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January 26, 2015

Renovation Project Updates: Disneyland Resort 1/23/15

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 23, 2015.

Since this is the off season once again I focus on the refurbishments going on around the parks in this post, the full picture set includes my usual assortment of pictures as I roamed the parks. You can definitely tell it is off season by the list of closures, and more are on the way.

No scaffolding yet, but the castle walkway is blocked and moat is drained. Soon this will be covered.

A couple signs with some info about the Castle on them.

The current state of the moat. A little water still in it.

The West side of the moat.

The back side of the Castle is walled off and the east/Tomorrowland walkway is closed too.

Peter Pan closes soon for some renovation work. Here is a video from Friday (as always the dark ride videos really do not do them justice)

Next up a trip aboard the Monorail to check out Condor Flats. All the concrete near Taste Pilot's Grill has been removed.

And a lot of the concrete in front of Soarin' is gone too.

The trees behind the billboard are gone. But as of now looks like the billboard is staying.

The Apricot Lane Boutique in Downtown Disney is closed...forgot to mention that last week when I walked by.

The white tarps now have a photo of the "small world" Facade on them and the clock tower is covered. The attraction is open this weekend but closes Monday for the holiday removal.

Jumping over to New Orleans Square, the La Masquerade store is currently closed for some work.

The Haunted Mansion opened a day early.


My pictures of the new window at the exit to the attic in the Haunted Mansion came out poorly. This is the best of the bunch with some Photoshop enhancement. You can see what looks like a bat matching the queue design in the window. It appears to be very temporary to me.



Went for a cruise aboard the Mark Twain. A look into Critter Country, which is closed, the barriers mark a walkway for cast members to go through the construction areas.

Work on the Briar Patch facade

The Hungry Bear has scaffolding and work going on.

The Big Hero 6 Meet and Greet is gone and some arcade games are back in the Starcade. (I think this happened several weeks ago but I had not walked down this way).

Stopped by the Market House, there are now Disney Parks/Starbucks tumblers and mugs available.

A look at the two sides of the tumbler

The You Are Here Collection mug. They are specific to each park. (No Downtown Disney - that has the generic California mug as of last check).

Over at DCA here is the Starbucks mug available on Buena Vista Street at the Cafe

The rockwork at the entrance to Condor Flats has been marked...demolition is coming soon it looks like.

Looking into Condor Flats.

The Bugs Theater is closed for refurbishment too. So right now there are no 3D films with all three theaters closed or re-purposed. No word yet on what is going on with Bugs or Magic Eye but best bet is more film previews are coming. I would like to see something for the 60th.

The walls are down and new signs, awnings, and a car at the Bakery Tour.

Can anyone tell the year of the old Ford parked out front?

The old entrance (I say that because unclear if this is an entrance/exit or both now).

The same Bakery Tour sign over this doorway.

Grizzly River Run is closed for annual refurbishment

Most of the water is now gone from Paradise Bay and they are cleaning it and working on the World of Color fountains.

The bakery sign lit up this evening.

The entrance/exit

The car headlights are on at night.

The audio on the Disneyland Railroad has been upgraded. Here is a video clip passing through the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas.


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




January 24, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Half Marathon Recap

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Sunday, January 18

The alarm again went off at 3:30. This is starting to seem normal. That worries me.

As usual, we had a light breakfast. Lee was unhappy to discover that, while we had started with two packets of coffee in our Studio, the remaining one was decaf. An uncaffeinated Lee is not a happy Lee.

Different costumes today - Lee was an X-wing fighter pilot. I thought it was pretty effective as a running costume! Since I'd been unable to come up with something else (I used up all my creativity with Amidala), I wore my Cinderella costume again. Which has the advantage that I've run in it before, and I know it's not going to give me problems.

This time we knew to go through Downtown Disney to get to the pre-race area, so it was a much more efficient process. We met up with friends and walked to our start corral - we were all in B. We weren't all planning to run together this time, though - just Lee and me.

For the half marathon there were some fireworks during the national anthem and for the start of the race.

And then we were off. The course started the same as the 10K - north on Disneyland drive and east on Ball, but instead of going over the freeway we ducked into the Team Disney Anaheim area, then backstage at Disneyland. That was all before mile 1. Most of the park time part of the half marathon course was similar to the 10K the day before, though there were a few times we ran in the opposite direction. Like the 10K we ran around the perimeter of Disneyland and behind the Indiana Jones attraction, then out to the Esplanade, but then we went into Disneyland's main entrance and down Main Street to Frontierland.

