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May 25, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, The Food, etc.

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This was a short trip for us - just two nights, but we still had the opportunity to try out some thing that were new to us.

Friday after we visited the Expo we had dinner at Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel. When it originally opened it had the touch screen ordering kiosks, but now you order your food at the register.

I had the Teriyaki Chicken Breast Sandwich with caramelized pineapple, havarti cheese, lettuce and tomato. For sides I had my choice of regular French fries, sweet potato fries, tropical slaw or tropical fruit. The latter was a new choice since the last time I'd been here, and that's what I chose. I really enjoyed all of it - the sandwich was really good with the pineapple and chicken. And it had the right amount of sauce - a little drippy but not overly sloppy. The fruit was good, too.

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich tangaroa terrace

Lee had one of his traditional favorites: Kalua-style Pork Flatbread. Pulled pork, barbecue sauce, red onions, cilantro and mozzarella.

Kalua pork flatbread tangaroa terrace

While we were eating, we saw several of the Disneyland cats lurking in all of the greenery in that area. Though one of them sat on a low wall right near our table. It wasn't particularly shy like most of them are. Pretty cat, but we did not attempt to pet or feed it.

Disneyland cat

Later in the evening we were in Tomorrowland, where Red Rockett's Pizza Port has some special menu items inspired by the new Avengers Age of Ultron movie. There's this Iron Man Refillable Mug:

Iron Man mug Age of Ultron

And a Black Widow Parfait.

Black Widow Parfait Age of Ultron

We tried the Iron Man Red Velvet Waffle. I wouldn't have called it waffle - more like a flat cupcake. But it was pretty good.

Iron Man Waffle Age of Ultron

There's also a cookie shaped like Captain America's shield. This was just ok.

Captain America Shield Cookie Age of Ultron

Saturday morning after the 10K we went into Disneyland for breakfast at River Belle Terrace. We arrived just after park opening at 9:00, and it was already very busy. They didn't seem ready for it, and the line moved very slowly - it was 25 minutes before we had our food! By the time we finished eating the line was out the door, so it got worse.

I had my usual Cinnamon Roll French Toast with scrambled eggs and bacon. It's always good.

River Belle Terrace Cinnamon Roll French Toast

Lee had the Mark Twain - the classic American breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, and a biscuit.

River Belle Terrace Mark Twain Breakfast

That afternoon we had a late lunch at the Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand Californian. We were there with a group of Mickey Milers. We've been there before with groups...the lounge really doesn't seem to handle groups very well, and the service is slow. A few members of our party bought drinks at the bar instead of waiting for our server - that was a lot faster.

Anyway...we were the only people who ordered food. I had the Chicken Quesadilla, and it was very tasty. The guacamole was especially good - it had chunks of avocado and was served in an avocado shell.

Hearthstone Lounge Chicken Quesadilla

Lee tried the Robusto Flatbread with chorizo, potatoes, and Burrata cheese. It took a lot longer for his food to come out, but he enjoyed it.

Hearthstone Lounge Robusto Flatbread

Since we had a half marathon the next morning we went with our traditional pasta dinner at Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta that night. We both had the Five Cheese Ravioli.

Boardwalk Pasta Five Cheese Ravioli

We had an adventure finding a place to eat after the half marathon on Sunday. We met friends at the Uva Cafe at 10:00, but they were slammed, and were no long serving breakfast. Most of the places in Downtown Disney were busy, especially the counter service locations. Eddie recalled that Trader Sam's was supposed to open at 10:30, so we went there. There were several other parties also waiting for Sam's to open.

We were able to get drinks, but the kitchen didn't open until 11:00. (There were a few breakfast items we could've ordered, but by then we wanted the "real" menu.) We sat inside, and it was a lot of fun seeing all of the effects when people ordered the specialty drinks. There were a lot of shipwrecks. :-)

Trader Sams Shipwreck

And lots of volcano eruptions, too - I caused one of those with the Krakatoa Punch.

Trader Sams Krakotoa Punch

Lee and I ordered the Pu Pu Platter, which comes with Asian wings, Portuguese sausage, tropical slaw, and (the best part) panko-crusted Chinese long beans.

Trader Sams Pu Pu Platter

We also had the Chicken Lettuce Wraps. These are do-it-yourself wraps: you get a bowl of butter lettuce leaves, and a plate with chicken, crispy rice noodles and hoisin sauce, and make your own. Yum.

Trader Sams Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Lee had the Kalua Pork Flatbread again - the same thing he'd had at Tangaroa Terrace on Friday (they share a kitchen with Trader Sam's). It was all a really good meal.

Trader Sams Kalua Pork Flatbread

That's it for the food...but we had some time to wander around the parks a bit, too. The Diamond Anniversary Celebration starts soon, and decorations are going up all over the park.

Diamond Anniversary Decorations

On Friday evening we went to see the preview of the new Tomorrowland movie. It was very different than any of the previews I'd seen on-line or in a theater. Looks very intriguing. In the former Starcade location next to the theater is the Hall of Inventions with props from the movies, like the jet pack.

Tomorrowland movie Hall of Inventions

Saturday was the day that the Hatbox Ghost returned to the Haunted Mansion. There have been rumors of this for months, and since Disney finally confirmed it a couple of months ago fans have been anxious awaiting his "reappearance". The Fastpass machines were actually in operation, and that usually open happens during the holiday season. We got a Fastpass and then stood in the Standby line, which was about 25 minutes long at that point.

Haunted Mansion

The Hatbox Ghost is placed between the attic and the graveyard. We were able to see it long enough to see his head go from the hatbox back to his shoulders. It's a pretty well-done effect.

Haunted Mansion Hatbox Ghost

We were passing through Tomorrowland as a Jedi Training Academy session was starting. This is the first time I've ever seen a female Jedi master. She had a couple of new "Jedi jests".

