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September 17, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 9/12/14


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, September 12, 2014.

Along with your parking receipt on Friday you were given a button featuring Elsa from Once Upon a Time.

The first load/unload are at the Mickey & Friends tram stop in Downtown Disney was fenced off. A repaving project is wrapping up.

Downtown Disney banners. One side has Cars Land, the other side Halloween Time. Speaking of Halloween Time it started Friday. I posted a separate set of pictures from Friday with those pictures.

First stop Disneyland.

More scaffolding and wraps up on Main Street. So most of the East side of the block is under wraps.

The Castle Bros. sign has returned.

The Photo Supply Co exterior is being renovated. Both the exterior and the interior of this store (the others just the exterior).

A large tree has been removed from between Coke Corner and Jolly Holiday. It has been replaced with a smaller one. (on the right).

Some work going on as you walk toward the castle. Looks like the seating areas are being redone.

The bridge has been rebuilt since my last visit.

The Frozen queue was small, they have started a new ticketing system. Tickets with return times are distributed to minimize your wait. These are gone close to park opening and were long gone when I arrived.

The outdoor vending carts are gone while some work is going on near the old Skyway station in Fantasyland.

Big Thunder was quiet this afternoon, only a 10-minute wait posted.

Friday was Dapper Day so there were groups of Dapper guests everywhere. Here are some strolling through Frontierland.

The Mark Twain is in dry dock for several weeks of work.

They have the walkway blocked off as you approach Fowlers Harbour. Guessing this is a staging area for the Mark Twain work?

The cost to grab a bite to eat at Disneyland has gone up at most locations. For exmple, the Harbour Galley Menu, prices up between 40 cents to a dollar compared to May 30th.

The Royal Courtyard is blocked off. They have removed the merchandise location as well as the stairs. Here you can see the outline of where the stairs were.

A large tree was removed and replaced with a smaller one to the left of the Jungle Cruise entrance.

Umbrellas were in style with many of the Dapper Day guests.

Small World is undergoing some facade work.

Roger Rabbit has returned atop the fountain in Toontown.

Dumbo only had a 10-minute wait posted.

Most of the walls are down from around the Sub Lagoon and there were subs cycling when I walked by.

They reopen the 27th, only 2 more weeks.

Plaza Inn, interesting the fried chicken stayed the same but Pot Roast and Pasta both went up compared to the May 30th menu.

The Sherman Brothers have replaced Miley Cyrus on the Spirit of Celebration area at the exit to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

Over to Buena Vista Street. Plenty of Dapper Day guests here too. A large line by Oswalds. Speaking of Oswald he started appearing in the park on Sunday.

Dapper Day guests

Only a 13-minute wait for Tower of Terror

Cars Land was fairly quiet too. The Flying Tires and Junkyard Jamboree were walk-ons.

Only 45 min standby for the Racers

Stopped by Ghirardelli. Some Halloween candy for sale (they were still passing out caramel minis)

Pumpkin shaped bread at the Pacific Wharf Cafe.

Gluten free dessert options plus Halloween Time seasonal Bread Pudding (for more of the seasonal offerings check out my separate Halloween Time section).

Some work in the seating area of the Wharf

Paradise Park was full of guests, it was a Dapper meet of some sort.

The Duffy photo area in Paradise Pier has been removed.

Looks like the digital download test is complete at Screamin'.

Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta no longer serves flatbreads.

Instead just individual slices, like the Pizza Port

If you have the urge to buy a character tail they now sell them in several stores..

The Grand Californian exterior work is complete.

Some of the rafts coming down Grizzly River Run were really spinning on Friday, like the first one in this short clip, but others like the second not so much.

The Corn Dog Wagon prices are up too.

Elvis, Scot Bruce, performing at the Tomorrowland Terrace this evening.

The lights were on in the sub lagoon and a couple subs moving around.

Guardians of the Galaxy was lit up even though it was closed. No projections or audio on Ghost Galaxy when I was there.

The Ghost Galaxy sign.

The closed sign for the Magic Eye theater.

Fantasmic - No dragon this evening. Just Maleficent on her tower.

And with the Mark Twain in dry dock the characters were all the stage for the finale.

Made it to Main Street for Remember Dreams Come True which is running on weekends until the holidays.

The tram stop paving project. Guessing new concrete under the plastic

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.

September 15, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 9/12/14 - Halloween Time


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, September 12, 2014 featuring a first look at HalloweenTime.

Halloween Time kicked off at the Disneyland Resort today. In this picture set I feature the Halloween related pictures. There will be an additional update with other photos.

The Mickey and Friends Tram Stop features Halloween Time Billboards

Some Downtown Disney Banners feature Halloween (the reverse side Cars Land).

The entrance turnstile work is complete and the character pumpkins are out in their usual places.

Main Street is home to the pumpkin festival. The red, white and blue of summer is gone and orange, yellow and pumpkins now on the buildings. These are atop the Mad Hatter shop.

The large pumpkin Mickey in town square has returned

As I walked up Main Street took pictures of the pumpkins on the buildings.

A travel mug is available at several locations. This one in Coke Corner.

Approaching the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, it is decked out for Halloween as usual.

The Halloween Carnival takes place daily in the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree area. Here is the schedule.

The Pirates League is present again.

A favorite of mine...the pumpkin carvers.

Since it was the first day not a lot done yet...but a couple.

Elvis Stitch carved into this pumpkin.

Characters were roaming around as usual. Here Minnie is signing a picture for a guest.

Halloween Crafts have returned so you can color a mask to use in the parade.

The Games of Fun have returned. This year Cast a Spell ring toss and Wheel of Fortune.

Carnival Treats is between the games and tent.

The menu. The only Halloween themed item is the Candy Corn Cotton Candy.

Pirates League is available in the Jamboree area during Halloween Time. There were plenty of cast members waiting for guests. None stopped by while I was in the area.

There was a Disney film crew and photographer on hand. Guessing we will see a Parks Blog posting soon.

The Scare-Dy-Crow Shack

Frontierland is celebrating Dia De Los Muertos in Zocalo Park again.

