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June 2007 Archives

June 9, 2007

Yosemite Yearnings

I recently returned from a week in Yosemite National Park. While I enjoy Disneyland and Walt Disney World it's Yosemite that is my "Happiest Place on Earth". :-) It was a great week for me - I wish I was going back a lot sooner than I am.

But now to somehow tie that to Disney...it occurred to me that there are a number of places where Disney has incorporated Yosemite (or elements of it) in their attractions/resorts:

The American Adventure at Epcot features a scene with John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt in Yosemite. Though that scene always makes me laugh, since it features a place that doesn't exist - they appear to be on top of Sentinel Dome (with the famous Jeffrey Pine on top), but Teddy is standing on a rock outcropping that looks like one known as "The Visor" and that's on top of Half Dome - yet Half Dome is visible in the background. Nevada Fall (visible from neither Sentinel Dome nor Half Dome) is also in the background.

The Golden Dreams movie at Disney's California Adventure has a scene with John Muir in Yosemite. John Muir is portrayed by actor Lee Stetson, who has been performing a one-man show as John Muir in Yosemite since 1983. It's a great show - I've seen it lots of times. (Though not this year...my choice was John Muir or a hot fudge sundae...and I went with the hot fudge sundae!)

In the "Soarin'" attractions at both Epcot and DCA we get to soar through Yosemite Valley...we fly towards a majestic Yosemite Falls, leaping from the canyon walls in all its springtime glory, and then make a right turn towards the distinctive monolith that is Half Dome. I love that scene.

I find that both the Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World and the Grand Californian at Disneyland remind me a bit of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite - it's quite spectacular. Lots of stone and enormous wooden beams. We had breakfast there last week - the dining room is very large and has these huge high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. Fortunately it does not have the noise level of Whispering Canyon, though. :-)

So did I miss any Disney/Yosemite connections?

June 13, 2007

The Subs are Back!

Whew...the Finding Nemo event was a whirlwind - it's hard to believe I was only away from home for a total of 30 hours - it sure seemed a lot longer than that!

Opening Day yesterday (Monday) was quite an experience and I was excited to be part of it. Even first thing in the morning (Early Entry was at 7:00) the park was buzzing - the new park maps featured "The Subs Are Back!" tagline and artwork on the cover. Cast Members were wearing special "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage" buttons. Thanks to that Disney magic, all signs of the big party in Tomorrowland the previous evening had disappeared, but there was a big stage and risers set up between the Matterhorn and the submarine lagoon that had appeared overnight, and lots of booths from which radio stations were doing live broadcasts.

The first "event" on our schedule was the "What's New, What's Next" presentation in the Honey I Shrunk the Audience Theater. I'm not going to go into great detail here (maybe a later blog entry), but speakers included Disneyland President Ed Grier, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker with a demonstration of Muppet Mobile Labs (amazing!), Tom Fitzgerald, Executive Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering, and Crush the sea turtle. With a brief interruption by a band of pirates...

After that it was time (well time to go and wait, at least) for the Grand Opening Ceremony, though it only started about 10 minutes late. Once again Ed Grier spoke, as well as Disney CEO Bob Iger and Jay Rasulo, President of Disney Theme Parks and Resorts. They acknowledged the Imagineering team sitting in the audience who oversaw the re-creation of the Submarine Voyage. Monday was "Dream Job Day" for the people who were selected for the "Dream Job" positions, and those cast-members-for-a-day walked by the stage in costume ready to go to work - Princesses-in-Waiting, Jungle Cruise Skippers, Haunted Mansion Butlers and Maids, High School Musical Pep Rally performers and of course, Pirates.

A little musical number was next, featuring flipper-footed snorkeling "dancers". Everything was going along just, well, *swimmingly* until a big whale popped up from the lagoon behind the stage. Oh no, how can the submarines possibly be launched with a *whale* in the lagoon??? Does anyone speak whale??? Luckily Dory was nearby - who was another of those wonderful "human" puppets. This whale must have been a bit hard of hearing, though (maybe because he *didn't* have water in his ears?), because it took the combined efforts of Dory AND the audience to get the whale to "pleeeeeeeeease goooooooooo aaaaa-waa-aaay."

Monorail and sub lagoon As the musical number concluded the monorail glided silently into view over the lagoon - completely decked out like one of the yellow Finding Nemo subs, up to and including the conning tower! It was so cool! There was a burst of fireworks and it was official: Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was *open*. (Though it didn't open to the public for another 90 minutes or so.)

