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August 2, 2018

Our First Look Inside Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff at Disney California Adventure


Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Calling all candy lovers! Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff is now open at Disney California Adventure's Pixar Pier. Bing Bong, the imaginary pal of Riley from Pixar's Inside Out movie, along with Rainbow Unicorn and Jangles the Clown preside over a shop filled with a variety of sweet treats and colorful merchandise.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Here's our video tour of what you'll find inside.

On our look inside we'll start with Bing Bong himself... if you recall the movie, he cries candy tears. In the shop those take the form of salt water taffy. It's available in bags, both single flavor such as watermelon, orange, and neapolitan, or as an assortment.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

There's lots of other pre-packaged candy available as well, inspired by beloved Pixar characters, like Mike's Sour Apple Balls, Sulley's Blue Raspberry Jellies, and Woody's Strawberry Licorice Wheels.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Flavored popcorn, inspired by the Inside Out gang, includes Anger's Red Hot Candy Popcorn, Joy's Confetti Popcorn, Sadness' Blue Raspberry Popcorn, and Fear's Fruit Punch Popcorn.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

I'm not sure what this is, but it's obviously inspired by Rainbow Unicorn.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Moving over to Jangles the Clown's side of the store we find the Memory Refreshers center and candy counter.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Memory Refreshers are frozen slush drinks. Six flavors are available: cherry, pink lemonade, mellow yellow, Hi-C lime, blue raspberry, and grape. A single flavor is $5.99, but there is a menu of layered drinks which feature multiple flavors. The drinks are colorful, with imaginative names like Rainbow Unicorn, Sunshine in a Cup, and Slow Burn. Those are $6.49. Unfortunately we weren't able to try any of them because the slush tanks hadn't frozen enough yet.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Jangles also oversees a candy counter where Pixar-themed cake pops, candy apples, and crispie treats, as well as other candy selections like English toffee, fudge, and marshmallows, are sold.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

And oh, the plethora of Pixar plush! In addition to the stack of Bing Bongs at the entrance, there is a wall of plush at the back of the store. From Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, the Incredibles, Cars, Up, Inside Out, Coco... well, if you could cuddle a rainbow, it would be here.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

The plush of Dug wearing the "Cone of Shame" might be my favorite.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

There's also apparel for adults and kids, with quite a selection of Pixar-themed t-shirts.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Most of the displays are organized by movie. Up:

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Inside Out:

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Monsters, Inc.:

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Did you notice that the supports are striped like candy canes?

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

Also Pixar-inspired ear hats and ear bands.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

There will eventually be a large figure of Bing Bong in the center of the shop - but apparently he still hasn't been recovered from the Memory Dump and will make his appearance later.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

The shop is fun - so colorful. Make sure you look up at the ceiling!

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

And also down at the floor.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

If you're searching for Pixar plush or apparel - Bing Bong's is the place to go.

Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff

August 1, 2018

Should You Try Disneyland's New River Belle Terrace Breakfast?


River Belle Terrace

For many years, the River Belle Terrace restaurant in Disneyland's Frontierland was a "buffeteria" location serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. A couple years ago it was converted to a table service restaurant serving only lunch and dinner. This was quite a disappointment to many of us who enjoyed starting our park day with a leisurely breakfast while we looked out over the Rivers of America. The breakfast platters had names like "Steamboat" (pancakes, eggs, and breakfast meat), and "Mark Twain" (eggs, breakfast meat, potatoes, and biscuit), but I think the guest favorite was the smiling "Mickey Mouse Pancake."

River Belle Terrace

Last week River Belle Terrace re-opened for breakfast with a new menu of southern-inspired breakfast dishes - which fortunately also includes the return of a couple old favorites. Lee and I checked it out on Monday.

Breakfast is served from park opening until 10:45 a.m. - 10:45 being the latest time that guests will be seated. The restaurant is not yet accepting reservations for breakfast, so it's walk-up only. We arrived about 10:15, and were seated a few minutes later. We had a choice of indoor or outdoor - outdoor is always my favorite. It's very peaceful and far less noisy than inside. Most of the tables are shaded by umbrellas or the building itself. Between the fact that it's a new offering that most guests aren't aware of yet, and that it was a late hour for breakfast, the restaurant was only about 1/3 full.

River Belle Terrace

The new menu (which you can view HERE) features breakfast entrees like Southern Fried Bone-In Pork Chop, Short Rib Skillet, and Country Biscuits and Gravy. The Mark Twain has returned from the previous menu, as has the Mickey-Shaped Pancake (yay!). (Unfortunately my favorite, the Cinnamon Roll French Toast, did not return.) Several entrees include sunny side-up eggs, bacon gravy, and signature potatoes and a choice of chicken sausage or applewood-smoked bacon. Vegetarian dishes include a fried green tomato with deviled eggs and a granola and mixed berry parfait. For kids the Disney Check meal is Oats and Mixed Berries; the Silver Dollar, with pancakes, scrambled eggs, and breakfast meat, is also available.

The new item on the menu that I was most looking forward to trying is the Monkey Bread ($8) - and it did not disappoint. It's more like a breakfast appetizer than an entree, and indeed, ours was served quite quickly by itself soon after we placed our order. It's sweet bread with pecan butter, maple syrup, candied pecans, and powdered sugar, served hot in a small skillet.

River Belle Terrace Monkey Bread

The sweet bread had just enough of a crust outside but was soft and tender inside. It didn't soak up the pecan butter and maple syrup and get soggy - and in fact we used the bread to get more of the yummy sauce that was on the bottom. The candied pecans were mostly in the middle. For my taste it could have used more spices like a cinnamon roll - but that didn't stop me from finishing my half of it. I'd recommend sharing this with one other person - maybe two people if they aren't real hungry. I suppose it could be breakfast for one person - if you're the type that enjoys a large gooey cinnamon roll as breakfast.