Jedi Training Academy




May 22, 2015

Review: "Tomorrowland"

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"If I was walking down the street and I saw somebody with a jetpack flying over me, I'd believe that anything's possible. I'd be inspired. Doesn't that make the world a better place?"
--Frank Walker

"Tomorrowland," Brad Bird's latest oeuvre, is a paean to a time when the future was perceived as bright and limitless, and technology inspirational rather than oppressive.

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The filmmakers have been fairly insistent on maintaining secrecy over the details of the plot, but in brief, "Tomorrowland" tells the story of why an essentially optimistic world might lose its sense of wonder and turn towards cynicism and despair. It does so through the eyes of a bright young girl named Casey Newton who gets a glimpse of Tomorrowland--where the best of all possible futures is being developed--and then is determined to see more.

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On her adventure, she will encounter any number of dangers, and enlist the help of Frank Walker, a bitter loner who knows more about Tomorrowland than he would like to admit, and Athena, a young girl who is at once much more and much less than she appears.

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Long-time Disney fans might remember that the first reveal on this film was in the summer of 2013, when Disney unveiled an alternate reality game called "The Optimist." Based around the story of another bright young girl investigating a secret society of visionaries, players traveled around Disneyland and Los Angeles to different Walt-Disney-related landmarks, uncovering clues and special items. Ultimately, the game revealed that Walt Disney (among others) was a member of the Plus Ultra society--people who believed in and worked to make a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. They operated out of a secret/hidden locale that was accessible through the "it's a small world" exhibit at the 1964-65 World's Fair.

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The game culminated at the 2013 D23 Expo, where people solved riddles, took a ride on the Lily Belle, and ended up in the Main Street Cinema, where a short film confirmed the society's existence and proffered membership pins for those ingenious enough to make it to the end.

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At the same Expo, Bird and Lindelof uncovered the "Dusty Old Box" that apparently was found in the Walt Disney Studios and dated back to 1952. In it were articles and blueprints that seemed to verify Walt Disney and his Imagineers' Plus Ultra involvement. The contents, along with a variety of other artifacts were on display and viewable through a mobile app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tomorrowland-d23-2013-disney/id684585068?mt=8

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I go through this backstory, so that, like me, you can go in with a knowledge and appreciation of the depth of thought that went into the world of this movie, and unlike me, will not have the expectation that it will all have much to do with this particular movie. The retro World's Fair segment and the futuristic Tomorrowland are beautiful and beautifully done, but make up relatively short sequences in the beginning and end of the film. The bulk of the film is the "Wizard of Oz" style journey Casey takes that spans time and space, and utilizes motorcycles, bicycles, rockets, and a Chevrolet Volt.

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George Clooney, although not making an appearance until after the film is well underway, is a good choice for the part of the cranky, defeated Walker. His innate charm keeps the character likeable despite his initially forceful repulsion of Casey and complicated relationship with Athena.

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The highlight of the movie however, is Raffey Cassidy who is fabulous as Athena. In some ways carrying the bulk of the film on her tiny, sturdy shoulders, she has all the bright appeal of a young girl, but the depth and maturity of something quite a bit older.

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"I'm the Future, Frank Walker."

At the end of the day, "Tomorrowland" proves to be an enjoyable action-adventure movie with some nice performances and some beautiful set pieces. As you'd expect, from someone with Bird's eye for detail, the World's Fair recreation (keep a look out for Composer Michael Giacchino as the "it's a small world" ride operator) and especially the Tomorrowland visions are spectacular--so much so that it comes as something of a let-down that after a brief glimpse it's taken away from us, just as with Casey.

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The movie's message, that the Future is likely to be as good or bad as you make it, is a positive one, and the emphasis on a teenage girl's intelligence and perception over her romantic proclivities is refreshing. If I still think wistfully on the film that might have been, that focused more on Walt Disney and Disneyland's involvement in "Tomorrowland's" secret society (material that was included in the film's precursor novel "Before Tomorrowland") it is more on me than on Bird or Lindelof. It's hardly their fault, after all, that I went in wanting "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and they gave me "In Search of the Castaways."

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"When I touched this pin, I saw this place--someplace amazing. And it felt like anything was possible. And then it was gone."
--Casey Newton
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“Tomorrowland." Rated PG, it stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and Thomas Robinson.

Directed by Brad Bird, with a screenplay by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, based on a story by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, and Jeff Jensen. Produced by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, and Jeffrey Chernov. The Executive Producers are John Walker, Bernard Bellew, Jeff Jensen, and Brigham Taylor.

The film enters general release on May 22, 2015, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

May 21, 2015

World of Color - Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney

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World of Color Celebrate

The Disneyland Diamond Anniversary Celebration kicked off last night with the media preview of the new World of Color - Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney show. We'll be bringing you a lot more information on it as we have time, but for now I wanted to share a few thoughts.

Here's video of the entire show. We will post a high-definition version when we have more time and bandwidth.

The show is hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse - live action Neil and animated Mickey. I was not sure how well this would work, but it's fun. I wish there were outtakes. :-)

World of Color Celebrate Neil and Mickey

There are some fabulous new lighting effects. I don't know if it's projections, lasers, lights, or some combination, but color seems to ripple and flow through the air. It's just stunning.

There's also some awe-inspiring new fire effects - like a 300' pillar of fire. That drew a lot of "wows" from the audience.

World of Color Celebrate fire pillar

The first version of World of Color was more about the fountains. This one relies heavily on projections. In addition to the mist screens and the screen in the loop of California Screamin' Mickey's face on the Fun Wheel is a new projection surface. The latter two, because they are a solid surface, are used to great effect for the animation sequences where we need to be able to see more detail. While I thought the projections on the mist screens were significantly improved and much clearer than in the past, they aren't a reliable surface for anything detailed. The higher screens also added some additional dimension to the animation, since images could move up or down more than in the past. There was some really nice stuff.

