From sunny southern California Laura Gilbreath, Jeanine Yamanaka and photographer Jason Dz bring a west coast perspective as they blog about trips to Disneyland, D23 events, Disney cruises, runDisney events and occasional pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, February 10, 2017.
Laura wrote a blog featuring the Beauty and the Beast Preview as well as AP Days 2017, so I am going to focus on some of projects around the resort.
A video clip overview of the Star Wars Construction site (note the second half is really shaky since I was shooting freehand with a telephoto lens...)
The site from the Mickey and Friends parking structure on this cloudy afternoon.
Work continues along the top of the berm as they prepare it for the next step.
The hill between the two entrance tunnels has been sprayed, assuming to help hold the dirt in place with all the rain we have been having.
On the far north side of the project it appears they are working on footers and the foundation for another building. Even with the looming rain they were pouring concrete today.
Construction has gone vertical for Star Wars. The very large show building nearest the parking structure has steel going up now.
A rock formation taking shape along the Rivers of America.
Trees have been planted on the new berm between where the train will run and Star Wars.
First park today, Disneyland. Big Thunder has received a new entrance structure, that building we saw near the Rivers of America was moved here once completed. The Stand By Entrance is here and the FastPass on the left side of the building.
Moving over to Critter Country, the rocks along the back of the Rivers of America
Down in the riverbed they have started to install the footers that will support the track the boats run on.
The former Royal Reception location in Fantasyland is now a Beauty and the Beast shop.
The Matterhorn is closed for annual renovation work and the installation of FastPass.
"it's a small world" has a new entrance and wait time sign.
A quick video clip of it in action.
Moving over to Disney California Adventure, the new color scheme and exterior for Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout! is being unveiled.
A closer look.
From the Monorail a look at the former House of Blues future Splitsville project.
The Grand Californain is undergoing a major renovation. In the lobby are some displays taking a look at the new rooms including sample material and pictures.
The new room look.
A closer look at the materials used.
The hallway carpet and how it will be laid out.
The Curl Surf Shop in Downtown Disney looks ready to open any day now.
The rains showed up as the sun set, Main Street USA around 6pm
Passing by Sleeping Beauty Castle...
A quick video clip of the Hatbox Ghost.
A final look at Main Street USA before leaving, it was 9:30pm.
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.
A couple of new limited time events started at Disneyland on Friday, February 10. So I decided to make a quick trip to Disneyland to check them out.
A sneak peek of the upcoming "Beauty and the Beast" movie is showing in the Sunset Showcase Theater in Disney California Adventure. The movie opens on March 17, so the preview will probably run through March 19th.
Lots of movie artwork along the entrance to the theater.
The entry and lobby area of the theater have been redesigned - all traces of Arendelle have been removed, and now it looks more like a generic theater.
In the lobby are two display cases with props from the movie. This one has Belle's "town" dress and the "Magic Atlas."
The other has the rose and the "Enchanted Mirror."
The preview is in 3D and is about 10 minutes long. It features the entire opening "Belle" song with the townspeople and Gaston followed by a short trailer. (Josh Gad is excellent as Lefou.) While you're waiting for the preview to start, take a look at the "Enchanted Mirrors" on both sides of the theaters above the entrance and exit doors. You'll see some familiar characters.
I really enjoyed it - I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.
Also at DCA...work on the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT continues - part of the facade was visible. I thought it looked better than I was expecting.
In the Paradise Pier area there are construction walls up along the bay in front of the Carousel - this would seem to be the logical location for the new Fastpass kiosks for Toy Story Midway Mania. No word on when those Fastpasses will be available.
Over at Disneyland, AP Days, a celebration for Annual Passholders, runs through March 9. This time it has a Main Street Electrical Parade theme.
The Welcome Center is in the Starcade in Tomorrowland.
There was a pretty long line to get in when I was there - they had a queue set up in front of Path of the Jedi.
Each Friday there's a new button. Cast members were scanning passes (one button per pass) outside the Welcome Center, so there was no need to wait in line to get the button.
There's an AP Adventures brochure that has some additional information. Inside there is information on the Electrical Parade and some trivia questions.
There's additional information on the back - including an announcement for the next AP event, which will be at DCA during the Food and Wine Festival from March 10-April 16.
Once inside the Welcome Center, I would recommend that you first find the cast members who are distributing tickets (basically a Fastpass) for the character greeting area. They were not letting people simply line up for the characters - everyone needed a ticket. You can leave the Welcome Center while you're waiting for your return time - once you're inside your window you can show your ticket at the door so you don't need to wait in line again to enter.
The characters are "retro" characters. For this week there were Robin Hood and Friar Tuck.
Alternating with the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John.
Just inside the entrance is a special photo backdrop with a PhotoPass photographer.
Also as you enter are the retro video games: Donkey Kong Jr., Missile Command, PacMan, and Asteroids.
The token machine is next to the - authentic STARCADE tokens. These looked brand new.
Special AP merchandise is available in the Welcome Center - it's also available in Disney Showcase on Main Street. There were wine glasses, pins, lanyard, hat, and tumbler.
Also shirts. Here's the back of the men's version (you can see the front logo on the left of the photo above).
This is the women's shirt.
There's a lounge area with comfortable-looking sofas and chairs.
With a charging station.
Some artwork outside the lounge area.
There are a couple of different activities in the "Activities and Fun" area.
You can color your own MSEP pennant:
Or you can build your own parade - this card has perforations to separate each photo. And then there were pieces of ribbon available to tie them together.
During AP Days, recipe cards, a new one each week, will be available at several locations in Disneyland. The same card is available at each restaurant. You have to ask for the cards. Participating locations are Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, Redd Rockett's Pizza Port, Gibson Girl, and Main Street Refreshment Corner.
Another part of AP Days is daily screenings in the Opera House at 5:00, 6:30, and 8:00 p.m. Wristbands are distributed at the Opera House entrance earlier in the day, until they are all gone.
