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November 25, 2014

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise - Part 2


Wednesday - Castaway Cay

We got up early enough so that we could have breakfast before meeting in Evolution at 8:15 for the 5K. The 5K process is much easier than the last time we did it. It's still free, but instead of signing up the morning of, you sign up in advance at Guest Services or the Port Adventures desk. They give you a ticket that you turn in at the meeting place in exchange for your bib and safety pins. The made the process a LOT faster - the 5K group was ready to leave the ship as soon as the cruise director announced that passengers could disembark.

As soon as we walked off the ship it started to rain! We just grabbed some towels and kept walking, and it stopped after less than 10 minutes. It was nice to have it overcast and a bit cooler - this is definitely the best weather I've had when I've done this race.

Stan, Pam, and Tom were again doing the 5K. Lee and Stan ran it, and Pam and I walked it together and had a good time, and Tom finished a few minutes after we did. We all got our "Winner" ribbons with the plastic Mickey head. Starting next year runDisney is doing a new "Castaway Cay Challenge" which will have a REAL medal. Runners who participate in one of the races during either Marathon weekend in January or Princess weekend in February and then take the four-night Disney cruise that starts the Monday after the race have the opportunity to sign up for the Castaway Cay Challenge where they will get that medal when they complete the Castaway Cay 5K. I hope that they will offer this after the Wine and Dine Half Marathon also, since we already plan to run that and then do the cruise next year. There were a lot of people on our cruise that had run the Wine and Dine Half, so I think there would be quite a bit of interest!

After the race we walked out to Serenity Bay.

Molly had gone ahead while we were doing the race and saved us some primo spots - including two hammocks! I enjoyed one of those for a while.

They had to leave early since they were having brunch at Palo. Brunch is so popular and hard to reserve that they have started to offer it on Castaway Cay day also.

Lee and I had lunch on the island, and enjoyed a nap in the sun. It was a little breezy and the sun felt good.

We walked back to the ship around 2:00 and stopped for some photos with the holiday decorations on the dock.

After we boarded we ran into the others who were returning from brunch. They enjoyed it.

Lee and I had another Champagne seminar in the Pink that afternoon. This one was put on by the wine team, and led by the Head Sommelier from Remy. We had four champagnes, including two rose champagnes.

There was also a bonus champagne - our favorite Moet Ice Imperial. I think the sommelier was a bit taken aback that Lee and I were already quite familiar with it. :-)

We were again leaving port after we finished, so we went up on deck to watch the sailaway. Not quite as pretty a sunset as the previous evening.

In the lobby they were still working on the gingerbread house!

That night was Pirate Night and we dressed up a little bit. Arrr...

In Pink I had one of the Tuxedo strawberries with a glass of Ice Imperial. Yum.

We returned to our stateroom in time for the fireworks - we were on the starboard side, so we could see them from our verandah.

That day's towel animal was a sea turtle.

Thursday - Day at Sea

I don't think I've mentioned the sea conditions for this cruise at all. It was very smooth sailing - I think the least motion that I've ever experienced. I felt it a little bit the evening we left Port Canaveral, but after that, I could hardly even tell we were moving.

The weather was good, too, at least after we got away from Port Canaveral. We had a fair amount of sun and it wasn't too warm.

Thursday was our day for Palo brunch, though it wasn't until 12:30. We still had breakfast in the morning. We started in Cove Cafe so Lee could get some "real" coffee, rather than the stuff they serve at the beverage stations and in the dining rooms. Cove Cafe had some holiday decorations, too.

I didn't realize that there was a piece of Enchanted Art in Cove Cafe.

After breakfast at Cabanas Lee went to a presentation on the Dream and I did another "Midship Detective Agency" case. If you keep the same card you'll get different villains, though the cases themselves done change at all - just a couple of the clues are different. While doing that I checked on the gingerbread house again. You can see the figures of Mickey and Minnie inside.

There were some holiday decorations in Palo, also. Our brunch was good, though it didn't take as long as it often does - we felt a little rushed. We've always had the first seating before, though. By the time we left very few of the tables were still occupied.

After brunch we went shopping. They had some nice "Merrytime Cruises" merchandise.

Lee found a Baymax shirt that he bought.

That night we were in Animator's Palate - there was a pretty Christmas tree outside.

We saw the Turtle Talk with Crush show. Crush got to our area of the restaurant very late, and most of the kids had already left by then, so he didn't really spend any time interacting with anyone in particular. And truth be told, we weren't paying much attention to him because we were too busy chatting with our tablemates.

We got a nice photo of everyone, plus our server, Graziela.

After dinner we went back to our stateroom to pack. We had to clear "Davy Jones" off our bed so that we could do that, though. We were planning to carry our bags off ourselves, but still wanted to get most of the packing done before we went to Pink to finish our evening.

There were a few more people who wandered in and out of Pink that night, but no one stayed long, though we heard several lament that they wish they'd found it sooner. We had a nice final evening with Don and Cinthya. We hope to see them next year when we do this same cruise again!

I wanted to check out the progress on the gingerbread house so we went to the lobby.

It was about 10:20 and the "Character Farewell" was going on. We watched that for a while, and also saw the "Dickens Carolers" group. They only performed two songs, though - we were hoping for more.

The characters came out onto the balcony for one final farewell.

Then it was back to our room for one final night in that oh-so-comfy Disney Cruise Line bed!

Friday - Disembarkation

We were early dining, so our breakfast started at 6:45 - we set an alarm. We'd had good weather for the cruise, but it was another foggy, grey day in Port Canaveral.

Breakfast on the final day is always a a very quick process - they want us OUT of there. I think we walked off the ship about 7:45, after taking one final photo of the gingerbread house. Walking off the ship is always a letdown after everything else. But all good things must come to an end, right?

The line for Customs was longer than I've ever seen it but it moved steadily and we were on a bus to the airport by 8:20, and checked in for our flight by 9:15 - plenty of time before our 11:45 flight.

So now Part 3 of our adventure was about to begin: fly to San Diego, make a quick stop at the house to repack our bags, and then drive to Disneyland so that we can run the Inaugural Avengers Half Marathon on Sunday. We were looking forward to that!

A few thoughts on the cruise...

We loved doing the cruise after our half marathon! It was a great way to relax and reward ourselves after that. We are definitely looking forward to doing it again next year! We were already planning to do it with a group of friends, and while on this cruise Stan and Pam and Tom and Molly also booked it for next year!

i was glad to get a chance to see the holiday decorations on board the ship - that wasn't something I expected when we booked this cruise. I wish they had done a tree lighting ceremony every night - the lobby just isn't big enough to hold everyone who is interested in that. And it was difficult for those with early dinner seating to make it in time.