The Ray Bradbury Halloween Tree is back in Frontierland.

There are several locations with special offerings for Halloween Time. Here is a Maleficent Dragon Sipper.

The Haunted Mansion Holiday reopened today. It had a posted 40 min wait, so just some exterior pictures as I walked by. No FastPass on Friday (and guessing none this year)

At the Royal St. Veranda. Their Halloween Time offerings.

Bengal BBQ Halloween Time Treat

Bengal BBQ Halloween Time Treat

Halloween popcorn buckets.

Back to the Halloween Carnival. Conjure a Villain is back again and had a long line just like the previous years. This year a fortune teller/mind reader was out to entertain those waiting.

Donald dressed up as a pumpkin.

Show time. A jester takes the stage to introduce the mask-arade

Time for the mask-arade.

Here is a video of Mickey's Mask-arade

Next up a Magician takes the stage to perform. Here is a clip of his rope trick routine

A clip of a levitation illusion.

A clip of his finale trick.

A random ghost on the bumped right into me.

Then went on to scare/chase this cast member.

Goofy in his Halloween Costume.

Mickey was helping some guests color.

Thought this was funny. A guest was taking a picture of Mickey and Minnie photo-bombed in the background.

Time for the Mask-arade again.

Noticed this sign near the entrance. It was re-used from last year. Still lists the Haunted Hillbillies.

Paid a visit to the Haunted Mansion Holiday that opened today.

Here is a video I took last year (this trip through I just did stills). It was the same this year.

A quick look at the gingerbread house.. it opens to reveal a gingerbread man inside.

Entering the graveyard.

Tomorrowland Terrace Halloween Time special.. a Monster U Style burger

Next stop Buena Vista Street. Some Halloween inspired treats at Trolley Treats.

Popcorn bucket offerings on Buena Vista Street.

Out at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta a Halloween Time offering.

Note it is now a slice of pizza. The flatbreads are gone.

The Mad T Party is decked out for Halloween again.

Pizza Port has a Halloween Time offering.

The Monster Mac and Cheese Pizza.

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.

September 8, 2014

Big Hero Six Part 2

I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Walt Disney Animation Studio to learn about Big Hero 6. I have previously posted Part I featuring a look at “Feast” the new short that will be accompanying Big Hero 6, as well as Part II, which featured a primer on Big Hero 6. In this third installment I want to share some of the interesting factoids/notes I took away from the experience.

I spent the day in the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, the Sorcerer hat building located on the Disney lot in Burbank, CA. This is the home of the Disney Animation Studios. Pictured above is the main lobby. Big Hero 6 has taken over the walls as you enter the building and around the first floor lobby. Below are two more pictures from the first floor.

The morning started off in the theater on the first floor.

After the Feast presentation I covered in a previous posting, the producer Roy Conli and directors Don Hall and Chris Williams (pictured below) introduced us to the film and characters. We were shown several clips and scenes in various stages of completion to illustrate what they were presenting. In total we saw maybe 20 minutes, they were careful not to reveal too much of the plot or key aspects. It was almost an extended teaser. Much of what was discussed was covered in my overview blog posting already.

The bulk of the day consisted of five sessions looking at different aspects of putting the film together -- think DVD/Blu-ray bonus material but live, interactive and extended. The sessions took place in screening and story rooms on the second floor and third floors of the building.

Session 1: Capturing a Character - The Animation of Big Hero 6

Description: Head of Animation Zach Parrish (“Wreck-It Ralph”) and members of his team, including legendary Disney animator Mark Henn (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Frozen”) highlight the enormous scope of the film’s animation, from creating the biggest action sequences in Disney Animation history to richly nuanced character performances in CG.

My Notes:

  • The film utilized 85 animators

  • 5 animation supervisors

  • Their new software allowed for crowd/background characters to be much more dynamic, more variation, and produced more efficiently. There were 701 unique characters created, 1,324 animation cycles, 632,124 retargeted cycles

  • 7 action sequences more than any other Disney animated feature film

  • Baymax walk modeled on a baby penguin

  • The style of animation for Baymax was called unimating because the goal was to simplify his movements

  • Basic steps involved in animation are layout, animation pre-viz, live test, blocking pass, animate -- gather notes and repeat as necessary for each step

  • They demonstrated a way that they collect notes on the film. In real time someone can draw over the frames/scenes being screened and these notes are saved and able to be recalled later.

Session 2: Visual Effects

Description: On “Big Hero 6,” the visual effects artists were challenged to take this high-octane, action-packed adventure to the next level, all while creating new techniques along the way. From Wasabi’s fighting blades to Fred’s fire breathing suit, Head of Effects Michael Kaschalk and Effects Production Supervisor Nathan Curtis present the complex and varied challenges to bringing action to life.

My Notes:

  • A large portion of this presentation was devoted to one of the key effects of the film, Microbots. These tiny reconfigurable robots are Hiro's invention and play a major role. To create them and get them to move and create objects was a monumental task. In several scenes there are 20 million microbots in the shot.

  • Big Hero 6 used a new rendered developed for the Disney Animation Studios called Hyperion

  • As the films become more complex the need for Visual Effects continues to grow. The team at Disney Animation Studios has grown too. For comparison:

    • 13 Tangled

    • 31 Wreck-It Ralph

    • 35 Frozen

    • 40 Big Hero 6

  • Part of the job of the visual effects team is to explore the science of the effects they are trying to create to understand how it is really happening so they can better model/recreate it for the films. To do this they took research trips to research labs at Universities including CMU, MIT and Harvard

  • The Visual Effects team collaborates with the other teams working on the film and they even embed a member with the animation team to help ensure a constant flow of information between the two.

Session 3: Meet the Directors and Producer

Description: Directors Chris Williams (“Bolt”) & Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) and producer Roy Conli (“Tangled”, “Treasure Planet”) answer your questions about “Big Hero 6”!

  • Collaboration is the word of the day. With two directors managing a large team it was essential to creating the final product.