I didn't see it, but Jason did, and said it was the Disney Channel Backstage Disney show on the Main Street Electrical parade from 1986.
A special offer for Passholders at the moment is a refillable popcorn bucket. It's $15 for the initial purchase (which includes popcorn), After that, you can get refills for $1 (you also must present your AP) through April 16. There's a DCA version of the popcorn bucket, also. I was required to show both my AP and my id to purchase it.
There are also supposed to be special menu items available at a few quick service restaurants, but I was not successful in my attempt to order the Fried Chicken and Waffles that are supposed to be at the Plaza Inn. The cast member seemed to have no idea what I was talking about.
There are many other Main Street Electrical Parade-inspired treats that are not secret and are easier to find. Many of them are at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. I tried the PB&J Eclair. Which yes, was an eclair filled with a soft peanut butter filling and a layer of strawberry jam. I thought it was just ok.
I also tried the Cheshire Cat Shortbread Cookie. Also with a strawberry jam filling. This was better - though I think I would've preferred the shortbread without the filling. The filling made it soft, and I like shortbread to have a little bit of crunch.
Also available at the Bakery are a Pineapple Coconut Parfait and Ladybug Macarons. The Raspberry Drum Cake that I'd seen at the preview is at River Belle Terrace. There's a Hazelnut Tart at the Market House (I'll have to try that one), Fantasia Mousse Cake (shaped like a turtle) at Blue Bayou, and Fantasia Ice Cream at Gibson Girl. I've never understood the attraction of the ice cream - the combination of pistachio, cherry, and banana does not appeal to me at all.
At the Plaza Inn there's a colorful "puzzle" cake.
With Valentine's Day and Beauty and the Beast coming up, various treats are available around the resort. At Trolley Treats in DCA I saw these Minnie Mouse and Belle cupcakes:
Also these heart cookies:
And at the Candy Palace in Disneyland there were rose and pink frosted cake pops as well as pink frosted krispy treats.
The specialty caramel apple of the month is covered with dark chocolate, cherries, and nuts.
Special cherry vanilla swirl cotton candy is available at a few locations. I only saw it on Main Street.
Jason will have a much more complete construction update, but I took a few photos from the construction wall area near Big Thunder Mountain. There's some rock work visible now.
Bob Iger announced earlier this week during the Walt Disney Company Q1 FY17 Earnings call that Star Wars Lands at both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios will open in 2019. So I guess we still have two years to wait.
As I mentioned, look for Jason's update in the next couple of days - he has more construction photos, the new entrance to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Grand Californian refurbishment updates, etc.,
This last weekend the 2017 Annie Awards were held at UCLA. Started in 1972 by voice over legend June Foray, the award ceremony is held by ASIFA-Hollywood ("Association Internationale du Film d'Animation") and celebrates the last year's outstanding achievements in animation.
Noted to be animation's most glamorous yearly event, many luminaries of the field walked the red carpet:
"Moana's" Auli'i Cravalho
Two of this year's Winsor McCay award recipients...
Head of Animation for "Moana," Hyrum Osmond
Paige O'Hara, Glen Keane, and Frank Gladstone
Producer Osnat Shurer and Directors John Musker and Ron Clements for "Moana"
Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane
"Kubo and the Two Strings" director Travis Knight
Bill Farmer and Sam Kwasman
Friz Freleng's daughters Sybil and Hope
"Zootopia" producer Clark Spencer and directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore
At the award ceremonies, "Zootopia" was the big winner, taking Best Animated Feature over fellow nominees "Moana," "Finding Dory," "Kubo and the Two Strings," and "Kung Fu Panda 3." It also won Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Feature; Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature; Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated Feature; and Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated Feature. Pixar's "Piper" took Best Animated Short Subject and "Moana" took Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in an Animated Production. In Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature, Auli'i Cravalho and Jason Bateman tied for "Moana" and "Zootopia" respectively.
The Winsor McCay award recipients for contributions to the animation art form were legendary animator Dale Baer; independent animation champion Caroline Leaf; and influential anime director Mamoru Oshii. The Ub Iwerks Award for technical advancement was presented to Google Spotlight’s Virtual Reality Platform; and the Special Achievement Award was presented to "Life, Animated," a documentary about how a young autistic boy's struggle to communicate with the help of classic Disney animated characters.
The long list of quality films, shorts, and TV productions makes the current health and vigor of the animation industry obvious. Full listings of the night's nominees and winners are available at http://annieawards.org/nominees/#23, and are a great source for new titles to put on your viewing queue.
(Thank you to our contributing photographer Jason, of disneygeek.com, for his parade photos.)
I must admit that when Disney first announced that the Main Street Electrical Parade was returning to Disneyland this year, my reaction was along the lines of "How can I miss you when you won't go away?" After the supposed "final farewell" in 1996, it returned to Disney California Adventure (albeit as Disney's Electrical Parade) from 2001 to 2010, and now it's back on Main Street in Disneyland in 2017.
This time we've been told that it's a limited run, from January 20-June 18. It will give guests something to do in the evening, with so much of the park closed due to Star Wars Land construction and normal off-season refurbishments.
But as Lee pointed out - what's the matter with Paint the Night? Disneyland has a perfectly good modern, 21st century light parade...why bring back the antiquated 1970s-era parade?
But after seeing it during the premiere event on January 19...there's just something totally and ridiculously charming about this parade. That happy, bouncy, synthesized "Baroque Hoedown" always makes me smile. I'd forgotten that. While Paint the Night is a technological marvel, and wows me with the brilliant lights and special effects - it just doesn't make me smile and feel like a kid again the way the Main Street Electrical Parade does.
Here's the video:
This isn't quite the parade as we last saw it, though. More like Main Street Electrical Parade Light (pun intended). A couple of the parade units are missing, or shortened. Instead of the Blue Fairy or Tinker Bell, the parade leads off with the Drum float, which again says "Disneyland Presents Main Street Electrical Parade".