I really loved this itinerary: two days at Castaway Cay and a day at sea. I know it's very popular with guests, so I wish Disney would do it more often. Lee reminded me that when all four ships are in the area and visiting Castaway Cay once or twice a week, that the schedule just doesn't work out. Sigh.

We didn't see any of the shows this time - but we've seen them all before. We were glad of the opportunity to see Big Hero 6, since it had just opened the previous Friday. We wanted to see Maleficent, but the timing just never worked out for that one. That's what happened on our cruise two months ago, also.

Next time I'm booking my own transfers or doing something else different so that we don't get to the ship so late on embarkation day. When we're late like that it's a rush to try and eat and get settled in our stateroom before the lifeboat drill. Besides, I want to be able to take advantage of our Platinum status!

The food blogs are still coming - I will include our experiences at Walt Disney World, including the Food and Wine Festival, in addition to our meals on the cruise ship.

November 24, 2014

Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise - Part 1


What to do after running a half marathon in the rain...How about a Disney cruise to the sunny and warm Bahamas???

Our cruise didn't start out sunny and warm - it was raining in Port Canaveral for much of the afternoon, which is why the Cove Pool is totally empty in this photo. :-) It was still drizzling during the lifeboat drill (though fortunately we were under cover for that), and the Sailaway Party. The Sailaway Party was moved to the Atrium Lobby because of the rain.

We had a late bus from Walt Disney World, and didn't arrive at the port until almost 2:00. The "Merrytime" holiday cruises had just started, and this was the first one on the Dream, so the port terminal was decorated for the holidays.

When we booked this cruise we did it strictly because of the schedule, since it fell right after the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. When I looked at the itinerary I was really happy to find that it was an alternate itinerary, featuring two days at Castaway Cay and a day at sea. The second Castaway Cay day replaced the stop at Nassau. That was great for us - we don't get off the ship in Nassau.

Then just a few weeks before the cruise I found that Disney had moved the holiday season forward, and that our cruise would fall during the "Merrytime Cruise" season, so that we'd get to see all of the decorations and have the opportunity to participate in some of the other special events.

This was our first cruise as Platinum Castaway Club members, but due to our late arrival we really didn't get to take advantage of most of the perks, like early boarding. Oh well. Next time!

The Lobby Atrium was already decorated for the holidays with the big tree and lots of garlands. The crew was very busy, since it all had to be done between the time the previous guests disembarked, and when the new guests came on board - that's typically less than two hours!

Our first order of business was to sign up for any Tasting sessions we wanted to attend. The Navigator didn't do a very good job of describing what they were and when - we had to ask at Guest Services. The Stem-to-Stern session had already been booked by a private party, so that wasn't available at all. But there were two champagne tastings: Champagne, and Champagne Cocktails. We booked both of those. My very favorite, Chocolate and Liquor, conflicted with our Palo brunch on the sea day. I was very disappointed.

Since we were so late the staterooms were already available, so we made a quick stop to drop off our packs before heading off to lunch. This time our Castaway Club gift was already on the bed. (Last cruise I had to call three times before they delivered it to us.)

We had lunch in Cabanas - it was the usual buffet items, such as shrimp, fish, chicken, lamb, salad bar, various hot and cold side dishes, breads, and dessert. Nothing too exotic, but it tasted good.

We wandered around the ship looking at some of the new holiday decorations before the lifeboat drill.

Our suitcases both arrived before dinner, so we had a chance to unpack and change clothes before going down to Enchanted Garden for dinner. As usual, our dining rotation is Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace twice, and then Animator's Palate on the final night. It must be somehow noted on our record. :-) The weather improved as soon as we pulled out of port and there was a nice sunset as we were getting ready for dinner.

I'll have a food blog later...but I wanted to give a shout-out to our tablemates Russell and Annamarie - Russell is an AllEars fan, and he and Annamarie were on their first Disney cruise. But I don't think it will be their last. :-)

After dinner was the first of the main holiday activities: Mickey's Tree Lighting Magic.

We'd just barely finished dinner in time, so the Atrium was already crowded when we arrived. But at least we had a spot where we could see the staircase and the tree, so we could see most of it. I thought they might do it every night, but it was only the one time.

Later in the evening was Santa's Winter Wonderland Ball, but we missed that one. That was when Santa Claus arrived.

The pastry chefs were busy building a gingerbread house in the Atrium, it'll be interesting to see how far they get with it before our cruise ends.

We headed to Pink, the champagne bar in The District. It had some holiday garland - pink, of course. :-)

There were a few people in there when we arrived, but they headed out and for a while it was just the two of us and our bartender Don and server Cinthya.

Pink is a nice space, but it's not Ooh La La (on the Disney Fantasy), though Lee prefers Pink. We had a fun evening trying to convince people that were passing through that it was the Biker Bar, and that they should stay. :-)

When I'd looked at the Navigator that day I was happy to see the the new movie Big Hero 6 would be showing while we were on board. The first showing was going to be in the Walt Disney Theater that night, and we decided to go. It started at 10:30 in the Walt Disney Theater. There were quite a few guests who had stayed up late to see it. We saw the 3D version, and really enjoyed it, as well as the short that preceded it: Feast. Jeanine already posted a review of the movie, so I'm not going to say much about it, except that we enjoyed it. But we were petty tired when it was over, and ready for bed.

When we returned to our room we had the first towel animal...ssssss.

Tuesday - Castaway Cay

When we awoke around 7:30 we were already docked at Castaway Cay. As you can see it was a beautiful day!

After breakfast we walked off the ship. There are some fun holiday decorations on the pier. Some of them were just put into place that morning after we arrived.

Lee tried to hula along with Olaf. :-)

I liked how they kept the nautical theme going in the decorations.

Even the tram and tram station were decorated!

Several friends from Team AllEars are also on this cruise, and they were all doing the Castaway Cay 5K that morning. We saw some of the early finishers come in and saw our friend Stan finish the race - the others were walking and were still behind him. I headed back to the ship since I had a massage coming up, but Lee stayed on the island and went to Serenity Bay with Stan, Pam, Molly, and Tom. They had a good time.

As i walked back to the ship I took a few photos - I was surprised that the Family Beach was still not crowded at all. But maybe because were were visiting Castaway Cay twice, most people didn't have the same sense of urgency to get out there early to get a good spot.

A nice holiday farewell as you leave the island.

I enjoyed my massage, and had lunch at Cabanas. Then went to deck 5 to one of the Midship Detective Agency stations and solved The Case of the Stolen Artwork. This is a little easy for the adults, but you get your exercise going all over the ship if you use the stairs like I do. There's a second case also: The Case of the Stolen Puppies, and you choose which one you want when you start. On the Fantasy, in addition to these two cases, there's also a Muppets version. That one is also a lot of fun, and more challenging for the adults.

