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August 23, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con 2016: Star Wars Publishing, D23, and the rest.

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Although Star Wars didn't have any big presentations as they did last year, for "Force Awakens," they still had some presence as Star Wars Publishing held their yearly panel on upcoming publications.

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For introducing younglings to the Star Wars characters and canon, Katie Cook has illustrated a couple of alphabet/poem/picture books.

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For the slightly older child, storybooks adapting scenes from the films or older adult-level novels will be released, complete with stickers and read-along CDs.

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Brian Rood uses a composite process for the film adaptations, in order to create art that is true to the film, but unique to the books.

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For the middle school reader, a new installment of the non-canon "Star Wars: Jedi Academy" series is out with "Jedi Academy: A New Class." These books are set in the extended universe of Star Wars, far before the events of the prequels.

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If you are among the legion that is the Poe Dameron fandom, "Poe Dameron: Flight Logs" promises to offer up more insight into Poe than any other vehicle thus far.

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Speaking of insight, didn't you ever wonder what happened to Ashoka between (spoilers) the time she left the Jedi Order at the end of Clone Wars, and her appearance in Rebels? Now you'll know when the young adult novel "Ashoka" comes out in October.

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Chuck Wendig discussed his "Aftermath" trilogy briefly, mentioning that the recently released "Life Debt" involved how the Empire dissolved and the New Republic became ascendant, and how the upcoming end of the trilogy "Empire's End" would shake out the end of "Life Debt" and bring the story into the start of "Force Awakens" by filling in the blanks of what transpired on Jakku.

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A new book out next year in the Expanded Universe, or Star Wars Legends line is "Thrawn," which joins "Bloodline" in fleshing out what might have happened between the canon plot points. "Thrawn" has recently become of increasing interest after the announcement that Admiral Thrawn will be making the leap from legend to canon in Rebels this next season.

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Finally, a slew of books introducing the world of the upcoming Anthology film "Rogue One" is expected, including an adult coloring book and a beautiful "Art of Rogue One" tome.

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Outside of the convention center there were the usual plethora of activities. Although the lately-lamented Disney Infinity pop-up shop was out of commission, we did get a D23 Member Mixer at the Hard Rock Hotel. This was pretty fabulous, because I can tell you, by the end of the day at SDCC, the things I want more than anything else in the world are food and air conditioning, and D23 came through with both of them.

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There was a macaroni-and-cheese bar and a taco bar and filled churros and I never wanted to leave.

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So once I had a chance to re-hydrate and restore my blood sugar, I was able to check out the environs and the notables D23 talked into hanging out with us. Producer Don Hahn made a break for it before I was able to snap a decent photo, but I was able to catch Legend Tony Baxter and Imagineer Josh Shipley.

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(And photobomber.)

The First Avenger was also there protecting the innocent, occasionally getting breaks from Thor.

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On the way out we were given beach towels, which I later briefly thought I would have to use sleeping out on the ground waiting for the Hall H wristbands, and posters for "Pete's Dragon." From my perspective, it was a great event, and the ice-cold soda alone was probably worth my annual membership fee. For more photos, you can check out the D23 recap of the event here.

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The annual Comic-Con International Masquerade displayed, as usual, an impressive array of costumes from all corners of pop culture fandom and, as usual, Disney and its various brands made a strong showing.

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Even a marriage proposal! I thought they were doing a bit, at first.
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Finally, after getting into whatever panels you could, and resigning yourself to not getting into the ones you couldn't, there was always the expansive Exhibitor's Floor to discover.

The kawaii-ful Tsum Tsums had their own booth, displaying the con-exclusive items and upcoming Tsums.

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Sadly, by the end of the last day, they were--you guessed it...

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Star Wars had its typical behemoth of a booth, with a variety of exhibitors selling and displaying anything and everything related to or themed towards the Skywalkers and Co.

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Disney Publishing had one booth, and Star Wars Publishing had another booth--so when they were running promotions or giveaways, you had to be pretty sure which one you wanted.

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Disney Music Emporium brought their booth back this year, along with the "Disneyland Records" t-shirt that I've been bugging them to carry ever since I missed out on getting one at the last D23 Expo.

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They also sold what Tony Baxter said was his favorite buy of the con, a copy of the "Awesome Mix Tape" from "Guardians of the Galaxy" on actual cassette tape, with a digital copy for those who might have left their Walkmans in the 80s.

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ABC Television had their booth themed to promote their new show "Designated Survivor," which I didn't experience because I feel like I get enough politics IRL as it is.

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Marvel's booth was generally so crowded it was hard to get a good look at anything unless it was closed for the day. I always think it's strange that when they have a bunch of stars doing a signing, they start frantically tweeting it out and encouraging people to come by, when you need to already have obtained a ticket to get anything signed. Further, everyone who can't get into the signing line then stands around outside of it trying to get photos and completely congesting the walkways all around the booth. Security then comes by and starts yelling at everyone to keep moving, and it's all pretty much a chaotic mess.

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However, in between celebrity traffic jams, you could see the Captain America statue on display that was dedicated in Prospect Park, Brooklyn earlier this year.

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If you wanted one for your very own, miniature versions were for purchase.

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So kind of a low-key year at SDCC for Disney, although still more panels and booth activities than one person could reasonably see for the whole weekend. Next year should prove interesting, as the current schedule has the D23 Expo and SDCC going almost back-to-back on the same week. Look forward to a LOT of blogs coming out the middle of July next year, and some very tired bloggers.

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August 21, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con 2016: Marvel TV and "Once Upon A Time"

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One branch of Disney that was pretty heavily represented at SDCC this year was its television divisions--both Marvel and ABC.

[Unattributed photos and videos courtesy of Disney, Marvel, and ABC.]

For fans of the Netflix series "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," the new spin-off "Marvel's Luke Cage" had its own panel, complete with the main cast and crew. Unfortunately, security was so tight that they actually made me delete the photos I took of Head of Marvel TV, Jeph Loeb, while they watched...and about ten minutes later appeared to have abandoned the whole thing, as everyone else took photos of everything else afterwards with no problems. Alas.

On the panel, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, Frank (Detective Scarfe) Whaley, Simone (Misty Knight) Missick, Theo (Shades) Rossi, Alfre (Mariah Dillard) Woodard, and Mike (Luke Cage) Colter discussed the new series, including the smartness of the script which they described as primarily a drama set in a superhero world. It will premiere on September 30.

Along with the announcement that "Daredevil" had been picked up for a 3rd season, the audience was treated to glimpses of the upcoming Marvel TV series "Iron Fist" and "The Defenders."

[It probably goes without saying, but Netflix series tend to be more graphic/intense than usual broadcast TV. You may want to review them in advance, to decide whether they are friendly for your family, is what I am saying.]

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The big panel of the weekend was the Marvel Studios presentation in Hall H, an enormous room that seats around 6,000 people. In theory, you're supposed to line up at a certain time the evening before, they hand out wristbands, and as long as you're back by 7:30am, you get a seat in the room for the day. I tried it, but it turns out that a) people actually start lining up for the wristbands like a day ahead of time, and b) people apparently started charging/cutting into the line as the wristbands started getting handed out causing enough riotous chaos that they had to stop handing out the wristbands for a considerable amount of time while they tried to restore order. Consequently, it was after 1am by the time the part of the line I was at was told that they were out of wristbands, giving everyone feelings of failure mixed with relief that we didn't have to get back in line in a few hours.

So, I didn't get to see it. If you haven't read the announcements from that panel from every other more effective blogger in the world, you can read them on the Marvel recap here.