The Alice in Wonderland unit follows, with the spinning bees, snails, and turtles, a centipede, the Caterpillar, Alice on her mushroom.
Cinderella's unit is next, with Cinderella in her pumpkin coach, the prince with the glass slipper, and the clock tower.
Captain Hook's Pirate Ship with Peter Pan and Captain Hook aboard, is followed by Mr. Smee in a rowboat.
The Tinker Bell float, which was the new lead float in the DCA version of the parade, now follows the pirate ship. The balloon above the float was removed, and Tink stands on the front of the float rather than riding in the balloon.
Dopey drives the Mine Train float, accompanied by the other six dwarves and followed by the Diamond Mine float.
The Pleasure Island float is led by Pinocchio and the other boys. According to Show Producer John Addis, they have some new choreography. (I personally find this float rather creepy, and would have been happy if it had been one of those removed!) There was a second float to this parade unit, but it was also removed.
Elliott from Pete's Dragon (accompanied by Pete) is next. Elliott still disappears, though we didn't see him - or not see him, as the case may be. :-)
The final float is still To Honor America, accompanied by dancers in patriotic costumes.
As I mentioned, I still found it very entertaining and charming. It looked really good - didn't show its age like I expected. There were some enhancements made to the floats like newer LED lighting. John Addis told us that the drum float was re-done, though he didn't elaborate on that.
For the duration of the parade's run, special dining packages are available that will give guests a premium viewing experience. All packages can be reserved up to 60 days in advance either on-line or by calling. Credit card guarantee is required, and a $10/person fee will be charged in the case of no-shows, or cancellation less than 24 hours in advance.
Blue Bayou offers a three-course meal featuring starter, entree and dessert. It is $65 for adults and $25 for kids plus tax and gratuity. The viewing location is on Main Street.
Aladdin's Oasis offers a "grab and go" meal for $25.99 for adults and $14.99 for kids. The viewing location is near "it's a small world". In my experience, this package is often still available same day, and you can go to Aladdin's Oasis to purchase it on the day you wish to see the parade.
Special Parade Menu Items
There are a number of Main Street Electrical Parade-themed menu items available at dining locations around Disneyland.
Jolly Holiday Bakery has a variety of really cute treats! A Peanut Butter and Jelly Eclair
Turtle Cream Puffs
Cheshire Cat Shortbread
Pineapple Coconut Parfait
I believe this drum is available at The Plaza Inn.
There are also several treats available at the Candy Palace:
Special menu items are also offered at other locations, like Fantasia Whoopie Pie at Gibson Girl, Firefly Chile and Chips and a Chili Mac Bread Bowl at the Refreshment Corner, and Fried Mozzarella Sticks at Stage Door Cafe.
And of course there's lots of special parade-themed merchandise. T-shirts, ears, pins, and several things that glow.
Though I think these glowing Turtle Bottle Toppers might be my favorite.
The parade runs every day. One performance on days that Disneyland closes at 9:00, and two performances when the park closes at 11:00 or later. At this point neither Mickey's Soundsational Parade nor the Pixar Play Parade are back on the schedule, so the Electrical Parade is the only parade running at either park.
Disney has placed billboards around Southern California advertising the parade's return (I've seen two in the San Diego area), and I'm sure there are a lot of people who will make a special trip to Disneyland to see it between now and June 18.
Now, if I could only get the music out of my head...Oh well. There are definitely worse things, right? :-)
* I was an invited Media guest to the premiere of the Main Street Electrical Parade. My opinions are my own.
In 2017, Disneyland has expanded the Lunar New Year Celebration to 17 days, from January 20 - February 5. This year celebrates the Year of the Rooster. All events take place at Disney California Adventure. I attended a media preview on January 19.
A map in the area shows the locations of the different events.
There are special Lunar New Year-inspired food items available at more locations this year. The Paradise Garden Grill has a special seasonal menu during the celebration, with selections like stir-fried vegetables and noodles, grilled short ribs with kimchi, pho, cassava-coconut cake, and almond milk tea.
Three marketplace booths offer items inspired by Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisine. These include sugar cane shrimp skewers, kimchi vegetable fried rice, turnip cake and pork soup dumplings, and sweet items such as sweet rice and dried fruit cake, egg tart, and a sweet potato macaron. Various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.
A special glow cube shaped like a lotus blossom is available for $5, either by itself or in a specialty beverage.
During the preview I sampled several of the food items and one of the beverage offerings. My favorite by far was the Vegetable Japchae, which is available at Paradise Garden Grill. Sweet potato noodles with vegetables and tofu, with a sesame oil sauce and toasted sesame seeds. It was really good.
The Banh chung - sticky rice cake with pork - from the Vietnam booth was also really good. It was wrapped in some kind of leaf.
I thought the Yachae Mandu - steamed vegetable dumplings from Korea, had a nice flavor, but they were a little too spicy for me.
I was intrigued by the Xiao Long Bao - pork soup dumplings - from the China booth. They actually have liquid inside! But I thought they were just ok. They needed a sauce, but I didn't care for the black vinegar-ginger sauce that came with them.
There are a couple of places near us that serve Luo Bo Gao - turnip cake - and we really like it. This one, from the China booth, is topped with pork sausage and oyster sauce. When I've had it before it's topped with egg. The oyster sauce made it taste fishy to me, and the turnip cake by itself was a bit bland (not surprisingly).
I also tried the Passion Fruit Green Iced Tea with popping pearls. I don't have a photo of it. I didn't really think it tasted like passion fruit - mostly it just tasted sweet. But I enjoyed it - the pearls are always an interesting sensation.
Other samples that were available that I didn't try were the Beef Pho Noodle Soup:
And the Kalbi Beef Short Ribs. Both available at Paradise Garden Grill.
One of the other entrees available at Paradise Garden Grill is the Whole Fish Served Family Style. It looks a little intimidating: it's a whole tilapia, deep fried and served with soup, vegetables, and rice. Served after 5:00. It's $24.99 and will easily feed two or more people. Very traditional dish, but very non-traditional by Disney standards!