Lee was back on board when I returned to our stateroom, There was a knock on our door later - it was room service delivering our complimentary fruit plate. Another of the benefits of Platinum Status is a free "edible gift" - I'd received a phone call the night before, and we had a choice of a fruit plate, sparkling wine, or a box of chocolates. I'd chosen the fruit. It was a really nice assortment, with fresh berries, grapes, tangerines, and apple, and a banana. The berries were quite good.

Later in the afternoon Lee and I went to Pink for the first of the Seminars we had booked - Champagne Cocktails. Our bartender Don was leading the seminar, and we were delighted when he told us that we would be making the cocktails ourselves! There were 12 of us in the seminar, and three of us behind the bar at a time, each preparing four of the same kind of cocktail. Since there were four different cocktails, everyone who wanted to was able to participate. It was fun to go behind the bar and work with all of the shakers and bottles! We really enjoyed the experience, and Don was an excellent teacher. And it was fun to taste the different cocktails, though most of them we had already tried before.

And we had to check out the progress on the gingerbread house in the lobby.

We were juat leaving Castaway Cay when we returned to our stateroom. Even though we'd be back the next day, we couldn't stay docked there over night. There was a colorful sunset as we left.

It was "optional dress-up" night, ad we looked pretty good, if I do say so myself. :-) We were in Royal Palace for dinner, and enjoyed our meal. After dinner we went to Pink again, but didn't stay really late, since we had to get up in time to run the Castaway Cay 5K the next morning.

Tonight's towel animal! This cabin steward made much more use of the bed throw than we'd seen in the past. We didn't see him very much, but he did a good job, and our stateroom was clean and neat.

Coming Up: Another day at Castaway Cay, including the Castaway Cay 5K.

Big Hero 6 - Jason's 1st Impressions


Contributing photographer Jason of shares his first impressions of Disney's latest animated feature, Big Hero 6.

Los Angeles Premiere Of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Big Hero 6" - Red Carpet

HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 04: (L-R) Director Don Hall, producer Roy Conli, actors Daniel Henney, Maya Rudolph, Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and DisneyToon Studios John Lasseter, actors Genesis Rodriguez, T.J. Miller, Director Chris Williams, Katie Lowes, Damon Wayans Jr. and Head of Disney Animation Andrew Millstein, attend the Los Angeles Premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Big Hero 6" at El Capitan Theatre on November 4, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Disney has another solid film on their hands. While quite different than Frozen you will still find an engaging story as well as interesting and entertaining characters.

Big Hero 6 is about the relationship between a boy, Hiro, and his robot Baymax, and the adventures that ensue as Hiro, Baymax and their four friends (Go Go Tomago, Honey Lemon, Wasabi, and Fred) work to solve a mystery of what is brewing in San Fransokyo. At its core is a story of personal loss and working through it. To learn more about the who, what, and where check out my introduction/tutorial on the film here.

"BIG HERO 6" Pictured (L-R): Baymax & Hiro. 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

I was really surprised by the film. I thought the story twists made for unexpected storyline and unanticipated depth to the film. I think Roy Conli (Producer) described it succinctly - “It’s a Disney movie with Marvel DNA”. It is not a stereotypical comic book/action film, but instead a Disney take on it. It stands alone somewhere between the Marvel films and Pixar’s Incredibles and a traditional Disney animated film. It is hard to pigeonhole/define this film.

"BIG HERO 6" Pictured: Baymax. 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Big Hero 6 is visually detailed. The film continues the Disney heritage of creating ground breaking tools for animation dating back to the early days of the Studios when they experimented with such aspects of film making as synchronized sound and the multi-plane camera. The new creations for Big Hero 6 were a new rendering engine called Hyperion which allowed for more realistic handling of light as well as Denizen which revolutionized how crowds were created and animated. For a computer geek like me it is really impressive the level of detail, lighting, and movement in this film. The number of action scenes, sets, and San Fransokyo itself are amazing to look at. It is very easy to sit back and enjoy the film and forget that everything you are seeing was created by artists and programmers in a computer. But for us geeks we like to really dig into this and the work the team put out with Big Hero 6 is impressive.

Winston from Disney's Feast

Two tips for viewing Big Hero 6. Be sure to be seated on time so you can catch the short that precedes the film. It is entitled Feast and is really enjoyable. I have seen the short twice now, once in 2D and once in 3D and I thought the 3D added some extra fun/dimension to it and worked very well with the style of Feast. You can read my first impressions of it here. And secondly as has become a tradition in many films recently be sure to stay all the way through the credits, especially if you are a Marvel fan. There is a bonus tag at the end that is a great closing note for the film.

In conclusion I would highly recommend Big Hero 6. I was entertained and I think Big Hero 6 appeals to a wide audience and age spectrum. Do not write it off as a traditional comic film or just another Disney animated film: there is more to it. Disney continues its tradition of creating dialog and scenes that work for both kids and adults at the same time. And a bonus for parents this time is not a musical so you will not be hearing the songs sung by kids endlessly. Keep in mind it is a different kind of film from is not a fairytale so I think comparing the two is a little apples to oranges and is not entirely fair.

Related posts on the Geek's Blog:

Be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from Disney as well as on my site

November 22, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 11/14/14, Part 2


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, November 14, 2014, the first weekend for all of the holiday decorations and activities at Disneyland.

Returning to Disney California Adventure. The window of Off the Page.

Inside the Animation building the Character Close-up area is closed. Internet rumor is the Frozen sisters will be moving in here.

Time for the Buena Vista Street Community Bell Ringers.

A couple clips from their performance.

One more clip from their performance.

Viva Navidad! has returned to Paradise Gardens. The Street Party was in full swing when I arrived in the area.

Viva Navidad offerings

Goofy was out for pictures when I walked by.

The 2014 logo on merchandise.

This Route 66 sign along the parade route seems new to me. It is hung like the snow flakes.

Time for the lights and neon to come on along Route 66. This week Winter Wonderland was played.

This evening Santa Mater rolled by as the event was happening.

The setting sun and new Route 66 sign, notice the snow flake lights in the background.

The citizens of Buena Vista Street gathering for the tree lighting.
The event was the same as the last couple years.

Here is a video from last year of the Tree Lighting.

The Christmas tree in Town Square lit up.

A Christmas Fantasy Parade making its way up the parade route.

If you were interested here is a look at this section from the old Very Merry Christmas Parade. I recorded this in December 1993.

As expected the jungle does not have a lot of the pictures are not very good.

The villagers had the generator they found going so their lights were on.

The projection show from last year has returned to Small World Holiday.

I returned to Main Street for Sleeping Beauty Castle Wintertime Enchantment. Here is a video I took last year of the show. It appeared to be the same this year.

Some Hanukkah items for sale.

Over to Buena Vista Street and Trolley Treats. Holiday cookies.

A look around Carthay Circle this evening.

