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April 23, 2017

Star Wars Celebration Orlando: 40 Years of Star Wars

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Star Wars Celebration, the Lucasfilm convention devoted to all things Star Wars, has alighted on Orlando, FL this year, with its usual star-studded panels and coveted merchandise.

The first panel to kick off the weekend was "40 Years of Star Wars," which featured George Lucas on stage, reminiscing about the origins of Star Wars with most of the major recurring cast of the series.

[Unattributed photos courtesy of Disney.]

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George Lucas

"I'm not supposed to say this, and I wasn't supposed to say it then...it's a film for twelve-year olds. It was designed to be a film, like mythology, of this is what we stand for. You're about to enter the Real World. You're twelve years old, you're going to go on into the big world, you're moving away from your parents being the center focus...you're probably scared, you don't know what's going to happen...and here's a little idea of some of the things you should pay attention to: Friendships, honesty, trust, and doing the right thing. Living on the Light Side, avoiding the Dark Side...these are the things it was meant to do."

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Dave Filoni

"The most important lesson there (from "Clone Wars") honestly, and it kind of combines everything, (Lucas) used to always tell me: 'Don't be afraid.' It seems very simple, and most of the big ideas you have are very simple, but when you're coming on board to direct this major franchise that all of you love and around the world people love, it's easy to get overwhelmed by that idea, and that is going to limit you and more importantly limit your creativity, if you become afraid of it...It's just a true thing in life, as you've always said, 'just don't be afraid. Make no decision out of fear.' That's key."

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Liam Neeson (taped message)

"I'm actually here on location in the Canadian Rockies. We're making a movie--a very unofficial movie...about Jar Jar Binks, and what happened to Jar Jar. Spoiler alert: He did go to the Dark Side."

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Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmid

McDiarmid: "The one (scene) that stands out for me is in 'Revenge of the Sith,' and that's when we all get to go to the opera...The reason I liked that so much is I'm a theater actor too, but more than that, Hayden and I could really sit down and, from my point of view anyway, have an evil chat."

Christensen: "I will share with you one of my challenges: I had been conditioned from a very young age to make the sound effect when I'm swinging a light saber...it was a difficult habit to break. I remember on a couple of occasions, George would come over after we had filmed a fight scene and, in a very encouraging way, say 'you know Hayden, that looks really great...but I can see your mouth moving and...you don't have to do that. We add the sound effects in afterwards.'"

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Samuel L. Jackson (taped message)

"And while you're all sitting there, I know you're all in my corner on this, we know Jedis can fall from incredible heights and survive, so apparently I am not dead. Yes, I have two appendages right now, but we know the long and rich history of Star Wars characters reappearing with new appendages and being stronger and better than they ever were. Mace Windu is awaiting his return! Let's make it happen!"

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Warwick Davis, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams

Williams: "There are two components: (to Lando) The cape and 'Calrissian'--an Armenian name. And I thought wow, that's interesting. Let me play around with this whole idea. 'Cause I didn't want to do a kind of stereotypical, cliche kind of character. I wanted to bring something really special to it. Something bigger than life."

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Peter Mayhew

On how he and Chewbacca are similar: "Well, we're the same height, for starters."

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Mark Hamill

"I can never get over the fans. They are supportive; they're with you in good times, bad times...they're more supportive than my actual family."

As series star after star appeared, the roar of the crowd increased exponentially, until the final actor Harrison Ford entered and the room exploded.

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Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford

Harrison: "You can have the most brilliant cast in the world, but they have a story to tell; and the story we had to tell was more than sufficient. It was full of humor, emotion, and conflict, and it was a brilliant invention of a mythology that has sustained interest for over forty years--and that's made out of whole cloth by George. An actor without a story to tell might as well go home, so it was a brilliant opportunity for all of us."

After the actors had accepted the crowd's accolades and left the stage, Lucas and Kennedy led a short tribute to the late Carrie Fisher, along with Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd.

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Billie Lourd

Lucas: "...She really is a modern woman, and she isn't just a woman that, you put guy's clothes on her and she becomes a hero. She was a princess, she was a senator, she played a part that was very smart, and she was having to hold her own against two big lugs...goofballs who were screwing everything up, but she was the boss, it was her war....She was brilliant, and obviously we'll all miss her, but she'll always be the princess who took command and never backed down, never was in jeopardy--she was always helping the other guys get out of the messes they created. We'll all love her forever and ever."