Chef John State was part of a panel discussion we saw later, and spoke about how they developed the Festival food offerings by speaking with cast members and diversity groups, and looking at authentic family recipes. They explored flavors and textures. He was especially proud of how they are serving the whole fish dish out of a counter-service restaurant kitchen, when it's really something expect from a full-service restaurant.
Most Lunar New Year activities take place in the Paradise Pier area. In front of Ariel's Undersea Adventure guests can get their face painted.
They can also decorate a paper lantern.
In Paradise Gardens local artisans will craft a custom Chinese calligraphy for guests. The one on the left is my name, and the one on the right has the symbol for the Year of the Rooster on top, and good wishes for the new year below it.
Next to Goofy's Sky School is the Lucky Wishing Wall, where guests can add their own wish for the coming year.
For Annual Passholders, the AP Corner between Paradise Garden Grill and Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta offers a special photo opportunity, a wishing well, and an AP Adventure.
Lunar New Year merchandise is available at Seaside Souvenirs and carts in the area. I thought the t-shirt was very nicely designed.
A number of entertainment offerings are also available throughout the day.
A special character greeting area is available in Paradise Gardens, where Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Mulan, and Mushu, dressed in Lunar New Year costumes, will pose for photos with guests.
The Paradise Garden Bandstand will host performances by several different Asian musicians during the celebration, including classical guitarist Dat Nguyen and Jie Ma, who plays the Chinese pipa instrument.
At the Paradise Bay stage the Acrobats of China perform multiple times each day, engaging in gravity-defying acts of athleticism. They were not performing at the preview.
Mulan's New Year Procession is hosted by Mulan and Mushu who lead a number of performers to the music from the "Mulan" movie. This offering is scheduled twice a day on weekends, once per day on weekdays. I really enjoyed this, but I'm quite surprised that there are so few performances, as compared to Viva Navidad! or Elena's Grand Welcome.
The ideal viewing area for Mulan's New Year Procession is a pretty narrow area between Jumping Jellyfish and the entrance to Paradise Gardens - a very limited number of guests will have a really good view of it.
My favorite part was the dragon dancers.
But the fan, parasol, and ribbon dancers were quite beautiful.
And the martial artists (who performed to "I'll Make a Man Out of You") were fun to watch.
Each night, a special 6-minute pre-show will precede each performance of World of Color. Hurry Home features Mulan, Mushu, and a little lantern who is making its way home to celebrate the new year with family. This is an original story with all new animation in two different styles as well as the water fountains and special lighting effects. The accompanying music was originally created for the opening ceremony of Shanghai Disney Resort by Tan Dun.
Show Producer Jennifer Magill spoke to us about the new production. There are three different sequences, illustrating elements of the Lunar New Year celebration. In the first, the little lantern plays and has fun with Mushu, animated in a paper animation style.
The second part features the food. The lantern dreams of rice, dumplings, and other foods - and is pursued by mischievous chopsticks.
The third sequence focuses on the New Year tradition of reflecting back and looking forward. It features Mulan, and Lea Salonga recorded a new version of "Reflection" for it.
Eventually the lantern makes it home and is welcomed by family.
The end of the show featured actual fireworks - I was surprised to see that. But as Ms. Magill said - you can't have a New Year celebration without fireworks!
It was a very sweet story, and I enjoyed it. You can see the video below.
I was very impressed by all of the different offerings available during the celebration. There are quite a few different things to do, and it would be easy to spend a good portion of a park visit enjoying all of the different entertainment and some of the food.
* I was an invited Media guest to a preview of the Lunar New Year Celebration. My opinions are my own.
We'd scheduled a wakeup call for 4:00 - but we never got it. Fortunately Lee is a "belt-and-suspenders" guy and had also set the alarm on his iPhone, so we were still up at 4:00.
Since we knew from the day before that security wasn't going to be an issue we didn't leave the room until 5:00. I was still in my corral my 5:17 - plenty of time. I was in C, Lee was in E, so we again ran separately...I wanted to try to stop for some character photos this time, so wanted to be further forward so the lines maybe wouldn't be quite as long.
Running costumes for us that morning, also - X-wing pilot for Lee, and Rey for me. The arm wraps were quite welcome since it was another cool morning. A little warmer than the day before - 50. I had a mylar sheet to wrap around me while I was waiting, and that was really all I needed. I had gloves, but I never actually put them on - finally just put them in my pocket. Again, it was just about perfect conditions for running a race.
While we were waiting for this race to start we saw scenes from Rogue One - A Star Wars Story. We saw that in December - good movie.
Again, not much of a "show" from the race announcers while we were waiting. But that's ok. The race started right on time. There were 5 minutes between corral releases, so my corral started 10 minutes after the official start.
The first four+ miles of the course were almost identical to the 10K the day before. But that was ok - since I wasn't running for time I was able to observe my surroundings a little more. I liked this sign backstage at DCA. :-)
The line at R2 and Threepio's character stop was long, but there was a short line for the Rebels at Paradise Pier.
One thing that I don't think I've mentioned in my blogs, which I should, is restroom stops in the parks. I always try to have some idea of what the race course is inside the parks so that I know where there restrooms next to the course. I only need to find one, but it's really nice to be able to use a REAL restroom instead of a porta-potty. This time I went to the large one between Ariel's and Grizzly River Run, but I would have had a lot of other options.
There was a set of Jedi performing a light saber training exercise in Hollywood Land.
And the speeder bikes were placed outside the Tower of Terror just before mile 2. Lengthy line for that, too.
When we ran through the tunnel under the bus area I noticed some new special effects - in addition to the Star Wars music that was playing there was the sound of lasers firing, and on the walls were red and green laser trace fire lines. Hard to see in this photo, but I thought it was a really neat effect!