River Belle Terrace Monkey Bread

As an entree Lee went with the Short Rib Skillet ($19). This was slow-cooked shredded beef short rib, two sunny side-up eggs, potatoes, onions and peppers, and Texas toast. He loved it. Unlike me he enjoys peppers, and these (along with the onions) were nicely sauteed. He was surprised that the Texas toast wasn't served with any jam, butter, or honey, but he said it really didn't need it. Our server told us that those were available upon request, as well as ketchup and other breakfast condiments.

River Belle Terrace Short Rib Skillet

I chose Becky Thatcher's Fried Green Tomato ($16). The tomato was sliced into rounds, breaded and fried, then covered with a delicious roasted corn and avocado relish. That might have been my favorite part - I could have eaten a lot of that with some tortilla chips! There were also three deviled eggs - one of them dyed purple. We couldn't decide if it was pickled or just colored. The filling in the eggs was a little bit spicy, which surprised me. Our server told me it contains some of their pimento cheese in the filling. The eggs were very good, though - just a little unexpected heat on the finish. Typically the dish is served with chimichurri and red pepper coulis, but I requested that the coulis be omitted. The final touch on the plate was blistered tomatoes. These didn't do much for me - I would have preferred some fresh fruit (especially some berries) instead. It's not a lot of food, especially compared to some of the other options, but it was plenty for me. I really enjoyed the dish, and would order it again.

River Belle Terrace Fried Green Tomato

The service was good - our server was attentive and engaged. We both ordered iced tea (which was REAL brewed iced tea and not that fake Gold Peak stuff), and he kept our glasses full, and answered any questions that we had. He told us that it's still a very new menu, and there are quite likely to be additional changes. I mentioned my disappointment that there was no Cinnamon Roll French Toast, and he said they had tried something like that with the Monkey Bread. So who knows, maybe that, or another French Toast option, will show up soon.

Now for the downside - prices are significantly higher than they were before. The Mark Twain and Mickey Pancake are $17 (previously $8.49 and $7.99, respectively), biscuits and gravy is $17 and the pork chop is $21. Bottomless drinks (soft drinks, coffee, tea, iced tea, cocoa) are $3.99. Then of course you have to add on a tip. So it's not an inexpensive meal, and it's several dollars more per person than breakfast at the Carnation Cafe, the other table service breakfast option in Disneyland.

Is it worth it? I think it depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for a quick inexpensive breakfast you'll be better off at Galactic Grill, Market House, or Red Rose Taverne. If you're looking for table service and something beyond the usual scrambled eggs and bacon, breakfast burritos, and breakfast sandwiches, then you might give it a try. For a table service experience I prefer the River Belle Terrace to Carnation Cafe - it's a more relaxing vibe and there's a lot more to look at. It also isn't nearly as claustrophobic as the Cafe, where the tables seem so close together.

River Belle Terrace

It's not something I would do on every visit to the park. We found it a very nice way to begin our park day and we enjoyed the food. I should also mention that by eating a filling breakfast late in the morning, we didn't need another meal until dinner - just an afternoon snack. (Because you HAVE to have some kind of frosty cool treat on a hot day!)

So, maybe not for everyone, but you know, I might go back again just for the Monkey Bread.

Recap of Press Junket for Winnie the Pooh Tale "Christopher Robin"


"Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something."
-Winnie the Pooh


Seven years after the animated feature "Winnie the Pooh," Walt Disney Studios takes another trip back to the Hundred Acre Wood with the live-action "Christopher Robin."

"Christopher Robin" shows us a man (Ewan McGregor) a few decades removed from the young boy that romped with his stuffed animals in the wood. Years of fighting in WW II, coupled with the responsibilities of providing for his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) have turned Christopher into an anxious workaholic who treats his family with benign neglect. When matters at work and home eventually come to a boil, only a small stuffed bear and a trip through a magical tree can teach the harried adult to reconnect with the boy within and rediscover what things are truly important.

At a recent press junket, director Marc Forster and stars Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, and
Jim Cummings (“pooh” and “Tigger”) took time for some round table discussions on the upcoming release.

Ewan McGregor

McGregor on Christopher Robin's journey: "He's opened and he finds what his truth is, I suppose, through the movie. We see it very quickly, through the montage at the beginning, the pure seven-year-old who leaves his friends at the lovely farewell ceremony which is just heartbreaking, isn't it, right off the bat. It's like 'Bambi.'"

Atwell: "The opening credits! When Dad's dying! The opening credits, and I'm already crying!"

McGregor: "So then we see that very quick montage of what his life has been, and I think especially experiencing warfare and going off and having to fight, and the impact that that seems to have on him when he comes back...and then he's in a job, and just the stress of the job, and he has responsibilities, adult responsibilities that he shoulders and carries. But when Pooh asks him 'are these people you're trying to save your friends,' he's like 'well no, I don't want to think of them as friends, because that makes it harder when you have to let them go.' There's some disconnect in him, and I think just what happens through the movie, is that he's opened up and the things that are important in his life become the things that he's able to express that to--his daughter, his wife, and also to his work, and he has a better relationship with that, and he comes up with a great idea at the end.

"And I think, within that, it could be a story about somebody finding anything--just finding their way back to who they really are, of course, is the important message."

Hayley Atwell

Atwell on what "Christopher Robin" says about the human condition:
"What I found so heartbreaking, is that Pooh, who's almost kind of this...this beacon of love, pure, unconditional love, as pets are, as dogs--as my dog is, really--and when he is hurt by Christopher Robin, unintentionally...but when he is hurt, how he processes it...and instead of choosing to act out or to attack back or become in any way defensive...he's still so open. That, to me, is a beautiful, tender moment of unconditional love that's almost something that we kind of feel like we're born with a little bit more and then we learn more sophisticated tactics of defense and attack that make us slightly more bitter as we get older when we feel hurt by something, especially something that we love. And so the purity of that moment of when he says 'did you forget about me?' And it almost says it as a genuine question and then just is able to contain the pain of what that feels like. I find that actually in its humanity and its dignity, quite profound."