Lourd: "My Mom used to say she never knew where Princess Leia ended and Carrie Fisher began. She went from being an unknown actress, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, to Princess Leia, a character synonymous with the idea of the ultimate Strong Woman. A soldier. A fighter. A beyond-capable, independent, sensible woman in control of her own destiny. A rebel who resisted the norm. She was imperfect in many ways, but her imperfections and willingness to speak about them are what made her more than perfect. My Mom, like Leia, wasn't ever afraid to speak her mind and say things that might have made most people uncomfortable, but not me and not you. That was why she loved you, because you accepted and embraced all of her: The strong, soldier of a woman she was, and also the vulnerable side of her, who often and openly fought her own Dark Side, knowing early on that we all have a Dark Side of our own, whatever it may be."

After a short retrospective of Fisher's various on-camera appearances--sharp, incisive, irreverent, and unrepentant--one of the most poignant moments of the morning came as, revealed in a corner of the room, John Williams and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, began playing "Princess Leia's Theme." They followed it up with a mini-concert of selections from the iconic soundtrack.

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The music of Star Wars is so powerful and so integral a part of the cinematic experience, this performance with the in-person appearance of the legendary John Williams made it a highlight of the panel...which was already a highlight of the entire Celebration. If you could only make one session of the four days of programming, this was certainly the one to attend, and it is no wonder huge numbers of people slept out overnight to get a seat in the room. It was a phenomenal way to kick off Star Wars Celebration Orlando.


April 19, 2017

"Caring for Giants" -- A Closer Look at Some Big Friends

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Photographs taken by Linda Eckwerth.

A new tour offering at Disney's Animal Kingdom is "Caring for Giants," which offers guests the opportunity to get a closer look (80-100ft) at the African elephant herd otherwise seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction.

Elephants as seen riding Kilimanjaro Safari
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Guests check in at the tour desk near the entrance to the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction and are given a brief run-down of the upcoming activities, as well as admonishments not to take photos while backstage. We were also reminded that the elephants roam on their own and their closeness to the viewing area is not guaranteed.

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Afterwards, you're taken on a short jaunt through some backstage areas to an awaiting van that takes the tour group through the savanna to your vantage point.

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Once you reach your observation spot------

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----- elephants!

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During the 30 minutes you have to spend in the observation area, two cast members talk briefly about the elephants and aspects of their lives, both in Animal Kingdom, and in their native home of Botswana.

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Some of the information shared:

--African elephants are a keystone species of the savanna and help to maintain the entire ecosystem.

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--The elephant herd is a matriarchal system in which females form a large bonded family and males are kicked out in their teens to lead largely solitary lives.

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--The country of Botswana is underpopulated and home to the largest number of elephants in Africa.

--In order to preserve their crops from the elephants, farmers there utilize "bee boxes." These swinging boxes of bees emit bee sounds (and some bees) when disturbed by elephants. The elephants in turn leave and emit elephant vocalizations -- low-pitched sounds virtually inaudible to humans -- that can warn off other elephants from five miles away.

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--The baby is named "Stella."

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While the tour is pretty brief, it affords a nice look at animals that are not always sufficiently cooperative to display themselves to the Kilimanjaro Safari. Additionally, for people trying to pack a lot into their WDW vacation days, it represents a relatively small investment of time and money.

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Tours cost $30 and can be reserved by calling (407) WDW-PLAY or (407) 939-7529. At this time, reservation can not be made online. Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders qualify for discounts.

We all felt it was well worth the money to experience the elephants in such a unique way.

All proceeds from the tour go toward conservation efforts.

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If you've taken the tour, why not write a short review to help other visitors!

April 17, 2017

Born in China" Roundtable with Roy Conli

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On April 21, 2017, Disneynature will debut its seventh theatrical feature "Born in China." To commemorate the opening, Producer Roy Conli held a roundtable Q&A about the various challenges involved in creating this True Life Adventure film.

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On getting involved with "Born in China:" "I was asked to come in right after 'Big Hero 6.' The project actually started in 2013, and then I got involved right around 2014...This is the first time I've done anything like this. Early in my career I did a little live-action (I really came from theater) but I really fell in love with this format. For the first half of my career I probably thought of myself as a theatrical producer working in animation, and since I've been working with John Lasseter, I really feel like I'm an animation producer who used to work in theater, and this...I really feel like I'm just a producer now. I feel that this type of storytelling is quite different than animation...You know, when you work in animation you start with whole cloth, and you start with a script and you start boarding and then you start putting up sequences and you start from an idea to an image.

"Here, it's almost exactly opposite. You start with an image, and you work back, and somewhere you meet in the middle, and you create the story. You've got these these amazing cinematographers who are out in some of the most remote places in the world filming this stuff and journaling everything that they're seeing... so you depend on those incredible cinematographers to help feed you with the information you need to tell that True Life Adventure because they're the one who are actually experiencing it.