Luke and Leia were posing in front of the Mark Twain's dock. Another loooong line. But this time there was a cast member pointing out a safe place to stop for a quick photo or selfie, and telling us we were fine as long as we stayed within the yellow cones (meaning we were off the actual race course). It was nice to see them bow to the inevitable and do that at most of the character stops, though at one of the stops in DCA they STILL were chasing runners off.

We ran around Big Thunder Mountain in Fantasyland. At the teacups, Lee demonstrated that an X-wing pilot can fly anything. :-)

Leaving Fantasyland we went back towards the hub. Chewbacca was behind the Matterhorn this time. The line wasn't quite as long as the day before, but still more than we wanted to deal with!

We again ran into Tomorrowland. Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers (sounds like the name of a rock band) were in front of Star Tours. I can't remember how, but we ended up backstage near Space Mountain and then went out into Town Square, then exited Disneyland. I saw my friend Masayo cheering in the Esplanade before we went backstage between Disneyland and DCA.

We entered DCA by the Tower of Terror and ran down Hollywood Blvd. Boba Fett was near Off the Page, still with a long line, but shorter than the day before - we didn't stop, though.

Along the way between Grizzly Peak and "a bug's land" there were several sets of Storm Troopers. Which was a great idea because it meant none of them had very long lines. At some point we also saw the Star Wars Rebels characters again, but didn't stop because we'd gotten them the day before.

This time we went counter-clockwise around Paradise Bay, and passed by The Little Mermaid and Jumpin' Jellyfish. The Jedi were in front of Silly Symphony Swings. This was the third set of Jedi we'd seen, so another example where there were multiple instances of similar characters, which made the lines a lot more reasonable!

After that we went out the parade gate again, and behind California Screamin', again re-entering the park by the arch into Radiator Springs. There was some nice lighting on Ornament Valley as the sun was starting to rise.

We exited the park between Flik's Fun Fair and Luigi's Flying Tires, and found ourselves going south on Harbor Blvd. About mile 4.5 of the race, and we'd been on property for about four miles. Quite an improvement over the Avengers half marathon course, in my opinion. One of the best parts about park time is that it makes the race seem to go by more quickly - we were over 1/3 done with the race when we left the parks!

As we ran down Harbor there was a spectacular sunrise.

There's about a mile of Harbor Blvd where the course is going both directions - outgoing runners at ~miles 5-6, and returning runners about miles 11-12. We saw some of the early finishers - we didn't see the men's winner, who was almost done by then, but we saw the first woman runner - yeah, she was about 6 miles ahead of us...

Harbor is a very wide street, and runners had two lanes in each direction. That made for very easy and uncrowded conditions. It was great.

In the median was a guy dressed as Chewbacca. He looked just as good as the one in Disneyland, and did NOT have a 30 minute line. The spectators really embraced the Star Wars theme, and we saw lots with Star Wars-inspired signs, and some in costumes. I saw a guy dressed as a Jedi master and said "May the Force be with you". He saw Lee's X-wing fighter costume and replied: "Stay on target." :-)

I guess one thing I haven't talked about is runner costumes. I think R2D2, or something reminiscent of him, was what I saw the most of. There were also a lot of Princess Leias, a number of them accompanied by Han Solos. I didn't see nearly as many Jedi as I expected - Lee suggested that the robes would've been too warm for running. Though we did see one guy in a complete Chewbacca costume! Yikes.

There were a lot of X-wing pilots, and a few runners in Darth Vader helmets. I saw almost no Disney characters, and I actually received quite a bit of attention in my Cinderella outfit - probably because the spectators could easily tell who I was. :-)

The high school bands and cheerleaders were out, also, and several of the bands were playing Star Wars music.

By about mile 6.5 we were in the city of Garden Grove, and had turned west on Garden Grove Blvd. There were a number of policemen, fire departments, and paramedics along the course to cheer us on.

Around mile 7 we entered more of a residential district, so no more bands for a while, in consideration of the residents who were probably still trying to sleep! I noticed that we crossed "Newhope Street" - how appropriate for a Star Wars-themed race! (For those who are not big Star Wars fans, the original Star Wars movie's subtitle was "Episode IV: A New Hope.")

We had heard the Disney had invited "Costumers" (though we would call them Cosplayers) to officially come out dressed in Star Wars attire to cheer us on, and we passed the first set of them about mile 8. That's at a point in the race when we're starting to need a distraction and some encouragement, and since we were still in a residential area, no bands or musical groups were appropriate. But these people were terrific. There were so many wonderful costumes!

And even a special vehicle - notice R2D2 in the back. (The license plate was OBISHWN.)

Soon after that we went down Garden Grove's Historic Main Street. This was only one block long, but it was a nice area with lots of shops.