  • One of the interesting things they learned on their research trip to Tokyo was how it keeps reinventing itself. The city

  • keeps tearing down and rebuilding as needed. A building older than 30 years seemed really old.
  • The film was set in the near future so it would be familiar but still able to push the boundaries.

Session 4: Production Design (Jin Kim, Lorelay Bove, Shiyoon Kim, Kyle Odermatt)

Description: Join Production Designer Paul Felix and members of the visual development team as they walk through the artistic design choices and research that went into the creation of San Fransokyo and the unique character designs of “Big Hero 6.

  • Lorelay Bove (Visual Development Artist) spoke about the first explorations they did for the film, including a set of Travel posters for San Fransokyo 3 years ago

  • Baymax is an inflatable robot, inspired by some they saw on a research trip to CMU top learn about soft robotics

  • Shiyoon Kim talked about how a lot of Hiro is based on his childhood and people he knew

  • Costume Color overview

  • The walked us through a sample of how a research photo can inspire a building in the film. In this case Aunt Cass's Cafe. In the series of images below you will see a photograph of a building in San Francisco, a first exploration of what it could look like in the film, then a frame from the film.


Session 5: Script & Story

Description: “Big Hero 6” Screenwriter Robert Baird and Head of Story Paul Briggs show how script and storyboards work together to bring a Disney animated feature film to the screen.

  • The take-away from this presentation is how long and difficult the process is to nail down the story and create the script for a film. The process begins by creating storyboard for the various sequences of the film and stringing them together. These boards can be very elaborate. Big Hero 6 had approximating 30 sequences and each took approx. 1,000 drawings to convey.

  • As the boards and story take shape there are screenings along the way to check on the progress, gather feedback, etc.. typically there are about 8 major screenings over the several years of development.

  • The first screening occurs approximately a year into development and is usually a complete disaster. Things that you think are working well fall flat, the audience is lost, etc.. almost everything thrown out and reworked.

  • With each screening the story starts to solidify and progress. In general it really does not start to come together until the 4th screening

Note: All images on this posting are provided by Disney

September 7, 2014

Big Hero Six Part 1


Big Hero 6 Introduction
I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Walt Disney Animation Studio to learn about "Big Hero 6". This post is part two of three. The first post looked at the short, “Feast”, that will accompany the film. In this piece I wanted to share an introduction/primer to the Who, What, Where, and When of "Big Hero 6". In the third and final part I will share some factoids and interesting pieces of information I learned while at the preview day about what it took to bring Big Hero 6 to the screen.

“Big Hero 6” is Walt Disney Animation Studios 54th feature film, to be released November 7, 2014. It is directed by Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) and Chris Williams (“Bolt”) and produced by Roy Conli (“Tangled”).

Big Hero 6 is inspired by a Marvel comic with the same name, about a robotics genius named Hiro Hamada, who learns how to harness his skills. Through a series of events, Hiro, Baymax his robot, and four of their friends, find themselves in the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in San Fransokyo. Hiro transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes to solve the mystery.

Here is the official trailer that was released on July 15, 2014


Big Hero 6 takes place in San Fransokyo in the not-too-distant future. As the name suggests, San Fransokyo is a combination of San Francisco and Tokyo. Here is some first-look footage Disney released back in May 2013

To illustrate the blending of the two cities here is a piece of concept art showing a bridge in San Fransokyo

Big Hero 6

Who (Meet the Cast):

Hiro Hamada

Ryan Potter

14-year-old robotics prodigy, inspired to gain admission to the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology by his older brother Tadashi

Big Hero 6 - Hiro Hamada


Scott Adsit

Notes: An inflatable robot designed to be a personal healthcare companion conceived and built by Tadashi. His goal/purpose is to help people.

Big Hero 6 - Baymax


Voice: T.J. Miller

Notes: A laid-back sign-twirling, monster-loving, comic-book fanboy

Big Hero 6 - Fred

Go Go Tomago

Voice: Jamie Chung

An adrenaline junkie who is tough, athletic, very loyal, and not much of a conversationalist. Her character was inspired by bicycle messengers.

Honey Lemon

Voice: Genesis Rodriguez

Notes: An optimistic chemistry whiz with a unique fashion sense and can-do attitutde.

Big Hero 6 - Honey Lemon


Voice: Damon Wayans , Jr.

Notes: Is committed to precision, super smart, and has martial arts skills.

Big Hero 6 - Wasabi

Other Characters

Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) - Hiro and Tadashi's aunt and guardian. She owns a bakery and coffee shop in San Fransokyo.

Tadashi Hamada (Daniel Henney) - Hiro’s older brother and guide. He created Baymax and looks out for his younger brother.

Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) - Heads up the robotics program at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk) - An illustrious alum of San Fransokyo Institute of Technology who is the owner of the biggest technology company in the world.


"Big Hero 6" opening in theaters on November 7, 2014. Check back soon for Part III of my day at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, which will feature some information I learned on the making of the film. If you missed part I, a look at the short, "Feast", that will preced the film, you may want to check that out. I will not be reviewing the film in any of the three parts because this was an early preview. We saw less than 30 minutes of footage and it was incomplete, out of sequence, and only enough to give a flavor for the film and for the rest of the day.

September 5, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 8/29/14


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, August 29, 2014.

This weekend was the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend.

AllEars.Net's Laura Gilbreath participated in the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend races and has postings on them HERE. I walked through the runDisney Expo and the Disneyland Hotel to start my day, but will skip those pictures since Laura has them covered. Here is one quick picture of the finish line for the 5K as I made my way to the Disneyland Hotel. The races had a Hawaiian/Lilo & Stitch/Aulani theme this year.

After roaming around the Expo I walked through Downtown Disney and made my way to Disneyland. Still working on the entrance to Disneyland.

No visible change on Main Street.

Inside the Disney Showcase has received the rest of its Halloween decorations and merchandise.

The music store exit and window are blocked off while the exterior work is underway. So it is a dead end if you try to pass through the stores.

The guest relations podium in Tomorrowland. Each one now fits in better with the area it is in.

Ghost Galaxy equipment is installed.