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"Shane Moore, who was the cinematographer for the snow leopard unit...he was 253 days shooting over four trips, over six seasons. He was living in a little uninsulated shack, next to a monastery in the Qinghai Plateau. He and his very small team would leave before dawn and get back after dark and shoot straight...for the length of their visas. Now, they were coming in on journalistic visas, and essentially had to leave after three months. The first shot of snow leopard that we got was ninety days into his first stay. He had to leave the day after he got his first shot. But, it's a testament to what kind of, not only perseverance, but what kind of professionals these guys are."

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"Pandas are incredibly isolated and they don't like a lot of companionship around them. And they're also 800lb animals. So a mother panda with an 800lb cub can be somewhat dangerous. So what the cinematographers on that crew did was essentially don panda suits and would put panda scent on them (you can imagine what panda scent is) and would stay a significant distance away...Shane, on the snow leopard front, started about 400 meters away with telephoto lenses and really focusing on building that relationship. By the time he ended, he was somewhere between 40-50 meters away."

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On striking a balance between creating a narrative and keeping the integrity of the animal behavior: "What we're committed to is making sure that, within the filming, that we're not setting anything up, and then when it comes to the actual reportage, it's those journals that the cinematographers keep that really help us in terms of shaping the story. Then we brought on Phil Chapman and Brian Leith and a really wonderful writer by the name of David Fowler...they do an awful lot of research, we make sure we have scientists working with our writer to ensure that any information that is being passed on is accurate to the species and what's being done, and then he's using those journals to actually shape a story. Then (Director Lu) Chuan is using all that information in terms of compiling the end product.

"Now the cool thing, and what I'm so proud about with this film, is what Chuan was able to do within the structure, was bring in the Earthly, being the chiru, and the Spiritual, being the crane, and kind of parenthesizing this amazing story. Up to now, we've had a film called 'Bears,' and it was about bears...what I love about this is that it's a broader swath, and that there's an uber theme that kind of runs through, and that theme became very important. And that's what you craft, is how to tell the story so that theme can come through."

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On the importance of True Life Adventures to children: "It's interesting because we really refer to these as 'True Life Adventures' as opposed to documentaries, in the sense that these are more narrative, and yet we shoot with the concept of documentary. We won't go and set up shots, we won't go and alter what is actually happening in nature.

"But for me...I grew up watching the True Life Adventures that Walt Disney actually released.
From 1948-1960 he made thirteen True Life Adventures which won eight Academy Awards, and through the 60s and 70s, they would use those on 'The Wonderful World of Disney,' so you saw those used in different ways. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, so my introduction to wildlife was through these films. So I think the Disneynature label really gives an opportunity for not only kids, but adults as well...I think it really introduces children and adults into the wonder of this world, and understanding what an amazing world the natural life has to offer...It's incredibly beautiful and incredibly important to protect."

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"Born in China" opens in US theaters April 21, 2017. GO SEE IT OPENING WEEK (April 21-27, 2017)--Based on opening-week attendance, Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the World Wildlife Fund to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China.

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April 15, 2017

"Caring for Giants" -- A Close Look at Some Big Friends

jeaninebanner.jpg
Photographs taken by Linda Eckwerth.

A new tour offering at Disney's Animal Kingdom is "Caring for Giants," which offers guests the opportunity to get a closer look (80-100ft) at the African elephant herd otherwise seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction.

Elephants as seen riding Kilimanjaro Safari
caring-for-giants-14.jpg


Guests check in at the tour desk near the entrance to the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction and are given a brief run-down of the upcoming activities, as well as admonishments not to take photos while backstage. We were also reminded that the elephants roam on their own and their closeness to the viewing area is not guaranteed.

tour-office.jpg

Afterwards, you're taken on a short jaunt through some backstage areas to an awaiting van that takes the tour group through the savanna to your vantage point.

caring-for-giants-18.jpg

Once you reach your observation spot------

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caring-for-giants-24.jpg
caring-for-giants-25.jpg

----- elephants!

caring-for-giants-32.jpg
caring-for-giants-07.jpg
caring-for-giants-04.jpg


During the 30 minutes you have to spend in the observation area, two cast members talk briefly about the elephants and aspects of their lives, both in Animal Kingdom, and in their native home of Botswana.

caring-for-giants-20.jpg
caring-for-giants-27.jpg


Some of the information shared:

--African elephants are a keystone species of the savanna and help to maintain the entire ecosystem.

caring-for-giants-34.jpg

--The elephant herd is a matriarchal system in which females form a large bonded family and males are kicked out in their teens to lead largely solitary lives.

caring-for-giants-06.jpg


--The country of Botswana is underpopulated and home to the largest number of elephants in Africa.

--In order to preserve their crops from the elephants, farmers there utilize "bee boxes." These swinging boxes of bees emit bee sounds (and some bees) when disturbed by elephants. The elephants in turn leave and emit elephant vocalizations -- low-pitched sounds virtually inaudible to humans -- that can warn off other elephants from five miles away.