We passed the mile 3 sign backstage at Disneyland, and then entered the park back at Toon Town, then ran by "it's a small world". It's nice that Disney leaves it in holiday mode through this race weekend. It's decorated for Avengers weekend in November and for Star Wars weekend in January.
There was a Storm Troopers character stop along "small world way" before we turned left to go around the Matterhorn.
There were more Storm Troopers on the ramp of the Launch Bay. The BB-8 photo stop was near Star Tours. The line wasn't too long so I stopped.
We again ran back towards Fantasyland. Kylo Ren was engaged in a light saber battle with some Jedi near Pixie Hollow. (Five against one doesn't seem exactly fair, though, does it? There should be at least ten Jedi.)
From Fantasyland we ran through the castle, but instead of taking the loop out through Frontierland and Adventureland like we did for the 10K we went straight down Main Street.
Two of the horses were out and posing for photos. They seemed to like the runners - the one on my left nuzzled me lightly on the shoulder. Such beautiful gentle giants!
The Mile 4 sign was along Main Street, and Chewbacca's photo stop was in the same location as the 10K - next to the Disney Showcase store. Longish line, so I didn't stop. While this was "The Light Side" half marathon, there were a few Dark Siders who showed up to spoil the party. I already mentioned the Storm Troopers and Kylo Ren, but Captain Phasma was also there, on the bridge next to the train station.
After we ran out through Disneyland's main entrance we went through the east tram area and out to Harbor Blvd - the rest of the course was outside the parks. But about 4.5 miles in the parks is a pretty good - better than some of the other race courses.
On the other side of Harbor I could see some of the early runners who were already returning. The winner had already gone by, but I saw some of the higher finishing men as well as the female winner.
By mile six it was starting to get more light out as the sun came out. There were a few clouds with color, but it was a fairly clear morning.
The course took us down Harbor Blvd into the city of Garden Grove, where we turned right on Garden Grove Blvd. There were a number of bands and cheerleaders who had come out to cheer us on. And we even had a feline cheerleader! This cat was not at all bothered about being in a harness and watching all of these crazy runners go by him. I'm guessing he has some Dark Side leanings. :-)
One of my favorite things about this course is that it crosses Newhope Street. How appropriate for a Star Wars-themed race! That's after the halfway point - about mile 7.5, and just before we turn north to go back towards the finish.
But my favorite thing about this course is around mile 8 and mile 9 - the two areas where there are Cosplayers who come dressed in their Star Wars costumes to cheer us on. They are so amazing! They love having their photo taken with runners, and there's usually no line to do that. I can't say enough about their wonderful enthusiasm and support. Their placement on the course is really good, because it's when runners are getting tired, but still have a ways to go to the finish. They really help give us an extra boost to keep us going as we get a lift out of all of their energy.
There are lots of heroes:
And even cars and droids!
Lee found his fellow X-wing squadron pilots.
This video shows most of both sets - as you can see there was really an extensive variety of costumes from all of the different movies.
After the excitement of the cosplayers, mile 9-10 of the course is pretty quiet. It's largely in a residential neighborhood, so in the interest of keeping the noise down early on a Sunday morning there are no bands or other entertainment. Though there are residents and groups, like my friends Colin and Richard, who come out to cheer on the runners in that area, and it is greatly appreciated.
Just before mile 10 the course goes right on Chapman Avenue for about a mile. There's a lovely pond there, and it always has nice reflections in the morning. Thanks to all of the recent rain the water level was higher than normal, and on this race morning there were lots of ducks enjoying the pond.
My legs were a little tired after my hard run the day before, but I'd managed to mostly stick to my usual run/walk pace. But by about mile 10.5 I started to feel it and had to slow down a little more. I was very happy when we turned left onto Harbor Blvd since I knew I had just about 2 miles left. I could see runners at the back of the pack still coming towards us. It was just before mile 12 that I saw the balloon ladies.
The last mile of the course took us down Katella to Disneyland Drive, and then around the Paradise Pier Hotel to the finish line at the Disneyland Hotel. I finished in JUST under 2:22 - 2:21:59 to be exact. :-) Considering photo stops, a restroom stop, and tired legs I was VERY happy with that.
I got my race medal - it's a spinner with Han and Leia (awwww) on one side and the Medal of Yavin on the other. And my Rebel Challenge medal. That's a new design this year. I'm not really sure I like it.
I didn't talk about the runDisney snack box after the 10K...we received the same assortment after the half. It had a slightly different variety than what I've seen before. The best part is that it has a small container of Nutella!!!! Yum. I guess I'm resigned to the fact that it's what we're going to get after any Disney race from now on. Most of it is stuff I'll eat except the Builder Bar - yuck.
In the finish area there was a Nesquik van, and they were handing out chocolate milk! Yay!!! Or "Protein Enhanced Milk Beverage", as they called it. There was a choice of chocolate or vanilla. I didn't hear anyone ask for vanilla.
The "trash compactor" photo backdrop had a short line, so I had my photo taken there.
Lee was still somewhere behind me (though it turned out he was closer than I thought - apparently he was flying down the course!), so I walked back to the room before I started to get cold. The sun was out, and it was slightly warmer than it had been for the 10K, but still. I was ready to get back and take a hot shower! Lee also had a good race - took it easy and stopped for some photos.
I still really love this race weekend - it's definitely my favorite of the Disney race weekends. And I think this half marathon course has now overtaken the Tinker Bell course as my favorite half marathon course. The roads are nice and wide so it doesn't feel crowded. The course is mostly flat, also. A few slight inclines - the only hill is the tunnel under the tram area. No overpasses!
The race medals are always a highlight. The BB-8 medal is really cute, and I really liked the re-design of the half marathon medal.
I still wish there were more characters on the course...or in the finish area.
I was surprised that the half marathon and 10K didn't sell out this year. There were about 15,000-16,000 entered in the half, and 12,434 finishers. This is a PERFECT time for running in southern California. I don't want to jinx it, but in the five years that runDisney has held a race weekend at Disneyland in January, we've always had great weather for running.