Then we headed north again and just before mile 9 we encountered the second set of Costumers - a much larger group than the first. Wow! Lots of different costumes, and a much better variety of characters than we'd seen in the parks. Honestly, after seeing them I think there was really no reason to wait to see the characters in the parks - these were even better!

We had friends who were dressed as Leia and an X-wing pilot, and it was wonderful to see them out there!

In miles 9-10 we went east on Chapman Avenue.

It seemed like we had a few more residents/spectators out cheering for us than we had in miles 6-8 - the support was great. The residential areas that we ran through seemed very nice - there were several parks as well as this one more natural area.

Just before mile 11 we turned north on Harbor again - we'd already run this stretch of road, but in the opposite direction. All the runners had gone through on the other side and they were starting to clean everything up, but they hadn't re-opened the southbound lanes yet.

After a mile we turned left on Katella and ran around the outside of California Adventure. This was different, since for the other three half marathons the last mile is all on Disney property. We saw Colin and Beci cheering - and also this guy. :-)

We turned onto Disneyland Drive and then into the Simba parking lot. On the course map I'd seen that there was a loop in this lot, and I was a little concerned about that. It seemed like a cruel place to add some extra distance! But it was short, and we were soon on the familiar final 1/4 mile finishing stretch past the Paradise Pier and the Disneyland Hotels to the finish line.

I'd really hoped to finish in 2:35 or less and we did it: 2:33:53!

This time the volunteers were handing out mylar sheets! Nice, because it was a cool and overcast morning. We also got our half marathon medals.

And then went to the Coast-to-Coast tent to get both our Rebel Challenge and Coast-to-Coast medals.

They looked our bib number up on the computer and matched us to the photo taken at the Expo, and also verified that we had a finishing time for the 10K. It was quick and efficient. For Coast-to-Coast we just showed the wristband we'd received at the Expo and got that medal.


The medals are nice - the Rebel Challenge is a spinner, with Yoda on one side and Vader on the other. The ribbon is also different colors on each side. I mentioned this in a previous blog, but one thing I noticed about the Half Marathon medal: it does not say "Inaugural" on it. That most important word is only on the ribbon, but not the medal. :-( The 5K, 10K, and Rebel Challenge medals all say "Inaugural".

We got our runDisney boxes, and had someone take our photo, but then we went back to our room - it was chilly to just be standing around, and we just wanted to sit down/shower/get a hot beverage/all of the above.

All in all, this was a terrific experience. The Star Wars 10K is my new favorite "more fun than anyone should have while running" race. The half marathon was great, and I really enjoyed the course. It was wide and fast and made for very easy running. It certainly wasn't crowded, so it'll be interesting to see how many more entries will be added to next year's race. There were about 12,000 entered this year, with 10,374 official finishers. While I liked this course a lot the Tinker Bell half marathon course is still my favorite because it spends more time on Disney property, and I think the downtown Anaheim areas are a little more interesting.

When it comes to the overall race experience, though, I think this one is my new favorite half marathon. The organizers brought so many wonderful elements of Star Wars to these races. There were the costumes worn by the race announcers and DJs, the movie clips while we waited in the corrals, the Stars Wars "crawl" at the beginning of the races, and the marvelous music and sound effects in the parks.

I only wish that the Disney characters in their Star Wars costumes had been out in the parks. They didn't even have to be available for photos - they could have put them on the ramp of Innoventions or someplace like that where we could only see them, and that would've been fine with me.

And my very favorite part was the Costumers who were out on the course. The costumes were amazing - it was great to see such a variety of characters from the Star Wars universe - both the heroes and the villains. As I said earlier, there really wasn't a reason to wait in character lines in the park when there were so many more out on the course! And they were so very enthusiastic and supportive, too. I'd like to express my thanks to runDisney for inviting them to participate in both the Avengers and Star Wars half marathons, and I sincerely hope that they will be invited back again next year. And thank you to all of you who came out - it really meant a lot to the runners for us to see you, especially at that point in the race. We get a burst of energy from your cheers and enthusiasm at a time when we need that.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support us: the bands and cheerleaders, friends and family of runners, the kids who high-fived us, and the kind people who handed out orange slices, red licorice, and pretzels.

And thank you to the volunteers who checked us in at the Expo, kept us supplied with water and PowerAde, distributed medals and mylar and food at the finish, and performed all of the other tasks that are so essential to a race. Thank you to the cast members and police departments who kept us safe, and the medical teams who were ready to assist if needed.