Marc Forster

Forster on Richard Sherman: "I've been a great admirer of the Sherman Brothers--obviously their work speaks for itself. I asked early on if Richard Sherman would be willing to write a song. I just wanted one song, because as an attribute of the history of Disney and Winnie the Pooh...and then he said 'absolutely' and suddenly he wrote three songs! And he obviously wrote the first song, when Christopher Robin leaves, and the other two songs I loved so much and I couldn't really figure out where to put I thought at the end, which wasn't originally in the script, that I said 'you know, we just should finally have a scene that they're all on vacation, and you see all the employees, they're finally doing nothing and on vacation--all the hoi polloi as Mark Gatiss' character says--on the beach, with the gramophones and cider. And then when we're there, why don't we have a piano there and have Richard Sherman play the piano? And unfortunately, he wasn't able to travel at the time to England, so I had our second AD who was in his 70s...I said 'why don't you sit there and play the piano?' And he said 'no, I don't know how to play the piano.' And I said 'just pretend.' And then ultimately, we got back to here and I had Richard Sherman sing the song and basically put his head on the second AD's head...but so the second AD can't play the piano, so I now have Richard Sherman sitting on the beach and the guy's just playing [mimes pounding on the piano keys] So Richard Sherman hasn't seen the movie yet, when he sees himself singing, but doing [more mime], I hope he will not be 'oh my God, what am I doing?'

'So I just love that song and wanted Richard Sherman to sing that song on the beach, and then the third song ultimately, it's also Richard Sherman singing, live performing just him in the studio, and it's just beautiful."

Jim Cummings

Cummings on resuming the role of Tigger after the initial casting of Chris O'Dowd
: "You know, it was a surprise--it took some wind out of my sails, but like the song says, you put one foot in front of the's all you can do anyways. I think what happened--because my 13 year-old and I saw it--and she just didn't know...and I think what happened was you just get used to a sound, a voice, an attitude, and in this case it was decades old. And I think they just said 'well gosh, this is such a wonderful project...we don't want to introduce such a radically new wrinkle maybe, and maybe we just go back with something that everybody's gonna glom onto, and something that they've heard.' And next thing I know, they're bringing in the Tigger lines and I hope it worked."

Previously, Jim Cummings had been kind enough to spend a few minutes with AllEars answering even more questions.

On getting started with Pooh: "Back in 1987, I had really just broke into the business, and some genius had the idea to bring back good old Winnie the Pooh from the 60s and I was there at the right time, thank goodness. I auditioned with everyone else--I understand people like Burgess Meredith auditioned and E.G. Marshall, which was kind of amazing."

On taking on a famous character: "...For the past 33 years it's been a bigger presence than it was in 1987. In 1987, he hadn't been around for 20 years. I mean, they had made three shorts, and that was it. Actually Disney Channel had 'Welcome to Pooh Corner,' but that was folks in costumes and it wasn't the same, obviously. So it wasn't really daunting because it wasn't there at the time. It would probably be daunting to take over now, but too late. They're already stuck with me."

On preparing for voice acting similarly to live acting: "Oh yeah, that's the way I do it. I played Captain Hook in a play when my daughter Raleigh was younger--she would draft me to be in plays in children's theater out in Thousand Oaks--and instead of going with a classic Captain Hook, I played him as Don Karnage from 'Tailspin.' 'I am a pirate, you know, it was too amazing...I going to gets you Peter Pans!' People just ate it up, it was so funny. I credit Chuck McCann with that idea, the late, great, Chuck McCann. He said 'kid, you gotta do your Don Karnage. Don't do that Brit. Everybody expects the Brit. Give 'em some Karnage."

On voicing Pooh in the parks:
"That's me. My kids have a little mini-tradition...they'll end up at Disneyland and they'll be all 'ok Dad, guess where we are?' They'll hold up their phone and I'll hear myself going 'hoo hoo hoo hoo!' on the ride or whatever and I'll say 'let me guess: You're on the Winnie the Pooh ride.'"

On his favorite ride: "My favorite one right now is...I'm going to mess the name up...Flight of the Phoenix? [Flight of Passage] In Pandora, at Disney World. That's crazy good! I could live on that ride. It's amazing."

Disney’s “Christopher Robin” will be released nationwide August 3, 2018.

July 30, 2018

San Diego Comic-Con 2018: D23 Takes a Trip to SDCC, Part 2



San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone again, providing somewhere in the vicinity of 130,000 attendees an opportunity to immerse themselves in all aspects of pop culture.


While Disney's main SDCC perennials Star Wars and Marvel passed on their usual big Hall H presentations this year, they made a strong showing with D23, their official fan club. As its first big foray into the madness that is Comic-Con, D23 put on two panels and a member mixer.

[The first panel, "Celebrating 90 Years of Mickey Mouse with D23: the Official Disney Fan Club," I outlined here.]

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," D23 held what has become their annual SDCC mixer in a new locale, The House of Blues San Diego.


Members who made it through the line to get in were treated to any number of Nightmare-themed foods, such as the "Lock, Shock, and Tacos," and the traditional D23 SDCC mac & cheese bar.


Photo opportunities were available with Jack Skellington, Sally and the infamous Oogie Boogie, along with the spirited D23 crew.


The event was topped off with the gift of a Nightmare Before Christmas swag bag, including patches, manga, and an insulated bottle.


Afterwards, Con attendees could sprint back to the convention center to attend the second D23 panel, "25 Years of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas with D23: The Official Disney Fan Club."