The Mad T Party Band was performing when I arrived. They are concluding their sets with holiday/snow songs and snow fall.

The Mad T Party Band finale from 2012 leading to snow fall.

Snow Flakes lead the way to Paradise Pier.

Time for the 2014 edition of World of Color Winter Dreams.

It now features more Frozen. Included is Do you want to build a snowman?

Here is a video clip of the opening.

Olaf is still the host.

There seemed to be more of Tinker Bell and her friends in the video this year.

A clip from the middle of the show.

Big Hero 6 made the clips package this year. Here are Baymax and Hiro.

In Summer has a new finale

Santa Mater

Here is a video clip of the new Frozen additions and it runs through the finale.

After the finale for the exit music they use a studio recording of Glow (the song that opened the show last year)

A brief clip as I was exiting the park.

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, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

November 21, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 11/14/14, Part 1


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, November 14, 2014, the first weekend for all of the holiday decorations and activities at Disneyland.

There is a lot going on, so this update has been split into two parts.

I arrived at the Disneyland Resort before park opening Friday and spent a full day, staying until after World of Color, so I clocked in around 14 hours at the parks.

First stop today Disney California Adventure. I was in the park just after 8:30am, it did not open until 9:00am so had some time to roam around Buena Vista Street.

Walked through Condor Flats. Soarin' was open, with a 10 minute posted wait, no signs of a line yet and the area was nice and quiet.

Picked up a FastPass for World of Color Winter Dreams then made my way over to Disneyland. The Christmas tree and garland are both up this week.

Main Street was alive with activity. Cars, people, horses all moving about.

The sky looked threatening.. it drizzled on the drive to the park, but no rain the entire day.

A video of my ride through Snow White's Scary Adventures.

Next up Pinocchio's Daring Journey

Passed through Frontierland on my way to Adventureland.

The Jingle Cruise has returned for its second year.

Signs up in the queue explaining the reason for all the jingle in the attraction.

Looking up river this year there are more decorations. Here you can see garlands in the jungle.

Here is a video of our trip.

A couple pictures from the trip, the tiger has gotten into some of the shipment.

More of the lost shipment down near the elephant bathing pool.

The family of baboons found the hats and boots.

Down in the camp the gorillas were trying to bake some holiday treats

The African Elephants managed to decorate themselves a little.

The outdoor decorations found their way into Africa.

The lions enjoying the reindeer.

The villagers found Christmas lights.

And a generator.

As well as some Christmas sweaters.

Trader Sam ready to celebrate the new year.

Went for a cruise on Small World Holiday. Here is the Europe room.

A video clip of the Latin America room - Feliz Navidad

Hiro and Baymax are now greeting guests in the Starcade.

Mickey and the gang arriving in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle

Some of the characters boarded the fire truck for a ride to Town Square.

The Big Thunder Ranch is hosting the Jingle Jangle Jamboree again this year.

Here are a couple video clips of the new melodrama: The Plight Before Christmas.

Mrs. Claus Tasty Treats menu

Mickey in his holiday gear.

Santa was back in his seat meeting guests.

Chip in his gingerbread outfit.

Dale in his matching outfit.

Pluto pulled up a bench to color for a while.

Stopped for lunch at the Stage Door Cafe and picked a table with a great view of the Rivers of America.

Jack and Sally out for pictures.

A walk through Critter Country to check out the Christmas decorations.

The Dapper Dans of Disneyland performing on Main Street USA.

The Town Square Christmas tree

Mickey signing autographs in Town Square in his holiday sweater.

Walked through Downtown Disney.

The winter village is set up in front of the AMC as well as Earl of Sandwich.

The Christmas tree sits in the middle of the ice rink again this year.

Olaf was stationed near his ice rink

The hat near the Disneyland Hotel received a new color scheme recently.

This weekend is the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon. This is the finish line.

The 5K was Saturday morning and Sunday is the half marathon. Laura will have a full report from the race festivities so I will skip them in this posting.

Part 2 features photos from Viva Navidad and some of the nighttime activities, like World of Color Winter Dreams, and Sleeping Beauty Castle Winter Enchantment.

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, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

November 15, 2014

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon


The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is almost my favorite Disney half marathon - second only to Tinker Bell. We first ran it in 2012, and had a wonderful experience. We decided to run it again this year - it was only after we signed up that I found out it was the 5th anniversary, and that there would be special bling. :-)

W&D is Disney's only nighttime half marathon. It's a terrific course that starts at Wide World of Sports and goes through three theme parks: Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. One of the highlights is running through the Osborne Lights. And after finishing at Epcot there's a post-race party until 4:00 a.m.! The food and wine booths are all open, as are some attractions, and there's entertainment as well. The post-race party is included in the registration fee; tickets are also available to the public, and it sells out every year. I have to admit I'm a little envious of those who are just party goers - they get to start at 10:00, whereas the runners have to complete a half marathon first!

This is a much smaller and more compressed event than the other Disney half marathon weekends. The Expo only runs on Friday and Saturday. The Jingle Jungle 5K and Kids Races take place on Saturday morning (at Animal Kingdom and Wide World of Sports, respectively), and then the half marathon starts at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night. There are also many fewer runners - whereas the WDW and Princess Half Marathons typically have over 25,000 entrants, the W&D Half has less than 13,000 - it was 12,300 this year. I wonder if this is partially due to the logistics of having the start at Wide World of Sports and the finish at Epcot.

Whatever the reason for the smaller field - I like it. :-) It makes for a much more pleasant running experience. This course has a few narrow areas too, but I don't think it's nearly as bad as the Epcot->Magic Kingdom->Epcot half marathon course used for the WDW and Princess half marathon. Having fewer runners makes a big difference, too.

Since the race was Saturday night, we chose to arrive on Friday night, since we could get to the Expo to pick up our race bibs and shirts the next day. We had a great dinner at Sanaa with our friends Mike and Christine that evening - we were having so much fun talking that we were the last people in the restaurant! :-) But it was a rush to get there for our 8:45 ADR - thanks, Mike, for driving us to/from dinner!

Another thing I love about Wine and Dine - it's one of the only Disney races where being from the west coast is an advantage! The 10:00 start time is only 7:00 to us. :-) We consciously make the decision to try to stay on west coast time until after the race is over. Of course this year that wasn't much of a problem, since we arrived on Friday, and only had one night before the race. Still, Friday night we made sure the curtains were closed and attempted to sleep until 8:30-9:00 on Saturday.

After breakfast at the Boardwalk Bakery we headed to the race Expo, at Wide World of Sports. The Boardwalk is one of the "host hotels" for W&D, so there were buses to all race events. Those buses load in front of the Convention Center rather than at the regular bus stop, though. We had to wait about 15 minutes before a bus arrived, though in the meantime we saw a couple of buses return to drop off people who had run the Jingle Jungle 5K that morning. One of these years I want to do that one - it looks like a lot of fun. The course is all at Animal Kingdom, and it sounds like there were a lot of characters out for it - including Santa Goofy!