And that's just some examples of the people that we SAW - there's an awful lot of people behind the scenes, too. The audio visual people, the graphic designers, the people who set up and tear down the bleachers and the tents and deal with all of those barricades and orange cones - and let's not forget those who have the less-than-pleasant duty of servicing the porta-potties! :-)

The entire race weekend was a lot of fun, and we definitely hope to participate in the Rebel Challenge again next year!




January 23, 2015

Review: Strange Magic

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"Strange Magic," a new animated feature from Lucas film Ltd., tells the tale of the denizens of a fairy tale realm, and the hijinks that ensue when love--real and pharmaceutical--enters the picture.

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The story, conceived by George Lucas, introduces us to a fairy tale kingdom divided into a Light Side (Fairy Kingdom,) and a Dark Side (Dark Forest.) The Light Side is ruled over by a King and his two Princess daughters. The eldest, spunky, adventurous Marianne, is engaged to be married to the handsome narcissist Roland. Unfortunately, their wedding day reveals some compatibility issues that leave Marianne determined to swear off love forever.

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As it happens, the border of the Light and the Dark Side is marked by primroses--a key ingredient in a magical love potion, which would seem to be the answer to a lot of problems for both Roland and Sunny the elf, who appears to have been sadly friendzoned by the younger Princess Dawn. Unfortunately, the production of said potion has been strictly curtailed by the Bog King, who seems to rule the Dark Side on a platform of "no love potions." It seems he too has had some unfortunate history that has left him determined to swear off love forever.

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Eventually, pop songs are sung, potions are made, the wrong people are dusted, and a plethora of interesting matches are made, including what appeared to be maybe a lizard and a toadstool. In her efforts to protect her sister, Marianne must interact with the Bog King, and may discover that appearances can be deceiving, and beauty lies within.

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The voice acting in the film is perfectly respectable, with such Broadway veterans as Alan (Bog King) Cumming and Kristen (Sugar Plum Fairy) Chenoweth heading up the cast and tackling the large number of pop songs that pepper the film. One standout is Elijah Kelley who invests Sunny with enough likeability to overcome the impatience one might feel at his character's persistent credulity.

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The animation is as fluid and proficient as you'd expect, coming out of Industrial Light & Magic, even if the character designs aren't entirely appealing. The goblins of the Dark Forest come out the cutest, while the fairies suffer a little from the "uncanny valley" effect, of being a little too close to real, but not quite close enough.

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Ultimately, "Strange Magic's" main antagonist ends up being the demon of comparison: With the recent outstanding output WDAS has been producing, such as "Frozen" and "Big Hero 6," we are currently experiencing a boom time for animation. Unfortunately, whether it's because of relative inexperience or a smaller project scope, "Strange Magic" isn't really competitive with them on either an artistic or story level. That is not to say it isn't enjoyable, however, and if you and yours enjoyed "Shrek," "Gnomio and Juliet," and the Disney Fairies movies, this amalgamation may be right up your alley.

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“Strange Magic” is presented by Lucasfilm Ltd. Rated PG, it stars Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph, Sam Palladio, Meredith Anne Bull, Alfred Molina, Elijah Kelley, Bob Einstein, and Peter Stormare.

Directed by Gary Rydstrom and produced by Mark S. Miller. Screenplay by David Berenbaum, Irene Mecchi, and Gary Rydstrom, based on a story by George Lucas. Musical director and
composer is Marius de Vries.

The film enters general release on January 23, 2015, and is distributed by Touchstone Pictures.

January 21, 2015

Renovation Project Updates: Disneyland Resort 1/16

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 16, 2015.

This picture set takes a look the state of some of the renovation projects going on around the resort. This weekend was the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon and Laura will be covering those events in a series of posts, too.

Starting off today at the Disneyland Hotel. Some renovation work going on around the hotel. Appears to be fall protection enhancements.

The work continues around to the Fantasy Tower.

In Disney California Adventure, the facade of Taste Pilot's has been removed. No other visible progress in Condor Flats from Carthay Circle.

The Bakery is still behind walls with no real visible signs of progress

The water level in Paradise Bay is down to a point where the platforms are sitting on their risers and the water is below that.

Barriers are up, blocking the lower portions of Paradise Park.

From near the Zephyr

Walking to Disneyland, no visible progress on the renovation work to the stroller/wheelchair rental facade.

The Big Hero 6 signage is still up at the Magic Eye Theatre in Tomorrowland.

A look at the current state of Condor Flats from the Monorail. The concrete in front of Soarin' has holes in it and looks like it will be removed in the coming days.

The Cool Your Jets rocket engine tower is gone.

The "it's a small world" facade is under wraps. The holiday version of the attraction is still open for a few more weeks.

The clock remains visible and functional.

A completed project -- The Royal Courtyard has reopened in New Orleans Square.