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--The baby is named "Stella."

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caring-for-giants-15.jpg


While the tour is pretty brief, it affords a nice look at animals that are not always sufficiently cooperative to display themselves to the Kilimanjaro Safari. Additionally, for people trying to pack a lot into their WDW vacation days, it represents a relatively small investment of time and money.

caring-for-giants-29.jpg

Tours cost $30 and can be reserved by calling (407) WDW-PLAY or (407) 939-7529. At this time, reservation can not be made online. Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders qualify for discounts.

We all felt it was well worth the money to experience the elephants in such a unique way.

All proceeds from the tour go toward conservation efforts.

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If you've taken the tour, why not write a short review to help other visitors!

April 10, 2017

WonderCon Returns to Anaheim

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After a year away at the Los Angeles Convention Center, WonderCon once again returned to the Anaheim Convention Center, conveniently located across the street from the Disneyland Resort.

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Continuing the trend of the larger media companies pulling back from a lot of these conventions, this year saw the same shift as the last few years away from celebrities and big studio presentations, and towards more panels/booths by, about, and for fans and fandom.

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Disney didn't have much of a presence this time around, its most visible asset the Disney Music Emporium booth on the floor.

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Disney's ABC Television Network brought some of their properties to WonderCon, including the ever-popular "Agents of SHIELD," and their new sitcom "Imaginary Mary."

After screening the second episode of the new series, they held a brief panel with the two stars of the show, Jenna Elfman and Stephen Schneider, and executive producers Adam F. Goldberg, Doug Robinson, and Patrick Osborne, who worked on animating such films as "Big Hero 6" and "Wreck-It Ralph," and who won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2014 for "Feast."

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An interesting look into the potential future of entertainment was detailed in "Secrets of Storytelling in VR and AR."

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With a panel of experts from VR production companies such as Mandt VR, Clever Fox, and LittlStar, the presentation described some of the roles augmented/virtual reality can have in the storytelling process, such as the pannable 360 degree video Mandt did for the 2016 "The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration..."

...Or the 360 augmented photo writer/director Dekker Dreyer did for the "Star Wars Land" groundbreaking.

Animation fans enjoyed a variety of internationally acclaimed shorts in "The 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows," including Disney's "Inner Workings" by Leo Matsuda, and Pixar's Academy Award winning "Piper" by Alan Barillaro.

In "Rogue One: The Magic Behind the Mission," Industrial Light & Magic animation supervisor Hal Hickel, with moderator Scott Mantz, gave insight into making the stunning visual effects featured in the last Star Wars installment.

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--Many different attempts were made at bringing K-2SO to life, including giving him blinking eyes which ultimately made him look too much like an animated cartoon.
--Alan Tudyk was credited for making him a full character. An example was the "and there's a fresh one if you mouth off again" sequence, in which Diego Luna suggested the slap, but Tudyk added the dialogue. A replay of the clip from the film reveals Diego covering his face to hide him cracking up.
--As an aid to developing the movement of the AT-ATs, elephants were used as reference models.
--The digital recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin involved taking stand-in actor Guy Henry, digitizing his facial motions, then recreating them in digital Peter Cushing's features. A keen eye to anatomical detail was given, including such factors as the change in blood flow to different areas of the face with movement.

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The usual high level of cosplay was evident throughout the convention, and particularly during the annual WonderCon Masquerade.

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Disney Legend Bob Gurr helped close off the weekend of panels in "The OC Automata and Animatronics Legacy," with fellow automaton builders Garner Holt, Bill Butler, and Thomas Kuntz.

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The panel discussed the varied and innovative animatronic history of Orange County, including the larger parks of Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland, as well as smaller institutions such as the Japanese Deer Park.
--Bob Gurr discussed the ill-fated "charging rhino" gag that was ultimately too unreliable to be kept in the Jungle Cruise.

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--The first time the term "audio-animatronic" was used in print was in a brochure for Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. (Did you think it was for the Enchanted Tiki Room? I did!)

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Out on the floor, examples of some of the engineering artisans' work could be seen up close:

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Garner Holt's yeti, apparently a pet project, is being developed in his workshop to communicate in American Sign Language for deaf children.

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Kuntz's "Fakir," a magician performing a fascinating ball-and-cups trick was on display as well. More information on it can be found at his website, here.

More information on Bob Gurr's many contributions to the audio-animatronic industry and more can be found in his recent documentary "Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams Into Reality," which can be purchased from Ape Pen Publishing.

WonderCon continues to grow and diversify as a convention, and seems to present more in the way of fan-based and niche programming than SDCC for example. If you're looking for more opportunities to get advice and instruction about different aspects of fandom--cosplay, fan fiction--or even information on how to move from being a consumer of genre material to a producer, WonderCon has a lot to offer.

