though.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

We ran out of Epcot and around the Boardwalk. I was very surprised that there was no character in front of ESPN Club, as there usually is. It turned out that I was too early - the Genie was there a couple minutes later when Lee went by. There were lot of PhotoPass photographers on the Boardwalk, though, so they got some shots of us. Lee always looks happier when he's running than I do. :-)

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K
2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

At the International Gateway was Princess Minnie, and the line was fairly short so I stopped.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

From there it was less than a mile to the finish. PhotoPass got an excellent shot of Lee in front of Spaceship Earth...though I think he forgot which character he was portraying, as that pose is more Gaston than Maurice. :-)

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

I finished in 1:02:28. Not a PR, but since I had a couple of character stops that was still pretty good. 20th in my division and 917 overall, so in the top 10%. I was happy with that.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

Lee had a good race and finished in 1:06:44.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

Our friends Eddie McCoy and Phill Vanderpool ran together and finished second and third in their age group, respectively. Congratulations to them!

The medal is very nice - keeping with the Beauty and the Beast theme.

Princess Half Marathon 10K medal

After the race we got in one of the character lines - it was Mulan when we got in line, but Jasmine again when we reached the front of the line. Oh well.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

We walked to our car and had no problems getting out of the parking lot - easy drive back to the hotel.

It was a fun race. Even though I don't like this course very much I still enjoy the race. It's a great atmosphere and everyone has a good time. I'm glad that Disney is continuing to change the theme of the 10K each year. Though it would be nice if they would announce the theme BEFORE the race actually went on sale!

Next up: The Disney Princess Half Marathon








February 27, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - 2/24/17

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, February 24, 2017.

Prices have gone up at the Disneyland Resort since my last visit. Current parking rates.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

An overview of the Star Wars/Rivers of America construction site from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure.

A building is taking shape in the back corner.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The round lower level portion of the large show building has reached ground level now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The building has spanned the full width and height.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Ticket prices went up since my last visit.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The entrance to Star Tours is being reconfigured.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The walls in the middle of the walkway are down. They removed the planter so now it is just a support column. This creates a little more space for strollers and/or walkway.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

This week the Country Bears are the featured characters for AP Days. Shaker and Big Al were out when I stopped by.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Arts and crafts activities.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

They also had the button from last week available if you did not get one.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Some barges out on the river now as they prepare to bring Fantasmic back this summer.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The Columbia masts are back and rigging is being added.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017"

The concrete riverbed is being poured for the Rivers of America.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Poles near the entrance for the Haunted Mansion are an indication that the rollout or at least testing of maxPass is coming.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The Moana meet and greet has been removed...

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The Red Rose Taverne officially opened today in Fantasyland. This temporary overlay of Beauty and the Beast to the Village Haus.

The line reached the sidewalk when I stopped by at 3:30. This was a little deceiving since they were holding the line inside and guiding people to registers with only one or two groups at each registered vs the normal lines at each. I was told it took about 10 minutes to get to order. The orders were taking a while though so total time was pushing 20-30 minutes from entering the queue till you were eating.

This was good compared to reports I read from over the weekend of wait times up to two hours.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Inside props and new artwork have been added to change it from Pinocchio and his German Village Haus to Belle and France.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Even the window glass was changed out.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

They were sold out of all desserts for the day already. Here is a look at the enchanted cauli-flower sandwich.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Poutine flatbread

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The other side of the restaurant Gaston helped to decorate. So it features antlers and of course a large picture of him.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Antlers added to the chandeliers.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Over at Disney California Adventure, the scaffolding and wrap have returned to fully cover the Guardians of the Galaxy Breakout Attraction with about three months to go until the May 27th opening.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

World of Color is not running for a couple weeks for annual refurbishment work. Two of the three platforms were raised to be worked on.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Class of 2017 mouse ears are available throughout the resort.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

In New Orleans Square Mlle Antoinettes is closed for some work.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

The Red Rose cups are at Maurice's too.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

Found a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade to wrap up my visit with the parade then Remember Dreams Come True Fireworks.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, February 24, 2017

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, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.








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