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A panel I did get to see however, was "Once Upon A Time," in which co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were joined with cast members Jared (Henry) Gilmore, Emilie (Belle) de Ravin, Rebecca (Zelena) Mader, Josh (David) Dallas, Colin (Hook) O’Donoghue, Lana (Regina) Parilla, and Jennifer (Emma) Morrison.

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Kitsis and Horowitz on the definition of "hope."
Horowitz: "My definition of hope is the belief that things will get better."
Kitsis: "My definition of hope is the belief that Eddie is right."

Kitsis on whether Zeus can intervene in all eternal matters: "I feel like that was a one-time only Zeus interference."
Morrison: "Thank you Zeus!"
O'Donoghue: "He could have given me back mah hand!"

Horowitz on why the Olympian Crystal worked differently on Hades and Robin: "Well...everything that was said about the Olympian Crystal was said by Hades...so I don't know. He's God of the Underworld...I don't know. Can we trust him? I would say in all seriousness, that's a question that I think some of our characters should and will ask."
Kitsis: "I would say, for a show about Hope, I would choose not to believe Hades, but we'll find out."

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Gilmore on how Henry sees himself fitting in: "I think that now that Henry is The Author, he's gained that thing that I am the hero now, and my way of helping people is by being able to give them their stories and help them figure things out. I think Henry has found his place, and he believes that now he is a part of the heroes and...I think he likes it. He loves it."

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Mader on what changed Zelina most--having a baby, reconciling with Regina, or finding true love with Hades: "I think it's a plethora. It's a cacophony if you will, of everything. I mean, it's a lot happened all at once in terms of life breaking down Zelina's heart, you know. I think the reason she got pregnant was for horrible reasons, but then it ended up really changing her, and I don't think she really expected or understood that having a baby meant having unconditional love, and I think that melted her heart a little bit. It was also hard for her to accept and believe that a man could actually love her because she had such a rubbish life, and then all of a sudden her sister gave her her trust when she really, quite frankly, didn't deserve it. So it's like these three people who loved her even though she didn't feel like she was worth it, and I think that's changed her in powerful fundamental ways that's been really fun to play."

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de Ravin on why Belle continues to believe in Rumple: "Part of that pull is him being a bad guy. She likes that. Deep down, yes--she sees the good in him, she sees the...loving person he could be, but that darkness...she likes that. There's a side of that that definitely pulls her in."

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Dallas on playing the dual roles of Charming and his evil brother James: "It was great, you know. It was a chance for Charming to see everything that he didn't want to be, or everything he didn't want to ever become. He wanted to have a relationship with his brother, and he always felt a connection with him, and he wishes he could have gotten to know him, but that just wasn't the case. But his brother was a reminder to him of everything that he wanted to avoid and stay away from and not become."

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Parilla on whether Regina is now all good: "Regina's still sassy. She's not going to lose her sass...That's Regina. She's sarcastic and that's what we love about her, so she's not going to lose that. But the Evil Queen is slightly different than she used to be, I think. She's now without a conscience, so she's pure evil. And a lot of fun."

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Morrison on Emma's relationship with the separated Regina and Evil Queen: "I think it's going to be complicated for Emma to navigate because she wants to believe in Regina, and she wants to believe that Good can win, but she also knows she needs to protect everyone she loves, including everyone in her family...and that includes Regina. So it's like, how do you separate the two mentally, and figure out where to draw the line and how do you do that in a way where you're not betraying the trust that you've developed with this friend for so long, so I think it's going to be complicated."

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O’Donoghue on whether Hook has been changed from being dead
: "I think he's still pretty much the same Hook. I mean he...now that they know that it's True Love with Emma and Hook...they're trying to figure out how to navigate being together and that sort of world now...so at the minute he's the same Hook, but who knows? I think we might find out a few things about his past..."

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Also mentioned: Hot Topic will be introducing a "Once Upon A Time" inspired collection this Fall in stores and online.

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August 15, 2016

Disneyland Resort Updates - 8/12/16

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, August 12, 2016.


Some work on the upper floor exit ramp at the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


A couple pictures to check of the Star Wars progress this visit.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


A video clip taking a look around the site before we get into the pictures.




More footers and walls as the entrance ways to Star Wars, the Rivers of America and the train path are taking shape.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

First Park Today is Disney California Adventure. Passing through Ornament Valley. The Racers had a posted 60 min standby time today.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

The tractors were not tipping today.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Next up decided to go for a spin on Luigis. It was about a 10 min wait from entering the queue until I was in my car. My dance partner for today was Rosa.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

Tower of Terror from Flik's Fun Fair


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

A Red Car passing by the Hollywood Tower Hotel.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


The Frozen pop up store has moved closer to the Hyperion queue.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Nothing has gone in its old location.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

Today marked the last day for the 2016 All-American College Band.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


A couple clips from the All-American College Band Backlot stage performance.



Next stop Disneyland. The Frontierland Shootin Exposition is closed for renovation.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Interesting the Columbia has been moved from the harbor to the far side of the island (the east side, the Big Thunder side).

To do this means they had to move the Mark Twain forward past the harbor toward Splash Mountain then back the Columbia around and then back the Mark Twain up, since the back half of the river does not exist yet.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

Most of the scaffolding is gone from the front of the island.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


The Mark Twain in port.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Fowler's Harbor is empty today. Note the construction walls are still up.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Looking up river from the Canoe Dock in Critter Country.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

Tarps up between the Pooh queue and Hungry Bear as some work is being done in the stream area.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

The Ernest S. Marsh has replaced the E.P. Ripley in the New Orleans Square Station this week.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

The Market House and some of Center Street have exterior renovation going on (Starbucks is still open)

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

Time for the nightly Flag Retreat Ceremony


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Due to a technical glitch the volume of the pre-recordings was too low so they called an audible and one of the Dapper Dans read those parts.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


The All-American College Band


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Passing by the Matterhorn


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

The band arriving for their final castle set.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

The band on the move on Main Street USA


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Going Down the Bayou


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


The All-American College Band highlighting their percussion section during Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


A clip of the percussion section solo.




Time for the final Train Station set of the 2016 All-American College Band.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


A young fan of the band is honored.


A video of the finale to the Train Station set.




Tomorrowland Terrace now hosts bands again on weekend nights. Between sets the stage is left up.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Tonight the stage features Tomasina


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016



The All-American College Band marching into place for their finale set of the season, the 8:15pm pre-parade.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

The band performing Let it Go on Main Street USA


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Their final stop in front of the Train Station features Star Wars to conclude their season.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


I made my way over to Disney California Adventure. Found a spot for World of Color - Celebrate, opted to go with a Standby spot vs using my Yellow FastPass


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


The center screen projections were really clear this evening.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


One set of Glow with the Show (Made With Magic) Ears in my view today. I saw maybe a handful scattered throughout the audience.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

The fire jet to kick off the Star Tours / Star Wars segment.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Walt and Mickey on the way out.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


There was no line for Disneyland so instead of leaving I headed in to find a spot for Disneyland Forever. Found an OK spot for Disneyland forever with literally 1 minute to spare, this was taken at 9:29pm.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Show time.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


No projections on the South portion of Main Street tonight. From Center Street to Town Square was dark (both sides of the street).


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016


Here you can see the difference in the portion with projection vs without.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, August 12, 2016

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.