The sub lagoon has been refilled. The attraction is scheduled to reopen September 27.

The subs themselves appear untouched..

I walked through Toontown. Mickey fountain and his house

The new guest relations podium in Fantasyland.

The music of Nashville concluded its run last Saturday. The Jamboree is closed this week. It will reopen for the Halloween Carnival in a few weeks.

The Legends of Frontierland has been extended into the fall. Disney did not release a date though.

Today was the last day for the Adventure Trading Company. To celebrate they were hosting various events throughout the day.

Aladdin's Oasis had stories from guests strung throughout.

This group was participating in a decodathon.

This was a story telling circle

The queue ropes for Indy look bright and new.

Haunted Mansion 45th anniversary shirts are still available.

The Haunted Mansion is closed until September 12th as they install the holiday overlay.

I walked through the Emporium on my way out of the park. Spotted this pack of 12 posters attraction poster printers for $19.95.

As I was walking up Buena Vista Street Goofy strolled by.

The scaffolding was being removed around the Grand Californian.

It was all stacked near the walkway.

Waiting to cross the parade route as the opening of the Pixar Play Parade passed by.

They were testing the World of Color fountains in preparation for tonight's show.

The ongoing renovation work.

Screamin' has a new on ride photo option. You can now purchase a digital photo for 99 cents by text.

Stopped by Radiator Springs Curios, a look at some of the merchandise.

Returned to Disneyland. Here is the Droid of the Day in the Star Trader.

A Hard Day's Night a Tribute to the Beatles at the Tomorrowland Terrace this evening.

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Daisy meeting guests in Town Square

Dapper Dan inspired pumpkins

A Hard Day's Night second set.

Returned to Main Street to wait for Magical. Spotted only a couple pairs of Glow with the Show Ears, one right in front of me.

No signs of Tinkerbell or Dumbo this evening.

Thought this was a fun shot -- too bad the head on the left drifted into my frame.

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.

September 3, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 5]


So the largest amount of representation Disney brought to SDCC this year was, unsurprisingly, their Marvel properties.


Marvel's "Agents of SHIELD" had a panel in Ballroom 20, which is probably the second-hardest room to get into at SDCC. To go through the line for Ballroom 20, you habitually have to go outside, walk a good part of the length of the convention center, go back in, walk BACK the same length of the convention center, and then, after some double-backs, maybe get to cross the aisle and enter the room. Needless to say, I didn't make it.

I did, however, manage to catch a few glimpses of the cast, as they made their appearances over at their booth on the Exhibit Hall floor.




Of course, their big gun was Marvel Studios, which has been dominating the box office for the last few years.


Their booth, filled with rotating movie props, special limited-edition merchandise, and occasional franchise stars, could always be counted on to block floor traffic all day long.



They too held a panel, however theirs was in the infamous Hall H, which has the distinction of being THE hardest to enter. Part of the puzzle is the fact that the rooms aren't cleared after each session--once in, the con-goer can effectively squat in there for the duration of the programming day. Because of this, it develops that someone who wants to see, say, the Marvel panel at the end of the day, needs to get in that room at the beginning, because there's effectively no seat turnover during popular days. To get into the Marvel panel, which was towards the end of Saturday, some people had been in line since around 2-4pm the previous day.


So it didn't happen for me. Luckily, there are many YouTube recordings of all the panels up by now, including these snippets:

In addition to the panels and appearances, there was an endless stream of merchandise available to commemorate all the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.






Like any convention, SDCC brought out an immense number of cosplayers, who drew from every influence under the sun. This year, however, I almost think I saw as many Elsas as metal-bikini-Leias, which is saying something.







So, although I did attend more non-Disney talks, these last blog entries make up the bulk of the Disney content from this year's 2014.

The "pro:" A ton of offerings, touching on virtually every piece of existing pop culture; .chances to see and get autographs from any number of celebrities; more merchandise than you could even examine during the course of 4.5 days.


The "con:" So crowded. Every year seems more crowded than the next. This year, I was determined to try to at least walk by every booth on the Exhibit Hall floor, but huge pockets of people would block the aisles and make certain intersections almost completely impassable, so I wound up traversing a lot of the same pathways repeatedly to get around them. Everything is so much in demand, to see one star-filled panel or buy one limited edition piece of merchandise, you might have to give up seeing anything else for half of the day before, and sleep out on the sidewalk with the roaches and the hobos.


For next time: There is also an enormous amount of stuff outside of the convention center--this year saw a huge Simpsons area; a parkour course; a chance to zipline over Gotham; an entire area of Petco Park given over to an "Experience Zone" with interactive exhibits from a number of different properties, such as Comedy Central and Sleepy Hollow; and several different locations where different organizations centralized to offer celebrity talks, game demos, and more. Just trying to navigate around inside the convention center was so difficult, I didn't have much time to explore around outside until Sunday, when a lot of it was already starting to be broken down.


And with that, another SDCC goes in the books. Until next year, San Diego!


September 2, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2


Another Disneyland Half Marathon successfully completed! That makes seven for us. We had a good race, and felt strong despite running a 10K the day before.

Even though at Disneyland we have the advantage of proximity to the starting line, we still had to get up pretty for a race that starts at 5:30! Lee was happy that the Hearthstone Lounge in the hotel opened at 4:00 so he could get his morning coffee. (All of the coffee-type places in the Disney hotels opened early today as did many locations in Downtown Disney.)

We again met some of our fellow runners in the lobby and walked over to the pre-race area together. Even though there were 18,000 registered this morning (as opposed to 10,000 for the 10K) the walkways still weren't congested, and even the porta-potty lines weren't very long.

We headed to our corrals a little after 5:00. And even that wasn't bad, as compared to previous years when there's been a couple of choke points where we've moved by inches and not feet with each step. I have to say that Disneyland for the most part has continued to improve the running experience each year.

The first 6 corrals were much smaller in size this year - I have typically been in C or D in the past, and this year I was in F, though I was about as far back as I was when I was in D last year. Lee and Michael were in earlier corrals but they came back to F to run with me - wasn't that nice of them? :-) As it turned out they sent the first 6 corrals off in pairs, so A and B went together, C and D, E and F. After that the corrals were a lot bigger and went off one by one. This photo is looking back - there's a LOT more people behind us than in front of us!

