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September 5, 2010

2010 Disneyland Half Marathon - Health and Fitness Expo

This year is the 5th Disneyland Half Marathon - Lee and I are back for our third. We ran the inaugural race in 2006, and then ran last year.

We are staying at the Paradise Pier this year - we were pleased that when we arrived at 11:30 this morning, not only was our room ready, but we had been upgraded to a park view room! Guess we'll see what World of Color looks like from here tonight.

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We can also see that the Little Mermaid attraction is taking shape:

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And so is Cars Land:

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We had a meet with several of our Team AllEars teammates who are also out here to run the half marathon.

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The Health and Fitness Expo is again at the Disneyland Hotel, so that's where we went this afternoon to pick up our registration packets, goody bags, and race info.

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The packet pickup is in a separate area - it's actually downstairs in what is often a parking garage (but it's an air-conditioned parking garage!) Fortunately there were helpful(?) signs...

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I really like the way they use carpet that looks like running track! Now, if only we could run the 13.1 miles tomorrow on that instead of concrete and asphalt...

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To pick up your packet you must have a signed waiver and photo id. You are supposed to print your waiver in advance from the web site, but for those who hadn't done that, there were computers and printers available. The pick-up area was not very busy when we were there, though apparently the lines at the Coast-to-Coast desks were very long yesterday. I haven't seen any figures on how many people are entered in the coast-to-coast, but of the Team AllEars participants I think Lee and I are the only ones who aren't doing it. (I KNEW I should've done the Princess Half in March!!) Oh well - next year.

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After we'd picked up our packets, which included our bibs, timing chips, and race information, we went to one of the stations where we scanned our chip to make sure that our names came up correctly - and they did.

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Since this is the 5th year, they are doing a few special things - around the room they had mile signs from 1-13 - but the signs were from all 5 years of the race.

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And there were some other photo ops, too:

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Upstairs in the main ballroom was the Expo itself - there was quite a line for this particular photo opportunity!

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T-shirt pickup was organized by shirt size - it was very easy. Lots of t-shirts still left! The shirts are unisex sizes - I got a small last year which was way too big, so I got an extra small this year, and it seems about right.

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The Expo had a fair number of exhibitors, but nothing really all that exciting to us, though we wandered around and looked.

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In the arena area they had tables where people could make signs to cheer on friends/family who are running the race.

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I was disappointed in the merchandise selection this year - though from what other friends told us, there was a somewhat better selection yesterday. Even in what they had today there wasn't much of a variety of sizes, though.

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Back in the room we went through our "goody bags" to see what we had. There's a Kodak disposable camera with the Disneyland 5th Half Marathon logo on it and the notation: "13.1 miles of pure enjoyment". I guess it's a film camera...I'm not sure I still know how to use one of those! It's bigger than my Canon digital camera, though - so I won't be carrying it tomorrow. Lots of literature for various marathons and half marathons - did you know there are 14 different Rock and Roll races now?

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Tonight we met Deb, Cathy, and Jessica for dinner at Storyteller's Cafe - most of us did the dinner buffet, which had a nice selection of both protein and carbs. I feel fueled for tomorrow now.

Now comes the hard part...trying to sleep when we know we have to get up really early, and have pre-race jitters on top of that.

By the time many of you read this we will probably be done with the race - it starts at 6:00, and we hope to finish in about 2.5 hours, which includes lots of photo stops in the first four miles. I will plan to post an update to this blog after we get back to the room.


*** Update ***
Finished in 2:37:37 - not a great time, but there were lots of characters in miles 1-4, and several lines were quite long, so that cost me about 25 minutes. Weather was GREAT - overcast and cool. Deb Wills also finished, though I don't know her time yet.

September 19, 2010

Disneyland 2010 Half Marathon - Race Day

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Actually I'm going to start with Saturday night. We thought we would have a view of World of Color from our room and we were right - it was a sideways view, so we could just see a little bit of the central projection screen. And that wasn't clear enough to make out what was there if you didn't know what it was. Nice view of the fountains, though, and a much better perspective of just how high some of them go! We could hear the music - I didn't think to check to see if it was on one of the TV channels.

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Sunday, September 5, 4:30 a.m.

That's when our wakeup call was. No cute Mickey or Stitch voice from the Paradise Pier, though - just some music.

I had been awake since 3:45, so I was just as happy to get up - I never sleep well the night before a race.

We had a quick breakfast - bagels, peanut butter, banana - something to give us some energy. We left the room a little after 5:00. One thing we LOVE about the Disneyland race as opposed to those at Walt Disney World - we can WALK to the start line, and don't need to be at the mercy of the buses that want to get you there insanely early. By the time we walked to the pre-race area they were already encouraging people to go to their start corrals, so it was pretty well cleared out. Last year there was a horrible chokepoint getting out of the pre-race area and to
the start corrals - I don't know if they had rearranged things this year or if we were just a little earlier than last year, but it really wasn't a problem.

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We lucked out with the weather - it was 63 at the start of the race and was overcast until about 9:00. A little humid, but not as bad as last year, and there was a breeze. It sure warmed up fast after about 10:00, though - the high that day was 82 or so.

We made our way to Corral C, and got pretty close to the front of it. Not really much of a big production for the start - no fireworks or monorail this year, though Mickey and Minnie were with the race announcer like usual.

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The race started promptly, and they again did it in waves. In Corral C we were about 10 minutes off the start of the race. Starting runners in waves like that has really made a difference in the crowding/congestion in the early miles of the race - it really wasn't bad at all.

And each wave got their own "START" and "GO" on the big screen over the start line.

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The first mile went very fast, even though we were taking it easy and trying not to go out too fast. We blew into DCA between the Pacific Wharf and Bountiful Farm. They had several of the puppets they use during the World of Color pre-show and we stopped to get our photo taken with Tigger.