World of Color Celebrate

Because of all of the animation, I don't think this show is going to look very good unless you're watching it from the viewing area. There's just way too much that you're going to miss. With previous versions there was enough going on with the fountains that there was generally still something to watch even when you couldn't see the screens.

For me the show started off a little slowly, but it definitely kept building and building and that last half was truly spectacular. With the focus on Walt Disney and his dreams, especially in the first part, I think this show is going to be very popular with Disney fans, but I'm not sure how well it will go over with mainstream America.

World of Color Celebrate Walt Disney

Unlike the previous version, there's very little familiar music in this one. Most of it is an original score by John Debney, which I enjoyed very much. But again, that may not be as popular with others, especially kids.

But because the music was new, I found it very jarring when suddenly the (very) familiar strains of "Let it Go" started to play. I know that "Frozen" is still extremely popular, but I'm very tired of it. I have to think that some pressure was put on the show designers to include it in the show, because, as I said, I didn't think it fit. The animation and fountains during the song (and it was almost the ENTIRE song) were really beautiful, but...

World of Color Celebrate

The theme park section was my favorite - it included music/images from the Tiki Room, Pirates, and Haunted Mansion, to name a few. It ended with Star Tours, which incorporated Star Wars music AND some scenes and dialog from the upcoming "The Force Awakens" movie.

World of Color Celebrate

There was a wonderful little "kiss goodnight" at the VERY end - and I mean the end after you think the show is over, there's no fountains or lights, and just the "Forever Young" song playing. Wait until the end of that. Trust me.

I really liked this show, and I am so looking forward to seeing it again in a couple of days! In talking with people afterward, I know there were a lot of things that I missed seeing, so I'll be looking for them!







May 20, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, Half Marathon

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2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon logo

Sunday, May 10 - Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Happy Mother's Day! There were a lot of moms who apparently thought that getting up early and running a half marathon was a fine way to spend Mother's Day.

We set the alarm for 3:30 again. We'd brought yogurt and bread and peanut/almond butter to eat in our room. Lee was very happy when he'd seen the signs in Downtown Disney and the hotel on the previous days stating that that several places that serve coffee would be opening early on race mornings. So at 4:00 he went down to the Hearthstone Lounge for his coffee. He was the first customer there.

For this race we were both going to run with wings. Lee dressed as Terence, who is a keeper of pixie dust. (He's a character from the Tinker Bell movies - a lot of people don't know who he is, but the pixies all recognized him!) These were new (and larger) wings for both of us, so we weren't sure quite how they would work out for us. They were definitely a lot wider - we both had to go sideways through doors! :-) I realized I'd have to be much more careful to allow enough space during the race when I was trying to pass people - particularly between people.

In the pre-race area we met up with my friend/co-worker Janet. It was her first half marathon, and she was very excited - and a little nervous. Yep, we've all been there! Any of the Disney half marathons are really terrific first half marathons, but I think this one is an especially good "first" for a woman. (She did GREAT, and finished in 2:08:04 - and she wasn't even wearing wings!)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We went over to see the Mickey Milers, where wing expert Lee helped Caryn with her wings.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mickey Milers

At about 5:00 we headed to the corrals again. For the Tinker Bell Half Marathon they don't let men start any higher than Corral B, so I went back there to run with Lee. Since we were both dressed up I wanted to get some photos of us, hopefully with the pixies.

It was another terrific morning for running. About the same temperature as the day before, but the sky was clear, and it felt a little cooler. I had a mylar sheet (saved from a previous runDisney race) wrapped around me while I was waiting.

For the half marathon there were some fireworks that went off during the national anthem.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon fireworks

I was surprised that it was Minnie and Daisy who came out on stage with the announcers just before the start of the race and not Tinker Bell like we'd seen the day before. The race started just a little after 5:30, and Corral B started about 7 minutes after Corral A. Our start time was just a little less than 10 minutes off of the official clock, so that made it easy for us to know where we were time-wise when we saw the mile markers during the race.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

The first mile and a half was like the 10K course, but then instead of going into Disneyland we went into Disney California Adventure. We went past the Tower of Terror, down Hollywood Blvd, and then down Route 66 through Cars Land, and around Paradise Bay. The first pixie we saw was Silvermist,and the line was fairly short.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Silvermist Terence running costume

Vidia was not too far away, again with a pretty short line. In my dreams I am a fast-flying fairy like Vidia...

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Vidia Terence

We ran out of DCA and across the Esplanade into Disneyland and onto Main Street. Goofy, Chip and Dale were out with one of the Soundsational floats, but had a very long line so we didn't stop. We were just past mile 3 in the race.

We ran around the hub and through the castle, then around the Carrousel. The Lost Boys were riding the Carrousel, but I couldn't get a good photo. One of the monorails, with the new Tomorrowland movie logo, was gliding overhead as we ran past the Mad Tea Party. We headed back to the hub passing Pixie Hollow, where there was a long line for Tinker Bell. It was the longest that we saw - not surprising.

Tomorrowland monorail

This course spends a lot of time going through Disneyland, which is really nice. We went back to the hub so that we could go into Tomorrowland. The Storm Troopers were out by Tomorrowland Terrace, and they had a very long line. I'm not quite sure how Storm Troopers fit in with Tinker Bell, though...

