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September 2009 Archives

September 6, 2009

Disneyland Half Marathon Numbers

Disney posted this information on the Half Marathon - I thought it was interesting!

1 - Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle medal for each person who finishes the race
2 - Number of theme parks that participants will visit during the Half Marathon
6 - Number of Anaheim-based tourism destinations on the race course (Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure, Anaheim Convention Center, Honda Center, Angel Stadium of Anaheim and Downtown Disney)
9 - Water stops positioned throughout the course
13 - Countries represented
13.1 - Number of miles in the 2009 Disneyland Half Marathon
16 - Number of consecutive years that runners have participated in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend near Orlando, Fla.
37 - Average age of runners in the Disneyland Half Marathon
50 - U.S. States represented in the Disneyland Half Marathon, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico
63 - Percentage of female runners
84 - Age of the oldest participant registered for the Half Marathon
100 - Vendors scheduled to exhibit at the Disneyland Health & Fitness Expo, displaying the latest in running and fitness apparel, equipment and nutrition
343 - Registered runners from foreign countries
1,000 - Number of participants for the Kids' Races
1,300 - Number of volunteers expected to work the weekend
1,751 - Number of runners eligible to receive the Coast to Coast Challenge Race medal
4,000 - Number of Mickey's Main Street, U.S.A. 5K participants
13,500 - Number of registrants for the Half Marathon
18,500 - Total number of entrants in three events at the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Disneyland Half Marathon - Registration and Expo

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Today (Saturday) we drove from San Diego to Anaheim, where after checking into the Grand Californian (room not ready yet) we headed over to the Disneyland Hotel to pick up our race registration packets at the Health and Fitness Expo.

We ran the first Disneyland Half Marathon in 2006 when it was a little smaller, and some things have changed since then. For one thing, packet pickup and the expo are in slightly different places.

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Packet pickup is actually in the lower level of the parking structure - though as you can see they had race-lane striped carpet leading down to it. And fortunately it was air-conditioned down there, since it was over 90 in Anaheim today.

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Around the perimeter of the area they had all of the mile marker signs that we will be seeing on the course tomorrow.

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I am especially looking forward to seeing these two!!!

To pick up our packets we were required to show our signed waiver and a photo id. The waivers have been available on-line for us to print out for several weeks, but computers and printers were available in one area for those people who hadn't printed them out in advance (or had forgotten them!). Packets were handed out by race number, so you had to have the waiver to know what your race number was! I thought it was very interesting that Lee's and my race numbers were only 10 off what we had three years ago - we were 4046 and 4047 then, and we are 4056 and 4057 this year.

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After picking up my packet I also had to check-in at the "Coast-to-coast" desk, since I am eligible for the special coast-to-coast medal for finishing a Disney World marathon/half marathon AND the Disneyland half marathon in the same calendar year. I ran the Princess Half Marathon in March. They checked my name off the list and gave me a blue wristband that I have to wear until I check in with them again after the race tomorrow. I have to say that the wrist band is a little annoying when you have to wear it for that long!

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But this medal should be mine tomorrow - maybe even by the time you read this. Pretty cool, huh?

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To pick up our shirts and goody bags we had to go back into the Convention Center part of the Disneyland Hotel, which is where the Health and Fitness Expo was located. There really weren't too many people there, and they had plenty of volunteers.

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After we left the t-shirt area the next set of volunteers handed us our goody bags. These had the usual literature for other upcoming races (there are more Rock 'n' Roll races every year!), some final instructions, samples of Clif bars and energy beans, and a copy of the premiere issue of the Disney Twenty-Three magazine. Interesting.

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They had a couple of nice photo-op areas, too.

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Official merchandise was for sale at one end:

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Lee ponders a shirt - he actually ended up buying the one that's in the foreground.

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This sign was on the outside of the Asics booth. Guess that means it's 13.1 miles to hell, right?

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We had lunch at La Brea Bakery Cafe in Downtown Disney and then went into Disneyland for a while. We caught the Celebration Jazz Band performing on Main Street.

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Back in Fantasyland they are building this structure opposite the entrance to the Matterhorn - maybe it's a permanent home for Fantasia Freeze?

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They are doing a rehab of the Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Junior Circus Train. We had to laugh at this sign on the construction walls: "The miniature realm of Storybook Land is closed for some 'tiny' improvements."

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Later we checked in and got our room assignment and moved into our room. After relaxing for a while we went in to DCA to have some dinner, and enjoyed the light show on the Fun Wheel, then went into Disneyland to see another Pixie Hollow Enchantment show.

We want to get to bed early so we didn't stay for the fireworks - but I can hear them going off now.

More tomorrow after the race!

September 7, 2009

Disneyland Half Marathon - Race Day

We finished! Actually we did better than I thought we would - our official time was 2:28:23. And that included stopping for a lot of photos in the first three miles which slowed us down quite a bit.

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One very nice thing about the Disneyland race over the Walt Disney World races is that you can walk to the start from many nearby hotels - so you don't have to depend on the Disney buses that want to get you there insanely early. We left our room about 5:15 for a 6:00 start. There was a lot of people-traffic getting to our start corral, but we still managed to get there almost 10 minutes before the race started.

Mickey and Minnie, in their running gear, showed up on the stage a few minutes before the race started, and then Goofy pulled up in the monorail. There were some flame pots, and the race started just a little after 6:00.

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They started us in waves, unlike three years ago, and that made a big difference in the early going - it wasn't nearly as congested, which was very nice. We were in Corral C, so we were at the tail end of the first wave.

The weather cooperated very nicely - we'd been having really hot weather in southern California for the last several weeks, but it was probably about 67-68 at the start of the race, and the sun stayed behind the clouds until after 8:00 and that really helped. It was only 73 at 9:00 - it had been 77 or 80 when I'd checked the temperature at that time earlier in the week! Still fairly humid, though.

The course brought us into DCA back by the Pacific Wharf about mile 1.5. Our first character sighting was Flik and Atta next to "a bug's land" - and something we weren't used to seeing at a race here: a line to get our photo taken!!! Bummer.

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The mile 2 marker was near the gate by Soarin' where we exited the park and headed across to Disneyland. We ran in through the main entrance, where I got my picture taken in front of the floral Mickey, where AllEars® reader Mary Jo recognized me and said hi.

In Town Square they had one of the floats from the Celebrate! parade set up, with a couple of dancers and some of the Pinocchio characters. You can see Pinocchio is being a bit naughty in this photo. :-)

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Then it was backstage for a while (where we passed the Disneyland fire engine and many of the firemen) before we came out in Tomorrowland. Stitch was perched up on the Observatron and waved at us.

As we ran towards Fantasyland, the monorail, with its race banner, was gliding by on the rail. Goofy wasn't piloting this time, though. :-)

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Just outside Fantasyland was another Celebrate! float, this time with the Mad Hatter and Alice. I told the Mad Hatter I liked his running shoes. :-)

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Many of the rides in Fantasyland, like the Tea Cups and Dumbo, were running, but the Carrousel was the only one with riders - we saw Bert and Mary Poppins, Cinderella, and Belle.

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Through the castle past Flora, Fauna, Merryweather, and Aurora, and around the hub, where Peter Pan and Wendy were posing at another Celebrate float. Jessie and Bullseye were waving from the balcony of the Golden Horseshoe. We ran past Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion and the Mile 3 mark was at the entrance to the Splash Mountain queue. In Critter Country we saw Meeko and Pocahontas. (Good thing Meeko was out on the race course and not at the finish line - all of those shiny medals would have been way too much temptation for him!!!)

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We ran out of the park and backstage next to Splash Mountain. There were actually Cast Members back there telling people NOT to take pictures - that's the first time I've seen that in a Disney race.