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Then I got in line to get my picture with Mike, but Lee ran on...then turned around to look for me. I waved, and thought he'd seen me, but it turned out he hadn't, so after I got my picture taken he wasn't where I had last seen him. I looked for him, but eventually ran on, figuring he'd decided he didn't want to deal with all of the photos. As it turned out he hadn't seen me stop the second time, and thought I had gone ahead, and ran to the next character and waited for me, but I'd stopped to use the restroom, so was delayed. He stopped a few more times, but I kept getting further behind because of character photos so eventually he gave up and just ran his own race.

Lilo and Stitch had a pretty good line, but as usual Disney had employees at each character stop to take photos, so it went pretty fast. It was even more efficient at areas where they had two or three people to take photos.

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This was more characters than I've seen in DCA before - there was also the Sebastian puppet, Koda and Kenai, and Lightning McQueen and Mater.

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We left DCA at the gate between Soarin' and the Grand Californian - there were a fair number of people cheering us on in the short section we ran between Downtown Disney and the Disneyland entrance.

On Main Street were Mary Poppins, Bert, and a couple of chimney sweeps.

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From Main Street we turned left into Frontierland - Louis, Tiana and Naveen were in front of the Mark Twain and Jessie, Woody, and Bullseye were outside Big Thunder Ranch.

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Just behind the castle were the Queen from Snow White (I told her I thought that the Magic Mirror was wrong about Snow White being fairest, and she said she liked me), and Cruella DeVil. Maleficent was cheering (or maybe it was jeering) runners on from the balcony above.

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The Princesses were gathered just past the castle drawbridge - that was the longest photo line of the day. But when else do you have a chance for a photo with Snow White, Belle, Aurora and Cinderella all at one time?

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The Storm Troopers had taken over Tomorrowland - I got taken into custody for speeding. :-)

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We went by the submarine lagoon and around the Matterhorn - I was surprised not to see any of the Alice in Wonderland characters by the teacups. (As usual, the rides like Dumbo, the carousel, Astro Orbitor and Tea Cups were operating as we ran by).

The race route was a little different this year - rather than exiting the park by Splash Mountain like last year, we went out next to "it's a small world". Backstage one of the trains was out, and the engineer was blowing the whistle periodically.

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And two somewhat rare characters, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar, were back there.

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We went out onto Ball Road by the Team Disney building, which was also just about the four mile mark. All of the photos really slowed me down - it took me an hour and 6 minutes to get that far (normally that would take 40-42 minutes).

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And then we got to the boring part of the race - though the race literature insists on calling it the "scenic streets of Anaheim". It's a tour of the industrial park - go down one street, then go over a block and back up to Ball, then down another block until we hit the Honda Center at about mile 8. There are quite a few music groups that come out to entertain the runners, though - in addition to high school bands, I saw a mariachi group and a group of Hawaiian dancers.

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Also lots of cheerleading squads - there were quite a few of them outside the Honda Center. I decided they weren't making enough noise so I ran past with my hand to my ear like I couldn't hear them, and that got them going. :-) I also got a lot of personal "Go Laura!" cheers (my name was printed on my race bib). That was fun.

One of my favorite parts of the race is the portion of the course just behind the Honda Center where we drop onto the Santa Ana Trail next to the riverbed and run on dirt for a quarter mile or so. That feels pretty good after running on asphalt and concrete. It's a bit narrow, though.

Because I'd spent so much time taking pictures, I was in with the 11-12-minute/mile runners for the most part, so I was passing lots of people - which was very good for my morale. :-) My pace had picked up quite a bit since I wasn't stopping for too many photos.

At about mile 9.5 we came to Angel Stadium, where we got to run on the field (or on the dirt foul territory portion) from right field around home plate and out the left field tunnel. There were lots of people in the stands cheering us on, and there was a camera with a live feed to the jumbotron so we could see ourselves as we came near third base. Fun.

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I usually start to fade around mile 10 but I was feeling really good thanks to the cooler temperatures, so I did the last 3.1 miles in about 30 minutes - and that included a quick photo with the Incredibles. (I think it is my favorite photo from the race.) This year the race route did not go into DCA on the return - it stayed on the perimeter road that goes around the back of the park.

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My time was 2:37:34, which is not that great (I think it's actually my worst half marathon time!), but it could have been 20-25 minutes faster if I hadn't stopped for all those photos - but where's the fun in that? :-) Mostly I was very encouraged because I
felt so good at the end of the race and was able to maintain my pace even in the final miles. I could have continued to run, but I was really glad I didn't have to!

After getting my nifty Disneyland Half Marathon medal (with the big 5 because it's the 5th one), I got some food and met Lee at the family reunion area - fortunately we had established BEFORE the race started where we would meet if we got separated. He finished in 2:21, and would have been faster if he hadn't waited several times for me. We both had really good races in terms of energy and how we felt afterward.

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The walk back to the Paradise Pier helped cool us down and keep us from stiffening up. A shower felt really good, too!

I must admit that I felt like an underachiever, seeing so many people walking around with the Disneyland medal and the coast-to-coast medal, including Deb Wills and Cathy Bock (you ladies ROCK!). There were about 2500 people who were going for that this year - I'll be doing it next year, though!

And speaking of next year...Lee and I have both joined Team AllEars - we will be participating in the Goofy Challenge in January. Why? Ummm...it seemed like a good idea at the time? :-) I think most of you who read this blog are very familiar with Team AllEars and its fund raising efforts in support of the Avon Breast Cancer fund. But if you're not, you can read about it here:
http://land.allears.net/blogs/teamallears

As members of Team AllEars Lee and I have committed to raising $1000, so we would really appreciate your support. If you would like to donate, you can donate via credit card directly on Deb's Avon Breast Cancer Walk site:
http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/WashingtonDC?px=3843338&pg=personal&fr_id=2010
- click on the pink "Donate Now" box. In the "How would you like your name to appear" box please put your name followed by "Team AllEars Laura and Lee" so they can track our fundraising efforts. If you wish to remain anonymous, just put "Team AllEars Laura and Lee" in the box. Thank you!