From there we went past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn and out towards "small world" where we saw Rosetta and Iridessa. They were especially thrilled by Lee's Terence costume, and very complimentary.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Rosetta Iridessa Terence

Then we went backstage behind "it's a small world", and to mile 4. One of the trains was parked back there.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Disneyland train

We ran back into the park next to Big Thunder Ranch and then around the Rivers of America. Jack Sparrow and a couple of pirates were on the bridge above the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. Gee, with a race full of women I can't imagine why they would make Jack Sparrow inaccessible like that! :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Jack Sparrow

Mile 5 was near the entrance to the Haunted Mansion. We went backstage again by Splash Mountain and ran around the perimeter of Disneyland until we emerged near the Esplanade and then ran through Downtown Disney.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mile 5

Next to the Disneyland Hotel is one of my favorite parts of the Tinker Bell Half: that's where the Red Hat Society cheers every year. This year there were several hundred of them cheering and ringing cowbells and high-fiving runners. Seeing them is always one of the highlights of the race for me!

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Red Hat Society

Just past mile 6 we found "Captain Hook". :-) We were almost at the 10K point, and about to leave Disney property. That's one of the things I like the most about this course compared to the other half marathon courses: we're almost halfway through the race before we leave Disney! It really makes the race seem to go a lot faster. Lee was feeling his PR from the day before and wanted to slow down a little, so I went on ahead at my own pace.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Captain Hook

After we leave Disneyland resort property we run north through an Anaheim neighborhood of houses and apartments. Since it's still quite early on a Sunday morning, Disney puts up some signs to remind us to be quiet. I've never really found runners to be all that noisy when we're running, except for those who carry their own music and speakers. I ran past one of those guys later in the race - I sped up and ran through a walk interval to get past him.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Neighbors sleeping

We turned right and headed east, and into a slight breeze. I could feel some resistance against my larger wings...so I was hoping I'd get a little added push from them when we turned west again.

About mile 8 we run out of the "quiet zone" and into downtown Anaheim - and into the enthusiasm of marching bands and cheerleaders. The route takes us down the Anaheim Center Street Promenade.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Anaheim Promenade

We went around the corner past the Anaheim Public Library.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Anaheim Public Library

We run down Harbor Blvd past the mile 9 sign and back towards Disneyland...and just when it looks like we're getting close, we turn left on Ball Rd and head away from the park. Major fake out for those familiar with the area...there's still over three miles to go! Since there were no clouds we were getting some sun on us by then and it was starting to feel a little warm even though the temperature was only about 60 degrees. I should mention that we had very nice support from the community once we got away from the "quiet zone". Quite a few high school bands and cheerleading squads to cheer us on, and a lot of people out with signs and cowbells, too. Runners appreciate all of the support - thank you!

We went all the way south to Disney Way and then did a loop around some of the Good Neighbor hotels before turning onto Harbor again briefly (Mile 12) and going backstage near Disneyland. We stayed backstage behind Cars Land and Paradise Pier before crossing Disneyland Drive for the final dash to the finish line.

I finished in 2:18:24, so I had a pretty good second half of the race. After I got my Tinker Bell medal I went to the Pixie Dust Challenge and Coast-to-Coast area to pick up my other two medals. Ahhh...it's just not a Disney race without that "clank, clank" sound! :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals

For this race they had refreshments for us. We had heard rumors that the reason there were no runDisney boxes for the 10K was because they had discovered that the applesauce in the boxes was past its "use by" date. So someone (I'm sure it was some of the volunteers) had opened up all of the race boxes, discarded the applesauce, and separated the contents into different bins. At the front of the line we got a bag with a Clif bar and a moist towelette packet in it, and then as we went down the line we could get the other items that had been in the box.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon refreshments

I thought the bag was a lot easier to handle than the boxes are since I could hang it around my hand or wrist. And I also didn't have to take items that I really didn't want. But I still don't like the box contents and wish that we had REAL food.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon refreshments

I waited a bit for Lee to finish...his time was 2:25:16. Any time we finish a Disney 1/2 marathon in under 2:30 is really good for us!

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon finishers

The Tinker Bell half marathon medal also has the pearl-like finish on the wings like the 10K medal did.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medal

I don't care for the Pixie Dust Challenge medal at all. It looks like a child designed it. I hope they'll re-think this one for next year.

2015 Tinker Bell Pixie Dust Challenge medal

And here's the pink Coast-to-Coast.

2015 pink Disney Coast to Coast medal

When runDisney announced last year that the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend was moving to May - and Mother's Day weekend, to boot - I had a lot of reservations. This is, after all, a race for women - and a lot of women want to be with their families on Mother's Day! I wondered if that affected registration: this half marathon has in the past sold out very quickly (often the day that registration opened), but this year it didn't sell out for several weeks.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon stage

The weather was also a concern. It's not uncommon for southern California to have some very warm days in May - I've been at Disneyland when it's been in the 90s. Now, it's not that warm at 5:30 in the morning, but still - temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s are very warm when you're running 13.1 miles. Fortunately we had exceptional weather this year - except for the 5K. And even that was "exceptional" - it very rarely rains in southern California in May!

This was the 4th Tinker Bell Half Marathon, and our fourth time running it. I hope they'll do something special for the "Perfectly Tink" runners on the 5-year anniversary next year. This is still my favorite Disneyland 1/2 marathon course. I think that overall I prefer Star Wars half marathon weekend to Tinker Bell, but it's really close, and I still think Tink has the better 1/2 course (the 10K courses are very similar now). But there's just nothing like all of the costumed Star Wars cosplayers along the Star Wars course. Though I think Disney did a better job with characters for the Tink races than they did for the Star Wars (and Avengers) races. I thought there were a pretty good number of character opportunities as well as a good selection of characters in both the 10K and the half marathon.

Thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers and cast members who work so hard, and are so incredibly cheerful on these early mornings! And thank you to all of the bands and cheerleaders and members of the community who come out to cheer for the runners, including the Red Hat Society ladies. It just wouldn't be the Tinker Bell Half Marathon without them.

One final photo - this is the start line that we drove under as we were leaving - just about 7 hours after we had run under it. :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon start line




May 19, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo and 10K

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2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon logo

This year for the first time the Disneyland Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend was moved from January to May - specifically to Mother's Day weekend. I was not sure how that change was going to work out, but it ended up being a great time, at least for us.