At one point we ran past the horticultural section of the backstage area - people were saying it smelled like cows! There was certainly a distinct eau de steer manure in the air... :-)

And then we were out onto the streets of Anaheim for much of the rest of the race. That's unfortunately the really boring part - from about miles 3.2 through almost mile 8 the course winds back and forth on streets in the industrial park area. No Disney presence at all. Though fortunately there are many local high schools and music groups that come out early to cheer on the runners - we saw lots of bands and very loud and enthusiastic cheer and dance squads. There was even a large youth mariachi band. Thank you so much to all of you who came out so early on a Sunday morning to cheer us on - your enthusiasm rubs off and helps a lot when we are starting to get tired.

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Just before mile 8 we arrived at the Honda Center, where we took a tour of the perimeter of the parking lot. For a "flat" course there were an awful lot of little hills (it was slightly uphill to the far end of the lot) and those started to get harder each time. After the parking lot we got to run on the bike trail next to the Santa Ana river - part of that was dirt and felt pretty good after all of that asphalt and concrete. Though at the end of that section we had to run *up* out of there. Just past that was where they were handing out packets of gel.

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Mile 9 was in the parking lot for Angel Stadium. We got to run through the tunnel on the right field line and onto the field (on the dirt, not the grass) and run around behind home plate and past third base, and then out another tunnel down the left field line. They were showing us on the big Jumbotron screen in left field. And there were lots of cheering fans in the stands! That was really cool.

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I was starting to get pretty tired by mile 10. Lee was the Energizer Bunny, and he could've run faster, but I was about at my limit. Even though it wasn't as hot as it has been, it was still far from my optimal running temperature and I was hot and sweaty and uncomfortable. We were still maintaining about a 10:20 pace, though. The last 1.5 miles were really hard for me - we ran back into DCA at just after mile 12, where I hoped to get some characters to give me an excuse to stop and take pictures, but nooooo.

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We came into the park next to the Tower of Terror, then ran through Flik's Fun Fair and out to the Golden Vine Winery, then along Paradise Pier past the construction walls, and then backstage for a while before coming out in front of the Grand Californian and across Disneyland Drive behind the Paradise Pier and then going between the Dreams tower of the Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney. That's where the mile 13 sign was - only .1 miles left! I didn't have much of a sprint left in me, but we managed to get across the finish line - 2:28:23 after we started. Glad *that's* over!!! (My time was actually two seconds faster than my first Disney Half Marathon in Florida over 4.5 years ago - when I was 4 years younger and the weather was cooler, so I guess that's something!)

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Volunteers were handing out cool damp towels, and those felt VERY good - we certainly did not need the space blankets that they hand out at other races! :-) We got our half marathon medals, and then I went to the Coast-to-Coast station where they cut the wristband off and gave me my very cool Coast-to-Coast medal. It's really very nice.

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After we'd gotten something to eat and drink (there were bottles of water and PowerAde, bagels, bananas, oranges, and Clif bars) we stretched a little bit and had something to eat and drink, and then headed back to the hotel. We were a little stiff and sore, but not too bad. Though as you can see in the picture, we found some things a challenge...like climbing steps. :-)

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It was a terrific race - Disneyland does just as good a job as Walt Disney World in setting things up and taking care of us. The volunteers were great, and did a super job with registration and staffing all of the aid stations. Thank you so much to all of you who volunteered!

I have to say I feel pretty good - not really sore at all, and I'm really very happy to have accomplished the Coast-to-Coast Challenge! But I'm still glad it's over. :-)

Congratulations to any of the rest of you who ran the Half Marathon - hope you had as good (or better!) an experience as we did!

September 9, 2009

The Rest of Half Marathon Weekend - the Parks

a.k.a. What we did when we *weren't* running (or sleeping!).

We were both surprised at how relatively uncrowded the parks were on Saturday. DCA was VERY quiet - even though it was a hot day the standby line for Grizzly River Run was only about 30 minutes, and Toy Story Mania was about the same. We were over at Disneyland about 8:30 that night, and it was also not that busy for a Saturday night. There were still lots of fireworks viewing spots available on Main Street at 9:00. (The fireworks start at 9:25).

We'd had dinner at DCA and it was dark by the time we finished so we went to watch the lights on the Fun Wheel for a while. We wondered whether there were lights on the *back* of the Fun Wheel, too, so we went to check that out, and sure enough, there are animated lights on the rim and spokes on the back side, too. Though you don't get as good a look at it since you're too close and there are trees and other things blocking the view.

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DCA actually closed at what I considered a very early time - it was 8:00. But now that the Electrical Parade is no longer running I guess that's their typical off-season weekend closing time - they close at 6:00 p.m. on week nights. I still don't understand why they didn't continue the Electrical Parade through Labor Day weekend!

While Saturday was quiet, Sunday was a VERY busy day in the parks. We wandered around DCA in the afternoon and there were lots of people there - Toy Story Mania had a 40 minute wait, and even California Screamin', which is a fast-loading ride, had a 30-35 minute wait.

After dinner we went to Disneyland because we wanted to try to see the new dragon in Fantasmic!. The park was way busier than it had been the night before. We got a spot to see the show, but 20 minutes before it started they were announcing that the viewing area was full (we saw the 9:00 show).

I have to say that I was underwhelmed by the dragon. It looked good, but it was obviously still not working properly, and was fairly lifeless - until it started its death scene. (Came to life for the death scene...hmmm.)

In this youtube video from Disneylandnews.com you can see what it's supposed to look like:

And this is what we saw:

After Fantasmic! we stayed where we were, and we had a great view of the Magical fireworks show - I like that one more each time I see it, especially the music. We could even catch a glimpse of Tinker Bell and Dumbo flying through the air.

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Monday morning we checked out of the Grand Californian and went over to Disneyland. It was about 8:20 so the park was still pretty quiet. We did the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride - that's one of my favorites and I haven't been on it in a while.

After breakfast at the River Belle Terrace we went into Fantasyland - the crowds were picking up pretty rapidly already, and it looked like it was going to be another busy day. We had short waits for Pinocchio's Daring Journey and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Over in Tomorrowland the standby for Space Mountain was already 40 minutes so we did Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters instead - even it was up to 20 minutes already, and it wasn't quite 10:30 in the morning!

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People were really pouring into the park so we headed out - did a little bit of shopping at World of Disney, which was also amazingly busy at 11:00 in the morning - and then headed home.

September 10, 2009

The Rest of Half Marathon Weekend - the Food

Of course since we were at Disneyland for two full days we had to eat, right?

After we visited the Expo on Saturday afternoon we had a late lunch at La Brea Bakery Cafe. This is only the second time we've eaten there, but I'm not sure why, because we both really like it - we both look at the menu and say: "Oh, that looks good...but so does that..." and we have a hard time choosing - there's a lot of menus where there's nothing that we really love - just something that we'll eat.

Anyway. It was a warm day, but we were able to sit outside in the shade and that was very pleasant - especially when the breeze blew the cold air from the open doors of the World of Disney store in our direction! :-) One of my favorite things about La Brea Bakery Cafe is their passion fruit iced tea. It is SO good. Lee and I both ordered that, and our waiter did a pretty good job of keeping our glasses filled.

I ordered the Chicken Salad Sandwich. This was thin strips of grilled chicken with shredded cabbage and radicchio, olives, Italian parsley, and roasted garlic on lightly toasted olive bread. It was supposedly tossed in a mustard dressing, but that was very light, and I couldn't taste the garlic, either. But it was still very good - the chicken was moist and flavorful. It came with choice of salad or fries - I ordered the salad. I'd definitely get that again, though I also like their fresh mozzarella sandwich.

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Lee got one of their specialty burgers - the Marmalade Burger. This was Angus beef with caramelized onion marmalade, topped with blue cheese crumbles. They were supposed to give him a choice of onion or sesame bun, but he wasn't asked, and it came on the sesame bun. It was served with french fires. He really enjoyed it.