I was curious about what the line might already be like so I went in search of the queue. Which wasn't hard to find, since it already stretched from the Matterhorn (where the outermost barricades had been placed) ALLLL the way back to it's a small world (with multiple switchbacks, of course), but it took me a while to get to the front of the line. There I spoke to Mike from Las Vegas (an AllEars.net reader!) who with his wife and a friend were the very first people in line - they had arrived at the park entrance at 5:30 that morning and got into line as soon as the park opened.

I spoke to Mike again just after he'd gotten off the ride - big smiles all around, and he told me it was "awesome". I asked him if it was worth the wait, and he said: "totally." And he wasn't just talking Turtle to me! :-)

At that point it was about 12:40 and all of the barricades had come down...the Nemo queue stretched alllll the way around the submarine lagoon, past the Matterhorn, down into Fantasia Gardens and up onto the small world terraces. And there were switchbacks along most of that which almost doubled the length. The estimate is that it was a four-hour wait at that point.

Disney has done a few things to make the wait a little more endurable - snack and beverage carts have been placed in strategic places all along the queue, and they've done a great job of shading the queue as much as possible. The queue is positioned under the monorail track wherever possible, and the Fantasia Gardens and small world terrace areas have some shade. There were many Cast Members stationed along the queue, especially where the line crossed walkways, and they were doing a great job at keeping those clear. Cast Members were also walking the line and handing out a "Submarine Voyage Quest" to parties with young children (and some not-so-young! :-) ). This colorful brochure includes games like finding hidden objects in the Tank Gang's fish tank, multiple choice questions about the subs and the Finding Nemo movie (What kind of fish is Marlin?), Fun Facts, and a maze game. Cast Members told me that the brochures were in rather short supply and only expected to last for several days before they are gone.

One other interesting thing Disney will be doing: extending park hours for the Submarine Voyage attraction up to an additional 2-1/2 hours after regular park closing - the idea is that anyone who gets in line for the Submarine Voyage before the park closes (even if it's one minute before!) will still get to ride. Though if the line is already over 2-1/2 hours I'm not sure how that works!

There are more pictures of the Nemo attraction and Opening Ceremony posted on this week's Wandering the Land page.

A new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage attraction page is HERE.

Dream pirates and Bootstrappers Before I left the park I went over to Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island to see if I could find any of the Pirates-for-a-day at work. And I did. :-) They were appearing with The Bootstrappers - a musical band of pirates. (Or is "musical band" redundant?) There were two women and three men who were lounging around Lafitte's Tavern with the Bootstrappers and joining in the songs themselves at times. One of the guys was doing a pretty good Jack Sparrow, at least as far as mannerisms went. (My favorite part of the Bootstrappers' act is when they talk about the "cursed dinghy ride" and warn everyone to stay away...especially the kids. Because it's filled with thousands of cursed little children that have been nailed to the floor and forced to sing that song "over and over and over..." Then they sing the song in a minor key as they slowly rotate or imitate the stiff movements of characters in the ride. Ok, *I* find it amusing...)

One thing I've noticed about Pirate's Lair, though - there's always a longer line to get OFF the island than to get ON...I'm not quite sure how that works!

Until next time,


June 14, 2007

Taking the Scopa Challenge

Mike Scopa has been writing some interesting blog entries on running and one of the things he's been talking about is the new Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K run, to be held this October 27.

It just so happens that Lee and I will be in Florida then, on our bi-annual Food and Wine Festival Trip...so when I received the email announcement about the race several months ago I thought it sounded great! But then I realized that it's scheduled on the only Saturday night of our stay, which meant we had to choose between Party for the Senses and the race. We talked about it and the race won out - how many times do you have the opportunity to participate in an inaugural event? (And it didn't hurt that we recently attended Taste, the Disneyland version of Party for the Senses and had such a great time that we don't feel such a need to do it in Florida. We figure we'll do some other dinner/special event that week instead.)

I've run the Disney World Half Marathon, the Disney World Marathon, and the Disneyland Half Marathon, so 13K doesn't sound TOO bad...but it'll be the first race I've ever run at night...plus it's in Florida in October - which means higher temperatures and humidity than I'm used to here in CA. I'm a cool weather runner so I'm a little nervous about that...but I know I can always walk if I need to and still finish well within the time limit. The race sounds like great fun!

So, Mike, in answer to your question...Yes, you'll see us in October. :-)

And how about the rest of you - are YOU ready to take the Scopa Challenge?



p.s. For those interested...my AllEarsNet.com reports on the Disney races I've done are on-line:

2005 WDW Half Marathon
2006 WDW Marathon
2006 Disneyland Half Marathon

June 27, 2007

Disneyland: What's New, What's Next?