Electric Vehicle Charging at Disneyland

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Disneyland Electric Vehicle Charging

Lee and I recently purchased an electric vehicle, a Chevy Volt. A friend and fellow Volt owner (Hi Chelsi!) had told me that there are electric vehicle charging stations in the Mickey & Friends parking garage, so I checked that out before the Volt's first (of many, I'm sure) trips to Disneyland. I found this information on the Disney Parks Blog. There are 20 of them on the first floor of the garage in the Chip and Dale section. They are not free - you must have a Chargepoint account to use them.

Disneyland Electric Vehicle Charging

Now...getting to the Mickey and Friends garage is often a challenge for us these days, because we come from the south, and access the garage by turning left from Ball Road onto Disneyland Drive. More often than not of late, the entrance to the garage from there is closed and we get re-routed to a parking area a couple of miles away. Grumble. To avoid that this time we went further north on I5, then exited and turned back south so we could use the elevated ramp that goes straight to the parking garage.

There's a sign on the parking booths that says "Ask about Electric Vehicle Charging". So we did. The cast member placed a colored tag on our windshield, and told us the parking attendants would direct us accordingly. We had entered via one of the parking lanes over toward the right, so we had a brief wait while the attendant stopped traffic so that we could go to the left.

Disneyland Electric Vehicle Charging

From there we were in the correct part of the garage, but we were kind of on our own to find the charging stations. The charging stations are in row 7, and we should've turned left a little sooner. Eventually we managed to get ourselves parked. At that point, about 10:00 in the morning, there were at least 12 charging stations still available.

To use the station, you either need a Chargepoint smart card or their phone app. I had just signed up so don't have a card yet, but I was able to use the app quite easily. I identified which charge station I was using, but the charger "nozzle" was locked into place until I authorized a payment from my account. (There's a $1.50 minimum.) Then we plugged it into the car, and both the app and the car indicated that it was charging.

Disneyland Electric Vehicle Charging

Throughout the day I was able to use the app to check on the progress, and at 3:21 p.m. I received an email that charging was complete. Fortunately the Disneyland Resort does not require that vehicle owners return to the garage to move their car when finished charging. For EV owners traveling to the resort, the app indicates how many charging stations are available.

Disneyland Electric Vehicle Charging

We returned to the car about 8:20 that evening. ALL of the EV spaces were full by then, and it looked like all of the stations were in use. There was an interesting variety of EVs along the row. While I didn't take an inventory I saw several Volts, a couple of Teslas and a Hyundai. I did not see any Nissan Leafs, though.

Disneyland Electric Vehicle Charging

I had to use the app (since I didn't have a card) to terminate our charging session. My phone was getting low on battery, but it worked ok. Worst case I could've plugged the phone into the car to charge it so that I could unplug the car! :-) I almost immediately received an email receipt from Chargepoint indicating how much power we had used and how much we were charged for it. (It was plugged in longer than 5 hours but it only drew power for 5 hours.) As it turned out it would have been cheaper for us to just use the Volt's gas engine for the entire trip home (since it gets ~40 mpg), but it was interesting to try out the charging station on our car's first lengthy trip from home.

Disneyland Electric Vehicle Charging







San Diego Comic-Con 2016: WDAS and Disney Kingdom Panels

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If it's summer, you can be sure of a few things: Crowded theme parks, Olaf finding out what frozen things do, and San Diego Comic-Con.

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This year's SDCC, along with almost every other con I've attended recently, was lighter on Disney material than in the past--no doubt due to their need to keep fresh material for presentation at the 2017 Expo. The recent loss of Disney Infinity and their annual pop-up store also subtracted from the Disney footprint this time around.

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Nevertheless, there were still an abundance of relevant panels to attend--more than anyone could reasonably hope to see in one weekend--but I managed to make it into a few.

[Non-attributed photos and video, courtesy of Disney]

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One of the first SDCC panels was Walt Disney Animation Studio's "Moana: Art of Story," in which directors Ron Clements and John Musker were joined by producer Osnat Shurer, co-head of animation Amy Smeed, and writer Jared Bush. They were later joined by voice of Moana, Auli’i Cravalho, however we were asked not to take any photos (this would be a continuing theme throughout the con.)

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--Clements and Musker recounted the research trip they were "forced" to take to the South Pacific.
--Shurer spoke of the musical team creating the score for "Moana:" Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
--The loudest screams from the audience occurred whenever anyone mentioned Miranda.
--Bush (co-director of Zootopia:) "None of the animals in 'Moana' talk. I'm not really into talking animals. Not my thing."
--Bush did not get to go to the South Pacific, but instead got the coveted trip to Burbank.
--The panel briefly describes the crux of the film as being a fictitious explanation of an actual historical period in which the Pacific Islanders, who were renowned as great navigators, just stopped traveling anywhere for about 1,000 years.
--While the film is computer animated, Maui's tattoos, particularly "Mini-Maui," were hand-drawn by famed animator Eric Goldberg.
--Moana as a character is one that is going on a Hero's Journey to empower herself and discover the world around her. She does not have a romantic interest in the film.
--Dwayne Johnson sings.

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The next WDAS panel I saw was "Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary." This was actually a little similar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tribute that took place a few months ago, but with more of an animation focus, versus voice talent. Moderated by producer Don Hahn, the talent consisted of directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise along with animators James Baxter, Dave Pruiksma, Nik Ranieri, and art director Brian McEntee.

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--Wise and Trousdale had just finished their first foray into animation direction before "Beauty and the Beast" with "Cranium Command" for EPCOT.
--Angela Lansbury was the only one of the cast that did not have to audition for her part--Ashman and Menken wrote the song "Beauty and the Beast" with her in mind.
--Wise and Trousdale on reacting to their casting director's suggestion for the voice of the Beast: "Robbie Benson? 'ICE CASTLES?'"
--Jeffrey Katzenberg on having Robbie Benson pitched to him for the Beast: "ICE CASTLES?"
--The song "Be Our Guest" was originally storyboarded for Maurice, instead of Belle.

--A clip of Howard Ashman working with the voice actors touched on his massive contributions to the film.

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--Baxter, on the difficulty of animating Belle: "The intimidating part was, she's got to be beautiful. It's in the title."
--A selection of some of the concept art for the characters was displayed.

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--The filmmakers remembered having to fight for Belle's yellow dress (taken from a Chris Sanders' sketch) as marketing told them everything should be pink and lavender, because "that's what little girls wear."
--Baxter attributed his experience with the crazy camera moves in "Roger Rabbit" as enabling him to create the ground-breaking ballroom scene, where the hand-drawn couple dances on a CG background while the camera swirls around them.
--"When people say, 'well what was the software that was used," I was like it was inside James' skull."
--McEntee recounted how he ended up contributing the original design for the movie poster, and some subsequent revisions.

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--Hahn closed the panel by recounting how they had hired Celene Dion to sing the pop version, but the marketing department didn't trust that she could sell it on her own, since at the time she had yet to have a US hit.

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Going to the last day of SDCC, Disney and Marvel Comics brought us "Disney Kingdoms: Theme Park Stories with Marvel Comics." Actress/producer Amy Dallen moderated a panel consisting of Imagineers Josh Shipley and Andy DiGenova, Creative Director, Themed Entertainment at Marvel Brian Crosby, cover artist E.M. Gist, Animator/producer/writer/past-Imagineer Tad Stones, and writer Jim Zub.