The stairs have been rebuilt

A couple merchandise displays/cases on the one wall.

The Haunted Mansion is closed to switch back to the regular show.

Critter Country is closed now for some renovation work. The wall is right at the exit to the Haunted Mansion.

Mesh is up on both sides of the Critter Country bridge so you cannot see what is going on from the Railroad.

Through the mesh you can see scaffolding up on the Hungry Bear restaurant.

The Christmas lights are still on at "it's a small world" holiday, for the sections not covered by the tarp.

Finally, they have installed new white lane markers at the parking structure exit area (they were working on them when I arrived this afternoon). They do stand out at night.

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of some of the renovation projects going 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, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




January 20, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - 10K Recap

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It is a dark time for the Rebellion. (5:30 is really early.) Although the Out-of-Breath Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel runners from their hidden fitness expo and pursued them across 6.2 miles. Evading the dreaded Imperial Sweeper Bikes, a group of Rebel Challengers, led by run/walkers, have established a new secret race retreat near the icy world of Frozen Fun.

The evil Lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding the run/walkers, has dispatched official photographers into the far reaches of the course in an attempt to find runners and lure them to the Park side...


Saturday, January 17

Our alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. Since at Disneyland we can walk to the start line and don't need to drive or take a bus, we don't have to get up quite as early, even though the race still starts at 5:30.

We planned to leave the room about 4:30, but we still needed that hour to have something to eat and to put on our costumes.

I hadn't originally planned to run in costume. When the race was first announced I had something in mind, but could never really get inspired and figure out how to do it, and between the holidays and Marathon weekend I just ran out of time. But then on Wednesday, inspiration hit, and I decided to run the 10K as Queen Amidala. I went shopping Wednesday after work, started on some of the cutting and sewing, and finished it on Thursday night. The costume was actually very comfortable - it was essentially a tech shirt (men's size large) with some ribbon sewn on, and a black running skirt underneath. I made the collar and decorative piece out of red felt, painted with gold fabric paint. The most time-consuming part in the morning was putting on the make-up (and I hadn't had a chance to do a trial run on it), but it worked out ok, I think.

Lee had adapted a Jedi costume that he has worn in the past to something he could run in, replacing the vest/belt with a grey tech shirt and his regular running belt. He was a little warm in it, but otherwise very happy with it.

Getting to the pre-race area was more challenging than usual. Since this was a new race we didn't know where everything was going to be! We walked out of the Grand Californian onto Disneyland Drive, but that put us right into the corrals, because this race starts by going north and not south. We eventually went out to Downtown Disney and managed to get to the pre-race area, which is in the same place used for the Disneyland and Avengers races. It's a longer walk to the start corrals from there for this race than for the other two, though, since corral access is south of the Paradise Pier.

I really enjoyed the graphics and the way the stage looked. The DJ was even in Jedi attire.

We met up with Eddie and Brad, who were going to be running with us, and then went back to our start corral - because of where we were staying it would've been a lot easier to just go straight to the corral from the hotel! :-)

We were in Corral B. While we waited they played some clips from Star Wars movies on the big screens, including the trailer for the new movie that is supposed to be released in December. R2D2 and C-3PO joined the race announcers on stage.

The wheelchair athletes started first - no fireworks, though. Corral A started a few minutes later, and then our corral. We started almost 9 minutes after the official start. The course goes north on Disneyland Drive, then east on Ball, then south on Harbor. All of those are nice wide roads, and we weren't crowded at all.

The temperature was great - about 50 degrees at the start. I was glad that I had l arm sleeves, but I was pretty comfortable for the entire race.

Once we entered Disneyland's backstage area at about mile 1.5 we were on Disney property for the rest of the race, though a lot of it was backstage.

When we ran through the tunnel that goes down under the bus/tram area we heard the spooky sound of Darth Vader breathing, as well as his occasional admonitions that our destiny lies with the Dark Side. I think not, Darth! :-)

The first water stop was just after that, and then we ran across the esplanade and through Disneyland's main entrance onto Main Street. The first character stop was a Jedi master, but he had a pretty long line. There was even a line to take photos with the mile 2 sign at the end of Main Street! I liked the mile signs - they all had different images from the Star Wars movies.

We went left into Frontierland. Chewbacca was set up just in front of the Mark Twain, and a a HUGE line. There were several cast members just managing the queue, in addition to those who were taking photos! We didn't stop, but I asked a woman who had just gotten her photo how long she had waited, and she said 20 minutes - and she had started in Corral A!