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Disneyland Resort Updates - 4/07/17

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, April 7, 2017.

A video overview of the Star Wars / Rivers of America Construction site this afternoon from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure

An overview picture of the site.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Starting on the left with the massive show building that continues to take shape.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Walls going up near the circular structure. Looks like the forms are all in for the interior walls. Guessing concrete will be poured soon there if it has not been already.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

A new bridge taking shape in Critter Country where the Disneyland Railroad will pass over the walkay leading to the Star Wars area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Arriving at the parks. The annual Eggstravaganza Easter Egg hunt is underway. There are 36 eggs...12 in Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Downtown Disney. I spotted my first one as soon as I exited the tram. I will be doing some extended posts on my site with all the eggs.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Here are the prizes this year, same ones for all three quests. Maps are $5.99.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

First park today Disney California Adventure. Oswald was greeting guests near his service station.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

A Cast Member in front of the Five and Dime on Buena Vista Street showcasing the DCA Egg-Stravaganza

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring treats in the window of Trolley Treats

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

FastPass has been extended to Toy Story Midway Mania

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

My ticket.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

At the attraction the standby wait is posted at 45 only. Half the line board time of 90 and less than the app which said 80.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The Annual Passholder button this week features Donald.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Nick Wilde from Zootopia was out in the Bay Area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The Camp Notices board has seen better days.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The FastPass return line for Soarin' was backed up out into the walkway this afternoon.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Mickey and the Red Car News Boys cruising by.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Almost all the scaffolding from the Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! has been removed.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Next stop Disneyland. Inside the Opera House Lobby in front of the Disneyland Map are several finalists in the Cast Member Environmentality Art Challenge. There were too many people to get a nice wide picture so here is a look at each sign and entry. Each team/department created an original piece of art using recycled items from the resort.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

This one actually moved

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The winner this year was from the Golden Vine Winery.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Here is a video look at the finalists for the 2017 Disney Environmentality Art Challenge.

A mother duck and ducklings out for a walk in the hub.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Out at the Big Thunder Trail some fence has been moved so you can see a little more clearly into the new walkway. Guessing it was moved so they can work on the new walkway. A tree has been brought in and is waiting to be planted.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The view as you approach Critter Country.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Looking through the fence.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The lower level of the Hungry Bear was quiet today. The signs have been moved off the wall on the left to be along the new walkway. A wall up as they restore the area that was used as the temporary walkway entrance during construction.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The new walkway has opened to reach the lower level of the Hungry Bear.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Passing over the stream that will flow through Critter Country to the river.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The moon over Ornament Valley in Cars Land

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Flo's this evening.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Found a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

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







April 6, 2017

2017 Disney California Food and Wine Festival - Sweet Sundays

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Disney California Food and Wine Festival

This year's Disney California Food and Wine Festival includes additional Premium Events that weren't a part of last year's Festival. One of them is Sweet Sundays, which was a part of the original Festival. I've attended these events at both Epcot and DCA's Food and Wine Festivals, and I was happy to see it return this year.

Sweet Sundays starts with a light breakfast and features a guest celebrity chef who demonstrates the preparation of several desserts. All guests receive their own desserts to sample. In past sessions I've learned several interesting techniques and ways to make some desserts even better.

The cost is $79/person plus tax and gratuity. There are three Sweet Sundays events this year, featuring Duff Goldman, Emily Ellyn, and Keegan Gerhard. We saw Emily Ellyn. I have to admit I'd never heard of her before. She's been on a number of Food Network shows, like "Food Network Star", "Cupcake Wars", and "Cutthroat Kitchen." She's known as the "Retro Rad Chef", and wears vintage clothing styles and trademark cat-eye glasses.

The events are held in the Festival Showplace - Stage 17 in Hollywood Land. It started at 10:30, and check-in was supposed to start at 9:45. But no one was there at that time. We wandered around a bit and went back about 10:00 and there was a short line. Unfortunately the check-in process was very slow - it took 20 minutes until we were seated. I had made the reservation and pre-paid so all the cast members had to do was verify my last name and then check our ids and give us a wristband. It doesn't seem like that should be a really slow process.