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--The panel recounted the process of pitching the comics to Joe Quesada, noting that they could expand the universe of the attractions much like the films did for "Pirates of the Caribbean," but at a vastly reduced cost.
--"Seekers of the Weird" is based on "Museum of the Weird," the original concept for "Haunted Mansion." (Someone else has the copyright on "Museum of the Weird.")
--Zub spoke of his experiences writing the "Figment" comics, and how gratifying it was to have them received so enthusiastically and finding them for sale at Walt Disney World.
--Zub also writes "Thunderbolts," which is led by the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes. In the latest issue, Barnes is seen reading a story to a little girl--"Figment."

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--Zub: "This is the most indulgent thing."
--Zub on the question of a third "Figment" run: "I think you guys are going to be really happy next year."
--Stones described his early career with Disney, which included work on the World of Motion pavilion, a Space pavilion with George Lucas, and finally the Imagination pavilion.
--Interestingly, Stones said that the color of Figment changed from green to purple to match the Sherman Brothers' song--not, as is popularly said, because of the color conflict between Fuji Film and Kodak packaging.
--Stones notes that the name of Dreamfinder was "The Pretender" for about an afternoon before it changed back.
--DiGenova spoke about the "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" comics, in which they based the likeness of one of the characters on Tony Baxter. The character was initially written more villainous, but became less so after Baxter didn't see the resemblance.

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--DiGenova commented on Big Thunder originally having been conceived as a much grander attraction that would have been the gatepost to Baxter's original concept for a separate land: "Discovery Bay."
--In working on the books, the team had to do research to find out what commonly held theories/names for things in the attractions were official and which were fan-based.
--Gist did covers for "Haunted Mansion," (in addition to variants by several different artists, including Crosby and frequent Disney artist, Jody Daily) which are intended to be a tour of the attraction.

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--Presales on "Haunted Mansion" were the biggest of any of the Disney Kingdoms titles.
--Free copies of "Haunted Mansion" issue one will be given out in October for "Halloween Comic-Fest" at various comic book stores.
--Shipley then announced that the next Disney Kingdoms title will be "Enchanted Tiki Room."

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--Cover artists so far have included Brian Kesinger, story artist at WDAS, and Imagineer Jason Grandt.
--"Enchanted Tiki Room" will debut in October.
--The series will have more of an episodic feel than the other lines, a la "Fantasy Island."
--Similarly to "Lost," each book will also focus on the group of people who arrive at the Tiki Room, how they make contact with it, and their perspectives.
--Dallen: "How do you plan to get that song out of our heads?"
--Shipley: "By singing 'it's a small world.'"

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August 12, 2016

A Disneyland Day - 8/5/16

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Lee and I went to Disneyland on Friday, August 5...here are some thoughts, observations, etc.

It was the first trip to Disneyland for our new Chevy Volt, so we checked out (and used) the Electric Vehicle charging stations that are located on the ground floor of the Mickey & Friends parking garage. I have an entire upcoming blog post on that so I'm not going to say much more now. It worked fine for us.

Disneyland Electric Vehicle Charging

We arrived at the security checkpoint around 10:30. The lines weren't too bad, and moved well. It wasn't looking like it was a really busy day. Really nice weather that day, too - overcast and 70s in the morning, and maybe 82 in the afternoon. Very comfortable.

Our main objectives for the day were the Frozen Lunch Package (blog to come) and to see the Disneyland All-American College Band. We had some time to wander around DCA before lunch. The Paradise Garden Grill restaurant is open again - it had closed for a while. There were several people ordering when we were there, which was good to see. The menu is unchanged - still Mediterranean skewers. That's not a complaint - I like them.

Paradise Garden Grill

Disney recently announced that the Tower of Terror would be turned into a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction. Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT is supposed to open in the summer of 2017. No announcement yet as to when the current ToT attraction will close. Hmmm. I'm not sure how well this fits into the Hollywood Land area, but if DCA is going to become the Pixar/Marvel park, then I guess this is another step along that road. (As a reminder, Captain Marvel and Spider Man moved to DCA from Disneyland earlier this summer.)

Tower of Terror

Lucky Fortune Cookery has added a Chicken and Vegetable Potsticker offering to their menu. It's $4.99. Or maybe it never left after the Food and Wine Festival, where it was the Festival item available at Lucky Fortune Cookery.

When we were in the Pacific Wharf area, the Mariachi Divas were performing the Linda Ronstadt song "Blue Bayou". Not what I would expect from a mariachi group, but they did it beautifully.

Mariachi Divas

Award Wieners has a Crush the Turtle souvenir sipper for $12.99. It looks like it would be rather awkward to carry, though. Their current specialty hot dog is named "nacho ordinary chili dog". It's an all beef hot dog with chili, pepper jack cheese, nacho chips and jalapenos, for $8.19.

Clarabelle's has added a mango sorbet bar to their menu in addition to the mixed berry sorbet bar. And of course they still have chocolate and vanilla ice cream bars, too! I keep meaning to have one of those again.

The "confection of the month" in the candy stores is S'Mores. So the specialty caramel apple and crispy treat are topped with graham crackers and marshmallows this month. I had one of the s'mores caramel apples last year - not really impressed. The graham crackers (not surprisingly) were soft.

S'Mores caramel apple

In anticipation of the release of the upcoming "Pete's Dragon" movie, there is an Elliott apple, too.

Pete's Dragon Elliott caramel apple

Speaking of Elliott...we went to the sneak peek of the movie in the Sunset Showcase Theater - originally the Muppets theater. Though most recently it hosted the Frozen Sing-a-long, and the waiting area still has a lot of Arendelle elements.

Pete's Dragon preview


Sunset Showcase Theater

The cast member who gave us all of the usual pre-show warnings was very entertaining. He approached it as though we were viewing footage that proved the existence of creatures like Elliott and Nessie. Fun. As we were leaving, Jason pointed out to me that Elliott made some appearances in the forest projections that were on the walls above the exit doors. The movie itself...not really my thing, I don't think.

Pete's Dragon preview

Olaf's greeting spot is just to the right of Stage 17. It's kind of hidden, and there was no line, so we stopped by for a warm hug. :-)

Olaf Meet and Greet

When we went to check in for our Frozen pre-show they told us that the 4:00 show had been canceled, so we would be seeing the 5:50 show instead. That messed with our plans to see the College Band at 6:15 in Disneyland. :-( Our pre-show was still going on as scheduled from 2:40-3:40.

Since the Frozen pre-show is held in Stage 17 we were able to duck out of it at 3:00 to catch a little bit of the College Band's jazz set. They perform that on the Backlot Stage.

All-American College Band Jazz set

Instead of hanging around DCA waiting for Frozen (we were supposed to return by 5:30) we went over to Disneyland to wander around for a while. We started at the Main Street train station. With the Disneyland Railroad closed because of Star Wars construction (and the re-routing of the tracks), Disney is putting trains out at Main Street and New Orleans Square, with train engineers available to talk to guests about them.

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We saw the C.K. Holliday at Main Street, which had just completed a refurbishment and was looking pristine and beautiful. While Lee was talking to the engineer, I sat in the Fireman's seat.

Disneyland Train

Carlos talked to Lee for quite a while about the controls in the cab and how they work to run the engine. We got a lesson in Disney train history, too. Really very interesting - I highly recommend going up to the train station and taking advantage of this opportunity. We were there for about 20 minutes and only a few other people came up there.

Disneyland Train controls

Hyperspace Mountain is still very popular (100 minute standby line at 4:30 in the afternoon) - but enjoy it while you can. The attraction is closed September 6-8 so that the Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy overlay can be applied. No word on whether or not Hyperspace Mountain will return after the Halloween season ends on October 31.