Although there was an Inaugural 10K last year, running both the 10K and the half marathon was not considered a "challenge" as it is with the other half marathon weekends. But this year runDisney introduced the Pixie Dust Challenge for those running both races, and Lee and I signed up for that.

The week before the race, runDisney released some statistics on the race entries:

Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon Weekend Fun Facts:
32,050 total registrations
16,000 1/2 Marathon
10,000 10K
4,550 5K
1,500 Kids Races
5,000 Pixie Dust Challenge

I was alarmed when I first saw this - 21,000 in the half marathon would've been too many - but the numbers for the 10K and half included the 5,000 Pixie Dust Challengers. I think those are reasonable numbers for the two courses.

The first event of the race weekend is always the Expo, which opened on Thursday morning. Those running the 5K on Friday morning needed to pick up their bibs on Thursday - and it was also the first opportunity for people to grab the Tinker Bell merchandise. Unfortunately, "grab" is often an appropriate choice of word. I REALLY wish that runDisney would institute merchandise limits, or offer more of it that can be pre-reserved by people who are actually RUNNING the races. It's not right that a lot of this stuff shows up on eBay two hours later...I refuse to buy it there, no matter how much I want something.

Anyway...as I'm sure many of you have heard, California is in the midst of a multi-year drought, so guess what happened the morning of the 5K? Yep, it rained. I'm sorry that it wasn't as nice an outing for the runners as it normally is...but I'd like to invite them to please extend their stay in California as long as they would like. :-)

I've never run this 5K, but everyone who has says it's runDisney's best 5K race. It starts in Disneyland on Main Street and runners go through both parks, finishing in Disney California Adventure. Maybe next year...

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Packet Pickup

We arrived late Friday afternoon and went to the Expo. The packet pick-up was in the underground parking garage of the Disneyland Hotel, as usual. There were some fun pictures at the entrance.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Packet Pickup

It didn't take long to pick up our bibs. I also got a wristband, since I qualified for the pink Coast-to-Coast medal, because I ran the Princess half marathon in February, and was now running the Tinker Bell half marathon. Because we were running the Pixie Dust Challenge, we had to get our runDisney mug shots taken.

pink coast-to-coast wristband

We went upstairs to the Convention Center, where the main Expo was held. There were some cute banners at the entrance. I thought they did an especially nice job with the decor this year.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo Entrance

That Tink is such a hussy... :-)

Tinker Bell kisses Lee

It seemed to me as though there were more vendors than we saw at the Star Wars and Avengers Expos, so that was nice. But still, the area was not overly crowded, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

We picked up our shirts...one nice thing about moving the race to May is that we received short sleeve shirts and not long sleeve. I really liked the blue and green shirts. When I first saw a photo of the Pixie Dust Challenge shirt online it looked like a raspberry color (ick), but in person it's more of a grape color. Not my favorite, but not as bad.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirts 2015

We checked out the official merchandise area...though they had lots of merchandise out, a lot of if was the same stuff in different places - we could tell that a lot had sold out. As I expected, the two things that I wanted, the Pixie Dust Challenge mini medal and one of the Pixie Dust Challenge car magnets, were sold out. I was still able to purchase the Mickey-ear magnet, though. And thanks to a friend who had an extra, I also have the mini medal now. (You know who you are - thank you!!!)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon merchandise

There was the usual speaker series, but we didn't stay for any of that. We wandered through the non-Disney part of the Expo, also. Lots of neat shirts, and the booths selling the various types of running skirts were very popular.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

And the New Balance booth was really hopping, since they introduced a new Tinker Bell-inspired running shoe that was just made available this weekend. They were VERY popular, and we saw lots of people walking around wearing them. There were accessories that you could buy for the shoes, like wings and pom-poms, and they also glow in the dark!

New Balance Tinker  Bell shoes

There was a photo-op in the lobby of the Expo, so we took advantage of that before leaving the Expo. We had an early dinner at Tangaroa Terrace and then spent some time over at Disneyland before calling it a night - we had a 10K to run at 5:30 the next morning.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon photo backdrop


Tinker Bell 10K - Saturday, May 9

The alarm went off at 3:30...not quite as early as for the races in Florida, and since we were in our own time zone, we weren't also dealing with jet lag. That's another thing that makes the California races so much easier for us!

I had a new outfit to wear for this race. It wasn't any specific character, instead it was just a sort of dark fairy. Rather than wings I had made myself a kind of winged cape. One advantage of it was that I could wrap it around myself a little bit while we were waiting to stay warm.

Tinker Bell 10K dark fairy costume

One of my concerns with the race moving to May was that the weather might be very warm (80s and even 90s in May is not that uncommon), but it ended up being a little cooler than normal. The conditions Saturday morning for the 10K were as good as it gets, I think - it was about 55 degrees at the start. Overcast and not much of a breeze. Really great running weather!

We met up with the Mickey Milers before the race - they were easy to find in the dark since many of them wore their bright yellow shirts (including Lee).

Mickey Milers before 2015 Tinker Bell 10K

We headed to the corrals about 5:00. For some reason I was in Corral A for the 10K and Lee was in Corral B. Last year we were both in A, and this year there were other men in A (legitimately), so I'm not sure why he wasn't in A. He was going to run the 10K for time, and I wasn't sure what I was doing, though I hoped to get some photos, which meant that being in A would be an advantage, so I went up to A instead of going to B with him.

It's always fun being in A, where I'm actually close to the start line and able to see the stage and what's going on. Tinker Bell and Fawn were on-stage before the race to wish us luck. The race started right on time at 5:30, and we were off!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K start

The 10K course was a bit different this year than last year - but it was all good changes! At the start we were outside the parks for just over a mile (same as last year), but then the rest of the time we were in the parks or backstage until the last tenth of a mile when we crossed Disneyland Drive and headed to the finish line near the Paradise Pier Hotel. I loved this course - it's my favorite 10K course now. (You can see the map HERE).