The national anthem was beautifully performed by a Disney cast member - he really did a great job. We got some fireworks during the anthem, as well as some when the race started. Corrals E and F started 15 minutes after the official start, and we crossed the start line about 16-and-a-half minutes off the start.

The weather was warmer than the day before - 70 degrees at the start as opposed to 66, and humidity was 76%. So it was warm. Fortunately we had cloud cover for most of the race, and that helped a lot.

The course was the same as the last few years - around the outside of DCA on the city streets before going backstage at DCA and coming into the park itself at Paradise Pier. Some of the Green Army Men were there near Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and Sarge was encouraging the runners. The World of Color fountains were going and we stopped for a quick photo.

We ran through Cars Land and down Route 66 in the opposite direction than we'd done in the 10K, and looped around through Hollywood and past Soarin' Over California.

We ran across the Esplanade, where there were lots of people out to cheer us on despite the early hour, and into Disneyland and down Main Street. The Three Caballeros were out near the hub but the line was long and we didn't stop.

We went through Frontierland where there were more Green Army Men near the Mark Twain's dock - seemed like an odd place for them to be, but the line was short so we stopped.

The race route went around Big Thunder Mountain and the mile 3 sign, then into Fantasyland. Cinderella's stepsisters were on the Carrousel, and the Prince was sitting on one of the bench seats with the Wicked Stepmother - that seemed like quite an odd couple, and I'm sorry I didn't get a photo.

We ran through the castle and into Tomorrowland. There were no characters at the castle, which was unusual. But Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers were in Tomorrowland. Huge line - the longest one we saw - so we didn't stop. We went past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn. Along small world way, instead of princesses, they had villains! There were three stations, but only two had villains when we went through. Jafar and the Evil Queen had a long line, but Cruella and Dr. Facilier had a relatively short line. Cruella was great - she was telling everyone where to stand and how to pose. (We heard that Maleficent was at the other photo stop.)

From there we ran into Toontown and went backstage and past the stables before exiting onto Disneyland Drive and turning north. Not long after that was the mile 4 sign. This is my main complaint about the Disneyland Half Marathon - the park part is done much too early in the race. :-(

We turned right onto Ball Road and began our tour of the Anaheim Industrial Park. The community of Anaheim does a great job of coming out and supporting the runners during this part of the race - there are lots of bands and cheerleaders. Two groups that I look forward to seeing each year are the mariachi band and dancers and the Hawaiian dancers. Both groups have performers of all ages in beautiful costumes.

The classic cars were back along the route from ~mile 6.5-8. They have been such a wonderful addition to the race these last three years! The cars are beautiful and the owners are so (deservedly) proud of them. And they support the runners, too - cheer us on, ring cowbells, blow horns, etc.

Past mile 8 as we neared the Honda Center Lee noticed a large unusual-looking structure in the distance ahead of us. It was still some distance away when we made the turn into the Honda Center parking lot, but Lee saw an Anaheim policeman standing there and asked him about it. It's the new Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), which is still under construction. A variety of train, bus, and taxi services will be available there. Looks cool!

After going through the Honda Center parking lot we reached the Santa Ana River Trail, which runs along the Santa Ana river channel. This has always been one of my favorite parts because we get to run on dirt for a while. I know some people don't like that, and it's also a little narrow. But it appears to have been widened, and most of it has been recently paved.

The race route exits the trail at Angel Stadium, a bit past mile 9.

The Clif Shot station was there, and there was lots of music and people cheering us all the way to the stadium itself. And then we went down the tunnel into the stadium and onto the field! We ran on the dirt all the way down the right field line and around home plate, and down the left field line before taking the tunnel out of the stadium. Lots of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts come out to cheer us - they make a lot of noise!

Not too far outside the stadium is the mile 10 sign. From there until we get back to Disneyland there are lots of bands and cheerleaders along the route. They are so enthusiastic and full of energy, and that helps us when we are starting to get tired.

At mile 12 we went backstage at DCA again - we actually ran part of the same course we ran at the beginning of the race. And we ran around Paradise Pier again - except that instead of the Paradise Pier inside DCA we crossed Disneyland Drive and ran around the Paradise Pier hotel. :-)

Again, lots of cheerleaders and other people to encourage us as we ran that last quarter mile or so around the hotel and past Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel to the finish line!

My time was 2:31:05. I'd hoped to break 2:30, but I guess we goofed off a little too much along the way. :-) Even though we didn't stop for that many character photos, we made some other stops so that Lee and Michael could show off their dance moves...

Volunteers gave us our beautiful, slightly re-designed Disneyland Half Marathon medals, and also a wonderful cool towel. Ahhhhhh.

Michael went to exchange his Coast-to-Coast wristband for his medal, and then we all went to get our Dumbo Double Dare medals. It's not a Disney race without that lovely "clank, clank" sound as you walk around afterward. :-) (No Coast-to-Coast for us because we got it back in January after doing the Dopey Challenge and the Tinker Bell 10K and 1/2 marathon on consecutive weekends.)

For refreshments there were bottles of water and PowerAde, and then those Disney MRE boxes. (That was Michael's term for them. I like it.) There were also bananas.

Not much in the boxes: a packet of rice crackers, soft cheese, a mini Clif bar, packet of blueberry rice cake things, and a piece of Almond Roca. I still think Disney can do WAY better than that after a race. How about some chocolate milk? Oranges? Pretzels? Nuts?

Something our friend Dave pointed out to us later that day was that there was no concession stand in the finish area. He spent a fair bit of time at the finish line waiting for all of us, and he was hoping for a cup of coffee, but there was nothing to be had. Yes, Downtown Disney isn't too far away, but it's not convenient to the finish area at all. Anyone waiting for a runner in the Family Reunion area had no easy access to food or beverages.