We were seated at a table rather than choosing our own seats. The event is fairly small - there were 15 tables, each seating 6 people. Half the tables were already full. Servers came around fairly quickly and offered us glasses of sparkling wine. There were carafes of orange juice and cranberry juice already on the table so that we could help ourselves. I was surprised that we were not offered coffee or tea. We later asked for coffee and tea, and eventually it was brought to us, but it was very difficult to get a refill. I wish that a beverage station had been available so that we could've gotten our own hot beverages.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There was a basket of assorted pastries on the table for us serve ourselves.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

In past events there's been a breakfast buffet, but this year we had a "light breakfast" that was pre-plated and served to us at our tables. It definitely saved a lot of time to do it that way, but there wasn't the selection there has been in the past. We received scrambled eggs, bacon, and a potato cake. The scrambled eggs had some salmon in them, we think. I didn't think they were cooked quite enough, and they were too soft for me. The bacon wasn't crispy, and the potato cake was just ok. I was pretty disappointed in the breakfast.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Emily Ellyn came out while we were still eating. Rather than staying on stage and starting to cook she came out into the audience. She told us a lot about her background and her cooking philosophy - like taking tried and true recipes and make them your own. It was entertaining, but we were there for a cooking demonstration.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Finally she went up on stage and started working on the different parts of her desserts with the assistance of the host, who is a Disney chef. I was really not excited about her desserts at all. "Candied Fennel Upside-Down Cake served with Citrus Chocolate Pudding, Toasted Fennel Sesame Brittle and Orange Ash." Does that sound like dessert to you? I do not like fennel - I can't stand that licorice flavor. And as far as I'm concerned citrus and chocolate should NEVER be combined. Sigh.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Her presentation was enjoyable, but there wasn't a lot of substance to it. As I mentioned earlier, I usually learn something from these sessions - I really didn't learn much from this one. And these recipes are nothing that I will ever make. (Fennel desserts???? Did she think she was competing on Chopped?)

I will say that she's the first person that I've ever seen who engaged with the cameraman to make sure that something she wanted us to see was going up on the big screen - she was often talking to him as she showed things to him.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The desserts themselves...I took a bite of the Citrus and Chocolate Pudding but couldn't eat it, and the Fennel Sesame Seed Brittle on top was just nasty.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The Upside-Down Cake was not as bad as I thought - the cake itself was moist and didn't have any fennel flavor to it as long as I stayed away from the pieces of fennel that were on top. I still have no idea what the Orange Ash (the black stuff) was supposed to add - it simply tasted like ash.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

When she finished and we'd eaten our desserts she took a few questions. By then it was 12:00, and time to leave. They needed to get us out of there since they were going to have to completely re-set the area for the 2:00 Culinary Demonstration. Those use rows of long tables and not the round tables we had.

Ms. Ellyn was available afterward for photos, but we didn't wait in line for that.

While I was happy to see the return of Sweet Sundays, this one wasn't as good as those I have attended in the past. The desserts were really out there, and just not very appealing to me at all. I think this is the first one I've been to where the presenter was a "celebrity chef" rather than a recognized chef who is not necessarily famous. I would have preferred to see less personality and more demonstration of skill.

In contrast, here's the review I wrote about the last Sweet Sundays event I attended in 2010:

Sweet Sundays - 2010 Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I think that's more like it.

In other Food and Wine Festival news...we sampled some additional menu items from the various Festival Marketplaces, and also tried one of the full-size menu items at the Paradise Garden Grill Beer Garden.


As I did in my previous blog on the food items, I'm going to assign grades to each for Taste, Presentation, and Value. "Presentation" combines a number of factors such as creativity, interesting use of ingredients, and the way it looked. GIA denotes whether or not I would Get It Again.

From I (Heart) Artichokes: Creamy artichoke and dark chocolate cake pop. $4.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: D
Presentation: B
Value: C
GIA: No way
Comments: When asked about Festival food items, this is one that almost everyone mentioned that they liked and that we should try. (The fact that Emily Ellyn raved about it should've warned me.) There was nothing "cakey" about this at all. The inside was a sort of firm artichoke mousse. I thought it was tasteless, but Lee said it tasted vaguely of artichoke, which he doesn't really like. Even the chocolate on the outside didn't have much flavor.

From Garlic Kissed: Grilled beef tenderloin slider with chimichurri sauce. $7.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A-
Value: C-
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee tried this and really liked it.


From Bacon Twist: Smoked bacon mac and cheese with barbecue-seasoned crispy onions. $7.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A-
Presentation: B+
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee really enjoyed this. He's more of a mac and cheese fan than I am. I thought it was fine - I liked the crispy onions on top the best.

From Bacon Twist I also tried: Bloody Mary Cocktail with candied caramel bacon strip & blue cheese stuffed olives. $11.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: This was yummy. A little bit spicy, but not too much, and the bacon was very good. A reasonable amount of alcohol in it.

From Seafood...Sustained: Verlasso sustainable salmon tataki with avocado-wasabi puree and Furikake dust. $7.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: D
Presentation: B
Value: C-
GIA: No
Comments: The salmon was completely tasteless.

From Off the Cob: Sweet corn nuggets with beef chili, spring onion and sour cream. $6.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee described this as "a bite of awesomeness." I tried one of the corn nuggets and it was very good - a bit creamy inside with a nice fresh corn flavor.