As previously announced, all of the 60th anniversary nighttime shows - Paint the Night, Disneyland Forever, and World of Color - Celebrate - will be ending on September 5. Fantasy in the Sky will be the nighttime fireworks show at Disneyland until the holiday season starts - the assumption being that Believe...in Holiday Magic will return. Mickey's Soundsational Parade will continue to be the afternoon parade, but will add an additional evening performance on busy days starting on September 9. And it's expected that A Christmas Fantasy Parade will return for the holiday season.

But Paint the Night isn't quite done yet - on August 10, Disney announced that it "will return on select nights during the holiday season later this year." Perhaps bigger news in that same announcement was that the Main Street Electrical Parade will be returning to Disneyland next year.

Over at DCA, the "original" World of Color show will return until the holiday season. (Given the public's demand for all things Frozen, I would be shocked if World of Color Winter Dreams was not back during the holidays.) I say "original", because there were a number of versions of the show during its first five years, so it will be interesting to see which version reappears - and if any of the new elements added for Celebrate will be used.

But I digress...we were wandering around Disneyland. We stopped for a look at the newish Star Wars Land artwork on the construction wall near Big Thunder Mountain. It's a full-sized version of the image released last month, and it was nice to get a larger view of it.

Disneyland Star Wars Land

The Hungry Bear Restaurant is pretty quiet these days. With all of the construction fence up, it's not nearly so appealing to sit there and enjoy your meal since you can no longer watch the activity on the Rivers of America. And the lower level of the restaurant is a dark cave, since all of the light gets blocked. While that might be appropriate for bears, it doesn't have much charm for humans.

Hungry Bear Restaurant

The Country Bear artwork along the exit ramp is nice, though.

Hungry Bear Restaurant

There are a few specials being offered at the Hungry Bear - maybe in an effort to try to bring in more guests? The Churro Funnel Cake looked really good, but we didn't get to try it. There's also a Peach Cobbler Funnel Cake.

Hungry Bear Restaurant funnel cake specials

And a Country Bears Jug sipper, for $12.99.

Hungry Bear Restaurant jug sipper

I mentioned the train at the Main Street Station - there was one at the New Orleans Square station, too. And there we could even walk across the tracks to get a close look at the inner workings of a steam boiler which had been opened up so we could see how it works. Engineer Jim was there to answer all of Lee's questions this time and described some of the safety mechanisms. We could have stayed even longer, but we had to get back to DCA to see the Frozen show.

Disneyland train steam boiler

There will be more info on the Frozen show in the other blog - but by getting the package we had our choice of seats on the Orchestra level, and that was quite an advantage. The show went off almost perfectly - just one small sound glitch and the "rolling troll" did not make its appearance, which made that scene change seem longer.

Frozen - Live at the Hyperion

After the show we hustled back to Disneyland to see the College Band perform their 7:15 set at the train station.

Disneyland All-American College Band

I hadn't seen their new Jungle Book number, and that was excellent. At the 7:15 set they often perform a Michael Jackson medley, but we lucked out and saw their Star Wars medley instead. That was phenomenal. They finished with the Earth, Wind, and Fire set, which we've seen many times over the years. It's always very good, but for me it didn't have nearly the impact of the Star Wars number.

We headed for home after that. If you've noticed, we didn't do any rides at all, but still we had a really good day. We enjoyed our lunch very much, and also enjoyed wandering around the parks, speaking to the train engineers, and watching the College Band.








Review: Frozen Pre-Show Plus Lunch Dining Package

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Following the success of the new Frozen - Live at the Hyperion Theater show, and the corresponding demand for seats, Disney was quick to introduce three dining packages which offer premium viewing experiences. At various price points.

The most inexpensive option is the Frozen-Pre-Show for $49/person. It starts 90 minutes before show time in Stage 17 in the Hollywood Backlot and includes:

    -- Event credential lanyard with collectible pin
    -- Frozen shave ice treat
    -- Beverage station with soft drinks, beer, and wine
    -- Three photo op locations, one with a character
    -- Crayons and coloring sheets for the kids (or kids at heart)
    -- Gallery of original art designs
    -- "Magical Snow Moment"
    -- Priority admission to the Orchestra section of the Hyperion Theater and choice of seats

The latter is the most important feature, I think.

The Frozen Pre-Show Plus Lunch Package includes all of the above plus a four-course lunch at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. It is $99 for adults and $79 for kids 3-9, plus tax and gratuity. (Annual Passholder discounts apply.)

And the final package is the Frozen Signature Dining and Behind-the-Scenes Package. This one is $299/person. In addition to the pre-show, guests receive a guided tour after the show where they will be taken on-stage behind the curtain for a look at some of the show's costumes. They can also have their photo taken on-stage. In the evening they will sit down for a five-course meal at the Carthay Circle Restaurant.

The Pre-Show and Lunch packages can be booked on-line, but the Behind-the-Scenes package can only be booked by calling Disney Dining. At this point it appears that the packages will no longer be offered after September 5 - they are not available for booking on the on-line dining site after that date.

On a recent visit we tried the Lunch package. It seemed like not such a bad deal considering what the price of a four-course meal would be at the Carthay Circle Restaurant.

I made reservations several weeks in advance but that wouldn't have been necessary - there was still availability for both the lunch and pre-show packages the same day. (The Behind-the-Scenes package is not available on-line, so I was not able to check availability for that one.)

Our lunch reservation was at 11:30, which was when the restaurant opened. There were a few other Frozen lunch diners, but most of the people around us were doing the World of Color package instead. (That one is $43/$23 for lunch.)

We received a very different menu, though. Unlike the World of Color menus, the Frozen menu is customized for Frozen and features items that are not on the regular Carthay Circle menu.

Frozen Lunch Package Menu

The appetizers and dessert are set, and there is a choice of entree. Soft drinks, coffee, or tea are included in the price.

I started off with a cocktail (extra charge for that) called a Sparkling Mare. Iron Horse sparkling wine, Elderflower liqueur, and Aperol Orange. It was very good - maybe just a touch too much of the orange.

Carthay Circle Sparkling Mare

Our meal began with a bread service. It was a whole wheat bread - warm and very good.

Frozen Lunch bread service

"Act One" of the Frozen menu is Stone Trolls - a Norwegian meatball inside a baby Portobello mushroom, topped with lingonberry jam. I thought it was a very clever idea. Lee said it was pretty good.

Frozen Lunch Stone Trolls

Since I can't eat beef, our server brought me the opening course from the Kid's menu instead: Watermelon with Mango Sorbet. Not as interesting as the other, but it was fine. I was surprised that the sorbet held up on a skewer - it actually didn't disintegrate instantly. It was small, but tasty.

Frozen Lunch watermelon and sorbet

"Act 2" was a combined soup and salad course, featuring Carthay Circle Citrus Salad and Summer Yellow Tomato "Sopa de Ajo". The soup was similar to tortilla soup, with thin crisp tortilla strips and some chunks of avocado, chicken, and tomatoes. It was not overly spicy - really delicious. I would've enjoyed a larger serving!

Frozen Lunch Citrus Salad and Sopa de Ajo

The salad was not as successful. I forgot to request the dressing on the side as I usually do and thought it was overly dressed, though at least it was a relatively light dressing. It had pieces of strawberry and green beans in it in addition to the greens. It also had pieces of orange - with the peel still on them. We asked our server about the oranges and she said it was the chef's intention that the peel be eaten too. I tried it but found it bitter and not a pleasant taste in what was otherwise a nice salad.