In a recent blog entry on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage press event I mentioned that I attended a "What's New, What's Next" presentation, and that I might talk about that in a future blog entry. So here it is.

The session was held in the "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" theater, and made good use of the huge projection screen. But I'm happy to say there were no mice running through the theater during the presentation...pirates and sea turtles, yes, but no mice. :-)

Disneyland President Ed Grier spoke about Disney's "high-touch, high-tech" philosophy in seeking to provide personal and memorable experiences to Disney guests, creating technology that is innovative, interactive and immersive. An example of this is the new Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Nintendo game, which has special components that work within the Disney parks to take guests on a treasure hunt. Not being a video games person I won't pretend to understand it, but apparently your character in the game gets rewarded by additional "savvy" and costumes and other things that might be useful within the game.

And speaking of interactive experiences...there were some special "guests" during his presentation when the gang from Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, including the Bootstrappers and Jack Sparrow, showed up. General mayhem (including sword fights and stunts) ensued for several minutes until "Commodore" Grier ended up with the treasure map.

Ed Grier also spoke about Disney's Year of a Million Dreams celebration (691,494 dreams granted up to that point...no, make that 691,495...) and the return of the Disney Cruise Line to California in 2008 - but none of that is news to AllEars.net readers (who have plenty of savvy already - who needs video games?)

Muppets Mobile LabNext on stage were Disney's recently hired foremost experts in robotics - Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, who were "test driving" Muppets Mobile Lab. This is an amazing device - I don't even know how to describe it. Ummm...it's an interactive, free-wheeling audio-animatronic? It looks like a spaceship piloted by Honeydew mounted on a Segway - with Beaker pedaling. Like Crush, Honeydew is able to respond in real-time to questions, but unlike Crush, Honeydew isn't a CGI creation on a video screen! He's real, and sitting right there in front of you, and can obviously see and hear and react to what's going on. The "Mobile Lab" have some interesting special effects - like lots of blinking lights, a confetti shooter, smoke, and Beaker's "air bag" - his nose inflates into a huge orange balloon! I loved this and would have been happy to see a whole lot more (and hear about the technology behind it), but they didn't stay out very long.

Tom Fitzgerald of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) spoke about the new Toy Story Mania attraction, due to open next year at both Disney's California Adventure and Disney-MGM Studios. He called it the "next generation interactive ride game." Based on what he said and the concept art we saw, I'd describe it as a 3-D version of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters - but with more variety. Mr. Potato Head appears as a carnival barker, and like Roz in the Monsters, Inc. at DCA, is able to joke with guests and make specific comments directed at them. (Roz makes pithy observations about what people are wearing or who they are with.)

Once in the ride vehicles you shrink to the size of a toy and enter a series of carnival games where you rack up points by shooting your "gun" at the virtual targets. Various Toy Story characters are running the games - like Hamm at the Hamm n'Eggs game, Bo Peep at a balloon-popping game, Woody and Jessie at a target-shooting game. The look of your ammunition changes depending on what game it is (like eggs, darts or rings.) Unlike Buzz Lightyear, you will supposedly be able to tell what you're shooting at, since you'll see your shots (which will be in a different color than your neighbor's) on the screens in front of you. There are bonus targets available, and hitting those will change the game, such as making other targets appear. Oh, and everyone wears 3-D glasses to add an additional dimension (groan) to the game. It'll be interesting to see how well that works - I have an awful time seeing the 3D effects in movies - so having an attraction where the 3-D effect is a crucial element? I wonder about that.

There was also an appearance by Crush the Sea Turtle (our own Turtle Talk with Crush experience) who answered a few questions from audience members.

Then Tom Fitzgerald spoke of some of the challenges the Imagineers faced in developing the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, and how they resolved them. WDI developed new digital projection techniques to insert Nemo and friends into their underwater environment. 4D sound systems were installed into the subs with speakers positioned above each guest to custom synchronize the sound with what each guest is seeing outside, since on a 52' sub, the person in the front is seeing something different than the person at the back! The subs themselves were converted from diesel to electric. To keep the vibrant colors of the coral reef environment in the lagoon the imagineers developed a new type of paint that is made from recycled glass and won't fade in the chlorinated water and California sun.

That was about it - to be honest I was rather disappointed that there wasn't anything that was really "news" to me, though the additional details on Toy Story Mania and Nemo were interesting, and my favorite part (in case you couldn't tell) was Muppet Mobile Lab.

Until next time.


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About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2007 is the previous archive.

July 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.