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(In honor of marathon weekend they were also offering a couple of special pasta dishes all day Saturday and all day Sunday - lasagna with meat sauce, and spaghetti bolognese.)

La Brea Bakery Cafe Menu

That night we were trying to figure out what to have for dinner before the race. I don't need to do a big carbo-load before a half marathon, but having a good dinner with some carbs and protein is a good idea. We didn't really want to fight the crowds over at Redd Rockett's in Disneyland, and don't think the food at Pizza Oom Mow Mow is that good, so we ended up at the Pacific Wharf. Lee decided to try one of the Asian rice bowls at the new Lucky Fortune Cookery, which had just opened on Friday.

The menu is pretty limited - they offer rice bowls with vegetables, though you have a choice of beef, chicken, or tofu, and then choice of four sauces: Mandarin Orange, Spicy Korean, Thai Coconut Curry, and Teriyaki. He ordered the Thai Coconut Curry with chicken. Like Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom, his meal was served in a take-out food container - veggies and rice on the bottom, then the meat/tofu, with the sauce on top.

It was hot and fresh, and he enjoyed it. I tried it, and thought the sauce was good - though it was very mild - more sweet than anything - and the chicken was flavorful. I didn't care for the veggies, though - there weren't very many and they used largely peppers and celery, neither of which I like. But it was decent, and for the price ($9.49) it was a fair bit of food. I think the menu is a little too limited, though - I would like to see them add egg rolls or something like that.

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Lucky Fortune Cookery Menu

I ended up with a Salinas Turkey Sandwich from Pacific Wharf Cafe, which was a big disappointment. Though their soups and salads in bread bowls are made of their wonderful sourdough bread, the "sourdough" bread roll used for the sandwich had no flavor at all, nor the wonderful chewy texture of sourdough. The turkey was bland, and there wasn't much lettuce on the sandwich. And a little more of the tomato and swiss cheese would have been nice. There was no dressing on it, and the only condiments available were yellow mustard and mayonnaise. But at least the green apple I got to go with it was crisp with the right level of tartness/sweetness!

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Pacific Wharf Cafe Menu

On Sunday morning after our run (and a shower!) we met Deb and Linda at Storyteller's Cafe for a late breakfast. Storyteller's offers a breakfast menu, but we all wanted the Farmer's Market Buffet, which includes fruit, breakfast pastries, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, eggs benedict, hot and cold breakfast cereals, french toast, pancakes and Mickey waffles, and omelets made to order. It includes juice and tea/coffee, also. Lee and I were really hungry for some reason. :-)

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I think they really do a nice job with this buffet - everything is fresh and good. And I really like the omelets - Deb, Lee and I all ordered one of those. It's fun just to watch the chef make them!

Pancakes and Mickey waffles are not on the buffet - your server brings those. In the past they have asked if we wanted them, but this time our server just brought a plate with several pancakes and two waffles. (I ended up eating both the waffles since my dining companions weren't interested! :-) )

This is also a character meal: we saw Terk (who really loved my half marathon medals!), Chip, Dale, and Koda. Kenai was also there, but passed us by. No Meeko this time, which Deb said was probably a good thing, since he wouldn't have been able to resist all of the shiny medals that so many of us were wearing. :-) For a character meal it's very low key, which I appreciate.

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It was a very nice meal, and the four of us sat around talking for quite a while after we finished eating - great to relax with good food and good friends!

Storyteller's Cafe Breakfast Menu

That evening Lee and I had dinner at Napa Rose. This is only the second time we'd eaten here, but it was another great dinner, with an excellent server. Rodney did a great job in recommending wines and taking care of us. We had the early dinner seating - 5:30. We didn't wear our medals, but there were quite a few other parties in the restaurant who were wearing theirs. :-)

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Rather than ordering an entree, I opted for a selection of salads, appetizers, and sides, otherwise there was no way I'd have room for dessert (and even with that strategy I was pretty full!).

So my first course was the Summer Garden Tomato Salad - Vine Ripened Locally Grown Heirloom Tomatoes, Rocket Arugula, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Haricot Verts and Roasted Corn tossed with Chardonnay Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese. Linda had this the night before and recommended it as excellent. And I agree - it was really good - my mouth is watering as I'm writing about it!!!!

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Lee had one of their signature appetizers, the Sauteed Hand-Harvested Diver Scallops with a Sauce of Lemon, Lobster, and Tahitian Vanilla. He likes scallops and he really enjoyed this. Rodney came back at one point and chastised him for leaving so much sauce and chunks of lobster on his plate, and told him to sop it up with some bread. We didn't think you were allowed to do that at a fine restaurant. :-)

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As my "entree" I had the Fried Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, with Sauteed Spanish Chorizo, Summer Onions and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce. This was pretty small, but there was lots of wonderful soft, warm goat cheese in the center, so it was rather filling, and very tasty.

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I also ordered a side of Roasted Organic Broccoli with Applewood smoked bacon and tangerine Hollandaise. This was quite large (I shared with Lee!) but it was also very good. I was a little concerned about the Hollandaise - that they might drown the broccoli in a heavy sauce - but I needn't have worried - it was a fairly light sauce and lightly applied. Very tasty. It also came with sauteed onions. Roasting the broccoli brought out a little more sweetness in it, but it was still crisp. Really good.

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For an entree Lee ordered the Wild King Salmon with Szechuan Pepper-Sesame Crust, Santa Rosa Plums and Cabernet Sauvignon-Red Miso Glaze. Rodney advised him that this was a flavorful blend of spices and not a hot blend. It had just a little kick, but not much. The plums tasted very good, too. He cleaned his plate. :-)

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For dessert I ordered the Scharffen Berger Truffle Cake with cinnamon ice cream. I was a little disappointed in this - it really wasn't that chocolatey, and quite frankly, my chocolate lava cake is better. It was beautifully presented, though.

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Lee had the Summer Sweet Peach "Sandwich" - Layered with Homemade Fresh Sebastopol Blueberry Sorbet and Honey Biscuit. This looked very pretty, and I guess he must have enjoyed it, because now that I think about it, he never offered me a bite! :-)

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Wonderful dinner, and we were both pretty full when we left, which was about 2 hours after we arrived.

Napa Rose Menu


Monday morning we went over to Disneyland after it opened and had breakfast at the River Belle Terrace. I think the food is about as good as the Carnation Cafe, and it's sure a lot faster - you have to get to the Cafe when the park opens if you don't want to wait for a while. Besides, River Belle Terrace is the only place that you can get Mickey pancakes! And that's what I had.

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Lee had the Steamboat, which comes with scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon, and regular pancakes.

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We ate outside overlooking the Rivers of America - it was very peaceful, and you'd never believe that area had been menaced by a 40' dragon the night before! :-)

Anyway...breakfast wasn't fancy, but it was good, and I know we'll be eating there again on future trips.

River Belle Terrace Breakfast

So this ends my half marathon weekend blogs - now it's on to the D23Expo!

September 12, 2009

D23 Expo - Day 2, Part 1

It's Day two of the Expo, but only day one for Lee and me, since we didn't arrive until today.

I have pages and pages of notes, and we have lots of video that we are trying to get processed, so this isn't complete.

We arrived at the Expo this morning about 8:00 and had some time to wander around before our first session. So we met up with Deb Koma:

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And I got up close and personal with Herbie the Love Bug:

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We met Deb Wills for the Disney Cruise Line session. As I'm sure you've heard by now, the big announcement was that the Wonder will be doing Alaska cruises in spring/summer 2011. They showered us with a bunch of snowflake confetti for that! :-)

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Donald Duck was the special guest, and there was a special surprise for Donald, too:

This statue will grace the atrium in the new ship, the Disney Dream.