The panel, made up of Director Henry Selick, Animator Anthony Scott, Associate Editor Edie Ichioka, and Assistant Art Directors Kelly Asbury and Bill Boes, was joined by surprise moderator, author Neil Gaiman.



Video selections from the panel. *Some adult language*

Some highlights from the talk:
--While Burton had written the original poem back in the '80s, and come up with Jack, Zero, and Sandy Claws, there were no other characters at the start of the project. He later worked with author Michael McDowell to expand the story, Danny Elfman to develop the songs, Caroline Thompson to write the screenplay (while production was ongoing,) and a separate story department headed by Joe Ranft.
--Discussing the rate of stop-motion animation, a good day has them accomplishing about two seconds of film time.
--Scott's favorite scene was the "Poor Jack" song, because it is such a moment of transition for Jack as he realizes who he is and what his power is. It took him six months to animate.
--Ichioka said they never told Scott that they later considered cutting out the whole sequence.
--Stop-motion has particular challenges as far as editing because of the small amount of work that can be produced on a daily basis. All of "Nightmare" was shot on film and edited without the use of current digital non-linear processing techniques that came later.
--Influences on the look of the film included German Expressionism and "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari."
--At one point, there was some concern that Jack would be relatively expressionless without pupils in his skeletal eye sockets, but they found other ways to make him emote.
--Boes brought a one-quarter scale model from the film.


All in all, a great sortie into SDCC from D23 this year--hopefully there will be even more to come next year!

Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($79.99), Gold Family Membership ($104.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels at and at

July 27, 2018

Beating the Heat at Disneyland


Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle

Summer is heating up, and it seems like everyone is offering their opinions on ways to beat the heat. I already had this blog in the works when I saw several others come out on the same topic. Great minds think alike, I suppose. But I think I have a few ideas that are different, and, if they aren't walk-ons, don't involve much of a wait.

So here are my suggestions for places to hang out at the Disneyland Resort when it's hot. I’m sure you have some ideas, too, which I hope you will share by leaving a comment below.

At Disneyland

Disneyland Opera House

The Opera House on Main Street - the lobby is air-conditioned, and there’s always some kind of exhibit there - right now it's Steam Trains. There's also a small screening area with a couple of benches where you can watch Disneyland - The First 50 Magical Years, the 50th anniversary video starring Steve Martin and Donald Duck. And then inside the theater you can enjoy the A/C and a comfy chair while watching Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. And if you catch a few Zzzs as well... you wouldn’t be the first!

The Disney Gallery - take a few minutes to stop in here and admire all the artwork.

Disneyland Main Street Cinema

Main Street Cinema - no seats here, but it’s a cool place to enjoy some classic Disney cartoons, including Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy.

Golden Horseshoe

The Golden Horseshoe - Belly up to the bar and order a cold sarsaparilla (or maybe this century's equivalent: a Coke or root beer float), then take a seat at a table (or go up to the balcony!) and enjoy the antics of the Laughing Stock Co.

Enchanted Tiki Room

The Enchanted Tiki Room - the birds sing words and the flowers croon in this air-conditioned tropical oasis. The bench seats are padded but backless unless you sit in the last rows and lean against the wall.

Star Wars Launch Bay - there’s not as many activities in here as there were when it was Innoventions, but there are several Star Wars character meet and greet opportunities, and movie props and costumes to look at. There’s also a small screening area with several benches featuring a video of Star Wars filmmakers talking about what they do.

Mickey and the Magical Map

Mickey and the Magical Map - ok, this one is not air-conditioned, but the theater is covered and there’s usually a breeze. So it’s out of the sun which at least means it's cooler than most of the rest of the park. The theater is rarely full, and if you’re like me and don’t mind sitting in the back you can get a seat right before showtime. I enjoy the show, especially the Rapunzel/Pocahontas/Mulan medley.

At Disney California Adventure

The Animation Building in Hollywood Land is completely indoors, and a number of different activities are available inside.

Sorcerer's Workshop

Courtyard Gallery - This is one of my favorites - just walking inside the Animation Building and sitting down (on the floor if I can't find a seat on one of the lounges) and enjoying the clips and concept art and music from Disney and Pixar animated movies.
Animation Academy - Have a seat and learn to draw a Disney character. Classes are held every 30 minutes and different characters are featured throughout the day. If you have a particular character in mind, cast members at the entrance should have a list of what characters will be featured in each session.
Turtle Talk with Crush - Bench seating in the "human tank" is available for an interactive encounter with the Crush-man. It's totally awesome, dude.
Sorcerer's Workshop - You can create your own animation or sit down with an enchanted book and discover which Disney character is most like you.

Pixar Shorts Film Festival

Pixar Shorts Film Festival - the Sunset Showcase Theater (formerly MuppetVision 3D) is showing a series of three Pixar short films. The plan is to change them out periodically, and just last week that happened. The current films are "La Luna", "Bao", and "Sanjay's Super Team."

Blue Sky Cellar Pixar Pier Preview Center

Blue Sky Cellar Preview Center - Right now it's an exhibit on Pixar Pier, which is largely OBE because most of the Pier is open, and the exhibits haven't been updated to provide additional info on what isn't yet open. In the Screening Room there are several benches to sit on while you watch a short video on Re-Imagining Pixar Pier.

Boudin Bakery Tour - The bread ovens are hot but this self-guided tour is in an air-conditioned space. "Loaf" as long as you want as you learn how Boudin sourdough bread is made. You can play a game to test your knowledge of sourdough bread. Plus a free sample of bread is available as you enter!

Princess Dot Puddle Park - Splashing around in fountains is probably more appealing to kids than adults, but just being near the water often has a cooling effect. Since Flik's Fun Fair is closing soon (to make way for the upcoming Super Heroes land) this one won't be around much longer.