The first characters I saw were Chip and Dale on Main Street, but there was a line, so I didn't stop. We ran to the end of Main Street (Mile 2) and into Frontierland past Big Thunder Mountain and into Fantasyland, where Alice and the Mad Hatter were next to the Carrousel. That line was only about six people, so I stopped.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Alice and Mad Hatter

Iridessa was near Pixie Hollow, with only a couple of people in line.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Iridessa

The course went back to the hub and then into Tomorrowland, past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn, then on "small world way". Rosetta was there, also with only a couple of people in line. In a pixie-themed race I wasn't sure why the lines for the pixies were so short, but it very nice for me!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K  Rosetta

Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar were in Toontown, but that was a much longer line, and I didn't stop. We went backstage behind Toontown (Mile 3) and ran around the backstage perimeter of Disneyland until we came back out at the Esplanade (Mile 4) and ran across into Disney California Adventure.

The course went down Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Blvd, past the Tower of Terror and into "a bug's land". Silvermist was there, with no line. Nice.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Silvermist

From "a bug's land" it was back towards the Winery and then left towards Paradise Pier. Vidia was near the entrance of Ariel's Undersea Adventure. Two people in front of me there, so it was another quick stop.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Vidia

We went across the bridge past Ariel's Grotto and around Paradise Bay. I was surprised that the World of Color fountains weren't running. We went backstage at the parade gate near Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and soon were at the mile 5 marker.

I hadn't really been paying attention to the time, but when I saw the time at mile 5 I knew I could finish in less than an hour if I kept a reasonable pace. We re-entered the park at Paradise Wharf and ran into Cars Land past Radiator Springs Racers. Lightning McQueen and Mater were out near Ramone's but I didn't stop. We went backstage again and ran around the perimeter of DCA behind Cars Land and Paradise Pier before crossing Disneyland Drive (Mile 6) and headed towards the finish.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Finish Line

My time was 58:23: I made it in under an hour WITH photo stops, so I was very happy with that!

When I went through the refreshment area there was PowerAde and water and bananas...but no runDisney boxes. No food at all other than the bananas. What???? We found out later that there was a problem with one of the items in the boxes, so they pulled them for the 10K, even though they had given them out at the 5K the day before. Sigh.

I didn't have too long to wait until Lee arrived - he had a great run and finished with a personal best of 56:55!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Laura and Lee finish

We visited with a few friends in the finish area but we didn't linger for very long - it was still early (6:45), and we were getting a bit chilled so we went back to our hotel.

The 10K is still my favorite race distance - it's so nice to be done in about an hour. And this one in particular is a lot of fun. Maybe not quite as much fun as last year, when Lee, Eddie and I goofed off and took almost two hours to finish, but I still enjoyed myself this year. As I mentioned earlier, I really like this course. Last year's course was good, but they certainly improved on it this year.

Another change from last year was the characters: last year it was mostly regular Disney characters like Chip and Dale, Daisy, and Buzz - though it did have the Haunted Mansion bride and parasol girl (BEST CHARACTER STOP EVER!). This year in addition to the regular characters there were the pixies, and in a pixie-themed race that's quite appropriate! I really enjoyed them - they were into their characters, with just the right amount of sass and attitude.

The medal was slightly different this year - it's the same design, but a pearl-like finish was added to the pixie wings, and it looks very nice.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Medal

Another nice thing about finishing early...we had enough time to shower and dress and still get to Disneyland in time for early entry! (It started at 8:00) Tink was already greeting guests in Pixie Hollow, so we went to visit. She and Silvermist were very happy to hear that we had enjoyed the race and that we would be out there the next day, too. They were really cute.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Tinker Bell and Silvermist

Part one of the Pixie Dust Challenge complete, next up: the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.







May 18, 2015

"Tomorrowland" Press Conference

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"You wanted to see Tomorrowland. Here it comes."
--Frank Walker

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As you might have surmised, if you've visited Disneyland or EPCOT recently to see the previews, the next big Walt Disney Studios film up for release is the new Brad Bird movie, "Tomorrowland."

In a recent press junket, Bird, Screenwriter Damon Lindelof, Story writer Jeff Jensen, and cast members George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Tim McGraw, and Raffey Cassidy all gathered to talk about the upcoming film.

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(Audio from the Q&A follows. WARNING: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THE INTERVIEW. PLAY AUDIO/READ FURTHER AT YOUR OWN RISK)

Some notes from the panel:

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Brad Bird

--Brad Bird on Walt Disney's influence on "Tomorrowland:" "Some of the very last things that Walt Disney filmed were about this experimental prototype community of tomorrow...And he was talking about the park and he said, 'yeah, there will be an amusement park kind of like Disneyland, but the whole reason to do it, the main attraction, is this!' And he pointed to the city and said, 'it’s going to be an actual place that you can try ideas and we’ll take corporations and we’ll collaborate with them on new ideas, and sell the ideas to the world, and try them out.'...Which part of it do you think wasn’t done? It’s that part. And it’s understandable, because you needed somebody like Disney as a catalyst to make it happen. But on his deathbed, he was looking up at the ceiling and pointing out how the city would be laid out...The fact that he was, to his last moments, dreaming about this future and making crazy ideas happen, and be real, and accelerate the pace of that, was very moving to me. And if the movie caught even a little bit of that, I think we will have succeeded."

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Raffey Cassidy

--Raffey Cassidy on the relationship between her character and Britt Robertson's character: "I think the relationship between Casey and Athena is quite friendly, because Athena just wants to get Casey and Frank together, to try and save the world."