Other items in my notes...some of the special excursions for the European/Mediterranean cruises this summer are a Princess and Princess Ball in St. Petersburg Russia, a performance of the St. Petersburg ballet, kids get a chance to paint their own fresco in Florence, adults can take a cooking class in a Tuscan farmhouse, and there's a treasure hunt in Tunis.

In the future, there will be some trips that are a combination of Adventures by Disney and the Disney Cruise Line - there will be more information on that in the near future.

The Alaska cruises will start in Vancouver, and visit Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and the Tracy Arm Fjord. Excursion opportunities will include the Alaskan Railway, salmon fishing, and panning for gold.

The Disney Magic will be returning to the Mediterranean again for 10- and 11-night cruises in 2011.

Castaway Cay is getting a makeover in 2010. There will be a new Pelican Plunge water slide and the "Spring-a-Leak" water play area. Teens get a new hangout called "The Hideout". There will be some private beach cabanas available for guests to reserve - some on the adult beach at Serenity Bay, and some on the family beach. The cabanas come with a personal host.

The new ships, the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy, launch in 2011 and 2012 respectively. They are 50% larger than the Magic and the Wonder.

After the Cruise Line event we had a little time to wander around the Exhibit Hall. There's a great Lego booth where they are building various things out of Legos - like this statue of Buzz Lightyear:

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And in the Disney Technology Magic area I got to interact with Wall-E - they had a small one that is remotely operated and does all kinds of cute things. He was adorable.

And there's a tea table set up for a meet and greet with characters from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, where I had a tete-a-tete with her Majesty, the Queen of Hearts. I asked if there was going to be a croquet game, and she said no, that unfortunately all of the hedgehogs had run off with the guinea pigs from G-Force. :-)

The major event of the day was the Walt Disney Studios presentation in the Arena. Oh my. It was amazing. Disney pulled out ALL the stops for this one! We were not allowed to have any cameras, so this is all from my notes, with a few photos Disney hs made available to us.

The presentation began with about a 20-minute video montage, set to movie music played by a live orchestra accompanied by live singers. There were lots of movies that I'd forgotten had anything to do with Disney (having come out under different labels), like Three Men and a Baby, Crimson Tide, and Pretty Woman. And then there were scenes from classics like Mary Poppins, Pollyanna, and Lady and the Tramp.

Dick Cook, President of Walt Disney Studios, talked about, and showed us, all kinds of things.

The movie theater at the Disney Studios in Burbank will be open to the public for special showings of The Princess and the Frog from November 25-December 13.

Wild Hogs 2 comes out in 2010.

We saw a preview of the new "A Christmas Carol" movie in 3-D. Robert Zemeckis came out and said that he wanted to present the movie like Dickens imagined it.

There will be a new version of "The Beatles Yellow Submarine", also directed by Zemeckis, and in 3D.

There was a very funny preview of Old Dogs, starring John Travolta and Robin Williams. John Travolta, his wife Kelly Preston, and their daughter Ella Blue all appear in the movie, and they all came out together to a very warm reception from the audience.

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Next up, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which will also be in 3-D. Tim Burton was on-stage briefly, and said that at one time he worked in Disney Animation as an in-betweener. He said this new movie uses live action and animation, mixing technologies differently.

Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter: to quote Dick Cook: "Every time we've put [Johnny Depp] in a funny hat it's always been golden." The movie starts March 5, 2010.

One of my favorite parts of the presentation starred the Muppets. First Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and Pepe the Prawn appeared on the big screen looking down at and talking to Dick Cook - until Pepe told him to "go green light something" and he went off-stage. Then the curtains opened, to reveal a scaled-down version of the Mark Twain with Pepe, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear looking out the front...and as it turned the corner, it revealed a whole bunch of Muppets looking out from the side. Kermit finally appeared in the pilothouse and they sang a version of Rainbow Connection (I love that song!). There will be an all-new Muppet movie coming soon: "The cheapest Muppet movie ever made" according to the ad on the screen. :-)

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Jerry Bruckheimer came out and we saw footage from Prince of Persia - Sands of Time, which opens May 28, 2010.

Then Nicolas Cage talked about the movie Sorcerer's Apprentice - he is a huge Fantasia fan, and doing this live action version was his idea - he's also one of the producers. July 16, 2010 for that one.

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Next we saw footage from the new Disneynature film called Oceans, opening on Earth Day, 2010. Incredible stuff!

Dick Cook announced a new label that Disney is forming with Guillermo del Toro: Disney Double Dare You. This is supposed to be sort of spooky, sort of scary - Lee calls it "Light Horror". We got video clip of del Toro who is in New Zealand right now filming The Hobbit. The first release will be called "The Troll Hunters", and it's based on an original idea of del Toro's.

Miley Cyrus came on-stage where she performed her hit song, "The Climb" live for us, and talked briefly about her role in the movie The Last Song.

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We saw some footage from Tron Legacy 3D, which comes out next year, I think? Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Flynn.

Disney has made an agreement with Dreamworks Studios to produce up to 6 pictures a year under the Touchstone label.

Andrew Stanton of Pixar will be producing a trilogy of movies based on the John Carter of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Jerry Bruckheimer is producing a new Lone Ranger movie with Johnny Depp as Tonto, slated for summer of 2011.

And the finale of the event...cue the Pirates of the Caribbean music, the curtain rises and we see a figure on board ship silhouetted behind a sail...the ship turns, and it's Captain Jack Sparrow - Johnny Depp himself!!! Huge cheers from the audience! The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie will be called: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides. Captain Jack came down and spoke a little bit - he'd seen a talking frog earlier and was wondering "Where has the frog gone?" Dick Cook enticed him off-stage with the promise of rum. :-)

It was an amazing, amazing presentation!!!

There was more from today...but that's all I have time for now

D23 Expo - Day 2, Part 2

Back to Day 2 of the Expo.

One thing I didn't mention...except for the Arena, most of the rooms for the presentations are pretty small - seating maybe 500 people at most, so it's hard to get into most of the sessions without lining up at least 30 minutes in advance.

After lunch we wanted to see Steven Davison's World of Color presentation, but the line was very long,,,fortunately we did get in, though we were towards the back of the room.

Now, some of you might say: "You've already seen Steven Davison do two presentations of World of Color...why are you going again?" Because he is just so amazing to watch - he throws himself into these things and he comes out exhausted afterwards. And then there's the fact that there are some new pieces of information each time - this session was no different.

The main things that I hadn't heard before:

A laser light show will open the show.

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There are two projection screens to provide depth: a 400' wide one in the back, and a 300' wide one i front.

They are *still* installing fountains in the park - he wouldn't tell us the exact number, but said they are about 75% complete.

Amy Grant will be the "voice" for the World of Color.

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At the end of the presentation, Mr. Davison acted out the Spring Sprite/Pocahontas sequence, which you can see here:

This looks like a more amazing show every time I see more of it.

Deb Wills and I attended the press conference afterwards, featuring Steven Davison and World of Color's show producer, Sayre Wiseman. Even there I learned some things that weren't in his presentation...I have video of it, but haven't been able to get it to upload yet. A couple of things: At the end of the show, the fountains (who are the actors in the show) will take their bows. And there are going to be different encores available - likely when a new movie has been released there will be an encore available.

Lee and I went to the Tron Legacy presentation. But he's the one with all of the notes on that. It is pretty amazing how so many of the things we saw in Tron in 1982 are things that we live with daily now - we live a lot of our lives in a virtual world!

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He stayed to watch the original Tron movie while I went to the Disney Rarities session. This was hosted by Don Hahn and Dave Bossert, and featured a number of short films that have rarely been shown, or haven't been seen in a long time. They several times called them "oddities" rather than rarities - and some of them were decidedly odd!!!