We will be back for this race weekend next year.
Good luck to all of you running Dark Side in April to complete the Kessel Run Challenge! We will not be there this year.
I know I've mentioned this before, but it's so much easier to run races at Disneyland! The start area and all of the hotels are all walking distance, so we don't have to get up really early to catch a bus to the start.
The race started at 5:30, and we set a wakeup call for 4:00. That's pretty much sleeping in by runDisney standards. :-) We left our room about 4:45.
Both of us were in costume. Lee wore his black Luke Skywalker Jedi outfit - complete with one black glove. :-) I didn't go with a Star Wars costume this time, and just wore my trusty Cinderella costume. Though really, I think she's a Jedi at heart.
This year the new variable was Disneyland's new security perimeter. Since Downtown Disney is within a "secure zone" now, we were pretty sure we would have to go through security from our hotel into Downtown Disney, but weren't sure how long that would take. As it turned out it was very fast. It was quite easy for the security personnel to see that most runners weren't carrying anything. We did not have to go through a secondary screening at what was the race checkpoint in the past. But there were still security people patrolling, some with dogs.
By the time we arrived in the pre-race area a lot of people had already gone to their corrals. So we couldn't tell if it seemed more crowded this year now that there were 12,000-13,000 runners in the 10K as opposed to under 10,000 as in previous years.
Both Lee and I were planning to run the 10K for time and not stopping to take photos. We were in different corrals, so I went to B and he went to C. Most of the photos below were taken by the PhotoPass photographers. As Annual Passholders we can download them for free. Disney started using their own photographers rather than MarathonFoto at the Dark Side weekend at WDW last April. The information on how to turn your bib nunber into a PhotoPass ID is on the back of the race bibs. It's really been a MUCH better service than MarathonFoto ever was. The photographers seem to get a lot more photos, AND some of the photos are available on race day - usually by the next day they are all there.
It was really a perfect morning for running. It was 48 degrees at the race start, with little or no wind. I had gloves, arm sleeves, and a throwaway sweatshirt, and I was actually pretty comfortable while waiting for the race to start.
There really wasn't much of a pre-show with the race announcers in the 15-20 minutes before the race started. No Storm Troopers or Darth Vader on stage. We saw a couple of different sets of scenes from The Force Awakens.
At 5:29 the wheelchairs started.
Corral A was a minute after that, and Corral B was five minutes later.
There were new courses for the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathons this year. The biggest change was that from the starting line the race courses went south on Disneyland Drive rather than north as they have the previous two years. All three courses went through both parks - DCA first and then Disneyland - with varying routes in the parks depending on the race distance.
I really liked the new 10K course. The designers absolutely maximized the park time. Unlike previous 10K courses that have been outside the parks for the first mile or so, this one was all on property - if you consider the first .3 miles on Disneyland Drive to be on property, which I do.
After that first .3 miles we turned left in front of the Paradise Pier Hotel and went backstage at DCA. This part of the course was a little too dark, and could have used some additional light. Fortunately the pavement was smooth, so there wasn't really much danger of tripping, but it still made me a little more cautious. There were projections on some of the buildings, like the Rebel Alliance symbol, the Millennium Falcon, or an X-wing fighter.
We went into the park near the Pacific Wharf where we ran through Radiator Springs past Radiator Springs Racers (so pretty at night with all of the light on the Cadillac Range) and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters.
We ran through Flik's Fun Fair past the Mile 1 sign and out to the parade route. The first character stop was Threepio and R2-D2 by the Cars Land sign - I was surprised at how long it was that early in the race. I wasn't planning to stop anyway, though.
We ran clockwise around Paradise Bay. As I mentioned I was wearing my Cinderella costume, and I heard a cast member say something like "Go Cindy! Oh, it's ok, she still has both her shoes." I cracked up at that - which was when the PhotoPass photographer snapped the picture below. :-)
At Ariel's we turned left towards Grizzly River Run, past Soarin' and into Hollywood Land to the Tower of Terror. There were Jedi and Storm Troopers next to the Tower. We went backstage behind the Tower and passed the Mile 2 sign.
We took the tunnel down and up under the east tram area over to Disneyland. This was really the only significant hill on the course. That took us backstage at Disneyland for quite a while - past the Mile 3 sign. The BB-8 photo stop was back there, but I completely missed seeing it. This was another area where it was a little dark in places. We'd had great Star Wars music playing most of the time, but once we reached this point it got a little quiet until we emerged into Toon Town.
We ran past "it's a small world", which was still lit up with all of the holiday lights.
We turned left at the Matterhorn and ran towards Tomorrowland. Kylo Ren was somewhere in there - between the Matterhorn and the Tomorrowland Terrace, as I recall. The course took us past the Launch Bay, where there were Storm Troopers above us. We ran past Star Tours and out to the hub.
Once we reached the hub we did a 180 onto Matterhorn Way past Alice in Wonderland, then made a left at the tea cups and passed the Mile 4 sign. I was happy to see that I was on pace - maybe slightly ahead of pace. This year the Star Wars 10K course went through the castle to the hub, which it's never done before.
We went through Frontierland and New Orleans Square, then the course did a hard 180 just in front of the Haunted Mansion and went back to the hub via Adventureland. We had quite an extensive tour of Disneyland and visited all of the lands except Critter Country.
We ran down Main Street. Chewbacca's photo op was at the end of the street by the Disney Showcase shop.
After we went out the park entrance we ran into the Esplanade and to the left to go backstage at DCA again. We passed the Mile 5 sign on a perimeter road that took us around the back of Radiator Springs Racers and Paradise Pier. For about a tenth of a mile we could see some of those in the last corral coming towards us - only about .4 miles into their race whereas we were 5.8 miles into ours! I saw the balloon ladies at the very end of the race.
After we crossed Disneyland Drive we went around the back of the Paradise Pier Hotel (and the Mile 6 sign), and then it was just .2 miles to the traditional finish line near the Disneyland Hotel. It was still dark!