Frozen Lunch Citrus Salad oranges

We had a choice of three entrees. I selected the Sustainable Fish of the Day with summer peach almond gazpacho. The fish was halibut (l got one of the last servings of that - later diners received swordfish), and it was hands down the best entree I have ever had at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. The sauce was so flavorful - I can't even tell you what all of the flavors were, just that they were delicious. Lee had a bite and said the fish didn't seem like fish at all - much more meaty. The peaches had a nice sweetness but didn't overwhelm the dish. Underneath the fish there were some pea pods and red onions. It was all excellent.

Frozen Lunch Halibut with Peach and Almond Gazpacho

Lee ordered the Herb Crusted Petit Filet of Angus Beef with blue cheese risotto, spinach, and wild mushrooms. He ordered it medium, but it was a little past medium. Still nicely prepared and he cleaned his plate.

Frozen Lunch Herb Crusted Petit Angus Filet

The third entree is Roasted Breast of Chicken with heirloom tomatoes, avocado and poblano-lime vinaigrette. That sounded really good also - tomatoes and avocados are two of my favorites.

The dessert is called Olaf's Summer Dream Vacation. (This same dessert is served to the kids, also.) As you can see - it's Olaf. And it's entirely edible.

Frozen Lunch Olaf's Summer Dream Vacation

Olaf's body is made of two cream puffs, with chocolate arms and a white chocolate head. The "icebergs" are made of meringue - very light, but crunchy. We found the cream puffs were a little bland - I think if they'd used some coconut on the outside they would have been much more flavorful and interesting. Still, the dessert was really adorable - and it was a lot of dessert.

Frozen Lunch Olaf's Summer Dream Vacation

As I mentioned earlier, soft drinks, coffee, or tea are included in the package. We had alcoholic beverages and water with our lunch, so choose coffee and tea with our dessert as our included beverage. They brought me my own individual tea pot so that I could serve myself. I had Mad Hatter Tea, which was very good initially, but after it had steeped for about 10 minutes the tea that was still in the pot started to get bitter. I'll have to keep that in mind should I order it in the future.

When I saw the size of the first two courses I was concerned that the meal might be a little skimpy, but the entree and dessert more than made up for it and we went out of there quite pleasantly full.

I should mention that we had a really wonderful server (Beth) and assistant server (David). Beth brought us a menu signed by the chef, and she and David signed it, too.

Before we left Beth brought us our Frozen Pre-show tickets and told us where we should check in. There seem to be two pre-shows each day, and we had the second one. Our pre-show experience would begin at 2:35.

Frozen Pre-show tickets

About 2:30 we went back to Stage 17 in the Hollywood Backlot (between Sunset Showcase Theater and Monsters, Inc.). Cast members were already checking people in.

Frozen Pre-show check-in

Unfortunately we were told that the 4:00 show had been canceled, so we would be seeing the 5:50 show instead. ("This has never happened before!") But our pre-show would still be from 2:40-3:40.

Frozen Pre-show

We received drink coupons which would allow us one alcoholic beverage each - the choices were red wine, white wine, and Stella Artois.

Frozen Pre-show drink vouchers

When we turned in our tickets we received a wristband and a lanyard credential with a "Frozen - Live at the Hyperion Theater" pin on it.

Frozen Pre-show lanyard

Frozen Pre-show pin

We came back at 2:40 but it was closer to 2:45 by the time we were allowed in the building. Both the wristband and the lanyard were required for entry. The pre-show takes place in Stage 17, between the Sunset Showcase Theater and Monsters, Inc. It's the same place that the "Olaf's Snow Fest" took place, and it's still decorated to look like Arendelle on a wintry day. No snow hill, though. :-)

Frozen Pre-show interior

There are three different photo backdrops, each staffed by a PhotoPass photographer.

Frozen Pre-show troll photo backdrop

Frozen Pre-show photo backdrop

After about 15 minutes Olaf came in to pose for photos. He was there about 30 minutes, I think. There weren't that many guests, so he spent a lot of time interacting with the photographers.

Frozen Pre-show Olaf meet and greet

There were some tables set up with crayons and coloring pages featuring Frozen characters.

Frozen pre-show coloring table

Frozen pre-show coloring

Along one side of the room was a display with information on the making of the musical - who was involved, costumes, etc.

Frozen Pre-show display

Frozen Pre-show creative team

Refreshments were included. Kristoff's Ice Shack served shave ice. You could have as many as you wanted.

Frozen pre-show Kristoff's Ice Shack

There were three different versions - this one is Elsa's Blue Winter Blast, with blue raspberry flavor.

Frozen Pre-show shave ice

There's also Olaf's Summertime Dream, with orangesicle, and Sven's "Root Deer" Float.

Frozen Pre-show root beer and creamsicle ice

Oaken's Tavern served freshly-popped popcorn in small bags. We were encouraged to take bags of popcorn with us when we left. This is also where the adults could redeem their beverage coupons for wine or beer.

Frozen Pre-show Oaken's Tavern

Sparkling cider was also available at Oaken's - no coupon required for that.

Frozen Pre-show apple cider

This pre-show was pretty lightly attended - there were almost as many cast members as guests. And to be honest, even though we only had an hour there really wasn't that much to do - get shave ice, popcorn, and a beverage and have photos taken. There were a number of people (adults, too) who engaged in the coloring activity. If it had been a hot summer day it would have been a nice place to just get out of the heat for a while.

There was supposed to be a "Snow Moment" that concluded the pre-show, and signaled that it was time to walk to the theater. Though because we weren't walking to the theater the cast members weren't sure if we would still experience that. ("This has never happened before!")

But at 3:35 there was an announcement about Elsa's winter magic or something like that, and it started to snow. It only lasted a minute or two, but it looked pretty good.

Frozen pre-show snowfall

Once that finished we were encouraged to exit the building. Normally we would have been walked over to the side entrance of the Hyperion, but instead we were reminded to meet over by the red truck by 5:30.

We returned as scheduled and waited along with, oh, maybe 50 other people to be admitted to the theater. We were on the opposite side of the theater from where the crowds of guests were waiting in the queue. I had an idea of where I thought we wanted to sit but I asked one of the CMs what he would recommend - and that was the same area that he recommended.

Frozen Hyperion package entrance

We were admitted to the theater first, and had our choice of seats in Orchestra. Well, almost our choice - there were about 20 seats that were reserved for VIP guests. In the Orchestra section there is a section of seats that's a couple of steps up behind a wide aisle. It's not under the Mezzanine, so there's an unobstructed view of the higher show elements. And the extra elevation meant my view wasn't blocked by a taller person in front of me. And what do you know...the very center of the first row in that section was blocked off for the VIP seats. :-) We sat right next to them, though, so we were almost center stage in that first row. And they were GREAT seats.

Frozen Hyperion stage view

After we were seated the parties with wheelchairs/ECVs were admitted, and then the rest of the guests came streaming in. While that was happening there were vendors in the aisles selling popcorn and candy - that only seems to take place in the Orchestra section. There were quite a few people buying it, too.

Frozen Hyperion stage view

And somewhere in there the VIP guests, who had at least two tour guides with them, were seated. I believe that they were the guests who had purchased the "Behind-the-Scenes" package, but I'm not sure.

The show itself was wonderful. It went off more smoothly than the two that I'd seen before. We missed a line or two of Anna's because her mike didn't get turned on. And the "troll" that's supposed to roll across the stage during the Elsa's Palace - Troll home scene change didn't appear. That scene change also seemed longer than usual. I've seen the show three times, and I've seen three different Anna and Elsas, three different Olafs, three different Svens and three different sets of parents, but I've seen the same Wesselton, Hans, and Kristoff each time.