In both parks you can always find air-conditioning in the restrooms. Sometimes just getting out of the sun and splashing your face with some cool water provides relief from the heat.

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop

I haven't mentioned the shops and restaurants in the parks which are kept nice and cool. There's also refreshing beverages and frozen treats like ice cream (Ghirardelli is my go-to), Dole whip, and the Goofy's Glacier slushes. While I really like Dole Whip and its lemon-flavored counterpart at Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats, both places usually have very long lines and I think the coolness of the treat doesn't compensate for all the heat you absorb while waiting for it.

Outside the Parks

Splitsvilled Luxury Lanes

In Downtown Disney there are lots of restaurants, or you can eat AND bowl while you keep your cool at Splitsville Luxury Lanes.

Disneyland Trader Sam's

Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel is a fun place - if you can get a seat inside where it's cool and dark. It's not very big and is popular, especially on weekends. The outdoor patio accommodates more guests but tends to be sunny and very warm.

The lobby of the Grand Californian Resort & Spa is a relaxing place to take a break. There's quite a bit of seating in the lobby. In the afternoons and evenings there's often a pianist playing Disney songs on the grand piano.

Those are some of my favorite ways to stay cool - what about you?

July 24, 2018

San Diego Comic-Con 2018: D23 Takes a Trip to SDCC, Part 1



San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone again, providing somewhere in the vicinity of 130,000 attendees an opportunity to immerse themselves in all aspects of pop culture.


While Disney's main SDCC perennials Star Wars and Marvel passed on their usual big Hall H presentations this year, they made a strong showing with D23, their official fan club. As its first big foray into the madness that is Comic-Con, D23 put on two panels and a member mixer.


Starting off its first-ever SDCC panel, "Celebrating 90 Years of Mickey Mouse with D23: the Official Disney Fan Club," Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline, Official Voice of Mickey Mouse Bret Iwan, and Master Disney Animator Mark Henn took the audience members through a whirlwind tour of the iconic mouse's long and famed history.

Cline detailed Mickey's birth, from the ashes of Charles Mintz's takeover of Walt's initial star "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit," and his entry into the era of motion picture "talkies." Iwan discussed the what Walt and his animators went through to innovate the process of synchronized sound and reminded us that the legacy he continues as Mickey's voice originated with Walt himself. They showed a clip from "Karnival Kid," showcasing Mickey's first words on screen. After Henn spoke on the animation debt Mickey owed to original animator Ub Iwerks, the panel touched a little on the origins of Mickey Mouse merchandise, from seamstress Charlotte Clark making the first set of plushes, to some of the more esoteric items like undies and pocket knives.

Moving on to the evolution of Mickey's appearance through the years, Henn paid tribute to Disney Legend Freddie Moore as one of the fundamental influences on developing the distinctive "Disney appeal" in animation in general and bringing increased personality and expressiveness to the mouse specifically. "Fantasia" was mentioned as providing both a huge boost to Mickey's popularity and being the first vehicle to show Mickey having eyes with pupils.

Passing through the '50s, Cline talked about Mickey's increasing exposure through television, in "The Mickey Mouse Club," and Disneyland, and then leaped forward to the '80s when Archivist Dave Smith established Mickey Mouse's birthday as November 18. The Mickey imagery on the outside of "Star Traders" at Disneyland was revealed to be Henn's work, which he describes as his "one big contribution to Disneyland." After Iwan spoke a little on his history with Disney and his assumption of the role of Mickey Mouse, Henn briefly described bringing Mickey back and forth through different styles of animation in "Get A Horse."

Get A Horse! Clip

Arriving at the present day, the panel spoke a little about some of Mickey's activities going on surrounding his 90th birthday, including Iwan's involvement in voicing Mickey in the upcoming "Kingdom Hearts III."

The panel finished with an official unveiling of the 90th birthday portrait of Mickey Mouse created by Henn, titled "Spreading Happiness Around the World."


Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($79.99), Gold Family Membership ($104.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels at and at

July 23, 2018

A Trip to Disneyland on its 63rd Birthday


Disneyland 63rd Birthday

Lee and I celebrated Disneyland's 63rd birthday with a trip to Disneyland.

It was a Tuesday, and we were pleasantly surprised that the parks weren't all that busy. While yes, some attractions had hour-long waits, most were well under that. We arrived late enough (11:30) that we didn't try to get any Fastpasses - return times for popular attractions were too far in the future by then.

I was disappointed that there were no special birthday buttons - not even for the cast members. The Times Guide for the week had a notation about the special Birthday Celebration on the parade route and we planned to see it later in the day.

Disneyland Times Guide

There were a couple of special photo ops available, though - the one in the photo at the top and this one.

Disneyland 63rd birthday

Our first order of business was lunch. Lee wanted to go to Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland. If you're not familiar with's the Beauty & the Beast overlay to the Village Haus Restaurant. I think it was supposed to be temporary, but it's into its second year now. I could have used Mobile Order here, but I didn't actually think about it. We really didn't need it, though - walked right up to a register and placed our order.

Lee's favorite here is the Poutine Flatbread, with beef, French fries, cheese curds, gravy, and garlic aioli. His flatbread was nice and crisp and brown.

Poutine Flatbread

I tried the Garden Mozzarella Flatbread with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce. Mine was not crisp and brown. There was very little basil. It was just ok.

Mozzarella Flatbread

We shared the Gray Stuff Gateau - a red velvet cupcake covered with mousse.

Gray Stuff Gateau

It was a lot more chocolate mousse than I remembered - but we found a use for the extra mousse. It was delicious.

Gray Stuff Gateau

Since it was Disneyland's birthday we wanted to experience some of the attractions that were open 63 years ago that still exist at the park. We started with the Disneyland Railroad, and took a "grand circle tour" all around the Magic Kingdom.