We went around Big Thunder Mountain and into Fantasyland. This course did not go through the castle: instead we went out of Fantasyland next to the teacups and by Alice in Wonderland back to the hub, then made a left and went into Tomorrowland. For a Star Wars themed race of course you have to run through Tomorrowland!

We stopped for a photo in front of Star Tours.

Darth Vader was in front of Innoventions, with another huge line, though not as long as the line for Chewbacca. There were Storm Troopers patrolling the Innoventions ramp, so we were able to get a quick photo of them.

We ran past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn and then back towards "it's a small world". There were several Jedi on the terraced area overlooking the course, but apparently "these are not the Jedi available for photos", because we were chased off when we tried to take photos of them. Not even WITH them, just OF them. They were miked, and were offering Jedi-appropriate encouragement to the runners.

"It's a small world" is undergoing refurbishment and was largely covered, but some of the holiday lights were still turned on.

We ran backstage again to the mile 3 sign and the second water stop. We were having a great time and the race had gone very fast and we were surprised that we were halfway done already! I'd hoped that we would hear a lot of Star Wars music along the course and we did - I can't tell you the names, but I recognized a number of different pieces.

In the backstage areas there were some cast members to cheer us on, but it was pretty quiet. There were projections on some of the buildings that looked good, but I had a cast member tell me "no photos backstage" when I tried to take a photo of the Death Star projection.

We ran around the outside of about 2/3 of Disneyland before entering the Esplanade again and running across through the main entrance of DCA, and down Buena Vista Street and past the mile 4 sign.

At the end of Hollywood Blvd near the Hyperion Theater were two characters from the Star Wars Rebels animated series. Finally a short line, so we posed with them. We ran past the Tower of Terror and into Flik's Fun Fair. The Mos Eisley Cantina music was playing there - that was fun to hear.

From "a bug's land" we went towards Paradise Pier. Boba Fett was posing for photos near the entrance to Paradise Pier. Another pretty long line there. And I thought the cast members were being a little overzealous in not allowing runners to just stop and take a photo or selfie from the edge of the race course.

World of Color is undergoing refurbishment so the lagoon is mostly drained and the fountains weren't running. We've gotten very used to seeing them during races and it was strange not to see them this time. Hopefully next year!

There were several Jedi in the Midway area, and they also had a very short line. They appropriately acknowledged me in my costume. :-)

We went backstage at the parade gate near Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and ran back behind California Screamin', and re-entered the park at the Pacific Wharf, just in time to run through the arch and into Cars Land. And the mile 5 sign.

We ran by Luigi's Flying Tires and then backstage again onto the perimeter road. The route from here to the finish was quite familiar, as a number of the Disneyland races finish this way: across Disneyland Drive and past the Paradise Pier and Disneyland Hotels to the finish line.

The volunteers gave us our lovely Inaugural Star Wars 10K medals. We were wondering if there was something we had to do for the Rebel Challenge, to show we'd finished the 10K (such as a wrist band), but there wasn't.

After we exited into the Family Reunion area we met up with some other friends who had finished earlier. It was just after 7:00, and still only 52 degrees, so we started getting chilled just standing around, and soon headed back to our hotel for a warm beverage and a hot shower.

We received the usual runDisney MRE box. Meh. I still don't like these. There wasn't even any chocolate in them this time - at the Disneyland races we have usually had some Almond Roca in them.

The 6.2 miles really flew by - I didn't feel like I'd run that far at all. And in spite of the photo stops, we still finished in 1:16:07. We really had a great time - up until now last year's Tinker Bell 10K had been my most fun race, but now it's this one. I still smile thinking about it!

I REALLY love the 10K distance - it is by far my favorite. I can travel very light since I don't have to carry a hydration belt or anything with me other than my room key and phone, which fit into pockets of my running skirt. And it's really nice to be done in less than 90 minutes, and still have the rest of the day left! We actually had time to shower, walk to Disneyland, and still make the last 30 minutes of Magic Morning! (And we rode Star Tours, of course!)

This was a new 10K course, and I enjoyed it. I never felt crowded at all, not even in the early part of the race - it was really a very pleasant running experience. Of the Disney 10Ks I think I still like the Disneyland 10K course the best because of the finish through Downtown Disney, but this one is really good. It's all on Disney property after the first 1.5 miles, but because a lot of that is backstage, to me it feels more isolated from the spectators. But it was a whole lot easier to get back to our hotel (the Grand Californian) after this 10K than the Disneyland 10K since we didn't have to get across the race course. On the other hand, it was a lot harder this time for those staying at the Disneyland Hotel. They had to go left out of the finish area away from the hotel, then left on Magic Way, and left again back toward the hotel. Eddie said it was .35 miles.