Frozen Hyperion Kristoff Sven

I mostly enjoyed our Frozen package experience. The show cancellation was obviously unforeseen - but at least Disney tried to do the right thing and we were still able to see the later show. Lunch was really good, and exceeded my expectations. I was a bit disappointed in the pre-show aspect, but I'd been warned in advance that it was underwhelming.

If you're really a big fan of Frozen, and want to make sure that you have really good seats for the show, then you might want to consider one of the pre-show packages. That benefit of "choice of seats" in the Orchestra section is very nice. It also means you avoid waiting in line outside for a long time to try to get decent seats which is the way the current Fastpass system operates.

Frozen ice staircase and chandelier

I was surprised that there weren't more people. But at $49/person for just the pre-show and $99 for the lunch package, that's a lot to add on if you've already paid over $100 for a park ticket. It's probably more attractive to Annual Passholders who aren't purchasing separate admission.

I personally think that if they did away with the pre-show aspect and offered a dining package (which still included the priority seating) for the same price as the World of Color packages that it would be much more successful.








August 8, 2016

"Pete's Dragon" Press Junket

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Opening in theaters this August 12th, Disney's latest live-action film "Pete's Dragon" reimagines the 1977 film's story of a lonely boy, the dragon who protects him, the shyster who threatens him, and the family that accepts him.

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

Recently, a sampling of the talented folk involved in the making of "Pete's Dragon" convened at a press junket to discuss the film.

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Bryce Dallas Howard (“Grace”) on comparing this movie to the original 1977 film: "I think there were no throwbacks, intentionally, other than what was at the genesis of this idea, which is that it's about a boy who is orphaned, whose family, in essence, is a dragon. You know, it's his best friend and no one believes that a dragon exists, and then we come to see that magic is actually possible. It's a story about what it takes to find your family. And I think that thematically, is very obviously similar to the first film, but this really was...it's not even like 'inspired by'...it's really an original film. It's not meant to step on the memories of the 1977 version of 'Pete's Dragon.'"

Howard on what families should take away from the film: "I think it's the power of family, and I think it's the magic of family. You know, the miracle of family, honestly. Ooo--getting a little emotional!"

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Director David Lowery on similarities between "Pete's Dragon" and his 2013 film "Ain't Them Bodies Saints": "A little bit of facetiousness on that part, but I really do think that both of those movies are about characters who are searching for home, searching for family. And in that movie, Casey Affleck was a guy who thought his family was one thing, and thought his life would be one thing, and turns out not to be the case, and in his pursuit of it, he realizes that he's missed out on something. And so here we have a story of a little boy and a dragon who...the little boy ultimately finds a new home as well, and the parallels became immediate to me when I realized the scene in this movie where the dragon goes and looks through a window and sees Pete, with his new family, curled up on the bed, and there's a scene in 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' when Casey Affleck walks up to a window and sees his wife and daughter sitting with a new guy on the couch...and like it's almost shot-for-shot the same. It wasn't conscious on my part, but oh, there you go."

Lowery on casting Robert Redford: "I'd been working on another project with him...but in the meantime I had been working on this script, and this one started to come together, and we were thinking of...actors to play Mr. Meacham. We had had a different idea of who that character was in mind and it was supposed to be sort of like a kind of crazier old guy, like a guy who, like, maybe doesn't have all his marbles, a little more comic relief. But then I'm like 'what if we got Robert Redford? That would be unbelievable.' And so I sent him the script and he read it and was all 'oh, this is really interesting, it's really cool--I'm not sure it's necessarily the right thing for me..." And then we rewrote the script for him, because I was like 'yes...this character is obviously not someone you could play, because...he's nuts, and you are clearly not. You are very put-together.' But we rewrote it for him, and then he agreed to do it."

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Oakes Fegley (“Pete”) and Oona Laurence (“Natalie”) on their relationship to Disney:
Fegley: "I like all the animated films...like 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' or 'The Jungle Book'...and I like 'The BFG'--I hope I like it, I haven't seen it yet, but it seems like something I would like."
Laurence: "I mean, Disney was my childhood, and it still is my childhood, so..."
Fegley: "Now it's even more."
Laurence: "...Yeah, I've seen almost all the Disney films, I love 'High School Musical,' I've seen it so many times. I love Disney. I feel so lucky to be in an actual Disney film."

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Robert Redford (“Meacham”) on how he approached making this character unique: "Well, first of all, Lowery came to me and allowed me to step in and develop the character further than was written, so that sort of allowed me to take responsibility for the character and have a little bit of authorship. So my whole thing about the character was that he was a storyteller; and since storytelling was a big part of my life, growing up here in Los Angeles...it was a very difficult time, difficult life, lower working-class neighborhood...people didn't have much, so storytelling became a huge thing--a way out of a tough situation, and that played a big role in my life, as a kid.

"So I thought, well here's a story that really is storytelling. It involves fantasy and realism together. When I read the script, I thought, well this reminds me of my childhood, with the Disney movies that I saw, and how much I loved that when I was a little kid. "Bambi," "Fantasia"...things like that. And then he stopped making those films and went into adult stuff and I lost interest.

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"What I love about it, is that (Lowery) has created a kind of atmosphere of magic. I think magic was such a part of my life, when I was young...that was your hope factor. That was that thing you hope...there's something out there beyond me, that's good. Something out there beyond me and this small world I'm living in, that's bigger and special...So you kind of hung on to that, someday I'm going to be out of here, and go.

"And what Lowery did with the character, was that, when I first read it, I was "well, it's a nice idea for a movie, but the character is..." I felt it was underdrawn, and he opened it up, and said, 'look, why don't you step in and be part of the development of the story,' so he allowed me to step in and work on the character. And then things changed. I felt like I was part of things, I felt like what could be developed was more in the storyteller, and more of him trying to see things beyond what you see in front of you. He tells his daughter, he says 'you only see what's in front of you. There's other stuff. Look around, look beyond.' I like that concept a lot."

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"Pete's Dragon" will open in theaters August 12, 2016.

August 1, 2016

Disneyland Resort Updates - 7/29/16

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, July 29, 2016.

An overview of the Star Wars Themed Land construction at Disneyland.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Here is a video look around the site.




The wall nearest Fantasyland has had a coating applied to it.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

The walls along the Big Thunder trail have been coated too and are being extended.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

A lot of activity toward Critter Country this visit.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Some columns on the wall structure and looks like dirt is being put in between the wall and columns.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

A closer look at the far side of the site where they are stalling large steel i-beams. They bore a hole then lower the beam in and fill the hole with concrete. Guessing this will be the support steel for rockwork.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

In the center of the site a lot of footers taking shape for the retaining walls for the river, rock work and the backstage Fantasmic marina.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

A retaining wall near what appears to be the new tip of the island.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Most of the pipes that were staged here are now installed. More I-beams are on site now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

A closer look at what appears to be the curve of the river with the forms on the left and outhouse on the right.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

The new Starbucks in Downtown Disney is open.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Most outdoor vending carts now feature a small podium with a cash register, this one in Paradise Pier.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

The Tower of Terror from Sunset Blvd.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

The old Mad T Party props are now gone.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Over to Disneyland, a look through the fence at the end of the Big Thunder Trail shows the new wall along the old walkway.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Pocahontas was out meeting guests along the trail.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Some scaffolding has come down on Tom Sawyer Island revealing a new color scheme.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

A check of the work from near the canoe dock in Critter Country.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

In New Orleans Square some renovation work going on at the Train Station. You can still visit the train during the work.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Time for the nightly Flag Retreat.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

The old workshop near the Village Haus is now called the Royal Reception and it appears to be a check-in area for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I did not venture inside.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

A check of the former Skyway area. The walkways have been removed and new plants and trees brought in.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Casey Jr. had no wait so went for a ride.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Casey Jr traveling over Storybook Land

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Another example of an outdoor vending podium

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

The Toontown Depot is behind walls for some renovation work.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Walls up under the monorail.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Jambalaya Jazz performing on the Rivers of America

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Time for Paint the Night.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016

Disneyland Forever fireworks were cancelled so instead a couple minute projection/light/laser finale.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 29, 2016


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.