September 20, 2010

DCL in the Mediterranean, Redux

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So, just to show you how dedicated your Disneyland correspondents are to providing you with balanced coverage, both Laura and I managed to book the exact same cruise, some months apart.

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Since Laura's already done the hard lifting of detailing each day of the cruise in her entries, I figured I would just hit the highlights.

Scheduling-wise, it worked out better for flout all conventional wisdom and fly into Barcelona the day the cruise departed. I won't deny it was a pretty rough day, but everything went smoothly and the fact that the ship wasn't scheduled to leave until 9pm was reassuring. I recommend the ship transfers, even though they were expensive, because it would have been a hassle to navigate the airport and try to negotiate a cab while all groggy and disheveled from around 18 hours of flying. Plus, they took us on a short tour of the city before getting us to the port earlier than I've ever gotten myself to a port before a cruise.

Our cruise was lightly attended--one CM told me they only had around 1000 people signed up until a month or so before departing. On the plus side, this probably helped us to get a cabin upgrade, but on the neg side, had the effect that a lot of the different excursions got canceled due to low numbers.

The first day was fairly rocky sailing--fortunately, the Medical Health Center has a box with courtesy motion sickness pills outside the door for those who lack the forethought to bring their own. Twice Charmed was the show for tonight which I always enjoy for the sheer bizarreness of the plot.

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In Malta, we took an excursion to the Blue Grotto which was very nice--the water was unbelievably blue. In general, Malta was quite picturesque and probably one of the ports I'd most like to revisit.

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In most of the ports I tried to visit the adjacent town after we returned from our excursions. Unfortunately, it's probably important to remember that in a number of countries in Europe, most establishments shut down from around 2pm to 4-7pm, after which they stay open until later in the evening. Since we generally had to be back on the ship by around 6pm, this cut down on the amount of additional sightseeing that could be done.

Tunis was an interesting port--I have a feeling that there's an exciting city to discover here, but we didn't find it on our excursion. On Panoramic Tunis, they took us on a bus tour around the general area which was mostly just stopping for quick photo stops. When the first stop resulted in our group getting charged by yelling, whistling Tunisian Police because we turned out to be right in front of their Ministry of Defense, you sort of knew how it was going to go. Other fun stops ended up being outside various admission-only locations, where we were invited to take photos by sticking our cameras through the bars of the fence.

Unfortunately, the port is too far away from the town to walk on your own, and from the lecture onboard, they don't recommend people trying to take public transportation--even taxis were considered a little marginal--so you tended to be limited to the excursions offered. At least there were camels right outside the ship for photo-ops.

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On an earlier trip to Italy, we had already seen Pompei and Capri, so we took an excursion to the lesser-known ruins of Herculaneum. This town was completely buried by Vesuvius, and consequently survived the depredations of time better than Pompei...however, lacking the big tourism money that Pompei gets, it looks apparent that they're having difficulty maintaining the parts already excavated.

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As this was a half-day tour, we finally managed to sneak in a movie as well--we saw Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp in 3-D, and almost had a private showing of it, as we were joined by a total of one family who came in as it was starting.

Because we only had one day in Rome, and it was fairly distant to the port, we decided to take an excursion that went solely to the Vatican, to minimize the amount of transit time. The private train car from Civitavecchia to Rome that they had for us was nice, however it was all walking from that point on, which was a little wearing for the less able-bodied among us.

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The tour itself was fine, but there was just not enough time. When you spend more time in the security line than in the Basilica itself, it was too short a trip.

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The difference between the 10 day and the 11 day cruises (I noticed for next year, they were planning 7 day Mediterranean cruises) was the addition of a sea day--I cannot imagine how exhausted you'd be at the end of the cruise if you didn't have any sea days. Frankly, I think they'd be better served adding more in, and making it a 12 or even 14 day cruise.

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I liked the new Villains show, although it seemed as though they continue a trend of performing adapted versions of the classic songs in the shows. I tend to think most of their song catalog is pretty good "as-is," without having to have, say, a heavy metal overlay on it.

In La Spezia, most people went off to Florence--we'd already been there, so we opted for a closer excursion--a boat tour of Cinque Terre. These cliffside villages are as attractive as they are isolated--most of them are unreachable by car. There is a train that links all of them, and the hiking trails are supposed to be highly regarded, but I can't imagine a better view of them than from the sea.

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The excursion stopped at two of the five villages, but really for only enough time to give you the desire to come back and see them all more thoroughly. Pack light though--I saw a couple people sitting mournfully around with their large pieces of luggage, contemplating some of the steeply-inclined roads.

Ajaccio was a small town, very manageable by foot from the ship. As we were there on a Sunday however, a lot of the town was closed, including many of the churches, which seemed odd. We wandered around and found the house that Napoleon grew up in, which was fairly interesting and included some of his death-masks.

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Our final port, Villefranche, was the jumping-off point for Nice and Monaco. Our excursion took us from the antique market in Nice, to the palace and cathedral in Monaco, to the James Bond casino in Monte Carlo.

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In the cathedral, we got a short tour around, and were able to see the resting place of Princess Grace, née Grace Kelly.

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This tour did a fairly good job of showing you around, although the bus parking in Monte Carlo is a pretty strenuous hike away from the area where the casino is. I've been there on land tours, and I honestly don't remember having to make that much of an effort getting over there...unless I'm just older now (ouch.)

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That night we had what was probably the best dish I had the whole cruise, that wasn't at Palo: Soft-shell crab. Mmm.

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We also got a different deck show that night that was specific to the Med cruises: Party Paradiso. It was a little reminiscent of the usual Pirate deck party, but with different acts and some Cirque-type performers sliding down the wire instead of Mickey.