Disneyland Railroad

The path of the railroad track was modified from the original last year to accommodate the addition of Galaxy's Edge. A rustic trestle and series of waterfalls were added where the train goes around Tom Sawyer Island. Very picturesque.

Disneyland Railroad

We also took a ride on the Jungle Cruise - where we saw the back side of water. The original Jungle Cruise script was much more serious and not the pun-filled patter that we're used to now.

Jungle Cruise back side of water

Did you know that the iconic Walt & Mickey Partners statue wasn't placed at Disneyland until 1993? It feels like it's always been there...

Disneyland Partners Statue

The 63rd Birthday Celebration preceded the two performances of the Pixar Play Parade. We watched the first one, from the Small World Mall area. I really enjoyed it. It stopped at four different places along the parade route for a short celebration, including playing part of Walt Disney's opening day speech and singing "Happy Birthday" to Disneyland.

Disneyland 63rd Birthday Celebration

Disneyland 63rd Birthday Celebration

There were 63 characters, and they all paraded around in a large oval so that we had a look at each one. I loved seeing the inclusion of a number of cast members who were carrying balloons. They were in different costumes from attractions around the park.

Disneyland 63rd Birthday Celebration

Afterwards we went to the Mark Twain Riverboat, another original Disneyland attraction.

Mark Twain Riverboat

Princess Tiana was aboard for our tour of the Rivers of America - after she finished greeting guests she spent a few pensive moments looking out at the scenery as we were "goin' down the bayou".

Princess Tiana Mark Twain Riverboat

On the way out of Disneyland we saw a mama duck and four ducklings, just hanging out in one of the grassy areas near the hub It's always fun to see the babies in the spring and summer months.

Disneyland Ducklings

Lee hadn't yet seen Pixar Pier over in Disney California Adventure.

Pixar Pier

Our first stop was Jack-Jack's Cookie Num Nums. We ordered the signature "Cookie Num Num." The line was short but it took awhile because the cookies are run through a warmer so that they can be served warm and gooey. We had to wait for them to catch up with the orders. The cookie is thick and easily serves two people. It's yummy.

Jack-Jack's Cookie Num Num

The small Zurg statue next to the Poultry Palace kiosk was back in place... sometimes he's there, sometimes he's not. This was the first time I'd seen him.

Poultry Palace Emperor Zurg

It was a warm day, and we took a break at the Sonoma Terrace to enjoy some frosty beverages. There's a number of beers on draft there now, and generally the line is pretty short, unlike the Karl Strauss beer truck and the Bayside Brews kiosk. Lee had a Mermaid Red and I had a Raspberry Sour. Very refreshing, and the Terrace is a nice place to sit and relax for a while.

Sonoma Terrace

But after beverages we were ready for dinner. Flo's V8 Cafe has a relatively new menu that we hadn't tried...this time we did Mobile Order via the Disneyland app. This was my best experience with Mobile Order so far - enough people were using it at Flo's that there was a dedicated cast member for mobile orders, and our order came out fairly quickly after I pushed the "I'm Here - Prepare My Order" button in the app.

Flo's V8 Cafe Mobile Order

Lee tried the Blue Plate Special, which was Pork Ribs with choice of two sides - he chose garlic mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. The ribs were good, though I think the garlic mashed potatoes were the best part. (The mashed potatoes are hiding under the ribs.)

Flo's V8 Cafe ribs

I ordered Fillmore's Pot Pie which is the vegetarian option. Fresh fruit is the suggested side, but I could have requested a different one. The filling was a cheesy mix of potatoes and corn with some slightly spicy chiles. It was pretty good - I would order it again.

Flo's V8 Cafe vegetarian pot pie

After dinner we went back over to Disneyland to catch a couple sets of the Disneyland All-American College Band.

Disneyland All-American College Band

If you're not familiar with them, the band is a group of college students selected from music programs across the country. They perform at Disneyland for about nine weeks during the summer, five days a week. There are also special workshops with guest musicians scheduled in there, too. It's a jam-packed time for them. They are so very talented, and a lot of fun to watch. I believe this is the 48th year there's been a band at Disneyland. We saw their set at the castle at 6:45, and their jazz set at the Royal Theater at 7:45. The castle set is the same each time, but the jazz set changes each day, and sometimes their guest musician performs with them. The video below is from a castle set I saw several weeks ago.

On the way out of Disneyland we stopped to look at some of the "Enchanted Windows" in the Emporium that were installed during Disneyland's 60th Anniversary celebration.

Aladdin Enchanted Window Disneyland

As we went across the Esplanade to Disney California Adventure we enjoyed the lighting on the Pixar Fest decorations above each park entrance.

Pixar Fest sign

Pixar Fest sign

Our plan was to see the 8:50 performance of the Paint the Night Parade, with the new(ish) Incredibles float. There were a surprising number of people along the parade route - usually I find that the further you go towards the parade gate next to Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, the fewer people there are. This time, though there were still spaces in the viewing areas, we were standing behind two rows of people who were sitting. Which was fine - we had a great view.

Paint the Night Incredibles float

I had hoped to see a couple occurrences of Jack-Jack, who pops up in four places on the float, but only saw him as the atomic green goo baby.

Paint the Night Parade Incredibles Jack-Jack

After the parade we took some time to enjoy the nighttime lighting of Pixar Pier.

Pixar Pier at night

Pixar Pier at night

Pixar Pier at night

It was a great day, and we had a wonderful time!

July 19, 2018

Anime Expo 2018 Serves up Pop Culture, Part Two



Anime Expo, the largest celebration of anime pop culture in North America, once again took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center this month. Virtually every facet of Japanese popular culture was represented with gusto as 110,000 fans devoured content for five days on video games, film, tv, cosplay, animation, music, and traditional arts.