A lot of people had picked up their race materials the day before and the Expo wasn't crowded at all. I walked right up to the counter to pick up my race packet. In addition to my race bib, there was a cork drink coaster shaped like Mickey's hand, a Clif bar, the official race program, my wrist band for post-race party admission, and a Disney gift card with $10 on it. The idea is that the card was to be used at the party, but it can be used any time. I chose not to take it for the race - between my running watch, Magic Band, and Coast-to-Coast and party wristbands, I already had enough on my arms!

There was a runDisney backdrop in the pick-up area, and photographers there, but no one told us that we should get our photo taken. It turned out that if you were Coast-to-Coast, you were supposed to get your picture taken while holding your bib number (your runDisney mug shot, apparently). Then at the end of the half marathon they were verifying that the bib number matched the photo. We didn't know, so we didn't do this, but fortunately we didn't have any problems getting our Coast-to-Coast medals - the cast member told us that it was a new program they were trying out, but since we had our wristbands we were ok.

As usual, packet pickup was in the Field House and the shirt pickup and vendors were in the Josten's Center. I like this year's shirt - and again, can I say that I'm VERY happy that they are now offering a women's cut race shirt???

There seemed to still be plenty of merchandise left, though it wasn't as large a selection as I see for Marathon or Princess weekends. But of course it's also a much smaller race. It was nice to see that there were even a few items for the 5K - like a pin and some kid's Mickey ears. The 5Ks are usually left out of the merchandise game.

At the runDisney booth we admired the medals they will be giving out for Star Wars Half Marathon weekend at Disneyland in January (another Inaugural race). We're both very excited about that one.

We chatted with a friend of ours who works for RunningSkirts. She said the Expo was super busy on Friday, but had been quiet so far on Saturday. Makes sense, as anyone who ran the 5K needed to pick up their packets on Friday, and lots of people like to visit the Expo the first day, too.

We didn't stay at the Expo very long - wanted to get back in time for the Team AllEars meet at noon! We didn't have much of a wait for the bus on the trip back, which was very nice.

It was great to reconnect with Team AllEars people!


One of the very different things about a nighttime race is figuring out how you are going to fuel your body during the day. You want to eat enough, but not too much, and definitely not too much of the wrong things. The temptations of the Food and Wine Festival make it much more difficult. :-) We try to eat a good lunch, and then snack a little bit in the afternoon, and have a light meal, like a sandwich or something, around 6:00. And of course hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Speaking of hydration...unfortunately it looked like we were facing the possibility of a lot of external hydration for this race. The weather, which had looked GREAT all week, suddenly had rain showers predicted from 8:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m., and 100% chance of rain at 11:00. Ugh. It didn't really change what we did, except that we bought a poncho for Lee (I always bring a trusty trash bag from home, just in case).

We tried to stay off our feet, but we took a turn through Epcot in the late afternoon. It was Saturday of the final weekend of the Festival, so it was very crowded. Maybe that was a good thing, since it made us want to get out of there and back to our room. :-)

The race starts at Wide World of Sports. No one is allowed to park there, so everyone has to take the bus. The buses only run from 7:00 to 8:00, so even though the race doesn't start until 10:00, you still have to get there early and wait around for quite a while before the start. They have to get the traffic off the roads, though, including the bus traffic.

From past experience we've learned to catch the bus as soon as possible, even though technically we should have enough time as long as we arrive before the cutoff. We arrived at the bus stop about 6:45, and there were already 40-50 people in front of us. The first bus did not arrive until 7:10, and there was a huge line behind us by then. But there was a second bus that pulled up right after that, so it looked like things were starting to get moving.

Around 7:30 we arrived at the Wide World of Sports complex - it wasn't too crowded yet. There was a security bag check that we all had to go through, and fortunately those lines weren't long. We also had to check gear bags to pick up after the race - for this race we had a full change of clothes in them, since we knew we'd want warmer (not to mention dry) clothes after the race. Since the race was ending at Epcot, Disney had to transport our bags to Epcot, but that worked just fine.

We met up with friends and hung out while waiting until we could move to our start corrals. There were character greeting areas set up, but the lines were really long. There was also a DJ and musical entertainment. The start corrals didn't open until less than an hour before the race start.

We'd had occasional drizzle, but no real rain thus far - we were grateful that we hadn't had to wait around in the rain. It started to rain lightly after we got into our start corral, about 15 minutes before the race started. We donned our poncho and trash bag, so that we could stay dry for as long as possible. The race started on time, with a burst of fireworks for each corral. The earlier corrals, A-G, went off at about 3 minute intervals. We were in Corral E, so we started about 12 minutes after the official start.

The course leaves Wide World of Sports and then turns left onto Osceola Parkway to head to Animal Kingdom. It was a little crowded until we made the turn, but after that it widened and we were able to spread out a bit. The stricter controls that runDisney has implemented for submitting "Proof of Time" have really helped - the people around us were running about the same pace that we were. So we didn't have (too many) really fast people darting by us, nor really slow people traveling in packs that we had to try to pass.

Before we started we took off our rain gear and rolled it up to carry with us, just in case we had really heavy rain. It wasn't too bad for the first mile, but then it started raining harder, and by mile 3 we were soaked. It rained steadily for the entire race - never a downpour, fortunately, but it never stopped, either. So I'm afraid I have no race pictures at all, since I didn't want to mess with pulling out the camera...and I also didn't want to take the time to stop.

There were fewer character stops, since a lot of them got pulled in because of the rain. In Animal Kingdom where there were some covered areas, they had a few of them. In open areas out on the course we saw a number of empty stages. Sarge was still out on the overpass at mile 9.5, though - those Green Army Men are tough, and not about to let a little rain deter them!

When we first did this race two years ago I was concerned about what the lighting would be like along the course. For the most part it's pretty good. Animal Kingdom is the darkest, and it's also one of the narrower parts of the course, so that was a place I was intentionally much more conscious of my footing.

I really like this course so much more than the half marathon course they use for the WDW and Princess half marathons. It visits three theme parks instead of just two, and it doesn't have all of the narrow parts near the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian. For this course the approach into Animal Kingdom, and the paths inside Animal Kingdom are probably the most constricted, but it's not bad and doesn't go on for that long.

I have to give a huge shout-out to all of the volunteers and Disney cast members who worked this race. They were out there even longer than the runners were, and were just as cold and wet as we were, but I have never seen volunteers who were more enthusiastic and supportive. Their smiles and encouragement really helped keep us going. Thank you all so very much!