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George Clooney

--George Clooney on getting involved with the project: "I have to say, just so we’re clear, when Damon and Brad showed up at my house, they said, 'We’ve got a part that we’ve written for you.' And then I opened up the description of the character and it’s a 55-year-old has-been, and I’m kind of going, 'Hang on a minute, which part am I reading for?'"

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Britt Robertson

---Britt Robertson on the role of NASA as a source of futuristic optimism: "NASA represents this unknown, and the human race being able to explore the universe and other things that are out there...We’re talking about a movie that’s saying, 'we don’t know what our future is. It’s not determined for us, and maybe if we go out there and explore the world, maybe if NASA wants to go and see what else is out there, then maybe that will have some helpful part in making our future something to be excited about.'”

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Tim McGraw

---Tim McGraw on his experience playing a dad, versus his real-life role as a dad: "I was thinking of the scene where we were shooting in the car, Britt and I. We had a long conversation...We were talking about life and talking about guys. It was pretty reminiscent of some of the conversations that I’ve had with my daughters. In fact, I had to be upset in that scene and I had just been upset with my daughter...the night before about something. There were a lot of parallels for me, for sure, yeah."

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Damon Lindelhof and Jeff Jensen

--Damon Lindelhof on coming up with the movie's concept: "...I’ve always been really interested in the future and I kind of feel like all the movies that I’ve been exposed to over the course of the last 20-30 years have shown me a future that I don’t really want to be living in."

--Jeff Jensen: "...A lot of Disney really inspired and informed the movie, especially, I think, EPCOT, the whole idea and original idea behind EPCOT, and how that evolved as a sort of laboratory for the future."

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--Clooney on the theme of "Tomorrowland:" "...You know, we live in a world right now where you turn on your television set and it’s rough out there. And it’s not fun. And it can really wear on you after a period of time. And we see generations now feeling as if it’s sort of hopeless, in a way, and what I love about it is it sort of speaks to the idea that your future is not preordained and predestined, and that if you’re involved...A single voice can make a difference and I believe in that. I happen to believe in it, and so I loved the theme or the idea that, you know, there’s still so much that we can all do to make things better. And I liked it. I thought it was great."

"Tomorrowland," rated PG, will be released in theaters May 22, 2015.

May 16, 2015

"Tomorrowland" Walks the Blue Carpet

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On May 9, 2015, Walt Disney Studio's "Tomorrowland" had its world premiere at the AMC Downtown Disney 12 in Anaheim. Celebrity attendees walked a futuristic blue carpet down to the theater, greeting media and enthusiastic fans alike.

Present for the opening of the film were cast members George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Tim McGraw, and Thomas Robinson, as well as Director/Producer/Writer Brad Bird, Producer/Writer Damon Lindelof, Producer Jeffrey Chernov, Executive Producer John Walker, Executive Producer and Story Writer Jeff Jensen, Composer Michael Giacchino, and Co-Producer/VFX Tom Peitzman. Other luminaries attending included Disney Legends Tony Baxter, Bob Gurr, and Richard Sherman, along with Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, TJ Miller from "Big Hero 6," and Brett Dalton from "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD."

Among those kind enough to share a few words with us were Jeff Jensen, Richard Sherman, Tom Peitzman, Tony Baxter, Alan Horn, Michael Giacchino, Brett Dalton, and George Clooney.

"Tomorrowland" will be opening in general theaters on May 22, 2015.

May 14, 2015

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, May 8, 2015.

Friday marked two weeks until the 60th Anniversary kicks off at the Disneyland Resort. This picture set features a look at the decorations that are showing up around the parks and hotels. Also this weekend was the Tinker Bell Half Marathon & the premiere of the Tomorrowland film in Downtown Disney.

Frozen Fun billboards are still up at the Mickey and Friends Tram stop. The 60th ones should be up soon.

The ticket booths have received some signage for the 60th.

The Downtown Disney sign repainting and renovation is complete.

Because of the Tomorrowland movie premiere & after party on Saturday, Tomorrowland will be closing early for day guests.

60th decorations are showing up on the entrance and train station (the flags and banners)

The lamp posts have received their decorations.

Main Street is decked out in a lot of blue for the occasion.

Sleeping Beauty Castle looks more or less the same as last visit. The final items have not been installed.

The scaffolding is down around Buzz, but the work is not complete yet. It sports a new color scheme matching the character and not really Tomorrowland.

The entrance sign received a new look too.

The Monorails featured wraps/ads for the Tomorrowland film.

A check of the Mad T Party installation progress as we pass over Hollywood Land.

Unfortunately I was stuck shooting through a window so not the clearest of pictures. But you can see Grizzly Peak Airfield is nearing completion. It is scheduled to open next Friday.

Humphreys replaced the Fly n Buy shop.

Looks like all the pavement is in.

The AMC Theater will be hosting the Tomorrowland Premiere Saturday afternoon/evening.

Props were being installed this afternoon

The blue carpet will be here leading to the theater.

Where the press line will be.

Next stop the Disneyland Hotel. 60th Anniversary signage as you enter the lobby.

This weekend was the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Laura will be covering it in depth since she ran in the races. I will skip the Expo pictures in this set.

Outside work still continues on the fall protection.

The Paradise Pier Hotel has a sign up for the 60th anniversary

New 60th banners on the driveway entrance to the Paradise Pier Hotel.

Some of the windows on Buena Vista Street have received diamonds. (the glare was not helpful this afternoon)

A closer look in the window of the Atwater Ink & Paint store

The Carthay Circle Restaurant has started to receive diamonds too.

Work continues on the facades in the Bay Area.

Most of the Frozen Fun has ended. The Snow Fest has closed and the signage removed.

You can still meet Olaf, but he is outside now.

More diamonds, this time the Elias & Co windows

Interesting...noticed some marking around the hub on the ground. Looks like they will be drilling new holes for more crowd control ropes.