Heading out into the convention center, the Expo encompassed two large Exhibit and Entertainment Halls that featured more than 524 Exhibitors selling goods and demoing games. For cosplayers, there were booths dedicated to costume repair and numerous photos sets, as well as historical displays from the World Cosplay Championships.




Game companies Blizzard and Square Enix had sizeable presences, offering Overwatch and Kingdom Hearts demos and merch for anyone willing to brave the lines.



Gamers more interested in kicking it old-school could enjoy more traditional machines as well as large areas for card/board games.



I spoke a little in Part One about some of the differences in Japanese and US pop culture--another interesting one is the huge industry there devoted to online mobile gaming for women. The general tendency here to try to gear games exclusively towards the male audience can be seen by the almost complete lack of any big companies delving into this field--which really seems like an impressive devotion to gender division, when you consider how much money they look to be leaving on the table.

[Like most of the games at E3, these games are probably neither intended for, nor particularly appropriate for children.]

In any case, after taking in the largely testosterone-sprinkled booths at E3, having a few intended to catch women's attention was an interesting change. One of the more prolific companies releasing mobile visual novels/dating sims is NTT Solmare who featured digital slot machines, a motion capture shuriken fighting game, and an optical illusion photo op.



Over at the incredibly popular Cybird booth, examples were regularly held of the "kabe-don" maneuver, which is a widely used romantic trope in many Asian stories.


A slightly broader range of interests was represented at the KLabGames booth, where they had activities related to several of their games, including the phenomenally popular music-themed action video game "Utano☆Princesama Shining Live" (a cross between a dating sim and an infinitely more complex Simple Simon game,) "Bleach: Brave Souls," "Love Live! School idol festival," and their soccer sim "Captain Tsubasa: Dream Team."


(In which we find out that I am even worse at virtual soccer than actual soccer, if that can be believed.)

As usual, there was the usual metric ton of merchandise as kawaii as anyone could wish for.




Panels and displays were held on a large array of topics from voice acting...


to martial arts...

To an in-depth discussion moderated by frequent Disney author Charles Solomon on the works of the late film director/screenwriter/producer Isao Takahata, who, along with Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, and Yasuyoshi Tokuma, co-founded Studio Ghibli.


--Takahata was known for the research and detail he put into his works, from Japanese folklore to the realistic depiction of the architecture and culture iconic to his settings.
--Daisy Ridley, of the Star Wars franchise, actively pursued the job of dubbing one of Takahata's lesser-known works "Only Yesterday" because of her fondness for Studio Ghibli films.

--"The Tale of The Princess Kaguya" was Takahata's last film and the most expensive Japanese film to date. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature in 2015. It illustrates Takahata's usage of space to aid in atmosphere and storytelling.

--Solomon reflected that Glen Keane once commented that the key to animation was not moving the camera, but moving the audience, and that Takahata was a master of that.

On the whole this year, I found the convention logistics greatly improved--last year the lines to get in were long enough to block traffic and make even getting a parking space a horrific ordeal. This year, although the lines were still long for the premier events, they seemed to be managed well enough where I didn't hear the same vociferous complaints as last time, despite people having to wait outside in record-breaking temperatures. (One day I walked out of the convention center after 10pm and it was literally like walking into a pre-heated oven.)


The only space that I felt really still needs some sort of streamlining is the Artist's Alley which was always so clogged with people it was difficult to look at any one table of merchandise. It would be nice if the tables had a little more space around them so you didn't end up with large mobs of people surrounding one small display of tiny charms and congesting the walkway.


While there admittedly isn't a lot of Disney content at Anime Expo, I think there's quite a bit that might be appealing to fans of the Disney aesthetic.


Anyone who enjoys animation, particularly those who yearn for the days of hand-drawn animation, or games, or comics, or learning about other cultures will surely find something of interest here.

Even a dinosaur can like otome.

At $80 for five days, Anime Expo is a reasonable bargain, although of course your experience will be a lot easier if you can spring for the Premier Fan badges that allow priority access to many locations and events. Next year Anime Expo 2019 is scheduled for July 4 – 7, with Pre-Show Night on July 3. 4-day badges for AX 2019 are now on-sale at

July 18, 2018

Disneyland Resort Updates from July 13, 2018


Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, July 13, 2018.

Starting off my visit with a look at the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge construction from the Mickey and Friends parking structure. Along Disneyland drive on the back edge of the buildings more support structures are rising to form the distant/back spires.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Wire mesh is being added to the steel support structure as the rock formation is extended out toward Critter Country.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

A closer look at the formation that has the top couple of tiers of scaffolding removed now.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The tallest of the original ones continues to be revealed. Notice the workers to get a sense of scale of this spire.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

A video clip overview of the new parking structure construction on the former Pinocchio Parking lot next to the Mickey and Friends parking structure.

Looking over the former tram stop at the project. The second floor of the new structure is starting to take shape.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

A closer look at the ramps that already started on the far side. Concrete has been poured and guessing supports for forms will start to be installed soon.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The view from ground level in the tram unload area.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Walking along Magic Way the view of the escalator area.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The Disneyland App cleared the closed establishments, replacing them with trees a couple of weeks ago.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

No visible changes to the area yet. The exterior demolition has not started. Security is still open near ESPN and the TVs are still on.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Not a lot of visible progress on the new dining locations in Downtown Disney.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Sanuk has even more scaffolding up around it...they have added a tent to try and let guests know they are still open in the middle of the construction.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

In Disney California Adventure two World of Color platforms are raised and have a fence around them as the renovation project continues.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Cold water available at Smokejumpers Grill. This made it a little more challenging to pick up our mobile order. Also noteworthy, cast members said they were having ice issues and were very reluctant to give out cups of ice (even with orders).
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

A sign marking the end of the FastPass return for Mission Breakout.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Next up for us was the Disney Jr. Dance Party. One update in the show that I was very slow to grab a picture of since I had the camera down...the video of the Racers arriving at the park now mentions and shows Pixar Pier.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The drinking fountains still have not returned.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The sign for Bing Bong's has been installed.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Many areas of Pixar Pier are without shade.

Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The World of Color work from the Pixar Pier side of the bay.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The Fun-size Zurg figure has been replaced by a trashcan due to an issue.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The Incredibles Preview has ended but the Pixar short films have yet to return.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Signs are up for the Play Disney Parks app near Peter Pan.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge spires from Toontown
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The backstage gate near Minnie's House features a Minnie-inspired cover right now.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

A ground level view of the gate. It appears to be a canvas wrapping/covering the gate.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

On Main Street Dance the Magic is performing before the Pixar Play Parade.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Here is a video clip of the group making their way up Main Street USA. As in years past they filled the street again.

As you enter Adventureland a construction wall is up. Appears they are renovating the Tiki Garden area that is adjacent to the outdoor Jolly Holiday seating.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The 2018 Disneyland Resort All-American College Band performing in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at their 6:45pm set.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Pixar Pals Dance Party in Tomorrowland Terrace. Mike was out this week with Sulley
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Wow! Able to walk through Tomorrowland on a Friday night at 8pm.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The repainting of the Fireworks Factory sign near the Stage Door Cafe is moving along slowly. In two weeks a little progress was made.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge from Critter Country as the sun was setting and daylight disappearing quickly.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The spires have a variety of colors and textures across the range.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

Walking by the Matterhorn.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The All-American College Band performing in Town Square.
Jason @ image from Friday, July 13, 2018

The 2018 Disneyland Resort All-American College Band performing their Michael Jackson medley.

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.

July 17, 2018

Happy 63rd Birthday, Disneyland!


Disneyland Opening Day Ticket

Yes, that's right, Disneyland opened 63 years ago today, on July 17, 1955. While a lot has changed in those 63 years, it's still true that as you pass under the train station:

"Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy"

You know, I really like that message, because I think it encourages us to appreciate our history and our imagination, and gives us hope for the future.

In honor of Disneyland's birthday, I thought it would be fun to write a little quiz, and see how much you all know about the early days of Disneyland. We haven't quite worked out the details of doing it completely on-line yet, so the answers are at the bottom of this blog.

If you enjoy the quiz, please let us know, and we'll try to do more of this kind of thing.

1. Which of these attractions did NOT open on Disneyland's opening day in 1955?

A. Peter Pan's Flight
B. Autopia
C. Matterhorn Bobsleds
D. Mark Twain Steamboat

2. What was the price of an adult Disneyland admission ticket on July 18, 1955, the first day the general public could enter the park?

A. $1.00
B. $0.75
C. $0.50
D. $0.25

3. Disneyland's Main Street, USA is thought to be inspired by what real-life town?

A. Marceline, Missouri
B. Omaha, Nebraska
C. Independence, Kansas
D. Moline, Illinois

4. When Disneyland opened, most attractions required purchase of an additional ticket to ride, with some attractions costing more. What was used to distinguish the different ticket values?

A. Colors
B. Disney Characters
C. Fruits and Vegetables
D. Letters

5. Aunt Jemima's Pancake House was an early Disneyland restaurant. What current Disneyland restaurant occupies the same location?

A. Carnation Cafe
B. Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe
C. Plaza Inn
D. River Belle Terrace

6. Which of these methods of transportation was not available when Disneyland opened?

A. Trolley Car
B. Stagecoach
C. Monorail
D. Train

7. What future U.S. president was present on Disneyland's opening day?

A. John Kennedy
B. Richard Nixon
C. Ronald Reagan
D. Gerald Ford

8. Which of the following lands was added a number of years after Disneyland opened?

A. Frontierland
B. New Orleans Square
C. Adventureland
D. Tomorrowland

9. Before Disneyland was built, what types of trees were growing on the land?

A. Apple
B. Avocado
C. Lemon
D. Orange

10. What opening day attraction traveled the longest distance?

A. Disneyland Railroad
B. Stagecoach Ride
C. Jungle Cruise
D. Casey Jr. Circus Train


1. Which of these attractions did NOT open on Disneyland's opening day in 1955?

C. Matterhorn Bobsleds
They opened in 1959.

Disneyland Matterhorn 1963

2. What was the price of an adult Disneyland admission ticket on July 18, 1955, the first day the general public could enter the park?

A. $1.00

3. Disneyland's Main Street, USA is thought to be inspired by what real-life town?

A. Marceline, Missouri

Disneyland Main Street

4. When Disneyland opened, most attractions required purchase of an additional ticket to ride, with some attractions costing more. What was used to distinguish the different ticket values?

D. Letters

Disneyland Ticket books

5. Aunt Jemima's Pancake House was an early Disneyland restaurant. What current Disneyland restaurant occupies the same location?

D. River Belle Terrace
(And that's's own Debra Martin Koma on the left in the photo below! Adorable!)

Disneyland Aunt Jemima

6. Which of these methods of transportation was not available when Disneyland opened?

C. Monorail
The monorail began operation in 1959.

Disneyland Monorail 1963

7. What future U.S. president was present on Disneyland's opening day?

C. Ronald Reagan

8. Which of the following lands was added a number of years after Disneyland opened?

B. New Orleans Square
New Orleans Square opened in 1966.

Disneyland New Orleans Square

9. Before Disneyland was built, what types of trees were growing on the land?

D. Orange

Disneyland orange groves from air

10. What opening day attraction traveled the longest distance?

A. Disneyland Railroad

Disneyland Railroad Train

How did you do? Were the questions too hard? Too easy? We would appreciate your feedback by leaving a comment using the form below. Thank you!

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