By mile 10 we were at the Studios. I was SO ready to be done at this point. Once we entered near the Tower of Terror we knew the Osborne Lights were coming up, but we really took the long way around and through the Studios until we were finally at the end of the street! The lights were beautiful, and we walked down the street rather than running. (Thank you to Charlie Gessner for allowing me to use his photos, since I didn't take any.)

The mile 11 sign was just outside the Studios. I quickened my pace - have I mentioned that I really wanted to just be done? We ran along the waterway between the Studios and Swan/Dolphin, and as we neared the bridge that goes across to the Yacht Club there were several cast members cautioning us to slow down, as the surface was slick where we switched from cement to boardwalk.

There were still some people out cheering along that section, despite the rain - wasn't much fun for them, either. The course didn't take us much inside Epcot - we were backstage until we ran from the gate next to the Imagination Pavilion, past Innoventions West and then past Innoventions East and backstage again out toward the parking lot. And then there was finally the finish line!!! I was very happy to see it. My time was 2:16:13 which is my personal best for a Disney race, and only four minutes off my best half marathon time. I finished 2053 out of 11,941. Disney assigns bib numbers based mostly on estimated finish time, and I think this is the first time my bib number (3256) has ever been higher than my finishing place. So despite the rain it was a pretty good race for me.

Volunteers were handing out mylar sheets and of course our special 5 year Wine and Dine Half Marathon spinner medals. It's a really nice one. We also went to get our Coast-to-Coast medals, where they told us that it was ok that we hadn't had our photo taken, and we got our medals anyway.

Next we went to pick up the bags that we had checked. The lines for this were longer than I'd seen before, but they moved quickly. As we exited the "runners only" area, we had the opportunity to exchange the drink coupons at the bottom of our bibs for a beer or wine. There were several kinds of beer, and a chardonnay in a special sealed plastic glass. I chose the chardonnay, but ended up not actually drinking it, so I can't offer any review on that.

The rain had slowed to a drizzle by this time, so we hoped that it would stop for the party. We started making our way towards the entrance to Epcot - we had to go through bag check again. The lines weren't bad when we went through, but we heard that later they were very long.

Once we were inside we looked for a restroom so we could change clothes! I was starting to get cold, even with the mylar blanket, now that I was no longer running. And I was SO ready to put on some dry clothes! There were changing tents in the finish area, but I didn't see them, and we heard the line were long. We stopped at the first restroom inside Epcot. There was a line, but it moved pretty fast. I can't even tell you how wonderful it felt to pull on a dry shirt and pants. I'd brought dry socks, but not shoes - dry socks were at least a little more comfortable than the wet socks, though.

After that we were ready to hit the food booths and find some FOOD!!! But first we had to get across the race course to go back to World Showcase. Disney cast members were creating the usual "island" crosswalks. This time they set up where they had a pretty wide area to do it, so the process went much more quickly than it has in the past.

Because we'd finished pretty early, there weren't too many people back in World Showcase, and no lines at the food booths. A number of the cast members were dancing to the music - it was fun to watch them. We went to Hawaii first, and we both had the pork slider with tropical slaw. I was starving and wolfed it down without noticing much about it except that it was FOOD. :-) We hit a couple more booths, but by then it was starting to rain again. We met up with some friends and hung out in the Odyssey where they have the craft beers. Just sitting on the floor where it was dry felt pretty good.

It was still raining at 2:45 when we decided it was time to head back to our room. We were amazed at the number of people who were still outside at the food booths - the lines were 10-20 deep! And it appeared as though a lot of people hadn't changed out of their running clothes - though at least they were wearing ponchos.

Once we arrived back at the Boardwalk we dumped all our wet clothes in the tub and took a nice hot shower - that felt great. (Our clothes were still soaked the next morning. I was so happy that we had a one bedroom villa with a washer and dryer!) was kind of a miserable running experience, but we survived. But I can't complain too much - some of my running friends have recently endured marathons and half marathons in even more challenging conditions, and then there was the 2010 WDW Half Marathon in rain and sleet that I know a lot of you did.

The race itself I still really enjoy, and we plan to run it next year - though I hope we'll have better weather. By Disney standards I think you actually get a lot for your registration dollars with this one, since in addition to the race there's the party afterwards - and don't forget that $10 gift card. :-)

Now we're off for a few days of rest and relaxation aboard the Disney Dream. Then next weekend we'll be back in California where we'll run the Inaugural (there's my favorite word again!) Avengers Half Marathon at Disneyland.

November 14, 2014

Holidaytime at Disneyland


November 13th marked this year's arrival of the holiday season to the Disneyland Resort!


To kick it off, the ceremonial lighting of "it's a small world" took place, presided over by the Gallardo Family. Their daughter Maya had battled acute myelogenous leukemia when she was 16 months old, but was ultimately cured by a stem cell transplant from her older brother Aaron.

Afterwards, the family was joined by their Pediatric Hematologist, Dr. Rosenthal.


Later, the "A Christmas Fantasy" parade ran for its 20th year, celebrating its anniversary with the addition of "Frozen" princesses Anna and Elsa.


Finally, over at Disney California Adventure, a newly-reworked version of last year's "World of Color - Winter Dreams" opened with an increased "Frozen" presence, as the songs "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "Love is an Open Door" were added into the spectacle.

In addition to these holiday offerings, there is a plethora of returning entertainment around the two parks:

--Jingle Jangle Jamboree in Big Thunder Ranch
--Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle
--" Holiday Magic" fireworks
--Haunted Mansion Holiday
--Jingle Cruise
--"Holiday Time at the Disneyland Resort" guided tour

Disney California Adventure

--"Disney ¡Viva Navidad!"
--Classic department store Santa at Elias & Co.
--Holiday version of "Mad T Party"
--Seasonal makeovers to Cars Land, "a bug's land," and Buena Vista Street

Downtown Disney
--"Olaf's Frozen Ice Rink"
--Downtown Disney Winter Village
--Gingerbread House in the Grand Californian

Happy Holidays!


November 12, 2014

30 Years of Disney Television Animation


Contributing photographer Jason of shares this report.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

On Wednesday, November 5, I had the opportunity to attend an event on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank to celebrate 30 years of Disney Television Animation. The event was hosted by Disney D23 and the International Animated Film Association (ASIFA) and held in the main theater on the lot.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

30 years of Disney Television Animation

The event started off with this sizzle reel looking at Disney Television Animation over the years.