We were in the finish area when they did the awards ceremony on-stage - I'd never seen that before! The winner, Nick Arciniaga, finished in 1:07:48. The guy in second place finished in 1:13:06 - BIG gap there.

It was still partly overcast when we finished but the sun really came out while we stood watching the awards, so I know it got very warm for those still on the course. 72 degrees doesn't sound bad, but 72 with full sun beating down on you feels HOT.

After the awards we went back to the hotel. Fortunately we didn't have to try to get across the race course like we did for the 10K, so it was a lot easier and faster!

The race went well and I felt good despite running 6.2 miles the day before. Guess that whole training thing really works. :-) But seriously, I did train for this one, and all those miles I put in this summer in even warmer conditions that we had on our race days helped a lot. Still, you never exactly know how you're going to feel on race day - you can do everything right, yet for some reason you just don't have it on race day.

We were very happy to see that there were a lot more characters on the course than during the 10K. Both races had about the same number of miles in the park, but I guess the characters had Saturday morning off. So maybe that made us appreciate them a lot more on Sunday. Still, it wasn't really fair to those who only ran the 10K.

A huge thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who worked all weekend at the Expo and the races. They put in a lot of long hours. We had friends of friends who volunteered this year, so we heard a little more about the types of days the volunteers have. I know I complain about getting up early, but the volunteers are up even earlier, since their shift will start at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning! In addition to working their area they have to set it up first. Did you know that all of the medals come in their own individual bags, and then on race morning they have to be un-bagged and checked and then hung on the racks you see at the finish line? It's a lot of work!

And also a heartfelt thank you to all of the community groups, bands, cheer teams, dance teams, classic car enthusiasts and members of the community who come out to support all of us who run. We so appreciate your enthusiasm and your energy, and the wonderful signs, and the high-fives, and calling out our names. And also being there with water, oranges, pretzels, licorice and even Vaseline. And then there's the very brave among you who offer free hugs no matter how sweaty the runner.

This is a wonderful event. Is it perfect? No, but considering the logistics of dealing with something like 35,000 participants over the course of three days, it's pretty well done. Yes, it's expensive. Is it worth it? There are many answers to that question, since there are so many intangibles that go along with any race, but especially a Disney race. But that's probably a topic for a whole other blog.

We had a great time, and will definitely be running the Disneyland Half Marathon again. We certainly plan to participate next year, which will be the tenth half marathon, as well as Disneyland's 60th birthday, so we hope for something even more special.

Did you participate in any of the events during the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend? What are your thoughts?

August 29, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Part 1


We're here for the 9th annual Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend!

Our first stop was the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up our bibs and shirts - and do a little shopping, too. :-)

The bib pick-up is still down in the parking garage below the convention center but they switched the ramps used for entry and exit, which I think has helped the congestion and confusion of getting into the Expo itself, since they also changed that entrance to be a side door into the main convention center.

As usual the bib pickup process was very efficient - very few people down there, and plenty of volunteers. Just a short wait and we had our bibs and the sticker with our race number on it, which we would use if we were checking a bag. Those getting coast-to-coast medals were also getting their wristbands there, but we already got our medals this year.

One thing Lee noticed - they often have mile signs from previous years or other props set up for photo ops down there, but there wasn't anything this year. :-(

We went upstairs to the Expo. Because they have changed the entry point, they had to move the t-shirt pickup area 90 degrees. I thought this gave them a smaller area for exhibitors, and it seemed to me as though there were fewer exhibitors this year. St. Joseph Hospital, who in the past has been the main "health" sponsor, and has a very large booth, seemed to be missing. (Celebration Hospital in Florida seems to be the sponsor, at least on the shirts, but no Expo presence. A Florida hospital for a California race? Seems odd to me.)

Anyway...the Expo floor was not crowded - this was about 3:00 in the afternoon. We went and picked up our shirts. The race theme for the 10K is Lilo and Stitch, and the shirt is really cute. The Dumbo shirt is very cute, also. And I like the design on the half marathon shirts though I don't care for the color. (Though it's way better than last year's orange shirt!) And hurray for the women's cut shirts! They actually fit!

Our next stop was the Official Merchandise store. Last year they ran very short on merchandise, especially Dumbo Double Dare, and by the time we arrived there was only one Dumbo item left (a lime green hoodie - ugh), and a limited selection of other items.

This year, even though the Expo started the day before, there was still plenty of Dumbo and other items to be purchased.

As far as I could tell nothing was sold out - or at least items that I was interested in were still available. So this year I got my Dumbo magnet and my mini-medals.

The thing that WAS missing from the store was 10K merchandise. No shirts, magnets, mini-medals, etc. Last year there was at least one shirt, but nothing this year. And it wasn't that it was already gone - friends who went at opening on the first day also said there wasn't any 10K merchandise. I don't get it.

Around the perimeter of the merchandise area they had some cool artwork for other upcoming runDisney races.

After we shopped we wandered around the Expo floor and visited some of the vendors. As i said, there seemed to be a lot fewer exhibitors this year.

Our friend Kim (who we know from Team AllEars) was the first person we ran into that we knew. They had a really cute 10K photo op set up outside the Exhibit Hall, and the line was short so we all posed for a photo.

We went and checked into the Grand Californian and got unpacked. We are in a nice studio - it's on the first floor, which isn't my favorite, but we're at the end of the hall with a stairwell on one side and a one-bedroom unit on the other, and it's actually very quiet and out-of-the-way! And the great thing about the first floor is not needing to use the elevator.

Later we went over to Trader Sam's to meet some other Team AllEars friends - and also ran into a couple of friends from the rec.arts.disney.parks news group! Trader Sam's was very busy - we lucked out and were able to get a table outside for the five of us. But there was a line of people waiting to go inside - even if all you wanted was to go to the bar and order a drink so you could sit by the fireplace you had to wait in line! The servers working the outside tables were very busy, and we had to wait a while for someone to take our food and beverage orders. (I'll have a separate blog on food.) Lee ordered the Piranha Pool - it was pretty good, and very colorful, though thinking too much about what the red color in the drink represents is probably not very appetizing. Forget I mentioned it.