The runners (and the spectators) embraced the Star Wars theme, and there were lots of runners in costume. I expected to see lots of Jedi, but actually i saw a lot more X-wing fighter pilots and Princess Leias. R2D2 was also very well represented.

As you can tell, I had a great time. For an Inaugural event I thought it went off extremely well - I didn't really see any major problems. They even did a pretty good job of anticipating the lines for the characters, and having personnel available to manage the lines. There were over 10,000 entered in the 10K, with 9195 finishers. That's a pretty good-sized field.

I suppose my only disappointment is the characters. I was REALLY hoping to see the Disney characters in their Star Wars attire out on the course. Besides, having more character opportunities would have helped shorten the lines by spreading people out more.

This event was a lot of fun, and we hope to do it again next year!







January 19, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon

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The Course was with us, and we successfully completed the Rebel Challenge and earned our Coast-to-Coast medals, also! I'll have a more detailed report to come, but here's a few thoughts.

It was a wonderful morning for running - 50 at the start, and cloudy and mid-50s when we finished. There was a beautiful sunrise!

The new half marathon course was interesting. We spent almost 4 miles in the parks, though a lot of it was backstage. We didn't exit the parks until mile 4.5, which made the first 1/3 of the race go quickly.

Once we left the parks the course went south and west into the city of Garden Grove. It was a mixture of commercial and residential areas, and we went by a couple of pretty park areas, too. Nice wide roads, and it felt open and uncrowded. Easy running. The spectators really embraced the Star Wars theme, and they seemed to having a wonderful time, too. It was especially fun to hear the high school bands playing Star Wars music.

The Costumers who were on the course between mile 8 and 9 were totally awesome (and I don't just say that because one of them is a friend). Much more variety of costumes and characters than we saw in the parks, without the huge lines. Thank you, Disney, for inviting them to participate in both the Avengers and Star Wars half marathons. They really bring a lot to the races, and give the runners a tremendous lift at a point when we are starting to need it.

The medals are beautiful, though I thought it was interesting the the half marathon medal does not say Inaugural on it - just on the ribbon. The 5K, 10K and Rebel Challenge medals all say "Inaugural".

It was really a terrific Inaugural event - Congratulations to all involved! We will be back next year!







January 18, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K

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A more thorough race recap is going to have to wait until I have time to write it, but I wanted to post this update to say that Lee and I had a blast running the Inaugural Disneyland Star Wars 10K this morning. We finished in 1:16:07. It was SO much fun. The miles flew by like the Millennium Falcon on the Kessel Run.

We ran with our friends Eddie and Brad. We stopped for a number of photos, but didn't stand in any of the REALLY long lines for characters like Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett.

The medal is beautiful! Very happy to add this one to my collection.

I'll have more details in a later blog. Tomorrow we'll be running the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon, completing the Rebel Challenge, and earning our Coast-to-Coast medal.

May the Course Be With You!


For real-time updates and photos follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura






January 17, 2015

Disneyland's Royal Theatre - Frozen Fun

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 9, 2015. In this posting I will take a look at another element of the "Frozen Fun" that runs through April 30. Pieces of this event have been open since December, with Arendelle being added to Storybook Land back on December 19, and then soft openings of the other components over the days that followed. Below you will find my first look at Frozen being performed in the Royal Theatre at the Fantasy Faire in Disneyland. So far, after having see all the various "Frozen"-related attractions being performed in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I'd say that the best Frozen thing I have seen is the show at the Royal Theatre in Fantasy Faire. It was really well done and funny.

A visit to the Royal Theatre and to see a performance of Frozen.

Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones introduce the show. There are a few live characters in the show, but these two use many puppets to reenact the story.

Here is a video of the opening.

The troll scene.


Anna and Elsa join the cast.

Kristoff and Sven

The sleigh ride scene.

A video clip of the sleigh scene and wolf battle.

Olaf's arrival and "In Summer" performance.












The finale to the Frozen show at the Royal Theatre


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. Be sure to check out my other postings looking at the rest of the Frozen Fun activities, and as always you can see the full picture set on my site disneygeek.com.

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




2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away...

It is a period of taper and recovery. Rebel runners, operating from a hidden start line, have won the opening 5K against the evil Galactic Bonk.

During the race, rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Out-of-Breath Star, which has the power to cause legions of runners to hit the wall.

Analysis of the plans has revealed a weakness, and a new hope for the Rebel Running Alliance. Only by undertaking the Rebel Challenge, and crossing the 10K and half marathon finish lines on two consecutive mornings, can runners defeat the Bonk and restore glycogen stores to the galaxy...