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After an uneventful sea day, the cruise was sadly concluded. We had booked a hotel night and transfers from DCL for one night post-cruise at the AC Diplomat. Remember how I said the transfers from the airport were worth it? No so much the hotel transfers. You had to collect your own luggage and find the right bus that was going to the hotel on your own. After making us all wait for about half an hour in the non-ventilated bus, they finally drove us over and then didn't even stop with the door facing the sidewalk--you just had to jump out into moving traffic and pray your St. Christopher metal was paid up. Then the bus driver just opened up both sides of the luggage compartment and everyone had to scramble to excavate their own luggage out of the bottom of the bus, going back out into the moving traffic to get the ones that were on the other side. Inside the hotel, there was no one to help check us in and it took some doing even to figure out where the line was, given all the haphazard stacks of luggage and confused people. I certainly wouldn't book either the hotel or the transfers through DCL again--it would have been just as easy to take a public bus.

We spent the afternoon on a segway tour of Barcelona which was very fun but required around three hours of standing. Afterwards, we managed to make it over to Sagrada Familia to see at least one of the big Gaudi structures.

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The next day we flew back through JFK again. I concur with Laura, when she says she'd rather be elsewhere. The airline lounges make it slightly more bearable, but only slightly.

In general, the cruise was a fun experience, but I couldn't recommend it to anyone who hadn't been to Europe before. The ports are just too far away from the main tourist destinations for anyone to get to spend the amount of time there that they deserve. If I hadn't seen most of these places before, I would think it would be pretty frustrating to think I flew across the ocean, and sailed on a ship for a week, and then took a train for an hour so that I could look at the Sistine Chapel for five minutes. The pace is also fairly grueling, so anyone looking for the relaxed pace of a transatlantic or even Panama Canal cruise would likely be disappointed.

The excursions are the weak point, and I think DCL's response to that is to offer the Adventures by Disney add-on, in which Disney adventure guides manage everything for you, from excursions to meals to private parties and activities. The people who took that option seemed absolutely euphoric about it, and it has apparently sold out (there are only 40 slots) almost every time. It was expensive--when I figured it out, it would have ended up being 2-3 times what I spent on the rest of the cruise, so I opted out--but if you've got the extra dough, I don't have a doubt that this would greatly improve the experience.

If you understand the time limitations, and pack your walking shoes, it's a great time. International travel is a terrific way to explore new environments and investigate different ways of living.

"...if not now, when?"
---Hillel the Elder

September 21, 2010

Duffy Comes to Disneyland

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On September 19th, Disneyland played host to a special AP preview of one of their upcoming pieces of merchandise--Duffy the Disney Bear.

Duffy, or a reasonable facsimile, has been sold around the parks before as "The Disney Bear," but only reached superstar status in Japan, where he and his associated outfits and other merchandise are the subject of some devoted and often frenzied purchasing. Hoping to inspire similar interest in America, Disney is planning to introduce Duffy with the same backstory and copious wardrobe in DCA and EPCOT next month.

At the event (where photos were prohibited,) the story of Duffy was related, which is basically this: Minnie stitches him together to accompany Mickey on an ocean voyage. After traveling the world, Mickey returns with Duffy, and they are all friends. It doesn't appear to be that complicated.

Later, Disneyland Resort Ambassador Quinn Shurian came out and chatted about Duffy's popularity in Tokyo DisneySea, and displayed some of the many costumes Duffy will enjoy--a Chinese outfit, a sailor suit, pajamas with bunny slippers, and much more. He then related that Duffy will start being available for purchase October 14, 2010, in the Treasures in Paradise shop in DCA.

Manager of Merchandise Synergy Dana Trujillo was then introduced, who let us know that Duffy will soon have his own Facebook and Twitter account. They plan to begin constructing photo ops for Duffy around the park, which will be designed for you to pose your bear and take its picture, and will also have meet and greets with Duffy around Paradise Pier. Different merchandise they're bringing out include rice krispy treats, Duffy cake, mugs, popcorn buckets, placemats, flocked pins, ear hats, and special Duffy-shaped vinylmation. Duffy will also be featured in this year's ABC Christmas parade.

After giving out two Duffys to the audience, Duffy himself made an appearance. Afterwards, everyone was given a Duffy rice krispy treat, and invited to purchase their own Duffy and sailor suit in advance of general release.

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If you'd like more information about Duffy, and you read Japanese, you can visit his official page at the Tokyo Disney Resort website: http://www.tokyodisneyresort.co.jp/tds/duffy/index.html Otherwise, a quick google yields any number of webpages dedicated to Duffy, including some complete translations of his origin story.

It's Halloween Time at Disneyland

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If it's September, it must be Halloween Time.

This weekend, Disneyland rolled out its Halloween decorations in preparation for the season. While the new hard-ticket event Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland isn't starting until October first, the Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy overlays are already in place, and the decorations for the Big Thunder Ranch Halloween Round Up and Main Street Pumpkin festival are bursting with pumpkin-y goodness. Additionally, seasonal desserts and merchandise abound in eateries and stores around the park.

September 23, 2010

Halloween Treats on Main Street at Disneyland

Deb Wills wandered down Main Street yesterday and found some yummy Halloween Treats!


At the Candy Palace:

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

At the Blue Ribbon Bakery

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

The Market House

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets


Now here are some treats for YOU for reading this far....

Donald and Mickey on Main Street in their finest Halloween attire!

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

Disneyland Halloween Treets

September 24, 2010

Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom

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On September 18, the 1313 Club and Ape Pen Publishing presented an event: Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom, at the Disneyland Hotel. It was a night dedicated to the history and development of storytelling through mechanical means, and primarily through Audio-Animatronics.

The evening began with a reception area encompassing several rooms, the entry of which held a variety of familiar Disney props, pictures, and vehicles.

