From sunny southern California Laura Gilbreath, Jeanine Yamanaka and photographer Jason Dz bring a west coast perspective as they blog about trips to Disneyland, D23 events, Disney cruises, runDisney events and occasional pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
When River Belle Terrace reopened after a fairly lengthy refurbishment in December 2007, it opened with a new menu, featuring sandwiches and salads rather than fried chicken and ribs. Though Lee and I have eaten breakfast here several times since then (love those Mickey Mouse pancakes!), we hadn't tried the regular menu until recently.
The meat in the sandwiches (and salads) is either hand-carved turkey or prime rib, or pulled pork. (Vegetarian versions are also available.) Lee and I tried the turkey and pork sandwiches. The sandwiches come with no condiments or toppings at all - instead you help yourself at the toppings bar after you pay. There are selections like lettuce and tomato, onions, pepperoncinis, pickles, and mayo, mustard and bbq sauce. I'm sure there were others that I don't remember.
You get beans and one cold side dish (which you choose yourself from the refrigerated case) with your sandwich. They had pasta salad, coleslaw, lentil salad, and fruit. Maybe potato salad as well.
As you can see from this picture, the sandwich pretty much filled the plate, which made it difficult to pile on the toppings. The turkey was very tasty, though - it was slices of white meat and not at all dry.
The pork came with BBQ sauce already on it, and it was pretty good - but not very spicy or sweet. I would've liked a little more flavor. I didn't detect any fat or gristle in it, though.
The beans were very good, and Lee really liked the pasta salad. They are expensive sandwiches, though - $12.99 each, and they aren't really that big - if we had split one that would not have been enough food.
Would we eat here again? Yes, though only if the lines were too long at the Disneyland restaurants we like better (and where we feel we get better value for the money) - Plaza Inn, Redd Rocket's, and Rancho del Zocalo. Though we'll be still be eating breakfast at River Belle!
The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough at Disneyland, which opened late last year, requires guests to climb stairs and navigate some rather twisty, narrow passageways. ("A twisty maze of passages, all alike" for those of you who remember Adventure!) But it's a problem for those with limited mobility.
Disney offers a virtual experience for those who are unable (or don't wish) to climb around inside the castle. I was able to experience this on a couple of visits this year and I was very pleasantly surprised - there's a few things I like better about the virtual experience than the real thing!
The virtual experience takes place in a room in the castle (where one of the shops used to be). There's a tapestry on the wall, a bench to sit on (though as you can see in the pictures below on my first visit this was some nice "throne" type chairs and not a metal bench), and a display case of Sleeping Beauty knick-knacks. There's also a magic mirror...
As the virtual experience begins, this mirror transforms into a high-definition television screen. The trip through the Castle Walk through starts at the entrance as a narrator begins to tell the story of Sleeping Beauty. There's some musical accompaniment, also. (And there are captions on the display itself, though I found those distracting.)
The virtual trip provides visuals of the entire attraction, including going up the steps and through the passageways (which are, fortunately, not really all alike!). It stops at each of the scenes inside, and shows you the entire scene including any special effects there might be. I thought it was a lot easier to see those on the screen than it was in the attraction!
It also visits the Corridor of Goons and allows the viewer to see those effects (and some of those weren't working in the real walkthrough that I did afterwards).
As they all "live happily ever after" the Magic Mirror closes and the virtual experience comes to an end.
I thought the narration was a really nice touch - though the entire video isn't narrated - mostly at the beginning and at the end.
The entire virtual experience takes about seven-and-a-half minutes. It starts to repeat within a minute or so.
Looking up at the ceiling, written on the beams were the gifts from the three Good Fairies.
I haven't seen any Cast Members monitoring the room when I've been there - the door was open and anyone could come and go as they pleased - the video was set to auto-repeat once it finished.
This year we've already seen the opening of the updated "it's a small world" attraction, the new Celebrate! A Street Party, the Celebration Round-up and BBQ dining experience, and the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Over at DCA, the Food and Wine Festival returned for a 4th year, Cocina Cucamonga moved to a new location with an expanded menu, Mickey's Fun Wheel opened, and the Blue Sky Cellar preview center just re-opened with updated exhibits on what we can expect in DCA's continuing expansion.
I think Disneyland received some of its birthday presents early this year with the premiere of the new Summer Nightastic! event, featuring the return of revamped favorites like Disney's Electrical Parade and Fantasmic!, and the new TLT Dance Club, Pixie Hollow Enchantment, and the all new fireworks show, Magical, where Dumbo flies around the castle.
The Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend returns Labor Day weekend, with events Friday-Sunday - Lee and I will be running the half marathon on Sunday. And the very first D23 Expo takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center September 10-13.
Disney's HalloweenTime returns on September 25, including the popular Haunted Mansion Holiday and the return of Mickey's Trick or Treat Party at DCA on selected nights in October.
Also this fall, the very first DVC resort in California, The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa opens its doors.
The holidays return to Disneyland in November as Disneyland is transformed into the "Merriest Place on Earth", with all of the special decorations, parade and fireworks that go with it.
