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February 2011 Archives

February 3, 2011

Disney Gallery: Magic on the Water

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A new exhibit opened in the Disney Gallery on Saturday, January 29: Magic on the Water: The Art of the Happiest Fleet on Earth.

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From the sign posted inside the exhibit:

"Magic on the Water highlights nearly 60 years of nautical designs by Walt Disney Imagineers, from the smallest Storybook Land canal boat to the newest modern classic for the Disney Cruise Line, the Disney Dream. Come aboard for a retrospective that's sure to set sail a sea of memories - and prepare you for an ocean of new ones."

Some of the artwork is available as "Art on Demand."

In the center of the room is a model of the Disney Dream.

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Jungle Cruise boat concepts, loosely modeled after the African Queen.

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Concept art for Storybook Land canal boats.

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Riverboat concept art from Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneysea.

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Submarine art from Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Disneyland Paris.

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Models of the bronze sculptures that are in the atriums of the three Disney cruise ships: Helmsman Mickey, Ariel, and Admiral Donald.

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The exhibit also includes boat concept art from Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneysea.

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The Gallery also includes an exhibit called A Dream Come True - An Artistic Celebration of Disney's Newest Cruise Ship. Artists such as Shag, Noah, Jeremy Fulton, and Larry Nikolai have created artwork inspired by the Disney Dream.

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Prints of many of these works are for sale in the Gallery's shop.

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Other Disney Dream merchandise is also available.

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February 6, 2011

Disneyland - Disney California Adventure - Land of Construction Walls

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We visited Disneyland and Disney California Adventure last Saturday - it had been a while since I'd had a chance to tour in the parks, and I was very surprised at all the construction walls that were up in both parks! Imagineering is obviously working overtime in imagining new attractions for us. :-)

And it's interesting to see what kinds of things they put on the walls - the ones that are going to be up for a longer time have a lot more detail than the ones that are up more temporarily.

That said...apparently most of the walls at Disneyland are temporary. :-)

Town Square had a wall just as we entered the park. This actually ran most of the way up Main Street. There was sort of a "box" that covered one set of the trolley tracks from Town Square almost to the hub.

There's another set of walls around the left side of the hub - I wondered what that does for the fireworks viewing.

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There's an entire land missing, as all of Critter Country is closed, and you can see there's scaffolding up on Splash Mountain.

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We noticed that even though Disneyland really wasn't that crowded it felt a lot more congested because of bottlenecks and narrower paths created by the walls.

Not surprisingly most of the construction walls are at DCA - and those were much more interesting walls. Starting with the entrance - the "CALIFORNIA" letters are gone now and they have walls all around that area, which is between the esplanade and the entrance turnstiles. They have cast members stationed there to keep people moving to the entrance turnstiles.

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I really liked the design on the walls, though - all of those classic characters, and the year they made their first appearance. Apparently there eventually was a "Mortimer Mouse", even though that name was rejected for Mickey. (Mortimer made his first appearance in 1936 in the cartoon "Mickey's Rival".)

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Horace Horsecollar and Clara Cluck - and they even got the Big Bad Wolf to go to work pushing a wheelbarrow!

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There's a wall just inside the entrance, too - it looks better as you're exiting the park.

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Sunshine Plaza is no more - but the walls around it have Carthay Circle Theatre period advertising and period character artwork.

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There's walls up in front of the former Bountiful Farm area and Cars Land - you can see the Cadillac mountain range in the background.

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Some very nice artwork on these!

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And there's walls I didn't actually photograph - like all of those around Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Goofy's Sky School, and the new Paradise Pier restaurants: Paradise Grill and Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta.

But most of those will be coming down in the next few months, since all of those attractions and restaurants are scheduled to open this year. Lots of fun to come!


February 8, 2011

Happy 10th Birthday Disney California Adventure!

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011 is Disney California Adventure's 10th birthday.

You know, I've had a really hard time writing this blog entry - I can't seem to figure out what I really want to say about the park. I think it's pretty obvious that DCA started off as a big disappointment, but I think that exciting things have been happening in the last few years, and more are coming in the very near future.

It certainly started off in a promising way: then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner opened the park on February 8, 2001 with this dedication:

Happy 10th Birthday Disney California Adventure!
"To all who believe in the power of dreams, welcome. Disney's California Adventure opens its golden gates to you. Here we pay tribute to the dreamers of the past: the native people, explorers, immigrants, aviators, entrepreneurs and entertainers who built the Golden State. And we salute a new generation of dreamers who are creating the wonders of tomorrow, from the silver screen to the computer screen, from the fertile farmlands to the far reaches of space. Disney's California Adventure celebrates the richness and the diversity of California... its land, its people, its spirit and, above all, the dreams that it continues to inspire."

That describes DCA the way it was, but not so much the way it is now - tributes to the aviators are still there (Soarin' Over California), but many of the other "tribute" attractions are gone, like Bountiful Valley Farm and Golden Dreams. I think the park needs a re-dedication. A "do-over." :-)

My first trips to the park then known as Disney's California Adventure were on a special "Sneak Preview Night" and on an annual passholder preview day in January 2001. Lee and I were excited to finally have a second theme park at the Disneyland Resort, and we were looking forward to trying out some of the rides and attractions that we'd been seeing in the Preview Center for months - especially Soarin' Over California. And Soarin' was awesome. I still think it's one of the best rides Disney has ever created. Amazing what an Imagineer can create with an Erector set! :-)


As for the rest of the park...we enjoyed it, but even then recognized it had its shortcomings. Here's an excerpt from the trip report I wrote after our previews:

California Adventure definitely gets two thumbs up overall, but there is certainly room for improvement in some areas.