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In the center was a table displaying items up for silent auction including many signatures from Disney Legends.

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The next room was filled with mechanical creations--some "alive," and some not--most of which were supplied by Garner Holt Productions, a company who provides many Audio-Animatronic figures for the Disney parks.

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In the last room, there was a great deal of music, as both the Singing Busts from the Haunted Mansion (with a slightly different cast,) and a group called "Windows to Sky" were playing in opposite corners of the room. Off to the side, Doombuggies.com shared a table with Brian Crosby, Disney Artist and Imagineer, and the Mousetalgia Podcast.

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On the way into the ballroom, Disney Legends Alice Davis and Xavier Atencio were nice enough to take photos, give autographs, and generally be entirely charming to all their admirers.

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The dinner program started with a slideshow of construction footage from Disneyland, which was followed with a short performance by Can Can Dancers, and a brief appearance by C-3PO and R2-D2. The Can Can Dancers reappeared afterwards to present Garner Holt with a birthday cake, as he had just turned 50 the day before.

Moderator Brian Sommer then introduced our guest host for the evening: Neil Patrick Harris.

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The first presentation, "How It All Began: Mr. Lincoln Goes to the World's Fair," by Disney Legend Bob Gurr and Imagineer Josh Shipley, started off with one of the funniest moments of the night, as Bob Gurr entered the stage driving a working monorail mock-up...possibly the slowest moving monorail in history. After he dismounted (without spilling his martini,) NPH took over the task of driving it off, which took long enough that he eventually had to ask "is it still funny?"

The rest of the talk had Bob Gurr recounting the original development of Lincoln with Walt and Royal Dano, and Josh Shipley showing footage of the refurbishment process they went through just recently, to restore him.

Next up were Michael Broggie, son of Roger E. Broggie, and Michael Campbell, President of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, who spoke on "The Early Days, It All Started with a Train." They spoke on Walt's love affair with trains, and the evolution of his collection, from the construction of a minature railway in his backyard, to the considerably larger one that encircles Disneyland.

"The History of Audio Animatronics" was a presentation Senior Conceptual Designer Larry Nikolai, and Senior Show Animator Ethan Reed had put together to inform the new generation of Imagineers how technology advanced from the original singing bird Walt picked up in Europe, to the oversized Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story Mania, and the newly refurbished Abraham Lincoln figure.

"MAPO Magic" was a panel discussion with Imagineers Rick Berryman, Butch Borcherding, Roger Broggie, Jr., Rudy Pena, and Corky Wilds. MAPO was the original construction arm of Imagineering before it was all incorporated together--Walt created it with the profits from Mary Poppins, from whence the name comes. They told a number of anecdotes about how they came to work there, and the general state of bewilderment they were often in, trying to accomplish the impossibly innovative demands Walt made on them. Of course, because they were all engineers, a lot of the punchlines ran along the lines of "...but they were steel brackets! Ha!"

After an intermission, the program resumed with Kathryn Beaumont (the voice of Alice and Wendy,) and Cartoonist Floyd Norman, in "From Paper to Life," in which they discussed what it was like meeting and working with Walt Disney. Kathryn Beaumont also related the process by which they brought her back to re-record some lines as Wendy for the refurbished Peter Pan ride, and Floyd Norman talked about some of his recent work on Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc., with Pixar.

"Crossbones, Tombstones and Singing Dolls" brought Alice Davis and Xavier Atencio onstage to recount how they came to work for Disney, and the means by which they wound up in careers very different from what they had originally intended. Alice had initially wanted to be an animator, however she was placed in costume design after being told that women could not be animators--only ink and paint girls. Subsequently, she went on to do costumes for It's a Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean: "I went from sweet children to Dirty Old Men." X. had started as an animator on Pinocchio, but was then sent off to war for 4 years afterwards. When he came back, he was transitioned to Imagineering, where he was put in the story department and later came up with the song "Yo Ho, Yo Ho." "A song was born--and a songwriter with it." Their ability to recollect the events of Walt's time was remarkable--their only concession to age was their comment when the panel was done, that they'd prefer to be placed earlier in the program next time. "Old folks get tired!"

Darrin Hughes, Senior Figure Programmer, presented "It's Alive! Programming Creatures to Life," and spoke of his work and methodology in working with the figures and his computer console to bring movement and action to the now dressed and storywritten figures...and also of the occasional hazards of trying to program electrical structures in the field, subjected to elemental whims.

Finally, Garner Holt, President of Garner Holt Productions, Inc., gave his talk on "The Next Generation, From Mice, Dragons and Beyond!" In it, he detailed his history in the industry, from deciding on a career in figure animation in fourth grade, to being paid by malls to build haunted houses in high school, to eventually creating the first Audio-Animatronic figures for a classic Disney attraction not made by Disney when his company created the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay. Although he was never able to work for Disney, as they said they couldn't advance him without a college degree, he's been creating their outsourced figures for several years, in attractions ranging from the Mythica floats in Tokyo DisneySea, to the new characters in It's A Small World, to some of the current Tiki Birds. He's currently working on creating a Yeti, which on completion, should be the most complicated Audio-Animatronic built to date.

The program was a long one, but jam-packed with interesting discussions and featuring legendary Disney personalities--a night not to be missed for fans of Disney history and technology.


September 25, 2010

D 23's Destination D 2010 - Day 1

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A great first day at D 23's Destination D! But, as usual, it was a day that was jam-packed with lots of interesting sessions, leaving me very little time to do much writing or photo processing. So this is going to be short on photos and on some details, which we will attempt to fill in later.

Destination D is being held this weekend, September 24 and 25, at the convention center at the Disneyland Hotel. It's a much smaller event than last year's D23 Expo - it features just a single track of sessions, and no exhibit hall, though there is some merchandise available for sale.