Next spring the new Disney's World of Color nighttime spectacular opens in DCA and who knows what else Disney might have planned?
On Thursday Disney held a media event on the DCA expansion, with a focus on the new Disney's World of Color show, which will premiere next spring. I'll have more detailed information in upcoming blog entries, but I wanted to talk a bit about the event and especially the lagoon walkthrough itself.
The event began in Blue Sky Cellar, DCA's preview center, which has been updated with new concept art, models, and a new video.
Mary Lowery, Director of Internet Strategy and Business Management for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced a brand new website, www.disneyscaliforniaadventure.com, which will provide frequently updated information on DCA's expansion. The website went on-line just a few minutes before Mary began her demonstration. Check it out - there are lots of videos on things like the World of Color, the Little Mermaid attraction, and Cars Land. (Note that the Mickey Mouse clock shows the correct time - and if you click on it the alarm goes off!)
Steven Davison gave a fairly lengthy presentation on the upcoming World of Color nighttime spectacular, including several videos. One of the videos was a test of some of the fountains, mist screens and digital projectors that they did in the lagoon over a year ago, before it was drained. It was pretty impressive!
I didn't think we'd get it ready in time to post with this blog entry, but thanks to the efforts of my husband Lee, here is Steven Davison's presentation. It's in 3 parts due to the length. There's a couple of minutes between the end of the first clip and the start of the second that was proprietary and has been removed.
The name Disney's World of Color comes from the 1960s television show Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, which brought Walt Disney into our living rooms on Sunday nights. The opening music for the show will be an updated version of that theme song. There are more than 1200 different fountains, with several different kinds of nozzles - some shooting as high as 200' in the air (to give you an idea, Mickey's Fun Wheel is 150' high). Each fountain has its own set of LED lights, which can produce 18 million colors. The show will also include lasers, fog, and fire. Plus the world's largest projected water screen - 380 feet wide and 50 feet high (that's 19,000 square feet!).
The show will include animation and music from films such as Alice in Wonderland, Pocahontas, The Lion King, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E. I have to say that the Colors of the Wind segment from Pocahontas looks amazing.
The new viewing area will accommodate 9000 guests, though the show will be visible from just about anywhere around Paradise Bay. It's anticipated to be 25 minutes long.
After that it was time to actually go into the lagoon and see just how they are going to pull this off. First off, we had to don hardhats, vests, and safety glasses. Our "guides" were Sayre Weisman, Show Producer, and Chuck Davis, World of Color Technical Producer.
We could not take any pictures while we were in the lagoon, but here's a video Disney released that shows some of the construction and the underside of the platform.
Here's some of my notes:
The platform is 400' long and 120' wide at its widest points. It is built out of individual 12' x 16' sections which are made of structural fiberglass.
As you can see in the video, the platforms were put into place with a huge crane - it took a couple of days and nights.
About 2/3 of the fountains are currently installed.
The entire platform raises and lowers - it has three different levels: hidden level, where everything is under the surface of the water, show level, which is 23" below the surface, and maintenance level, where the entire platform can be dry.
The blue tanks that you can see in the photo above are the "ballast tanks" - air displaces water (or vice versa) to raise or lower the platforms. Once they reach the desired level they are locked into place with scissor lifts.
There are several kinds of fountains, including grid fountains, which can shoot 43' high, chaser fountains, which go to 85', and blow pops, which can shoot 200' in the air. Each fountain has its own 1 HP well pump and its own LED light ring, which can illuminate the whole fountain. Each has electrically piloted pneumatic valves (I had to be sure to write that down!), to control the flow of water. The fastest ones can cycle in 1/8 of a second!
Each platform has a SUB - a submersible utility box - which contains the logic, electronics, power, and air, etc. for each platform. Everything is remotely controllable.
The lagoon tour concluded with a demonstration of a blow pop fountain - and they said it's the first time they've done that. Since there's no water in the lagoon they had to bring in a water tank. It shot a column of water about 150' in the air - it was pretty impressive even though it didn't last very long since they quickly ran out of water.
After the tour there was a Q&A session with Steven Davison, Sayre Wiseman, Chuck Davis and Bob Weis.
The event was very interesting - it was really cool to get the "under the scenes" tour of the World of Color show. It really looks amazing - I'm looking forward to next spring!
Recommendations for a First Time Disneyland Visitor
AllEars® reader Nancy is a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World but will be making her first trip to Disneyland in September. She is interested in tips for first time visitors, especially any must do attractions or dining experiences.
So what do you all think? If you have some ideas for Nancy, then please send me your recommendations and I'll post them in a future blog. You can either use the Feedback Form (select "Laura Gilbreath's blog" as the subject), or use the comment form located below.
Blue Sky Cellar, the preview center for DCA's expansion, re-opened on July 16 with some updated exhibits.