During World War II, the Disney Studios made over 200 training/propaganda films for the U.S. War Department and the Canadian National Film Bord. We saw the opening for a training film made for the Canadians, on an anti-tank gun. It was definitely NOT politically correct, and featured a belching cartoon Hitler popping up out of a tank and jeering at the opposing army - until they blasted him and his tank to Hell (literally!) with their guns. At the end, Hitler ranted and raved in Hell while an amused devil looked on.

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The next film was called Winged Scourge, about combating malaria, and featured a giant bigger-than-a-house-sized mosquito. Demonstrating mosquito-control techniques were the Seven Dwarfs, and what makes this film unusual is that rather than using stock animation, animators developed new footage just for this movie. But don't try these techniques at home - some of them involve known carcinogens.

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Another odd film was begun in 1946 as a collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali, but it was not finished until 50 years later. It was called Destino, and featured a female dancer, her lover, and a baseball bat, among other decidedly surrealistic images.

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There was also a sequence called "One-by-One", which was developed as part of a concept for a new Fantasia movie based on World music. Also a short called Lorenzo, about a cat whose tail was cursed, and is driving him crazy because it (the tail) wants to tango constantly. That was truly weird. Last was an unfinished Mickey cartoon from the 1950s called "Plight of the Bumblebee". This one was all pencil sketches and pretty rough still.

It was getting close to 7:00 by then, but I took a quick turn through the Treasures of the Disney Archives, since it was right there. Lots of costumes - like Annette's and Cubby's Western Day costumes from the Mickey Mouse Club, Mary Poppins' "nanny" costume, ball gowns from Broadway's Beauty and the Beast and the Princess Diaries, and, one of my favorites, Guy Williams' Zorro costume.

The be-jeweled Sleeping Beauty storybook was there, as well as Fess Parker's coonsking cap. And there was a dislay case of crowns...from Princess Diaries there was Queen Clarice's and Mia's crowns, plus Fat Louie's (Mia's cat) little crown! Too cute. There was a case of swords, too - Excalibur, Peter's Narnia sword, Prince Caspian's sword, Will Turner's and Barbossa's sword, and even Barnaby's twisty sword from Babes in Toyland. No pictures allowed in there, unfortunately.

So that was our first day - it was pretty overwhelming and busy. I have to say that for the most part the Expo has exceeded my expectations - there is a lot of content available. I am disappointed in the size of a lot of the venues, though - they don't come close to meeting the demand for many of the presentations. I haven't had much of a chance to get to the exhibits, so I hope to do more of that (and meet Lucky the Dinosaur and the larger version of Wall-E) later in the weekend.

September 13, 2009

D23 Expo - Day 3, Part 1

We're having a great time but getting tired - there is so much to do and not enough hours!

Haven't had much time do any video editing, and only a little photo editing, so this is going to be a little less complete than I would like.

Back to Saturday's events...

We headed over to the Expo about 8:15 where we met up with Deb Koma. Lee went off to the "Who Wants to Be an Imagineer" presentation, while Deb and I went down to the exhibit hall for a while.

Where I got to meet Lucky the Dinosaur. He is so cool!!! He purrs if you scratch him under his chin, and he really seems to look at you and react to what you are doing.

I went to the Disneynature event at 10:00, presented by Paul Baribault. They are doing some beautiful, beautiful films, working with the leading filmakers in nature films like Alister Fothergill and Mark Linfield (who did Earth for them). And they are using new camera technology that allows them to get very stable images from a helicopter, even when the 'copter isn't that close to its subjects.

Coming over the next few years are:

2010: Oceans, which will be released on Earth Day, 2010. The footage we saw is absolutely stunning - the colors, the amazing creatures...wow.

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2010: The Crimson Wing - Mystery of the Flamingos, filmed in Tanzania

2011: Hidden Beauty - this is about the pollinators - bats, bumblebees, hummingbirds, and butterflies (and now I have the "We're pollinators" song from "it's tough to be a bug" going through my head!")

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2012: African Cats - Kingdom of Courage. Filmed in Kenya, which is the only place lions, cheetahs, and leopards all live in relatively close proximity. They had just gotten some footage back from their first season of watching the various cat families, so we got to take a look at some of it. I love cats, so this one looks especially interesting to me!

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2013: Chimpanzee - they are working with Jane Goodall as a consultant, filming in West Uganda and the Ivory Coast of West Africa.

With each film, Disney is making available educational materials for free, designed for teachers or other groups to use (there were some Girl Scout people in the audience who were interested in that.)

I didn't attend Jay Rasulo's Imagineering the Future of Disney Parks session since we had other people covering that...but I'm sure by now you've heard the big announcements: the big Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, and the new version of Star Tours that will be coming to Disneyland.

I wanted to attend the Science of Imagineering session, which started shortly after Rasulo's talk was supposed to end, and given the lines to get into the small venue for it, I knew I needed to be in line early.

This session is actually something that Disney developed about a year and a half ago which is aimed at kids, and getting them interested in math and science, but there was still plenty of interesting stuff for those of us who are kids at heart.

So they brought out some of their "toys". First off was a session on roller coasters, where they brought out the Force Vector Simulator and demonstrated it with the help of a volunteer from the audience. I have a video of this, but can't get it uploaded in time...sorry.

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There were also sections on special effects (acoustics), fireworks, biology, and computer simulation. On our way out, everyone in the audience received one of Disney's educational DVDs: The Science of Disney Imagineering: Fluids. Apparently there's 8 other DVDs in the series, with such topics as Levers and Pulleys, Gravity, and Energy. It was a lot of fun - there is an encore presentation today.

I happened to catch up with Deb Wills and we wandered the exhibits a little bit, where I had a close encounter with a storm trooper.

DebK and I tried to see the Princess and the Frog session at 3:00, but there was a HUGE line. And as it turned out, they took all recording devices away from everyone (which they had NOT announced prior), so so the presentation started an hour and a half late!

That's all I have time for now!

September 14, 2009

D23 Expo - Day 4, Plus This and That

As usual, not enough time to write everything I'd like to write about, so just a few things.

Lee's been busy editing video, so we have a few new videos on youtube from Jay Rasulo's Imagineering the Future of Disney Parks talk that we'd like to share with you:

The Fantasyland Expansion:

Star Tours II at Disneyland (unfortunately he had to change the camera battery just before this started so he missed the beginning):

And the new Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure:

Today - the final day of the Expo. Deb Wills and I attended the Making of Toy Story Midway Mania talk. It was wonderful. Deb said that talk alone was worth the trip to California. The four speakers, Imagineers Kevin Rafferty, Robert Coltrin, Lori Coltrin (who are siblings, not husband and wife), and Roger Gould of Pixar's Theme Park group, described the development of the ride from concept through design, construction, and completion. It was really fascinating - I plan to do an entire blog on it - I learned so much about the ride and the story and details within the ride that I never noticed.

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Next we attended John Lasseter's talk on the Future of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation. John Lasseter is the "Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios" (among other titles). There weren't really a lot of surprises or announcements in this one, but I have to say that the future of Disney animation looks really good.

There were a lot of clips, including a few that had never been seen before, so no cameras were allowed inside and we have only this image provided by Disney to show you.

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We saw an all-new trailer for the 3D versions of Toy Story 1 and 2, which was all-newly developed and not actual footage from the movie. Short, but very entertaining, as the Toy Story characters have fun playing with being 3-D - like reaching into the audience.

In Toy Story 3, coming out June 18, 2010, Andy has grown up and is headed off to college, and decides to donate his old toys to a daycare center. These kids make Sid look gentle!

A grown-up John Morris returns as the voice of Andy. And of course there are a bunch of new toys, voiced by actors such as Ned Beatty, Bonnie Hunt, and Whoopi Goldberg. The character of Barbie is back, and this time she's joined by Ken, voiced by Michael Keaton. We saw a very amusing clip that they "found" called "Groovin' with Ken", where he talks about how good it is to be him, and how he's a man's man. He ends the "interview" when the interviewer points out that on his box, Barbie's name is a lot bigger than his. :-)

Another new character is Mr. Prickle Pants, a lederhosen-wearing hedgehog thespian voiced by Timothy Dalton(!). That looks like fun.