The sessions cover a wide range of topics that should appeal to just about anyone who is a Disney fan. Several presentations from the Disney archivists, featuring unusual items they have found in the archives, and presentations on some things that will be coming up at the Disney parks. There are panel discussions featuring Disney both current and former Disney Imagineers. Just about everyone is going out of their way to
find things they can share with us that are rare, haven't been seen publicly before, or stories that haven't been heard before. It's really a wonderful treat just to listen to a lot of these people talk.

All of the sessions take place in the Grand Ballroom. They have a large stage set up in the front, but if you're not in the center section it's hard to see the stage. They've set up four large screens and 2 small screens around the room, so it's pretty easy to see what's going on. The chairs are set up in rows, but they rows are a reasonable distance apart, so it doesn't feel claustrophobic. And they have plenty of chairs - more
chairs than there are attendees - so you don't feel like you HAVE to stay in the room all the time to save your seat. They do clear out the room completely at the lunch and dinner breaks, though. They obviously learned some things from last year's D23 Expo - at this event, while we know if we don't get in line early we won't have a great seat, at least we know that we will be able to get into the event and HAVE a seat!

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The Welcome Session of Destination D featured Steven Clark, Head of D23, who welcomed us to Destination 23 and told us some interesting facts: There are 1300 people here, from 39 states and 7 countries, including Australia and Japan.

He made a few announcements:

The Disney Legends Celebrations wil be held every other year at the D23 Expo, with another Legends event held at Destination 23.

The Scavenger Hunt on Sunday will be the first official scavenger hunt ever held at a Disney park! (Though there have been thousands of unofficial hunts).

Seven people work full time on D23.

The Sign of Zorro (November) is the next in the 50 and Fabulous film series, which will continue in 2011.

Magic and Merriment will be back at Walt Disney World on December 11-12 - tickets go on sale soon.

The D23 Disney Geek podcast, available on iTunes, is a look at what's happening with Disney company around the world. The new production Armchair Archivists starts in November. Steve and Josh will take us inside the Disney archives for looks at props and other film memorabilia - one of the first episodes will feature items from the
original Tron, and from the upcoming Tron Legacy.

Weird Disney was a presentation by Disney archivist Becky Cline and Disney historian Paul Anderson, featuring some of the more unusual things they have found in their research. They had lots of photos and even some video to show us. Very entertaining - Paul had quite a few zingers - some related to the company and some not - we'll see if he's invited back after this weekend! :-)

They had lots of interesting photos of character costumes and a whole section on Walt Disney in silly hats.

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One of the highlights of the day was the Mickey Mouse Club 55th Anniversary Reunion. They began the session by playing the original, full-length, COLOR opening of the Mickey Mouse Club TV show. There were 8 members from the original club that were present: Sherry Alberoni, Tommy Cole, Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Mary Espinoza, Doreen Tracey, Cubby O'Brien, Karen Pendleton. They received a
standing ovation after they were all introduced.

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The Mouseketeers reminisced for about an hour about their experiences - how they originally auditioned, meeting Walt Disney, new things they learned to do, memories of Jimmie Dodd, Roy Williams, and Annette Funicello, getting the first rides on Disneyland attractions in the morning before it opened (and crashing Autopia cars), etc.

Stacia Martin, Paul Anderson, and Rob Klein talked about Disney merchandise: From Quirky to Collectible. There has been some truly odd stuff available over the years - I'll have more photos later. For now, one of my favorites was the Mark Twain AM radio.

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Thus ended the morning...and that's about as far as I got with this write-up. I'll have more on The Making of Star Tours, The 1964 New York World's Fair, an Imagineering panel discussion, and the Music from the Disney Parks concert later. Though I'll say that the last was really wonderful - one of those "I'm so glad I got to see this!" things.


D23's Destination D 2010 - Day 2

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Day 2 of Destination D came early! I'm not sure what time people started lining up to get in - the first session started at 9:00, and they didn't open the doors until after 8:00, but there was already a substantial line at 7:30. Lee and I have been happy just to wait and go in after everyone in line goes in - we're still getting a seat with a clear view of one of the screens, and if we stand up we can see the stage/presenters - or I can always go to the back of the room if I really want to take photos. (Speaking of people lining up - even before this morning's session ended at about 11:45, there were already people lined up for the afternoon session, which doesn't start until 2:00! They are far more dedicated than I...)

Oh, and here's us (thanks to Pamela for taking the photo!)

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(I apologize that some of this is more like notes than full paragraphs - I've been writing a lot of it while sitting in the sessions.)

Disneyland on TV:

Rob Klein and Tim O'Day were the hosts for this session which featured lots of archival footage of Disneyland over the years. One highlight: they had all of us stand up, put our hands on our hearts, and recite Walt's opening day "Welcome" speech along with Walt. That had to be a first! We saw pieces of the Disneyland TV show (from before the park opened!), TV specials, commercials, and pieces that aired on Disneyland's Wonderful World of Color.

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Disneyland '61 TV special featured a new catchy tune by the Sherman brothers, called, appropriately enough, "Disneyland '61". It featured Nature's Wonderland and the topiary garden for Storybook Land, and Snow White's wishing Well, and an expansion for the monorail, all the way out to the Disneyland Hotel.

"It could only happen at Disneyland", was the tag line for commercials on Space Mountain, the new Matterhorn, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

What I think is the funniest moment of the event so far: they showed us a musical number from the Disneyland 30th Anniversary TV special. I wish this was something I could've recorded to share with you! Imagine, if you will, many of the audio-animatronic figures in Disneyland, from the "small world dolls" to the Pirates of the Caribbean to the jungle cruise hippos to Mr. Lincoln himself, singing along to "I'm So Excited". It was absolutely hysterical - I had tears in my eyes afterwards. It took a truly twisted mind to think up something like that!

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A few notes from the "Disneyland Undiscovered" session, presented by Imagineer Dave Fisher.