This was followed by a brief welcome and introduction by Eric Coleman (Senior Vice President, Original Series, Disney Television Animation) before the panel took the stage. After the panel we were given a sneak peek at some upcoming series from Disney Television Animation to close out the evening.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

The panel was moderated by Jeffrey Epstein from Disney D23 and consisted of (going left to right in the pictures):

  • Paul Rudish - Executive Producer, "Mickey Mouse" cartoon shorts

  • Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh - Co-Creators/Executive Producers, "Phineas and Ferb"

  • Jymn Magon - Writer, "DuckTales," "Darkwing Duck"

  • Bill Farmer - Disney Legend, voice of Goofy

  • Mark McCorkle - Co-Creators/Executive Producers/Writers, "Kim Possible"

  • Rob LaDuca - Executive Producer, "Jake and the Never Land Pirates," Storyboard Artist, "The Adventures of the Gummi Bears"

  • Bob Schooley- Co-Creators/Executive Producers/Writers, "Kim Possible"

30 years of Disney Television Animation

The first series discussed was the Gummy Bears. This series grew out of a brainstorming session at Michael Eisner’s house shortly after he became CEO. They were at Eisner’s house and his sons were eating breakfast. They saw the candy the boys were eating and Michael Eisner turned to the team and said they should make a show out of it. So they team went to work to try and figure out a series.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

In the development process they looked to films like Pinocchio and Snow White for inspiration.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

Originally the “big” Disney characters were off limits for Television animation. For example, it took a major act to have Donald Duck in one scene to kick off the Duck Tales series.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

As the discussion continued there was a common thread running between many of the panelists at their connections to Star Wars. For example, Rob LaDuca worked on visual effects for Return of the Jedi, Paul Rudish talked about working on the Clone Wars and how it was an opportunity to visit the dreams of his 7-year-old self. Jymn Magon spoke about an early collaboration Disney had with George Lucas to do the story records for the Star Wars films and his role in that process. Dan Povenmire shared how he was the first kid in line for Star Wars at the Mobile, Alabama theater where he grew up. He also shared a story about the creative spark for the Phineas and Ferb Star Wars cross-over. He was in a creative meeting for the show and received word of the Disney - Lucas deal and instantly the cross-over popped to mind and was asked about.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

Dan Povenmire spoke about the challenges to bring Mickey Mouse back to television through the series of shorts. He wanted to pick up where Mickey left off back in the 1930s with the fun, more open character.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

The “overnight success” of Phineas and Ferb took 13 years of pitching before Disney picked them up. They wanted to make a show for each other and not just for kids.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

Bill spoke about the honor to be Goofy over the years and how Goof Troop was his first series. He was able to explore and define a side of Goofy that the shorts did not. When he voices Goofy for shorts he plays up the “dippy dog” side more.

After an initial pass at through the panel Jeffrey asked if they would do an improv skit for the audience of what would happen if Dr. Doofenshmirtz wanted to create a Goofinator. Here is a video clip of Jeffrey setting up the scene and Dan and Bill performing.

The panel concluded with a couple questions open to all. First up, their favorite/most memorable/film.

Dan -- Jungle book and he spoke about the importance of songs. Saying no one remembers the dialog but everyone leaves the theater with the songs stuck in their heads forever.

Bill -- Pinocchio and the Absent-Minded Professor

Swampy -- Mary Poppins

They were asked what’s the most important aspect of creating a television series. The panel agreed that it is character. You have to have well-defined and thought-out characters. Once you have that, you create the world for them to inhabit and the stories will flow from there.

30 years of Disney Television Animation

Eric Coleman took the stage to speak about some upcoming series. We were shown the opening credits and the first several minutes of two series that are slated to premiere in 2015 on Disney XD: "Star vs.The Forces of Evil" and "Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero". The premise for the first series is Star is a princess and not quite ready to fulfil her royal duties so her parents sent her to earth to grow into the role and protect her. Penn Zero is about a boy who is a regular child/student by day but after school teams up with his sidekick Sashi to battle an evil part-time villain and save the world.

Then we were given an advance look at an upcoming Mickey Mouse short titled "Clogged" featuring Minnie Mouse. To close out the evening Emily Hart (Vice President, Original Programming, Disney Junior) shared a first look at early animation for Disney Junior’s "The Lion Guard." This series is about Simba’s son Kion, who assembles a group to protect the Pride Lands.

Hope you enjoyed this report. Be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from Disney as well as on my site

November 11, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 11/07/14


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, November 7, 2014. Christmas officially kicks off at the Disneyland Resort next weekend, but this week most of the decorations are up and some of the entertainment starts.

The Mickey and Friends tram stop billboards feature Christmas now.

First stop today, Disneyland. The scaffolding is down and the new facade at the entrance to the new guest corridor behind Main Street is done. This is right next to the parade gate (across the street from the Mad Hatter).

Minnie in her winter outfit.

Main Street USA is partially decorated. No Christmas tree yet nor garland over the street due to the filming of the Christmas parade this weekend. Both should be installed next week. But the storefronts and lamp posts are decorated.

The recently refurbished facades with their garland.

The lockers have reopened.

Made my way to Tomorrowland to see about the Big Hero 6 Meet and Greet Preview. I arrived at the park late due to work. A cast member said tickets ran out about 90 minutes before I arrived. The meet and greet is usin gthe back half of the Starcade. They have it curtained off and you cannot get any pictures of the characters unless you go inside.

The Holiday popcorn bucket offerings this year include an Elf Mickey.

A Baymax Personal Beverage Companion Souvenir Sipper

A video clip of the parade stepping off (also some audio issues as the winter wonderland unit makes its way out).

The opening unit of a Christmas Fantasy Parade as it makes its first run of the season.

Mickey and Minnie are on the front of the Mail Room float. Donald and Daisy are on the back of the float and Mrs. Claus is nowhere to be seen.

Anna, Elsa and Olaf are on the Winter Wonderland Float just as they were for the pre-parade. Also note no snowflakes on the skaters.

Chip and Dale

Santa closing out the parade.

Small World Holiday returned today

A new bell structure replaced the old archway this year.

The sea serpent has surfaced in the Little Mermaid area this year.

Toontown is decorated. Here is Car Toon Spin.

The Five and Dime. Also notice the lights are back finally.

Olaf Lemonade Strawberry Frozen Bars for sale at several locations. This is Clarabelle's. Also note the Halloween mugs are available too.

This weekend is the Christmas parade taping. Notice the name change. Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration.

A wide shot of the area. Trees on both sides and a stage in the middle.

An ice crystal center stage.

A quick look into Frontierland. It has received its traditional garlands.

The Jungle Cruise is closed as they prepare for the holidays.

They have a special ceremony on Tuesday for Veterans day at 4:15pm

Over to Buena Vista Street.

A message from Olaf at Trolley Treats

The Buena Vista Street tree is up.

Award Wieners has Big Hero 6 food offerings.

The Muppets are closed as preparations for something new are underway inside (rumor is a Frozen sing along to open in late December).

The Red Car News Boys passing by after their show singing some Christmas music.

Mickey Mouse in Hollywood Land.

Stopped by Cars Land for the nightly lighting event. This evening they ran the regular show then turned the Christmas lights on after it.