We met up with some other friends later in the Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand, but we tried to make it a relatively early night since we had a race the next day!

And that brings us to 10K morning!

We'd agreed to meet friends in the lobby at 4:40, so we scheduled a wake-up call (and set an alarm) for 4:00. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Disneyland races, where we can walk from the hotels to the starting line, so there's no need for buses, and no need to get up insanely early? I have? Sorry...but it's one of the things I REALLY love about Disneyland races as opposed to WDW. We were walking from the hotel to the pre-race area at the same time we would've been walking from the pre-race area to the corrals in Florida.

Since the 10K had a Hawaiian Stitch theme, Lee and I (and a lot of others) dressed Hawaiian. Lee and our friend Michael both wore Disney Hawaiian shirts and board shorts. (The shirts were very hot, but they both said the shorts were comfortable.)

I did my take on Cinderella goes to Hawaii. I was wearing a short grass skirt, though it's hard to see. I thought the rustling might get a little annoying but it was fine.

We had no problems getting to the pre-race area - very appropriate that it was in the Lilo parking lot!

Most people had already headed to the corrals, but there was still a DJ out on stage.

The weather at the start was slightly better than last year - 66 as opposed to 73 - but still 80-90% humidity, so it felt warmer. By California standards we've had a very humid summer.

The race went off right on schedule at 5:30. Lee and I were running with Michael and Stan, and we were towards the back of Corral B. We crossed the start line about 8 minutes after the race started. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone around us was going about the same pace that we were - we didn't have really slow people to go around, nor did we have really fast people blitzing by us.

The first two miles of the race are outside the parks - the race goes south on Disneyland Drive to the Anaheim Convention Center, then through the Convention Center grounds and back onto Harbor, then north until we take a left and go backstage at Disney California Adventure near the Tower of Terror, just before mile 2. After that it's all on Disney property.

We ran through Radiator Springs down Route 66 - the neon lights were on and the mountain range was nicely lit.

Then we took a lap around Paradise Bay and ran by Grizzly River Run and Soarin' (and the mile 3 sign), then down Hollywood Blvd, and backstage next to the Tower of Terror.

One disappointing thing - other than Mater in Cars Land, there were no characters out on the course in DCA! They had an Elvis near Little Mermaid, but that was it. :-(

We stayed backstage until we entered Disneyland's Town Square.

Then we ran down Main Street (no characters) and into Tomorrowland (also no characters, but the mile 4 sign was next to Innoventions).

Chip and Dale were near "it's a small world", but the line was pretty long, so we kept going. We looped around the backstage areas before re-entering the park at ToonTown, and ran back towards Fantasyland. This part of the course was somewhat narrow, but it wasn't unpleasantly congested for us - I'm not sure about those who were later in the race, though.

The mile 5 sign was near the Carrousel. I was surprised that there were no characters in Fantasyland, either.

We ran into Frontierland and right by the Mark Twain was Stitch! Dressed as Elvis! I expected the line to be huge but it wasn't - maybe 15 people in front of us, and the line moved quickly.

Next to Splash Mountain we went backstage again, and around the perimeter of Disneyland and into Downtown Disney. About .4 miles left at that point, with lots of people to cheer us on to the finish! We passed the mile 6 sign near Tortilla Jo's.

When we made the right turn at the Disneyland Hotel the finish line was in sight about 100 yards away. The guys gave me a bad time about how I took off at a full sprint with no warning - but they don't seem to have had any problem keeping up with me, and in fact both Michael and Lee finished ahead of me. (Thanks to our friend Eddie for taking this finish line photo of us - he finished about 20 minutes ahead of us.)

My official time was 1:09:41. Not bad, since we stopped for some photos. It was a really good race for me - I felt good the whole time and didn't get too overheated despite the humidity, though it made a big difference that we never had sun on us. I'm hoping for some additional cloud cover tomorrow.

We all got our Dumbo Double Dare wristbands which we will exchange for our medals when we finish the half marathon. And of course we have our "Tiki Stitch" medals. I really like this one - great design! For some reason it's lighter in weight than most of my other Disney medals. That's not necessarily a bad thing. :-)

After finishing we got the usual silly runDisney food boxes. Sigh. We waited in the finish area until most of our other friends had finished - a couple of them were walking (but FAST), and started in later corrals. Everyone did great!

Then we tried to walk back to the hotel...ugh. We had to cross the race course in Downtown Disney. They had crosswalk areas set up but it still took a long time to cross the first one - and then there was a second one further down! The end of the race actually went by us before we got across that one. It took us 30 minutes to get back to our room! Very frustrating.

Some thoughts on the 10K...I still really like this course, and all the park time we get. And I LOVE the 10K distance. It's very nice to be done in a little over an hour! And it's especially nice for me to not have to wear a hydration belt like I do in longer races.

I also love the fact that they changed the theme for the 10K this year - Alice in Wonderland was a fun theme last year, but it was great to have something different, and I hope they will continue that in the future.

This year I was very disappointed in the lack of characters along the course, especially compared to last year, and to what we experienced in the Tinker Bell 10K in January. (Haunted Mansion Ghosts. Best. Photo. Stop. Ever.) In all fairness I suppose I should mention that there were a number of Elvis characters along the course, in places where in the past there have been Disney characters, and I didn't stop for photos with them. But they weren't Disney characters.

The water stops were MUCH better spaced this year. It helped that it wasn't as hot as last year, but I was still ready for some water at all three stops.

There were 20% more entrants in the race this year, and I was a little worried that it might seem more crowded than last year, but it was fine. But I started in Corral B - those in later corrals might not have had the same experience. According to runDisney there were 10,000 entered in the 10K, and 9603 finishers - that's a very high percentage, since I know there weren't 10,000 who actually started.

It was a fun morning, and I really enjoyed the race and running with Lee, Michael, and Stan.

Half Marathon tomorrow!

August 27, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 4]

Continuing with the various goings-on at SDCC, Phineas and Ferb had a panel on their upcoming season, including the creators, Swampy Marsh and Dan Povenmire, and voice actors Vincent Martella, Alyson Stoner, Olivia Olson, and Dee Bradley Baker.