We saw a brand-new trailer that was 100% scenes from the movie. It looks we're in for a lot more fun times with the Toy Story gang.

Walt Disney Animation Studios is bringing back Winnie-the-Pooh in a new movie. They went back to the original A.A. Milne books and chose some new story lines. This movie will be all hand-animated to match the original style of Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey Tree and Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery day, including the watercolor backgrounds. Bernie Madison, an animator who worked on the original Honey Tree movie (and looks a bit like Pooh!) is working with new artists to recreate the classic look. They showed a bit of the older movies - I'd forgotten how clever they were with things like bringing the pages of the book into the movie and having characters jump from one page to the next, or slide down the edge of several paragraphs. That one should hit the screen in spring 2011.

We saw a new Cars Toon, directed by John Lasseter - he said he enjoys these so much that he directs them himself. This one is in the series of Mater's Tall Tales, and was called Unidentified Flying Mater. Really cute.

Cars 2 is scheduled for summer, 2011. John Lasseter was traveling the world promoting a film, and when looking out his hotel window at the streets below he wondered what would happen if Mater was driving in a foreign country - how would he deal with the Autobahn, or French roundabouts, or dodging motor scooters in Italy - or driving on the left side of the road in the UK. In Cars 2, Lightning McQueen is invited on a world racing tour with Mater as his crew chief (and of course other inhabitants of Radiator Springs come along, too!). Mater gets caught up in an espionage thing with a super-sleek and gadgety spy car named Finn McMissle. The story starts with a race in Japan, then moves on to Germany, Italy and Paris before ending in London. It looks really clever and a lot of fun!

John Lasseter may be best known for his work in computer animation, but his roots are in classic hand-drawn animation, and they are bringing that back to Walt Disney Animation Studios with movies like the upcoming The Princess and the Frog. This also marks the return of the musical to a Disney animated feature. We saw some new footage of the bayou scene. Fun stuff.

There is going to be a whole sequence of Tinker Bell movies - each related to a different season of the year. The first movie was set in spring, the next one, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, is set in the fall. Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue will be set in summer, and Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods is set in winter, where Tinker Bell will encounter a whole new set of fairies. Tinker Bell - Race Through the Seasons is set on Leap Day - the one day every four years when the fairies get a day off and play the fairy version of the Olympics. These are all direct-to-video releases over the next several years.

Of the fairy tale princesses instantly recognizable by name, the one Disney hasn't yet done is Rapunzel. But that changes during the 2010 holiday season. Rapunzel will be the 50th feature animation film and the first computer-animated fairy tale and the first CGI musical. This Rapunzel has spunk and "lots of girl power" - she's not just waiting for a prince to come. One of the "characters" in the film is Rapunzel's 70 feet of hair.

Mandy Moore is the voice of Rapunzel and Zachary Levi (from the Chuck tv series) provides the voice of her "rescuer" Flynn.

Prep and Landing is a new holiday special coming to ABC this holiday season. Apparently Santa Claus has an elite force of specially trained elves who prepare each house for Santa's arrival - making sure the kids are asleep, the milk is the proper temperature, and that any dogs won't cause trouble. We saw a short clip - this looks like it's going to be a hoot and a half, and I'm really looking forward to it.

He finished by showing us another Cars Toon - Heavy Metal Mater. Never knew that Mater was in a heavy metal rock band, did you? :-) Their big hit was "Dadgum".

Deb Koma, Lee and I tried to go to the Muppets Presentation, but the Lasseter talk ran long enough that we didn't get up there in time to get in line before the theater reached capacity. It was VERY popular. I'm sorry we missed that...we all love the Muppets!

Lee and I had to head back to San Diego after that since we have had tickets for months to see Spamalot tonight! Though I kept wanting to yell: "Grail, grail, grail...uhhhhh" every time they said "Holy Grail"... :-)

More on the Expo and a wrap-up coming "soon".

(Yes, I know I said at the beginning this would be "just a few things". But I got on a roll!)

D23 Expo Day 3, Part 2

I'm writing on Monday about events that took place on Saturday, two days ago, but it feels like two weeks ago! It was a very full weekend.

So...when we left our intrepid reporters they had been shut out of the Princess and the Frog presentation on Saturday afternoon.

DebK and I chatted with Jeanine for a while and then I headed down to the exhibit hall to get in line for "The Making of the U.S. Presidents" session. I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but demand for sessions in the Storytellers Theater (the smallest venue) was so high that they had moved the queue downstairs to an unused part of the exhibit floor. Of course that meant they had to ferry us all upstairs and into the theater, but they really did a good job of getting us in there and still getting the presentations started about on time. Especially considering it was a process they developed on the fly after seeing what the lines were like on Friday and Saturday morning.

I met DebW in line and while we were waiting we had a wonderful chat with Wayne and Jennifer who had come all the way from Australia to attend the D23 Expo!

The session started off appropriately enough as "Hail to the Chief" started playing. First on stage were Eric Jacobson, Pam Fisher, and Kathy Rogers, who talked about the process of updating the Hall of Presidents attraction at the Magic Kingdom with the new President Obama figure. In addition to adding the new president they changed some other parts of the attraction as well.

The focus of the Hall of Presidents has never been about political parties or politics - in the past it's been more about the history of the United States, and now there's more of an emphasis on the bond between the President and the people, and what the Oath of Office means. They consulted Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in putting together the updated attraction, and added another speaking figure: George Washington, who offers the oath of office to President Obama. Actor Morgan Freeman narrates the current version.

The creative team traveled to Washington D.C. to meet President Obama and to record his speech for the attraction. Apparently he really didn't know what an "audio-animatronic" was, but thought it was cool when they told him he was going to be a robot. :-)

After they met with Obama they got a private tour of the White House, or as they called it, "Imagineers Gone Wild". They lounged on the sofas, bowled in the bowling alley, and had a great time - apparently the Secret Service agent escorting them said it was the most fun tour he'd been on in a long time!

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Imagineers Tony Baxter and Josh Shipley discussed the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction, which should reopen at Disneyland in December. They went back to actor Royal Dano's original voice recording of the Gettysburg address and found a recording of Paul Frees that they used with it, as you can hear in this clip. (Sorry about the big head in the middle of the screen at the end - I was cursed the last couple of days of the Expo and always seemed to get stuck behind some tall guy with a big head.)

The Civil War piece "Two Brothers" will be returning - it's been redone in HD.

For the finale, they looked at a lot of pieces of music, but finally settled on the original Battle Hymn of the Republic. They said that it will be "magically stereo".

After the show "ends" and they open the exit doors, they said that there will still be music going on if people want to stick around - it sounds like this is where they will do the video montage to the music of Golden Dreams (same music as the American Adventure at Epcot).

I met Lee in Studio 23 after that for a session called "Lost Chords - Never Heard Music from Disney Animation", hosted by Russell Schroeder, who also authored a book on the subject. They had a choir and a vocal ensemble made up of Cast Members who performed a number of songs for us. Some were from familiar movies like Dumbo, Mary Poppins, and Cinderella, while a couple were from movies that were never made.

It was really fascinating - we learned that creating the music for a movie starts at the beginning, before there's anything at all on film, and so there's a lot of music written for a film that just doesn't make it to the final movie. There were a lot of reasons for this and he gave us a number of examples:

For Sleeping Beauty, there was a complete set of songs written, but when Walt Disney decided to go with the Eyvind Earle look for the movie, the songs no longer "matched", so they went with the Tchaikovsky style instead. Even then, there was at least one song written in the Tchaikovsky style that didn't end up fitting into the movie. The singers performed three different "lost" songs from Sleeping Beauty: "Sleeping Beauty", "Sunbeams", and "Evil-Evil".