I finished in 56:41, which is a new personal best 10K time for me. I was very happy with that. I was hoping to crack the top ten in my division, and I finished 8th! 10K is definitely my favorite distance.
The BB-8 medal is really cute. It spins!
I exited into the finish area and talked to Lisa (Hi Lisa!) for a while I waited for Lee to finish. Fortunately the volunteers had handed out mylar sheets at the finish (they sometimes don't do that for 10Ks), because it was still only 48 degrees and I was starting to get a little chilled.
There was a vendor selling Death Star balloons (that's what the balloon ladies had been carrying, too).
Once Lee finished we went over to the Annual Passholder tent. We showed our passes and they gave us an Annual Passholder string bag - it was nice for carrying our snack boxes and water bottles back to our room. There was a photo backdrop and a photographer there, too.
Another change in the course this year: in previous years the 10K has finished by going all the way through Downtown Disney. While it's been kind of thrilling to run by all of the cheering crowds, it's been a nightmare after the race when trying to get back to the hotels, because you have to cross the race course at least once, and usually more than once. This year we didn't have to do that, and it was much easier to get back to our hotel.
I really enjoyed this course - I think it's now my favorite of the Disney 10K courses. And not just because I ran it for a personal best. :-) With all of the Star Wars Land construction in Disneyland I expected that we might have less park time this year, but instead I'm not sure how they could have given us any more! While yes, we had a fair bit of time that was in not-so-exciting backstage areas, I still enjoyed being on property for the entire race.
There were 11,606 finishers this year as opposed to 8,994 last year, so quite a few more runners out there. Since I was at the front it was not congested for me, but I can't speak to how it might have been further back. Certainly the first mile of this course was narrower than the first mile of the former course, which was all on wide city streets, and that might have been an issue. If you ran the race and experienced congestion, please leave a comment and let me know how it was for you.
The characters...still not a strong point, especially compared to our experience at Disneyland Paris last year. (Over 10 character stops in a 5K!) For this 10K there were four character stops, plus a couple of unattended backdrops and "run bys" like the Storm Troopers and Jedi. I would still so LOVE to see the Disney characters in their Star Wars attire out on the course! In Florida there are character meet and greets in the pre/post-race area, and I'd like to see them do that in California, also. Though there were a couple of photo backdrops (with photographers) in that area - the Wampa cave and the trash compactor.
For the third year Lee and I participated in the 10K and half marathon races at Disneyland's Star Wars Half Marathon. Or Star Wars Half Marathon - the Light Side as they now call it, to distinguish it from the Star Wars Half Marathon - the Dark Side at Walt Disney World. :-)
Unlike previous years, the 10K and half marathon races did not sell out, and runDisney was still selling race registrations at the Expo. That was a surprise. Of course part of the reason is that they raised the race capacities: the 10K had almost 13,000 spots, as opposed to 10,000 last year, while the half had 16,000 instead of 14,000. Of those numbers, about 6,000 were those running the Rebel Challenge. There were 5,000 entered in the 5K, and 1,500 in the Kids Races.
We arrived at the Expo on Friday afternoon - it had opened on Thursday. As usual, bib pickup was downstairs in the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. This is the first time I remember that there wasn't a specially designed rug on the ramp going down to the pickup area. But we've had a lot of rain recently (and it rained on Thursday) so the rug would have been soaking wet. This photo is from last year.
We had printed out our race waivers in advance, so all we had to do was go to the correct counter to pick up our Rebel Challenge bibs. There are computers and printers available for those who don't bring waivers with them. I think this was the most people that I've ever seen in bib pick-up, but it still was a fast process for us.
As Rebel Challenge runners we had to get our photo taken with our bib number - that's how they verify after the half marathon that we 1: completed the 10K, and 2: are the same person who picked up the bib. They used to give us wristbands at the end of the 10K - this is a nice alternative to not having to wear the wristband.
The race brochure was again condensed down to a "Final Race Instructions" pamphlet. It has all of the essential information like course maps, road closures, times, transportation, and viewing, but without all of the ads. I prefer this format - "just the facts, ma'am." (Am I showing my age there or what?) What I *don't* prefer is the new "on-line magazine" format for the official race guide - I can no longer download it as a PDF like I used to. And I find it very cumbersome and slow - really useless.
Once we picked up the bibs we went back upstairs to the main expo in the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. I always enjoy seeing how they have decorated the entrance. The different banners are nice photo ops!
We picked up our race shirts. I liked this year's designs, but a gray shirt AGAIN????? I wish they would do more white shirts. These are long sleeve shirts - typical for January races. This particular weekend they felt pretty good since the weather was cooler than usual - highs in the low 60s, lows in the upper 40s.
There was a shirt exchange available, but neither of us needed to get a different size. It's very nice to have that option, though. I've found Disney sizing to be consistent in recent years, but that wasn't always the case.
Usually when we arrive on Friday afternoons there is either a short line or no line to get into the Official Merchandise area. This time the line extended out into the foyer, and it took 15-20 minutes to get into the area. The line moved pretty consistently so it wasn't too bad. But still, I was surprised to see it that long.
Once we went inside, it seemed like there was still plenty of merchandise left. A few things were sold out, like the special edition runDisney Star Wars Weekend Christmas tree ornament, and the Star Wars Weekend wine glasses. I believe the Dooney & Bourke bags were sold out by then, also.
There were already only limited sizes available on a few of the shirts. Lee bought this one. They were out of size large, so he had to get an XL, which is a little big.
Race weekend logo:
All of the pins, mini medal pins, magnets, water bottles, mugs, etc. seemed to be available.
I thought there was a very nice selection of shirts available for the Rebel Challenge and the Half Marathon.
The Han/Leia graphic on this one is especially poignant right now.
But for the 5K and 10K, there seemed to be only one shirt plus the "I Did It" shirts. With BB-8 as the theme for the 10K, I was surprised that there wasn't more merchandise available for the 10K.