They spoke briefly on the show's casting and development, and then went on to discuss their recently completed Star Wars crossover episode.


Upcoming episodes they mentioned included one written by Damon Lindelof of "Lost" fame; a zombie episode "Night of the Living Pharmacists;" "Tales from the Resistance," a return to the 2nd dimension; and a teen-aged version set ten years in the future, for which they ended up hiring a fan artist based on her deviantART to work on the character design:

"Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero," a genial-appearing series slated for Disney XD in 2015 was also previewed during the panel, in the form of a "first look" clip now online at USA Today:

ABC TV had a number of panels on their popular genre shows--so popular that I wasn't able to get in any of them. Fortunately, like most SDCC panels, they are searchable on YouTube, and trailers for the upcoming seasons were shown at the Exhibit Hall, in their ABC Castle booth.



In this booth, if you were patient and waited the ~45-90 minutes required, you were able to go in and watch a prolonged (and mildly risqué) trailer for the new series "Galavant," with music and lyrics by Alan Menken (Disney Legend) and Glenn Slater ("Tangled.")

(Actually, they wanted you to sing along with the trailer, which seemed kind of demanding, since no one had heard the song before. Pass.)

After that, guests were free to visit Mr. Gold's pawn shop (from "Once Upon A Time,") and select a magical object that yielded a pin from a specific show. If you went through the whole process or were adept enough at trading, you could accumulate all five or so pins, which would entitle you to a ticket to the Once Upon A Time autograph session on Saturday.


The pin I got referenced "The Quest," a new reality TV series currently airing on Thursdays that takes place in a fantasy-medieval setting.

Of all the shows they previewed, I actually found most of them fairly interesting, although given that I had to listen to them played over and over again for the hour I spent in line, it could be Stockholm Syndrome.

"Once Upon A Time" promotion mostly revolved around the upcoming season's tie-in with the blockbuster "Frozen" franchise, as revealed in the end of last season.

The show's presence didn't stop on the floor either, as themed pedicabs were available outside the convention center.


Why, even Petco Park wasn't immune to Elsa's icy blast.


Next time: "Make Mine Marvel."

August 26, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Preview


This weekend, August 28-31, is Disneyland's Half Marathon weekend. (This is #9, for those keeping track of such things - like me.) Events include the Health and Fitness Expo Thursday-Saturday, the Family Fun Run 5K on Friday morning, the Disneyland 10K and Kids Races on Saturday, and the Half Marathon on Sunday. The Dumbo Double Dare race challenge, where participants run both the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday, will be held for the second time.

According to runDisney there are 18,000 registered for the half marathon, 10,000 for the 10K, 6,000 for the 5K, and 1,500 for the Kids Races. Of the half marathon/10K runners, 6,000 are registered for the Dumbo Double Dare. All 50 states are represented, and there are runners from 25 different countries. In 2013 there were 17,800 registered in the half, 8,400 in the 10K, 5,000 in the 5K, 1500 in the Kids Races and 5,300 in the Dumbo Double Dare. So the 10K and 5K are both seeing a 20% increase - hope that won't translate to overcrowding on the race courses.

This will be our 7th time running the half marathon, and Lee and I are signed up for the Dumbo Double Dare again, also. We really enjoyed this race challenge last year, though we are hoping for slightly cooler/less humid conditions this year. So far it's looking promising - the forecast is for 67 at the start rather than 73 like we had last year.

We had a great time running the Inaugural Disneyland 10K last year. I thought the course was very well laid out - all but the first two miles are on Disney property, and there was a lot of in-the-park time. I really enjoyed the finishing stretch running through Downtown Disney to the Disneyland Hotel, where there were so many spectators to cheers us on along the way. The course wasn't too congested, either. My biggest complaint last year was that it was almost three miles between the first and second water stops. It was very warm and humid last year, so I was really thirsty by the time I reached the second water stop. This year it appears runDisney has addressed this: according to the 10K course map the water stops will be at mile 1, mile 3.25, and mile 5.75. Much better.

Something different this year is that the 5K and 10K will be held on separate days. Last year they were both on Saturday morning, with starts only an hour apart, and that complicated the start process - there was a delay in getting the 10K runners to the starting corrals. Though it was nice to start the 10K at 6:30 instead of 5:30...we got to sleep in a little. :-) This year the 5K, 10K, and half all start at 5:30. (5:30 does not seem like a very "family friendly" time for a "Family Fun Run 5K", though.)

One of the things that I was hoping for was that they would change the theme of the 10K each year like they do the 5K, and it appears that I got my wish! Last year's theme was Alice in Wonderland, and this year it's Lilo and Stitch! Whee!!!! So that means new 10K bling, of course:

As you see, the Disneyland Half Marathon medal also received a slight re-design.

Last year there was a huge demand for merchandise when the Expo opened on Friday morning. Disney was not prepared for it, and the lines were long - and they also ran out of almost all of the Dumbo Double Dare merchandise that first morning. It will be interesting to see what happens with the merchandise area at the Expo this year. We won't arrive until Friday afternoon, and I hope there will still be something left by then. Though I need another shirt like I need another hole in the head...

Speaking of shirts - as a Dumbo Double Dare participant I will receive three shirts: one for the 10K, one for the half marathon, and one for the challenge. And this year, for the first time in Disneyland Half Marathon history, there was the option of selecting a women's cut shirt when registering for the race! That makes me very happy, since the unisex shirts just keep getting larger and larger - even an Extra Small is too big for me, and in fact my XS shirt from last year's race fit Lee!

The Disneyland Half Marathon is an "easier" race for us because it's close to home - we can drive instead of fly, and we get to stay in our own time zone. Still, we enjoy staying for several nights and turning it into a long weekend where we can spend some time in the parks, and hang out with friends who have come to run the races.

Disneyland Half Marathon, here we come!

(I'll be blogging about our race experience, but if you're interested in reading updates during the race weekend, follow me on Twitter: @AllEarsLaura)

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