There was a song written for Tramp to sing, but they eventually decided that he just wasn't a singing kind of guy.

For Pinocchio, there was a song we heard called "Rolling Along to Pleasure Island", which was removed when they changed that scene into a conversation between Pinocchio and Lampwick to provide additional character development.

Or sometimes the actor voicing the character changed, so their song had to change - this happened with The Aristocats. Louis Armstrong was originally set to voice the cat jazz band leader (called Satchmocat), but he became ill, so Scatman Crothers took the role of Scatcat, and the song written for Armstrong, Le Jazz Hot, gave way to Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat.

Lee put together a video medley of the 15 different songs we heard to give you an idea of what they were like. There were a couple that I thought were very good. There was one I wish he had taped all of - it was from Sleeping Beauty, in which the fairies sang their blessings on the baby...or curses, in Maleficent's case! I thought the Maleficent part was especially good. Included in its entirety is the song "Evil-Evil" from Sleeping Beauty, which is sung by the Goons and Maleficent.

In addition to the singing the presentation included a lot of photos and concept art that went with the lost songs. One project that got pretty far into development was The Rainbow Road to Oz, set to star some of the original Mouseketeers in the roles of Dorothy (Darlene), Ozma (Annette), the Patchwork Girl (Doreen), the Scarecrow (Bobby), and the Cowardly Lion (Jimmie). In addition to music they even did some costuming for this one, and there were stills of all of them in their costumes. The song they performed from this one was called "A Voice to Sing With."

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There was some wonderful concept art for a film that was never made called The Tale of a Mouse. It was based on the story about the town mouse and the country mouse. Maybe it's just me, but I found it stunningly beautiful. The song was called "This is Home".


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I think of all the sessions I saw all weekend this one had the most "heart". You could just tell that it was a labor of love for everyone involved: Richard Schroeder, who did so much painstaking research, and the singers, arranger, director, and accompanist who took the time to rehearse and perform the music.

It had been a long day and we were pretty tired by then. So we all took the night off, and the Debs and Lee and I had a lovely dinner at Catal in Downtown Disney. I'd never eaten there before, but I really enjoyed it - we all did. And as an extra bonus, we could see the fireworks from Magical from our table! It was a wonderful way to end the day.

September 21, 2009

This is Halloween, This is Halloween...

Disney's Halloween Time returns to the Disneyland Resort from September 25 - November 1. It's festive and frightfully good fun! My friend Kristin really loved this last year - she thought it was better than the Christmas holidays!

dht08_mickeypumpkin.jpg There are a couple of new things this year:

Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy - the Space Mountain attraction gets its own Halloween makeover this year - with a new soundtrack, sinister sound effects, and spooky new visual effects. "Escape the clutches of creepy cosmic creatures lurking around every corner. Sounds like great fun to me!

Halloween Screams Fireworks - Yes! Disneyland gets its own new Halloween-themed fireworks show, which will be shown every night during Halloween Time. The fireworks are hosted by Jack Skellington, Master of "Scare-omonies". Villains such as Ursula, Maleficent, and Oogie Boogie are scheduled to appear, and Jack's dog Zero will make his flying debut over Sleeping Beauty Castle.

And of course it wouldn't be Halloween at Disneyland without the return of Haunted Mansion Holiday and the Main Street Pumpkin Festival, with over 300 uniquely carved pumpkins decorating the shops on Main Street.

Big Thunder Ranch Halloween Roundup replaces Woody's Halloween Roundup, but Jessie and Woody will still be making appearances and there will be crafts for the kids. The Celebration Roundup and Barbecue will still be in operation, and Miss Chris and the gang will add some Halloween-themed songs to their repertoire.


dht08_acres.jpg Goofy's Candy Corn Acres returns to Disney's California Adventure, where Goofy has planted all kinds of candy corn in Sunshine Plaza - everything from candy corn grapes to candy corn tomatoes and pumpkins and carrots! This display is whimsical and fun and always makes me smile.

Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party returns to DCA for 12 nights in October. Guests can dress in costume and go trick-or-treating at over 20 locations within the park. More information on the party is available on our Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party page.

Disney villains will be out and about in both parks, as will the Disney characters, dressed in their Halloween costumes.

There will be special Halloween treats available at both parks:

Chocolate Mickey Halloween cookie
Pumpkin muffin with cream cheese frosting
Pumpkin spiced latte
Caramel apple cider
Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin cheesecake

And special menu items at restaurants and vending areas in New Orleans Square:

French Market:
Jack Skellington desserts
Zero's Ghostly Ghoulash
Haunted Mansion Holiday travel mug
Haunted Mansion Holiday spoon dessert
Haunted Mansion Holiday gift with dessert purchase

Cafe Orleans:
Halloween Time Demitasse: duo of beignet with espresso

Blue Bayou:
Halloween Time Demitasse: pumpkin-spiced cake with cinnamon cream cheese

Outdoor vendors:
Haunted Mansion Holiday travel mug
Haunted Mansion Holiday popcorn bucket
Halloween popcorn scoop

And of course there's lot of special Halloween merchandise available, too - limited edition pins, pumpkin Mickey ears. costumes, etc.

Also returning is the Happiest Haunts Tour. This takes places at 4:30 and 4:45 p.m. daily. Guests will hear about Halloween more from the villains' point of view, and also have the opportunity to experience four attractions: Tower of Terror, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Haunted Mansion Holiday. New this year, tour participants also receive access to an exclusive viewing area for the Halloween Screams fireworks show. A 20% discount is available to Disneyland Annual Passholders as well as Disney Visa cardholders and AAA members.

Disney has put up a really cool interactive Halloween website this year - in addition to information on all of the special activities in the parks there are also on-line Halloween games, crafts such as masks and pumpkin patterns, and even a treasure map for a treasure hunt to do on your park visit. In the Videos section, I find the commercial, which features the villains enjoying Halloween Time, quite entertaining. http://www.disneyland.com/halloween

This is one of my favorite times of year at the Disneyland parks - don't miss it!

September 24, 2009

New Wing Opens at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

On Wednesday morning, September 23, the new wing of the Grand Californian Resort and Spa opened, just a little over two years after Disney announced the expansion of the resort.

Speaking at the Grand Opening ceremony were Disneyland Resort President Ed Grier, Disney Vacation Club President Jim Lewis and Anaheim City Manager Tom Wood. The ceremony was held at the new Mariposa Pool area.

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The ceremony ended with the ribbon-cutting. Mickey Mouse brought out the over-sized scissors and Ed Grier and company cut the ribbon.

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"Mariposa" means "butterfly" in Spanish, and as the ceremony concluded, Cast Members on the balconies of the new wing started waving colorful flags, many of them shaped like butterflies.

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After the ceremony, there were tours of the expansion.

Contained within the new wing are the Villas at the Grand Californian, the first Disney Vacation Club (DVC) offering in California. There are 50 Vacation Club Villas - 48 two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom Grand Villas. It is Disney's smallest Vacation Club resort to date.

Our tour began in one of the Grand Villas - the one that overlooks Disney's California Adventure (the other has a view of the Mariposa Pool). We'll have lots more photos of the Grand Villa on the web site soon, but here are a few for now.

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Dining room and part of entry way

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Kitchen

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Master Bedroom

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TV in the mirror of the Master Bath

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The Grand Villas are two-story - upstairs is a pool table and sitting area

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View from the two-story picture window

As you can see, this Grand Villa will have a stunning view of the new World of Color show - the music will be piped in to the Grand Villa.

Next we went upstairs to the Paradise View Terrace. I had been up here during my hard hat tour of the Villas last March - it looks a little more impressive now. :-) According to the sign the capacity of this area is 48 people. There are restrooms at the back of the terrace.