When runDisney announced that there would be a Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland in January 2015 there was a great disturbance in the Force, as though thousands of runners screamed for joy. When the event went on sale to the public in all race events were sold out in less than two hours.

The race weekend runs from January 15-18. Events include the Health and Fitness Expo Thursday-Saturday, the Star Wars 5K on Friday, the Star Wars 10K and Kids Races on Saturday, and the Half Marathon on Sunday. Runners participating in both the 10K and the Half Marathon have the opportunity to take on the Rebel Challenge, and earn an additional medal for completing both races.

And, let's not forget that this event has my favorite word: Inaugural. :-) It took about a nanosecond for Lee and me to decide that we wanted to sign up for the Rebel Challenge.

To say that this race weekend has been eagerly anticipated is quite an understatement, and Disney fans and Star Wars fans have been training, and, more importantly, planning their race costumes, for months. Lee and I are no exception - I can't remember when I've looked forward to a race weekend this much!

Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend has replaced Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, which moved to May. So it is the weekend after WDW Marathon Weekend. While we "only" did the Goofy Challenge this year, that still means we'll be running 58.6 miles in nine days. And again earning our Coast-to-Coast medal in the shortest possible time. We're actually feeling pretty good, but these races are not going to about time, they are going to be about having fun!

We are really eager to see the special touches that Disney will put on the race courses. There's always the great mile marker signs, and I hope we will also hear lots of Star Wars music. And the characters...who will we see? In addition to Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers (who are regulars at the Disneyland Half) I'm hoping for Disney characters in Star Wars costumes. We also know that Disney has recruited "costumers" from the Cosplay world to come out and cheer us on - we have a friend who will be doing that, and we are looking forward to seeing her.

And speaking of costumes - it's going to be really interesting to see all of the creative costumes that the runners will come up with! I know Lee and I have worked on ours...

May the Course Be With You!

For real-time updates and photos follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura






January 16, 2015

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - Renovation Projects around the Parks

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 9, 2015.

This posting will focus on the projects going on around the Disneyland Resort theme parks. This is just the start of the "off-season" projects and preparations for Disneyland's 60th Anniversary, which will kick off at the end of May. If you are planning a trip be sure to check the official Disneyland website for what will be closed during your visit. Most of these projects are slated to run through May as of now.

Here is the listing at the security tent for Friday.

The Pacific Wharf Cafe and Bakery Tour are behind walls right now.

A couple of its menu items have moved next door to Cocina Cucamonga. The far left window/registers are selling Clam Chowder and Broccoli and Cheese bread bowls. The rest of the windows show the Mexican menu.

World of Color is closed for the winter for renovation. They are draining Paradise Bay. A look at the current state.

A sign explaining how the water will be recycled.

Out on the platform, some new hose reels are visible, but not much else yet.

Here you can see the water level is down slightly from where it normally is.

The fountains are interesting to see for geeks like me, but are a great example of bad show from a theme perspective.


Condor Flats is completely closed off for renovation work. With Soarin' down for an extended period, they are taking the opportunity to redo the theme of the area.


The kiosk near the Corn Dog wagon featured Soarin' merchandise. Again, Condor Flats is closed, including the Fly n Buy.

Taste Pilots Grill is also closed, so some of the menu items have are now being served at the Paradise Garden Grill.


A look at the temporary menu at Paradise Garden Grill

In Paradise Park, the two archways that had plants on them have been removed. Looks like they were cut out.

Dug was out near the water wheel since Redwood Creek was also closed.

The walls blocking Redwood Creek

The walkway is blocked just past the Grand Californian walkway.

Nothing visible going on along the walkway. Wonder if anything will change there or if the walls are that far out just to stop guests from going down the dead end?

The Condor Flats walls come all the way out to the line board.

Looks like the name Condor Flats may be going away and it will be the Grizzly Peak Airfield when it reopens.

On the wall, a map shows what is closed off, directing you to the Garden Grill for burgers.

Work being done to the Stroller/Wheelchair Rental facade. Everything is open still, it's just being repainted.

The work continues all the way into the park.

The Jungle Cruise is closed for the removal of the Christmas overlay.

The Magic Eye Theatre is closed for removal of Big Hero 6.

The Matterhorn is closed for renovation. The wall features the same signs as last year that talk about the history of the mountain.

Looking back at the Matterhorn.

The Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree is closed this week. The BBQ was open and had a crowd.

The old Frozen meet and greet location in Fantasyland is closed. Olaf is still on the roof and they have a face-painting area set up outside.

Preparations are underway for a new fireworks show for Disneyland's 60th anniversary this summer. This winter Fantasy in the Sky has returned while the work is going on. Here is a video of the show taken Friday night. This is the entire show.


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




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