First he told us that the is Mark Twain coming out of a short rehab next week with a brand new narration.

During his session he shared a lot of Disneyland artwork from the Art Library. This included lots of concept art and early artwork and drawings of the development of
Disneyland. Some things look very much the same (like Main Street), and some things look very different - the Fantasyland drawing looks much like it does today, but that's not how it looked on opening day due to budget and time constraints.

In the famous painting of Disneyland by Peter Ellenshaw he used black light paint - here's what the painting looks like normally:

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And here's the black light version. Very cool!

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He showed lots of pieces of artwork for various Fantasyland attractions that didn't make it - like a Monstro water flume ride, or a Crocodile walk-in aquarium.

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Tomorrowland wasn't really quite done, and Walt re-did it less than 10 years after Disneyland opened.

Thrill ride ideas: The Hurricane ride (became Storm Rider at Tokyo DL), Prehistoric raft ride through Adventureland. In later years there was a concept for a Herbie the Love Bug ride. Black Cauldron was supposed to be a scary water ride (became the Maelstrom). The Black Hole ride became Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

Star Palace attraction was supposed to go into the Carousel of Progress, as a crashed alien spacecraft that put on a show in 4 acts, with lots of different characters.

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Including your host, PT Quantum.

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(There are some things that the world is just not ready for...)

Dave Smith - Disneyland The Way We Were

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He had a lot of rarely and/or never before seen photos, and of course lots of terrific stories.

He shared some amazing color photos taken during Disneyland's construction. This one shows Sleeping Beauty Castle, with the turrets on the ground in front of it.

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The opening day character costumes were borrowed from the Ice Capades,
which had a Disney segment.

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He also had photos of attractions that no longer exist. shops on Main Street, restaurants, the Indian Village, Mine Train, etc. In this photo are three different retired attractions: the Submarine Voyage, People Mover, and Skyway.

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Walt wanted live animals in Frontierland to make it more authentic, but
that had some issues. The horses pulling the stageoach sometimes got spooked by the train whistle and would run away with guests on board - it overturned a couple
of times. (I guess that turned a C ticket ride into an E ticket ride!)

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Some other retired attractions: the Mickey Mouse Club Circus in Fantasyland - the Mouseketeers did real circus acts. Also Holidayland, the Pirate ship. Midget Autopia, Motor Boat Cruise (which Dave called the most boring attraction ever, but it still lasted from 1957-1993!) There was also America Sings - started in 1974. Dave Smith loved this and so did I - "pop goes the weasel!" :-)

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Country Bear Jamboree was the first attraction which was opened in Florida and
then moved to Disneyland.

More on Day 2 to come!


D23's Destination D 2010 - Day 2 - A Few Photos

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Here's my favorite photos of Walt Disney from this morning's sessions:

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September 26, 2010

D 23's Destination D 2010 - Day 1, Part 2

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(When we last left our intrepid AllEars Team, it was lunch time on Day 1 of Destination D. Our story continues after lunch.)

There were two sessions after lunch that I won't talk about here - one was on the Making of Star Tours - and that's really more Lee's thing than mine (don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars!), and the second session was on the World's Fair, but I skipped that one to get checked into our room - Lee has notes on it, though, and found it fascinating, even though the description of it didn't sound very appealing to him.

But I returned for the 4:00 session: Imagineering the Magic of Disney.

This session was a panel discussion hosted by Marty Sklar, featuring Bob Gurr, X Atencio, Alice Davis, Don Iwerks, Dave Durham, Kathy Mangum, Kevin Rafferty and Tony Baxter.

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This was almost one of those "you had to be there" things. It was terrific to see them all together and interacting. Marty Sklar was the moderator, and tried to maintain some semblance of control, but it wasn't always easy. :-)

One of the questions he asked everyone was to talk about the favorite Disneyland attraction that they worked on.

X wasn't exactly sure about the question was, but talked a little bit about how Walt came to him and told him to write the script for Pirates of the Caribbean, even though he'd never written a script before.

Alice Davis showed no hesitation in calling "it's a small world" her favorite. She designed and made clothes for the "small world" dolls, which was kind of a dream come true for her, since as a child of the depression, she didn't have dolls as a girl.

Bob Gurr's favorite was the monorail - he had lots of interesting stories about that. It took only 9 months from the time Walt had the idea to actually having a working monorail on the track. Or a somewhat working monorail...apparently the famous trip it took around Disneyland with Vice President Richard Nixon on board was
only the second complete round trip it had made!

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The original 360 degree Circlevision film was called Circarama and was Don Iwerks' favorite. He was working in the machine shop at the time they built the camera, and then traveled with the camera and kept it working as the film crew went over the western U.S. and shot film.

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Tony Baxter's favorites were Star Tours and Indiana Jones, largely because of the opportunity to work with George Lucas.

Kathy Mangum and Kevin Rafferty both named the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage as their favorite - but it's also the only Disneyland attraction that they had worked on. Kathy talked about the challenge of taking one of Walt's attractions and putting a new storyline on top of it.

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Dave Durham was actually working in the Entertainment Dept when he submitted an entry to the Sorceror's Apprentice Workshop, which awarded an Imagineering internship to the winner. He submitted an idea for an Indiana Jones attraction, not realizing that Disney was actually developing that attraction at the time. He won, and ended up doing some work on that attraction - an obvious favorite for him!.

Marty also asked them about attractions that didn't get built. Dave Durham, who works in the "Blue Sky" area of Imagineering, said that 96% of what they come up with gets shelved - but it doesn't get discarded, because the ideas can be re-visited and used in the future. (If you read my blog from Saturday afternoon, you know that Dave Fisher talked about several attractions in existence now that had been re-purposed that way.)

Tony Baxter's attraction was Disney Seas in Long Beach - though there's another example of something that was built later in Tokyo.