Peter Pan is still behind walls and the project was pushed to a July 1 opening date now.

The facade of Pinocchio is still being worked on too.

The Mark Twain now has 60th banners.

The Haunted Mansion remained closed. It reopens Saturday with the new Hat Box Ghost... was hoping for a soft opening Friday.

The Fantasyland side of Sleeping Beauty Castle

Soundsational passing through the hub.

No drum for the Chip/Dale/Goofy/Pluto they were just dancing along the parade route.

No real visible progress above Tropical Imports

Pizza Port has a promotion going on for the Avengers with special food items and a print available. Laura will be doing a food blog, she tried some of the treats.

A lamp post on Main Street with 60th Anniversary decorations.

Over at Disney California Adventure, on Buena Vista Street, the Julius Katz window features some diamonds now too.


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




May 13, 2015

Star Wars Celebration: Photos and Last Thoughts

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For our last look back at Star Wars Celebration, I'm offering up some final thoughts and a slideshow of some of the various and sundry sights found around the Exhibitor's Floor and elsewhere.

The Good: Celebration had an enormous amount of content available and organized it fairly well in different interest tracks: Cosplay, Crafting, Literature, etc. The mobile application they developed was actually much better than the apps I've used for other conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con, enabling attendees to quickly access the day's schedule and sync it with a list of personal favorites. In general, lines appeared manageable for most of the smaller panels, and getting into the Arena presentations was at least not any more painful than you should probably expect at a big convention.

Most importantly, both the presenters and the guests seemed to be imbued with a fresh sense of enthusiasm and optimism for the franchise that only ratcheted up as the weekend progressed. Some of that surely was secondary to all the new activity brought on after the Disney purchase, but the clips and reports from the people involved with the new LucasFilm gave a sense of purpose and vision that bodes well for the upcoming films.

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The Bad: While the line management got reasonably effective by the end of the weekend, the start was marked by an abundance of disorganization and shrill histrionics. Finding your way to the various locations wasn't helped by the fact that they named all the different venues unenlightening things like "Celebration Stage"...and then didn't put the names on the maps they uploaded to the app. Fortunately they updated the app regularly so the information was up by the second day, but it seemed as though it took about a day for enough information to disseminate through the volunteers to render them helpful.

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The Ugly: Probably the worst part of the whole convention was the Celebration Show Store. The line to get in was horrific, and the line to check out was worse. When I got in line, I assumed that the line was going to move really fast, because otherwise the length of it would have made waiting in it ridiculous. Surprise! It actually took around two hours or so to get through the line to pay. By the time I got to the cashier, I could barely remember what I was there for. By Sunday, the lines had dwindled away, but so had most of the merchandise.

It seems as though it might streamline things if they limited the number of each item one person could purchase, and possibly instituted a "fastpass"-like system so that people could reserve a window of time they could enter the store. A similar fix might help with walk-throughs such as the "Force Awakens" Exhibit that had three to four hour wait times the days I checked, obligating them to cap the line around noon the last day.

Another workaround would be to purchase the VIP tickets that offer a number of perks, including reserved seating and a preview session in the store. The disadvantages, besides the increased cost, is that they are relatively limited in number and sell out almost as soon as tickets go on sale.

On the whole, however, I thought Celebration did a great job of feeding the audience's desire for more information about the future of the Star Wars franchise, while avoiding spoilers. It introduced new players while reintroducing us to a number of old ones, and was persuasive in presenting impressive prospects to come.

Next year, Star Wars Celebration will be held July 15-17, 2016 at the Excel London Exhibition Centre. Tickets and other information are available at http://www.starwarscelebration.com/

May 11, 2015

Current and Upcoming Video Games from the Star Wars Universe

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Video games have long been a major component of Star Wars fandom, and were well represented at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.

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The biggest video game presented was Star Wars Battlefront, by EA.

A multiplayer action shooter with impressive graphics and meticulous film mimicry, Battlefront allows players to fight for either the Empire or the Rebellion, in ground combat or in the air.

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Throughout gameplay, different weapons and abilities will be unlockable, giving the player the ability to take the roles of characters such as Darth Vader and Boba Fett.

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Star Wars Battlefront will be released in North America on November 17, 2015 for PS4, XBox One, and PC. The first (free) DLC Battle of Jakku will be available December 8, 2015, with pre-orders able to access it one week early.

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BioWare's Massively-Multiplayer Online Game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, had a stop in their Community Cantina Tour at Celebration, in which attendees could meet and greet the developers, community team, and other players.

Reputed to have the most story content of its kind, the game takes place in the Star Wars "Fictional Universe," between the events of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, and some thousands of years before the events of the films. Players can choose from a wide variety of the many character classes existing in the Star Wars universe, and create their own storyline based on their choices and actions. The game is subscription-based, with a limited free-to-play option, and has been online since 2011. The latest digital expansion pack was "Shadow of Revan."

In addition to the games represented at Celebration, the highly popular Disney Infinity just announced a new 3.0 update due in the fall which will introduce Star Wars characters into their already expansive roster.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition will feature three Star Wars Play Sets--one set in the timeline of each of the two trilogies (Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic, and Star Wars: Rise Against the Empire,) and one taking place during the action of the upcoming "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

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Additional play sets will be available based on the upcoming Pixar film "Inside Out," and the recent blockbuster "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

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The Toy Box will be updated with two new multiplayer expansion games: Toy Box Speedway and Toy Box Takeover. A multitude of new figures of characters from across the broad Disney Company holdings will also be added, such as Sam Flynn and Quorra from "Tron: Legacy," and Mulan and Olaf.

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All 1.0 and 2.0 figures and discs will be compatible with the 3.0 update, which will come out on PS3, PS4, XBox One, XBox 360, Wii U, PC, iOS, and Android platforms. The Starter Pack will have a suggested retail price of $64.99.

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