From Sweet & Sourdough: Milk chocolate sourdough bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce. $4.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: C
Presentation: A-
Value: C+
GIA: No
Comments: This was good bread pudding, but where was the chocolate? When the name starts with "Milk chocolate" I expected it to be chocolatey, but there were just a few small pieces.

From Paradise Garden Grill Beer Garden: Beer-braised pork tacos served with pickled apple slaw, black beans and queso. $10.99

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A-
Presentation: A-
Value: B
GIA: Yes
Comments: The tacos were quite tasty. The pickled apples on top had a nice vinegary zing. The items at Paradise Garden Grill are full-size dishes, and as such are a better value than those at the Marketplaces.

Still more misses than hits in this year's food items. I may get back to the Festival one more time before it closes on April 16 - though I think most of what I really want to try is either desserts or the full-size items at Paradise Garden Grill.







March 28, 2017

KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX

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"There's this girl here--her name is Cinderella. She made me realize how powerful it is just to believe. No matter how impossible things seem...a powerful enough dream will always be enough to light the darkness." --Terra

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So the latest release from Square Enix is a collection of roughly the first two-thirds of their long-running action role-playing Kingdom Hearts series, "KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX" which, when combined with their recent compilation of the last one-third "Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue" (of which I wrote here) should get you up to speed on the current state of the Dark Seeker Saga.

So for those of us late to the Kingdom Hearts game, there was no way to play the whole thing on the Playstation 4. The games had all come out originally on multiple earlier systems, and the big HD collections 1.5 and 2.5 were only playable on the PS3. Finally, 2.8 came out for the PS4, but as I found out in my earlier review, the plot was hard going without any knowledge of the first six games.

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But finally! The new "KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX" collection has all of the previous games represented and remastered for the PS4. It has six parts: "KINGDOM HEARTS FINAL MIX"--the original Kingdom Hearts game with additional scenes, updated menus, and camera movement; "KINGDOM HEARTS Re:Chain of Memories"--a remake of a Game Boy Advance offering that features a card-based battle system; "KINGDOM HEARTS 358/2 Days"--an adaptation of the original Nintendo DS game into a two-plus hour cinematic; "KINGDOM HEARTS II FINAL MIX"--"Kingdom Hearts 2" changed to HD with remixed audio; "KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep Final MIX"--a prequel to the first Kingdom Hearts; and "KINGDOM HEARTS Re:coded"--a three hour cinematic based on the Nintendo DS game with around two hours of new content to tie Re:coded and the next game "Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance" (on the 2.8 collection) together.

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Storywise, the games continue to weave a complicated path. Japanese storytelling is a little different from Western storytelling, and in my experience, less linear and not as dependent on creating definitive interpretations and conclusions. The tale (referred to as the Dark Seeker Saga) begins with three youngsters: Sora, Riku, and Kairi. Their idyllic life in the Destiny Islands is fragmented by a great storm that separates the friends and takes Sora, our initial protagonist, to Traverse Town, which ends up being the initial entry point to the majority of the games. Throughout the next few games, Sora will endeavor to find his old friends as well as some new ones, accompanied by familiar faces such as Donald and Goofy.

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Unfortunately, Sora may discover that to find a friend is sometimes easier than to hold onto one, and more than one game may pass before everyone is back where they belong.

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In the shadows of the larger plot machinations lie some familiar Disney villains and some less-familiar creatures with obscure motives and origins. A mysterious Organization XIII is introduced, along with one of our other protagonists, Roxas who is in some way connected to Sora.

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"Birth by Sleep" is the only game that stands apart from the regular timeline of events, as it precedes "Kingdom Hearts" by ten years and tells the stories of three other Keyblade wielders in three different perspectives.

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In the few hours I was able to play of each one, I can say that all of the games look very good. While the animation does improve (as you'd expect) with each game outing, the HD rendering gives the whole series a consistent appearance.

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Gameplay-wise, going through them sequentially is a little like taking a trip through video game evolution. There are a lot of things that make life easier for the non-skilled gamer such as myself that only start appearing in the later games--there is no autosave feature until "Kingdom Hearts 2," and no onscreen map until "Birth by Sleep." The lack of autosave is a particular pain, as you can only manually save at specific designated points in each area...which are harder to keep track of, since for the most part, you have no map. The camera controls in the first game were pretty tough for me to work since even though they were reworked to fit the same controls as KH2, you are still much more restricted in their movement than in the rest of them. This was particularly challenging when trying to finish some of the big platforming sequences, as you'd sometimes find yourself abruptly unable to look in the direction you wanted to jump.

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As the series goes on, the controls get a lot smoother and they introduce an enormous amount of customization and variation to the combat system. By the time you get to "Birth by Sleep," the pages of different combinations you can make for various forms of attacks start looking like the spreadsheets for air traffic controllers. You can utilize a variety of physical attacks, aided by different types of keyblades, and combine those with magical attacks and also the powers of various people you meet along the way with whom you can link.