As I was taking this picture someone bumped into me and I turned and it was John Lasseter and his entourage. He was giving Hayao Miyazaki a tour of Cars Land.

They posed for a picture in front of Flo's

Mater's tree.

The Bakery tour is walled off and closed, the Cafe is unaffected by this work.

Ghirardelli has gone to samples of the full size squares of peppermint bark for the holidays.

Out in Paradise Park World of Color Winter Dreams equipment is in place for next week's return.

New glow offerings are showing up. Here are is a bow.

Holiday Specials at Taste Pilot's

They have switched to the new shoe string fries, too. So guess it is resort wide. A nice upgrade.

The Buena Vista Street tree lit up this evening.

Making my way back to Disneyland.

Spotted Baymax making his way up Main Street (in balloon form). He is a light up balloon and costs $14.

Time for the 5:45 A Christmas Fantasy Parade.

A video clip from A Christmas Fantasy Parade.

Mickey on the Mail Room float.

The snow people making their way up the parade route.

The Frozen sisters and Olaf

New Orleans Square this evening

FastPass has returned for the Haunted Mansion Holiday. The sign was a bit off, it was actually a walk-on, no need for FastPass right now.

Christmas gingerbread next to a Halloween Time sign at the Hungry Bear.

Baymax floated into my picture of Small World Holiday.

A video clip of the quarter-hour clock sequence (no projections this evening).

A Mickey Nutcracker window at the Emporium

Over to Buena Vista Street. The Five and Dime windows

Season's Speedings from Cars Land.

Flik's Fun Fair, Tower of Terror, and a full moon.

Flik's Christmas decorations are up.

Santa Mater greeting guests

Radiator Springs Curious Christmas decorations

Santa Stanley

The Paradise Pier tree was not lit this evening

A look at the now complete work on the Pier

Toy Story Midway Mania Christmas decorations

Midway Mercantile

Paradise Garden is ready for Viva Navidad! It kicks off next week. The food offerings are available now though.

Viva Navidad! Salad offering

The Bayside Brews offerings.

Back to Disneyland to close out my evening.

Mickey, Minnie, and Donald were greeting guests in Town Square.

Found a spot near the Cinema/old Disney Ana Store. Main Street had a good crowd but it was not jammed.

White Christmas and snow fall close out the show.

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

November 7, 2014

Review: Big Hero 6



Fresh off their wildly popular "Frozen," Walt Disney Animation Studios presents their latest offering, "Big Hero 6."

*************** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ***************

"Big Hero 6" tells the exciting action story of young robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada who, with the help of the adorable robot Baymax, his friends GoGo Tamago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred, forms the superhero team Big Hero 6. Together, they use their powers to try to fight the mysterious villain Yokai and bring it to justice.


Wait...Maybe that wasn't the story.

OK, "Big Hero 6" is actually the inspiring story of a bunch of young brainiacs that come to realize that technical brilliance can be as good a source for superpowers as any radioactive spider bite, and that cohesive teamwork can create a force far stronger than each individual.


Actually, you know, that might not be it either.

Well, "Big Hero 6" is really a comedy about a sharp and cynical boy who forms a relationship with a naive and compassionate robot, and the funny friction that ends up taking off their rough edges and molding them into friends.



Loosely based on a 1998 comic mini-series (at the press conference, the directors stated "all we took was the name,") "Big Hero 6" is a complicated film with a dazzling array of engaging characters, gorgeous artwork, and multilayered storylines.

While the original source material was set in Japan, the film creators reset it in an amalgamation of San Francisco and Tokyo--the beautiful San Fransokyo. This serves a number of different functions: It differentiates it from the "real world" of the rest of the Marvel Universe, avoiding the inevitable question of why the Avengers don't swoop in and save everyone; and gives it a unique identity as one of the few animated features revolving around a Japanese-American protagonist. With so little Asian representation in entertainment in general, the movie might be significant for that alone.

[Disclaimer: Yes, I might be biased, because the Bot Fighter in the beginning of the picture has the first half of my last name printed on the back of his jacket.]


The voice acting, as we've come to expect from any WDAS production, is top-rate, with Ryan Potter doing an endearingly convincing Hiro. Although his character is often selfish and angry, Potter lets us see the pain and uncertainty behind his actions that keep us firmly on his side. Similarly, Daniel Henney does a lot with a short amount of time to show us how special an older brother Tadashi is to Hiro, and why his understanding and compassion are so important an influence on him. Alan Tudyk provides his usual deft performance as well, moving him one notch closer to John Ratzenberger status with WDAS.


But the heart of the movie is Baymax, and that Baymax is as successful as he is at touching both Hiro and the audience, is due in no small part to Scott Adsit. Taking the newbie robot from his first, child-like beginnings, to a position of parity among the fledgling super-hero team, to an almost parental role for Hiro, Adsit expertly treads a line between expressing the emotionless robot and the soul he must certainly develop through the course of the movie. The relationship between them drives the story, and as Potter said in one of his interviews, it is apparent that as Hiro rebuilds Baymax physically, Baymax rebuilds Hiro emotionally.


Although the trailers all emphasize the action and comedy inherent in the film (and there is an abundance of both,) the story turns much darker than you might expect. Characters experience loss and must grapple with overcoming all the resultant grief and anger you'd expect. I've seen some question whether it might, in fact, be too much for children--and while every parent certainly should make their own decisions, I would say that although Hiro lives in an imaginary world, and has fantastical technology at his disposal, all of the problems that matter to him, are problems that can exist in real life to anyone--child or adult. I don't think it's giving anything away to say that by the end of the film, Hiro survives and begins recovering from his issues...and I would think that would help encourage any kid facing similar ones to do the same.


Tragedies happen to everyone, often for no good reason at all. What "Big Hero 6" tells us, is that heartbreak doesn't define us. What we do afterwards, does.


"Big Hero 6," in fact, manages to be both everything and nothing you'd expect. It incorporates all the above storylines, and still, like the team Big Hero 6 itself, ends up being more than the sum of its parts.


“Big Hero 6” is presented by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Rated PG, it features the voice talents of Scott (Baymax) Adsit, Ryan (Hiro Hamada) Potter, Daniel (Tadashi Hamada) Henney, T.J. (Fred) Miller, Jamie (GoGo Tomago) Chung, Damon (Wasabi)
Wayans Jr., Genesis (Honey Lemon) Rodriguez, James (Professor Robert Callaghan) Cromwell, Alan (Alistair Krei) Tudyk, and Maya (Aunt Cass) Rudolph.

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, and produced by Roy Conli.

The film enters general release in 3D on November 7, 2014.

*At the screening I saw, the last moments after the credits were suspiciously blank. This is a movie, at least tangentially from the Marvel Universe, however, so I think any True Believer would probably be safe in expecting a post-credit sequence.

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