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We also toured a studio villa and a one-bedroom villa, but those really aren't any different from the models, and you can see pictures of them on our Villas at the Grand Californian Room Photos page.

In addition to the DVC units, there are also 203 additional hotel rooms. Though most of the emphasis has been on DVC, in fact most of the new wing contains standard hotel rooms. Here's one of the hotel rooms, which has two queen-size beds.

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Behind the building there is a new patio area, with two gas barbecues for guests who wish to cook and dine al fresco during their stay.

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On the bottom floor of the new wing is a new arcade room: Grizzly Game Arcade. Next door to that is Pinocchio's Workshop, the evening childcare facility. This will be its new and expanded location. Once it opens, it will accommodate about twice as many children as the current facility. There's also a laundry room on the bottom floor.

White Water Snacks has been slightly remodeled to add a few grocery items. VERY few - the selection is really quite limited, and in fact overall it appears to me that there are fewer items for sale than there used to be. I saw frozen pizzas, individual boxes of cereal, bread, peanut butter, some basic condiments, eggs, lunchmeat, cheese and butter, and not much else.

We'll be trying out the new Villas at the Grand Californian on Friday night, so I'll have more of a review after we really experience it for ourselves.

September 26, 2009

D23 Expo - Making of Toy Story Midway Mania

One of the best sessions I attended at the Expo was The Making of Toy Story Midway Mania. It covered the creation of the attraction from idea through design, construction, and the final result. Really fascinating. There were four panelists who spoke: Kevin Rafferty, Robert Coltrin, and Lori Coltrin (who were quick to point out they are brother and sister), who are all Disney Imagineers, and Roger Gould, from Pixar's Theme Park Group.

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I wish I had been able to video tape all of this presentation so that you could see the entire thing - it was just awesome. Deb Wills saw it with me, and she said that one presentation was worth the entire trip to California for her.

Toy Story Midway Mania - The Pitch

It started back in May 2005 when they were working on the new Radiator Springs Racer attraction for Cars Land, and wondering if they could bring some interactive components to that. They decided that wouldn't really work, so started coming up with a new attraction idea based on the idea of classic midway games instead, which involved some in-depth research at the L.A. County Fair. :-) The pull-string shooter was inspired by the Pirate Adventure at Disney Quest. They put together this Pitch to management, and got the green light really fast - within about 5 months after they had the original idea.

Toy Story Midway Mania - The Design

Once they got the go-ahead, the problem was that they had to figure out how to build it. :-) And someone also decided that while they were at it they should build one in Florida, too. They had to develop a new ride system along the way, and in the case of DCA, had to figure out how to fit it around and under the California Screamin' roller coaster without shutting the coaster down very often. In this image you can see the track layout, and how it fits around the coaster track.

In Florida they built the new Pixar Place area, and at John Lasseter's suggestion they made the entrance look like the entrance to the real Pixar Studios - even using the same type of brick.

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Something I had never realized was the backstory to the attraction. Andy receives a Midway Games play set for his birthday - and you see the box for this set up on the floor as you exit the attraction in California:

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When Andy is called away the toys decide to set up and play with the set themselves. The Mr. Potato Head Broadway Barker is actually an additional figure, and "sold separately" - you can see his rather boxy stand and backdrop.

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Buzz, Woody, Jessie, Bo-Peep, Ham, Rex, Wheezy and the Green Army Men play host to the various midway games. We, the guests, are the other toys who are invited in to actually play the games - shrunk down to toy-size, of course. In California, as you leave the loading area and enter the attraction, you go through an entrance that looks just like the box.

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Toy Story Midway Mania - The Animation

The look of the attraction is inspired by a game that one of the designers had as a kid, called Snoopy and the Red Baron, with what appear to be cardboard backdrops, stickers, and pieces made of single color molded plastic.

One issue they ran into with having two hosts for each game, but also two game screens, was the "Doppelganger Problem". As the car pulls into the game, players can briefly see both screens...and if both hosts are on both screens - then there's the Evil Doppelganger. :-) They solved this by having only one host per screen until the vehicles get pulled in, and then the other host magically jumps in to the scene.

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The practice game was the most complicated from the animation point of view, because that's the only time that the players are actually firing at the hosts (who are holding targets in front of them), and they want to avoid a host getting a pie in the face! But people (including Roger's son) have figured out that if both players gang up on one of the hosts, one shooting at the head and one at the feet, they can overcome that. That doesn't seem very nice! :-)

In their test group, they noticed that young children were initially reluctant to break the plates. That's when they added the line where Sarge yells: "I am not your mother -break those plates!". Problem solved. :-)

Something I had never noticed in that same scene...if you watch the green army guys, they are actually working hard to clean up the plate shards as plates are shattered all around them!

Scoring has two components - point score and accuracy. Accuracy was a late addition to the scoring, because they found that some of their testers (cough...executives...cough) didn't shoot very fast so didn't get many points, but when they did shoot, they were very accurate.

Another fun thing during the scoring stop - watch what happens to Woody and Buzz after the "prizes" are awarded. There's so much more depth and detail to this attraction than I had ever noticed before!

Toy Story Midway Mania - Construction and Production

This is the first blacklight show viewed with 3D glasses, which made mixing the paint colors more of a challenge - everyone involved was carrying 3D glasses around with them when they were inside.

Below: Big smile from the boss - must be doing something right!

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Toy Story Midway Mania - The Music

Listen to the music - while the music throughout the attraction is "You've Got a Friend in Me", there are different versions depending on what game it is - a more western-sounding version for Woody's Shooting Gallery, and a spacey-theme for Buzz Lightyear's game.

Kevin Rafferty and Roger Gould spent more than 30 hours with Don Rickles as he recorded all of the dialog for the Mr. Potato Head figure. Rickles had some choice comments about the whole experience. :-)

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It was really a wonderful session - as far as I'm concerned, this is the kind of thing that D23 should be all about.

September 27, 2009

Disney's Halloween Time 2009

Lee and I visited Disneyland Friday and Saturday for the start of Halloween Time. I still have several hundred photos to go through, and Lee is still working on video, but wanted to at least get a few things posted.

The fun starts at the Main Entrance, where a very large pumpkin patch containing some familiar-looking faces "grows" above the turnstiles.

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The Main Street Pumpkin Festival is back, with all of the pumpkins and other decorations.

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And the Dia de Los Muertos display has returned to Zocalo Plaza.

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The Halloweentown gang has once again taken over the Haunted Mansion, transforming it into Haunted Mansion Holiday. This year's gingerbread creation in the ballroom is a carousel featuring Zero and several skeletal reindeer.

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Over in Disney's California Adventure, Goofy has again been hard at work growing all kinds of delicious candy corn varieties, as Candy Corn Acres returns to Sunshine Plaza.

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Candy corn even hangs on the Golden Gate Bridge!

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There were a couple of new things this year, including a new holiday overlay to Space Mountain, called Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy.

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We'll have more to say about this later, but here's a teaser. We first rode it during the day, but when we went back at night we got an extra surprise - a light and sound and special effects show on the roof of the building. I'm not sure I want to know what's in there trying to get out! :-)

Saving the best for last - for the first time Disneyland gets its own Halloween-themed fireworks show: Halloween Screams - A Villainous Surprise in the Skies. This was amazing. Lee produced this video (two minutes cut out to keep it under youtube's 10-minute limit) that will give you an idea of what it looked like. (Yes, he still needs to get a wide-angle lens for the video camera. :-) ) I loved the music, loved the flying Zero, loved the effects, loved the fireworks. It blew me away, and I can't wait to see it again!

I have to say that Halloween Time is back - and better than ever!

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About September 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in September 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2009 is the previous archive.

October 2009 is the next archive.

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