There were some other fun Star Wars items that weren't themed to any specific race.
There's a new design for the Coast-to-Coast merchandise this year. The shirts are available in men's and women's cuts. I bought one of these.
The rest of the Expo seemed about the same. Honda was a major sponsor and they had a special pace car. We weren't sure how a pace car would be used in a half marathon, but I guess there was one.
There were Star Wars-themed Stance socks.
The latest versions of New Balance Disney running shoes were available. This time they represent Disney attractions rather than characters. The women's shoes are Haunted Mansion and Mad Tea Party.
The men's shoes are Star Tours and Toy Story Mania.
I don't know if I'm mentioned this before...Runner Tracking is available for the races. You can track runners of your choice, or you can provide the information for others to track you. My parents always like to know how we're doing, so I set up tracking to send them an email or text message. And if Lee and I aren't running together we track each other.There's typically a link on the event page under the "Spectators" tab. Sometimes you need a log in to set it up, sometimes not. There's usually options to have your times sent via text message or email, or to have it automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
As we wandered through Downtown Disney we saw several signs advising guests that various businesses would be open at 4:00 a.m. on race mornings, like Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Haagen Daz. That's a nice service for runners and spectators!
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 13, 2017.
Since Laura is covering the Star Wars Half Marathon events I will focus on everything else. A quick video overview of the Star Wars construction site from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure.
A pan across the site from the left (north) to right.
Looks like utility work on the far side nearest Toon Town.
In the foreground notice the footers and foundation work for a large show building.
The concrete structure in the middle is the backstage marina for Fantasmic.
Continuing to the right you can see more rock work sticking up above the wall nearest the Rivers of America.
Looking toward Critter Country.
For a more in depth look at the Star Wars Construction check out the full picture set on disneygeek.com The fencing around the Downtown Disney security areas features ads for the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade next week. It features floats from the parade in front of Los Angeles landmarks including the beach, observatory, and Disney Concert Hall. This compliments the commercial that has been airing showing the parade coming out of a warehouse featuring retired Disneyland attractions.
The current state of the former House of Blues removal. Splitsville is moving in.
Most signs of Christmas have been removed from the parks. A look at Main Street USA this afternoon
The castle is now snowless. Some diamond overlays are visible. Not sure if those are going back on or if they were under the snow.
The grotto is walled off for some renovation work.
The Castle Heraldry Shoppe in Fantasyland is now closed.
A check of the Star Wars work from the Big Thunder Trail.
No visible progress on the Columbia.
Nor the stage area.
The Haunted Mansion is closed for the removal of the holiday overlay.
The rock work along the rivers of america continues to expand.
Looking through the fence at the new walkway.
Stopped by the New Orleans Train Station and the Ernest S. Marsh is in the station and open for pictures plus the Lilly Belle.
New Orleans Square still features Christmas decorations.
The Jungle Cruise is closed for removal of the holiday overlay.
The Adventureland Restrooms are closed for renovation and expansion.
The Pioneer Mercantile is also closed for renovation work.
Star Wars Season of the Force signage has returned to Tomorrowland.
Season of the Force Banners include some Rogue One Cast
The Dark Side...
A couple of Storm Troopers on patrol
The Toons have taken down all their Christmas decorations.
Over to DCA.. Christmas is gone from Buena Vista Street.
The Festival of Holidays are gone too and the marketplaces have been removed.
More scaffolding up at Tower
Items tagged for removal. It appears the lobby has been taken down to the studs.
Paradise Pier this evening as the sun was setting.
Viva Navidad! is gone. Lunar New Year moves in next week.
Grizzly River Run is closed for annual renovation
Christmas is gone from Redwood Creek.
The Cozy Cone is partially decorated. Notice the fountain was working today.
Spotlights and projections have returned as part of Season of the Force.
Video clip of the Star Wars Season of the Force spotlights in Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland Terrace was not in use this evening.
Only two seagulls out in the sub lagoon today.
Small World Holiday at night. No projections when I was around though..
An upcoming hand painted cell release for the MSEP.
Star Tours turned 30 this past week. An Annual Passholder T-Shirt is available
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.
For a number of years Disneyland has celebrated Three Kings' Day - El Dia de los Reyes Magos. January 6 (Epiphany) is the official day, but this year the events took place January 5-8.
Three Kings' Day celebrates the visit of the kings to the Christ child on the 12th day after his birth. Traditionally it's three kings: Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrrh.
The Paradise Gardens area of Disney California Adventure was the site of this year's events.
There were several displays set up. On the night before children traditionally place their shoes out for the kings to fill with toys and gifts.
"Rosca de Reyes", or "King's Cake" is a traditional food. It's a sweet bread, round like a crown, and decorated with candied fruits, which resemble jewels.
One of the activities was face painting. No charge, and it was available to adults and kids.
There was also a craft area. Guests could color paper lanterns or decorate a crown with stickers. There were a number of tables and chairs there.
Three Kings Storytelling took place several times each day on the Paradise Gardens stage. This was different than what I expected, but I thought it was well done. I thought it would be more like the Epcot storytellers, with someone acting the part. Instead it was two musicians, who both spoke and sang about holiday traditions such as Las Posadas, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and Three King's Day.
Here's a video of the entire performance.
A few other things I noticed while wandering around the parks...
I'd never gotten a very good look at Skylar on Princess Elena's float. He is a magical talking jaquin.
Since Santa Claus is taking a well-deserved vacation, Santa Goofy was greeting guests in the Redwood Creek "Holiday Visit" area.
In that same area one of the deer sported a Santa hat.
The Tower of Terror closed on January 2 and is under wraps during the conversion to Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT.
Over at Disneyland, Pocahontas was greeting guests along the Rivers of America near the exit to Big Thunder Mountain.
In honor of the Moana movie, several locations in Disneyland are offering a special Pineapple Parfait dessert. It's pineapple, cake, and custard. The necklace is also edible. I tried it and thought it was pretty good.