Most of the content on the Show Ideas and Concept Development is the same, but the bulletin board on Toy Story Midway Mania has been replaced with one showing concept art for two new dining areas: Lucky Fortune Cookery in the Pacific Wharf (in the old Cocina Cucamonga location) and Pardise Garden Grill and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta in the Paradise Pier area. Pardise Garden Grill replaces the old Burger Invasion restaurant, and Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta will be a re-theming of the current Pizza Oom Mow Mow restaurant. The two will share an expanded dining courtyard and are set to open in spring 2010.
There's a display cabinet at the end of the ramp that has miscellaneous items in it, mostly related to Blue Sky Cellar. But there's what I thought was one very special item down in the lower right corner - a notice about a company retirement party for long-time Imagineer Marty Sklar, who retired on July 17. (His window on Main Street was also dedicated on July 17.)
The video in the "Screening Room" is completely new, and focuses largely on the World of Color show. Some of the paper models Steven Davison describes are on exhibit in a display case in the middle of Blue Sky Cellar. There's also a few sneak peeks at Silly Symphony Swings (2010), the Little Mermaid Attraction (2011), the new main entrance plaza (Coming Soon), and Cars Land (2012).
In the center of the room, most of the content of the display cases has been replaced. The model of Paradise Pier is the exception, but it has been updated to show the location of the show platform and fountains for World of Color.
There is also a second model of the viewing area for World of Color.
"Disney Imagineers used this model to create new landscaping, determine the best sightlines, and maximize capacity for the World of Color viewing area. This design reflects the formality and detailing typical of turn-of-the-century public parks, seamlessly blended with today's requirement for effective circulation and spectacular viewing terraces.
"The roses and boxwood in the planters and the two new trellises would have been right at home in parks of the past. Meanwhile, a new state-of-the-art water play area creates a cool zone for daytime activity, while a hidden stage provides maximum flexibility for future events."
This model is described below:
"Study model for vault to hide sound and lighting equipment towers. By day they look like natural stone piers around the lagoon. At night they open to allow the towers to rise into place for World of Color.
This model was used to direct the rockwork shapes and to develop the painting scheme."
As I mentioned above, in a third display case are examples of the paper art created for World of Color.
"The World of Color creative team employed a variety of animation techniques to create new background and special effects for the production. These delicate paper sculptures were hand-fabricated by a local artist for the Alice in Wonderland sequence.
"Each figure was posed, photographed, and then repositioned in small increments and photographed again. When the series of photos is played as a continuous sequence - known as stop-motion animation - it produces the illusion of movement."
The Imagineers' desks have been updated to show work-in-progress for World of Color. On the left side you can see concept art for "Little Squirt" - a character in World of Color - with notes like: "A little squirt of imagination goes a long way", and "Represents the childlike qualities of mischief and imagination." (If you've seen the Steven Davison videos in this blog entry you'll hear him talk about "Little Squirt".) On the right side desk are notes on the programming for the Cheshire Cat: "A) Cheshire Cat's face proj on rear left mist screen. C) Waterwhips create his body & tail. B) Alice falls into a bottle floating on a psychedelic sea of color. D) Grid fountains rise & fall to mirror the water on B) grids extend the sea forward."
Disney has developed a new on-line version of Blue Sky Cellar - the web site www.DisneysCaliforniaAdventure.com went on-line on Thursday, July 16. The web site will be updated periodically, at least as often as Blue Sky Cellar itself (though I hope it will be more frequently than that!).
In the Screening Room there's a map of what DCA will look like when the expansion is finished - I thought it might be interesting to show you the map and close-ups of the various areas that are changing.
The Cocina Cucamonga restaurant in DCA's Pacific Wharf area moved to a new location in June, with a new menu. It occupies the space in the Pacific Wharf that used to be the Lucky Fortune Cookery, which has been closed for a number of years. (But a new version of the Lucky Fortune Cookery will be re-opening in the old Cocina Cucamonga location, probably this fall.)
The new Cocina Cucamonga menu looks a lot like the menu at Rancho del Zocalo at Disneyland, except that Zocalo has enchiladas and Cocina has tamales.
I tried the new restaurant on my visit last week. It's still a walk-up counter-service location, but now they serve up the food on real plates with real stainless flatware instead of plastic. I was very happy to see that the chicken tamale special that I had enjoyed during the Food and Wine Festival had made it onto the regular menu, and that's what I ordered. For $9.99 it's two chicken tamales, each wrapped in a corn husk, served with rice and beans, green pasilla chile sauce, sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo.
It was really good. The pasilla sauce had a little bit of a kick to it - more than I would normally expect at a Disney restaurant - but it wasn't more than "medium" spicy. I noticed that they have cut down the serving size of the rice and beans compared to what they used to serve at Rancho del Zocalo - but that's not a bad thing. Though if you want to share it's not as much food as there used to be.
You can request sauteed vegetables instead of the rice and beans.
For dessert they offer two kinds of empanadas - pineapple and chocolate. As you might be able to guess, I ordered the chocolate empanada. It was just ok - the pastry was a bit tough and there wasn't that much chocolate inside - but for $4.99 I was expecting something a lot better. Crispitos - those deep-fried sugar and cinnamon tortilla chips - are also available.