July 30, 2016

Recap: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet 2016

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This last weekend, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet held its eighth annual gathering of Disney fans, vendors, and Imagineers. Located up in Lynnwood, Washington and spearheaded by Planning Committee Chairman Don Morin, it is a celebration of all aspects of the Disney experience.

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Over at the Embassy Suites, the convention's official hotel, the festivities began the afternoon prior as D23 held their own mixer complete with nachos and special guest.

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Afterwards, the entertainment continued with pin trading, PNWMM Bingo, and a trivia challenge. A door decorating contest also took place later on in the evening around the hotel.

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The next morning, rope drop for the main event was held at 1000 over at the Lynnwood Convention Center. As is tradition, the corridors outside the main stage/vendor area were filled with photo-ops and displays of impressive collections of Disneyana.

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Once inside, there was a number of stations set up with different attractions and activities. In one corner, this year's speakers sat patiently and cordially autographing whatever materials were brought to them.

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Bob Gurr

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Stacia Martin

On the other side of the room was the annual charity raffle, benefiting the Ryman Arts Foundation and the Seattle Children's Hospital.

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A wide variety of different items and experiences were offered up, including exclusive merchandise from Mickey's of Glendale, Club 33, and one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

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Besides that, different booths had other Disneyana for sale, from books to ephemera, to Dole Whip, to original art.

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In the center of the room was the stage and seating area for the day's speakers.

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As the programming commenced, Don Morin introduced Stacia Martin as the first speaker.

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Martin gave a wonderful presentation on her career with Disney as a Disney Artist and Historian.

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Some points:
--As a life-long Orange County resident, she has never lived out of earshot of the Disneyland fireworks.
--Her professional history with Disney started at the old Disneyana shop on Main Street.
--In 1986, she moved to New Orleans Square as the first regular cast member at the Disney Gallery.
--From there she was borrowed by different divisions within the company for a variety of promotional tours across the country, doing talks and drawing sketches.
--She trained the Japanese cast members for the Disney Gallery when it opened in Tokyo Disneyland.
--WED borrowed her to help reconstruct the soundtracks (audio archeology) for the attractions in New Fantasyland.
--Other audio projects she worked on included "Disneyland Forever," "The Lost Chords," and "Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair."
--Her favorite Disney musical is "Happiest Millionaire."

The second speaker of the day was Disney Legend Bob Gurr.

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Some interesting items in his illustrious history:
--He worked for Ford Motor Company right after Art Center College of Design, but found it was a dead-end job after two weeks, and quit.
--After quitting Ford, he formed his own company. WED Enterprises became a client.
--After two weeks, he became a WED employee.
--Published a book "How to Draw Cars of Tomorrow" at 20 years old.
--His first assignment for Disneyland was to design the body for the Autopia cars.
--Other projects for Disneyland included the parking lot trams, Mad Tea Party, Omnibus, Fire Engine, Viewliner, Submarine Voyage, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Monorail, PeopleMover, and the Motor Boat Cruise.
--At the 1964-65 World's Fair, his main focus was "Ford's Magic Skyway," however he consulted on most of the other Disney pavilions as well.
--He designed the Omnimover ride system as a means to direct the guest's attention to specific areas in a given attraction. It originated in Monsanto's "Adventure Thru Inner Space."
--The Florida monorail's shape resembles the front of a Lear Jet with a wrap-around windshield and flush rivet construction.
--He incorporated himself within two weeks of being let go from Disney.
--Subsequently, he worked on Universal Studio's King Kong, Spielberg's "Jurassic Park," the 1998 "Godzilla," the pirate ship battle at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino, the Michael Jackson tour, and a spaceship for the LA Olympics closing ceremony.
--He has a new video out through Ape Pen Publishing: "Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams Into Reality."

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Last but not least, Disney Legend Marty Sklar.

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Some highlights from his talk:
--Video of Richard Sherman singing to Sklar on the occasion of his retirement.
--His creation of the "Goof Award" for not-so-successful projects.
--"If you don't fail from time to time, you're probably not doing anything new."

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--Video excerpt from the "Marty Sklar, Walt, and EPCOT" special feature with Leonard Maltin from the "Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland" DVD set.
--Three things that characterized Walt Disney: Inspiration, Trust, Optimism.
--On Jack Lindquist: "The greatest thing he did was the 30th anniversary of Disneyland when he did the Gift-Giver at the end, at Disneyland, they gave away 400+ cars that year."

In between speakers, there was no shortage of interesting activities, from mobile photo-ops...

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...To the announcement of the winners for the annual Door Decorating Contest...

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...to this year's installments of "Mousecenter."

But even after the dust settled for the day, the fun wasn't over for the weekend, as Sklar and Gurr were brought back on Sunday for yet another fun storytelling session.

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--The two legends didn't work together until the Ford Pavilion at the 1964-65 World's Fair.
--Part of the effectiveness of Magic Skyway was placing the guests in the Ford cars for the ride.
--After the Fair opened, Disney flew people who worked on the attractions, and their families, to New York to enjoy the finished product.
--Both men are frequently asked why the Peoplemover was removed from Disneyland and when it will return.
--They reminisced about some of the shorter-lived Disneyland attractions, such as the industrial exhibits of Tomorrowland, and the Phantom Boat.
--The necessity of allowing people--kids and adults--to explore different things and take chances as part of their development was touched on by both.

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--Gurr started at Disney October 5, 1954 at 23 years old.
--On the Autopia: "I won't go much further than the fact that we built 40 cars and near the end of the first week, there were two running."
--He reviewed Walt's way of working by involving and engaging his employees instead of invoking executive process.
--It's difficult for him to sort through his feelings about Disneyland, because the Disneyland of 1955 is so vivid in his mind.
--One of the few keepsakes he kept is one of the original Mr. Toad ride cars.

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--Sklar started at Disney in Public Relations about a month before the opening of Disneyland, when he was 21 years old.
--He noted that any meeting with Walt ended with everyone knowing what decisions were made and what their assignments were, as opposed to modern day meetings that end in ambiguity.
--On advice to would-be Future Imagineers: "Read my book."
--"There's only one name on the door, and that's Walt Disney. You're never going to get your name in lights...but if you want to be part of something that's bigger than you are, that achieves what a team can do, working together towards the same goals and objectives--that's what we try to do in Imagineering."
--He feels Shanghai Disneyland is the best park because it has been informed from all the lessons Disney has learned from creating all the other parks.
--On why Disneyland is so special: "Number one, it's the only park that Walt ever walked in. Number two, it's the foundation of everything that came after."

In all, another great year for the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet. If you're interested in attending for next year, keep an eye on http://www.pnwmousemeet.com/Home.html for ticket sales announcements, because each year seems to sell out quicker than the last.

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