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For those who are on the "suck" skill level of combat, such as myself, there are mercifully beginner levels on all the games. In a blow for meritocracy however, there are apparently secret endings and cinematics that the game will tell you outright you will not be able to see unless you beat it at one of the higher levels.

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Probably my favorite out of the group (again, having only played a few hours of each,) was "Birth by Sleep" as the "Rashomon"-esque story structure really gives each part a unique take. Because each of the three protagonists are so different in physicality and psychology, the distinct variations in their combat animations are easy to see and well-matched.

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Conversely, my least favorite aspect was how similar Sora, Roxas, and Ventus look to me. There may end up being some reason for their similarity that I haven't uncovered yet in the game, but it initially took me a good couple of minutes to figure out that it was a different short spiky-brown-haired boy this time.

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The big appeal of the series, at least for me, is seeing how well-integrated this fantasy world is with all our various familiar Disney universes. Each "planet" has its own distinctive art style, from the square Eyvind Earle trees around Sleeping Beauty's castle, to the geometric neon of TRON, to the black-and-white Ub Iwerks era.

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Up next for the series in April 2017, is the relaunching of the mobile game "KINGDOM HEARTS Unchained X" as "KINGDOM HEARTS Union X." This game is set early on in the history of Kingdom Hearts, before the Keyblade Wars, and will feature a multiplayer mode.

Down the road of course, lies what will probably be the final chapter of the Dark Seeker Saga, "KINGDOM HEARTS III." While still in development, we know that it will feature the worlds of "Tangled" and "Big Hero 6," and potentially involve evil forces gaining control over the lovable robot Baymax. It is currently planned to be released for the PS4 and XBox One.

If you enjoy action RPGs and Disney, I think this series is well worth checking out. It celebrated its fifteenth anniversary this month and during its lifespan has shipped over 22 million units. I think it's got legs.

"KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX" is available now at the Square Enix online store for $49.99. Kingdom Hearts is a series of action role-playing games developed and published by SQUARE ENIX under the direction of Tetsuya Nomura. The series is a collaboration between SQUARE ENIX and Disney.

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*A copy of "KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX" was provided to me for the purposes of review without restrictions on expressed thoughts or opinions.*

March 27, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - 3/24/17

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 24, 2017. For a more indepth look be sure to visit his full picture set.


An overview of the Star Wars / Rivers of America from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure -


Over the past few weeks more and more trees are being planted along the new berm.

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

The retaining wall and footers are going in for the new train trestle that will cross the entrance walkway leading from Critter Country to the Star Wars area.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

A look at the marina structure which looks like it is being prepared for trees to be planted on the roof.

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

The show building status for this week. It is slowly being extended toward us.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

A wider view of the area.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

Spring Time at the Disneyland Resort.

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

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

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

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

A check of the work from the end of the Big Thunder Trail.

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

Over on the Critter Country side, the next section of rebar for the riverbed is installed and waiting for concrete.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

The Autopia reopened Friday after a quick renovation project. Several scenes featuring Honda's ASIMO Robot and a new Bird character have been added along the roadway. Here is the first one from the queue.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

The queue video screen features ASIMO and Bird watching films and then showing vacation photos.


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

ASIMO & Bird recreating a scene from Tangled
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

Here is a video clip of my walk through the indoor queue area.


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

ASIMO and Bird setting off on their adventure.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

A closer look at bird.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017
ASIMO by a car.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

The next scene Bird is caught up in a flying contraption.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

Bird is caught on a kite.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

Here is the reverse angle taken from the Matterhorn walkway.Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

ASIMO and Bird camping.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

A Honda Jet billboard at the finish line.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

In Fantasyland spotted Belle and Beast enjoying King Arthur Carrousel.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017



Mickey's Soundsational Parade returned Friday
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

At the nightly Flag Retreat Ceremony the Tuskegee Airmen were honored this evening.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

Here are a couple video clips from the Flag Retreat honoring the Tuskegee Airmen at Disneyland.

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

After the ceremony the flag was presented to the group.

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

Smiles all around.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

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

Guardians of the Galaxay - Mission: Breakout! opens in about 2 months.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

One of the towers is out from behind scaffolding.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

Food & Wine Festival AP Buttons (Week 2 on the left and 3 on the right)

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

Pirates of the Caribbean turned 50 last Saturday, so I went for a cruise to close out my evening.

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

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







March 19, 2017

First Bites at the 2017 Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: B Presentation: B Value: C GIA: Probably not Comments: This was surprisingly spicy (spicy hot).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Festival Marketplace Menus

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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

Disney California Food and Wine Festival







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