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The Creature's Choice Awards for the Studios was Kevin Rafferty's selection. There was going to be a "Screamy" award. This was about 1999. (Sounds a bit like the Golden Screams show they did in DCA one Halloween season.)

They also talked about their memories of Walt Disney. It was so wonderful to hear the personal memories of those who knew him.

Friday night's event was E-ticket - Music From the Disney Parks, which was a Disney Legends Celebration. A number of Disney Legends were in attendance and were introduced, and we all enjoyed an evening of Disney music.

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Disney Legend Richard Sherman came out and sat at the piano and played and sang for us for at least 20 minutes - it might have been longer. It was really wonderful - he talked about how Walt came to him and Robert when he wanted them to write certain songs - sometimes without really giving them very much information or direction! Of course the first thing they wrote for the parks was the theme song for the Enchanted Tiki Room. He also played "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow", and then the song
that replaced it, Tomorrow is Now. Miracles from Molecules, the song from Adventures in Inner Space, was theirs, also. He also played some songs from the Imagination pavilion in Epcot: Making Memories, Magic Journeys, and One Little Spark. Another song he played for us was "Meet the World" from Tokyo Disneyland. He closed with medleys from the Winnie the Pooh movies and from Mary Poppins. Not surprisingly, he received a standing ovation. What a charming and talented man!

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John Tartaglia, who is a big Disney fan, came out and performed Grim Grinning Ghosts (with the help of a couple of ghost puppets).

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Tracie Thoms and John Tartaglia performed Golden Dreams.

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Ana Ortiz sang "Two Brothers" - a song she'd never heard until recently but she commented on how appropriate it is even today. (A lot of the singers were big Disney fans, but apparently she isn't one of them.)

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This version had an extra verse about the two brothers' sweethearts:

Two girls waiting by the railroad track
Two girls waiting by the railroad track
For their darlings to come back
One wore blue, and one wore black

One wore blue, and one wore black
Waiting by the railroad track
For their darlings to come back
All on a beautiful morning

It's sad, but it's such a beautiful and poignant song.

Michael Urie performed a Fantasyland medley. He had some fun with audience members - getting several of them up on stage to play "Michael", "John" and "Wendy", and help him sing "You Can Fly". And then he found three people in the audience whose birthday it was, and sang "A Very Merry Unbirthday" to everyone except them. :-)

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Ana Ortiz's duet partner for "A Whole New World" was quite unexpected - it was D23's Disney Geek, Jeffery Epstein. Who sang very well! (Does he need a new title now? Disney Singer Geek? Disney Geek Singer?)

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Torron Brooks (like Toronto, without the "to") performed a Splash Mountain medley, including How Do You Do and of course Zip-a-dee-do-dah.

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Wilson Cruz sang a beautiful arrangement of "When you Wish Upon a Star" and "Second Star to the Right".

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Michael Urie and Ana Ortiz came back for "A Pirate's Life for Me". They dressed up in pirate costumes and it was really a fun number, though Ana had a lot of trouble remembering the lyrics (I can't blame her - I don't know them, either!).

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Tracie Thoms solo was "Just One Dream", from the (now closed) Golden Dreams attraction at DCA.

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The Melo-D 23 cast choir performed a number of Sherman brothers songs: Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Magic Journeys, and Miracles from Molecules.

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Richard Sherman came out for one last song - which, as you might expect, was *that* song. The Sherman brothers originally wrote it to be sung at a much slower tempo - like a prayer - but Walt wanted it to be more up-tempo and happy. Richard played and sang it for us at the slower tempo, and then it was time for everyone - the choir, the guest singers, and the audience to sing the more familiar version.

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It was really a terrific evening, with wonderful music and some interesting stories from Richard Sherman. As I think I said before - one of those "I'm so glad I was able to see this!" events - absolutely the kind of thing we have come to expect from Disney and D23.

By the way...I wanted to say thank you to all of the AllEars fans who have come up and introduced yourselves this weekend - especially those of you who have told us how much you love the site. We love getting feedback like that, which tells us that we're doing something right!


September 27, 2010

D23's Destination D - Scavenger Hunt

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Today was the day - the very first official scavenger hunt at a Disney park!

Deb, Jeanine, Lee and I were a team. (A lot of the teams had matching shirts, hats, Mickey ears, or other apparel - we weren't that organized.) We really had a wonderful time, though we didn't win. It was a HOT day in Anaheim today - we're pretty sure it was over 100 - definitely high 90s - and that made it more difficult.

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At the beginning we received a "Guide Book" that had questions in it that would take us all over the resort - both parks, all three hotels, and Downtown Disney. Some questions were worth more points than others - it was completely our choice what to answer. We had from about 9:00 until 2:00 in the afternoon, and given the heat, that was about as much as we could take.

Part of the rules were that we had to stay together - we couldn't split up and go looking for answers.

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If you click on this link, it'll take you to a photo of one of the pages of questions so you can get an idea of what they were like. There were very few that we could answer without actually going to the location. I thought the D23 people really did a good job with the questions - some of them were really interesting.

This painting contained the answer to one of the questions...anyone have any idea where it is located? I'd never noticed it before!

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(It's in the Golden Horseshoe)

Hmm...how many skulls are there in the bone cage on Tom Sawyer Island?

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We only made it to two of the areas: Downtown Disney and Disneyland. There were 330 questions total - I don't remember how many we answered, but it was a lot less than that! :-) But really, we were just in this to have fun, and we did!

Thank you to all of the people at D23 for putting this on - I know there was a LOT of work that went into planning it and coming up with all of those questions.

BTW, at the Destination D event at Walt Disney World next spring they will be holding another scavenger hunt - and this one will take place over two days!!! That'll be for the die-hards...I can't imagine doing this again tomorrow!


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About September 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in September 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2010 is the previous archive.

October 2010 is the next archive.

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