I don't think the park is very balanced - most of the ride attractions are over in the Paradise Pier area, and I think that people are going to be spending a lot of time there (including us). I expect it to be extremely congested. Probably Paradise Pier will be DCA's version of Fantasyland.

This park is designed for an older crowd, and I think the small fry will not find it very appealing. There are several play areas (including a couple where they can get very wet), but with the exception of Tough to Be a Bug and Muppet Vision, there isn't much of a Disney presence that small children will find familiar, and all of the best attractions have height requirements.

Still, we have still always enjoyed DCA, and have especially enjoyed some of the new things that have come along over the last 10 years. I think I'd have to rank the Disney's California Food and Wine Festival as my favorite. I can't tell you how disappointed I am that there's no Festival for at least the next two years - I am really, really hoping that Disney will bring it back in 2013.

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Flik's Fun Fair was also another fun addition - we don't have kids, so don't spend much time there, but when I walk through it I always appreciate all of the wonderful details and the sense of whimsy. Like the entrance, where you walk through the inside of a Cowboy Crunchies box, and Flik's Flyers, with ride vehicles made up of discarded containers like animal cookie boxes and Chinese food take-out containers.

Happy 10th Birthday Disney California Adventure!

I suppose the Hyperion Theater doesn't count as "new", since it has always been there, but it has hosted several different Broadway-quality shows. While I didn't care for the original show, Disney's Steps in Time, I loved The Power of Blast, and the show that replaced it, Disney's Aladdin, more than lives up to its subtitle: A Musical Spectacular. Aladdin opened in January 2003, and it's still playing to packed houses, including many guests who have seen it over and over again.

Happy 10th Birthday Disney California Adventure!

And of course there's World of Color. Wow. I think I enjoy it more each time I see it - and I know I see details that I've missed before. The show is so huge that you really do need to see it from a lot of different angles.

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I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that DCA needed a "do-over". And you know, maybe that's what it's finally getting, with the multi-year expansion that is still on-going. I love that it's been a phased expansion, where we are getting new things each year, rather than having to wait for all of it at once. It's been really good so far: 2008 brought us Toy Story Midway Mania, in 2009 there was Mickey's Fun Wheel, 2010 brought us World of Color and Silly Symphony Swings. In 2011 we're looking forward to The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, and Goofy's Sky School. And in the final phase in 2012 there's the new park entrance, Buena Vista Street, and the all-new Cars Land.

So Happy Tenth Birthday, Disney California Adventure - I'm glad to see you're growing up and getting better each year.



February 19, 2011

Wild Africa Trek - Animal Kingdom

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A relatively new offering from the Walt Disney tour department is the Wild Africa Trek, taking place over at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park. I had the opportunity to experience it, and survived to tell the tale.

The tour is offered six times a day, currently--three times before noon, and three times after. Some people feel that, as with the Kilimanjaro Safari, mornings are a better choice because it's less hot and the animals are more likely to be restive. My normal disinclination to do much of anything before noon*, combined with a desire to see what the tour provides for lunch drove me to take the 12 o'clock session. The price of the tour is $129 for the rest of this month, after which it will increase to $189, and thereafter fluctuate depending on the season.

Check in for the tour is 30 minutes prior to the tour time at a clearly marked desk near the Dawa Bar in Harambe. They give you safety waivers to sign, and while one half of your brain is saying "wait, does this say my surviving relatives can't sue even if I die through total negligence?" the other half of your brain is saying "HIPPOS! CROCODILES! WOO!!" So you sign.

A happy CM then leads you over to a relatively nondescript gate that leads off to a small trail. As you start walking down this unmarked trail into wilderness, you might turn around to remark to the CM how rustic it all is, to find that they, in fact, did not follow you through the gate, and that you are essentially now just wandering around on your own, hoping that the trail doesn't lead straight to the carnivore feeding pen.

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Shortly thereafter, you reach a small station where lockers are provided for anything that can't be tethered directly to you (they provide clips for point-and-shoot cameras, while neck straps for larger cameras are acceptable.) You are discretely weighed, presumably to make sure you don't meet with an Indiana-Jones-type accident on one of the suspension bridges, and then outfitted with a fairly heavy vest that has a number of pockets, clips, chains, and a water bottle with your name on it. Another short march away takes you to a small test suspension bridge, where they watch you cross and ascertain whether you're the sort who's likely to panic and have to be dragged off.

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At this point, the Trek begins in earnest, as you are introduced to your two excellent and chipper guides (ours were Danna and Maria,) one of which appears to be the lead, and the other the photographer. A stroll through Harambe is next, with a quick informational stop at the sausage tree.

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Continuing on, the guides then lead you through part of the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail with stops at the Colobus Monkeys and the gorillas.

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After that, the tour veers off the regularly traveled paths, and you make your way through a rather tight pathway, where vegetation is so close in, you need to hold the branches back to pass through. Eventually you hit one of the special stops on the tour: The Hippo Pool.

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The back of your vest has a heavy chain coming out of it that typically rests over your shoulder and clips on to your front. At any of the near viewing areas or the bridges, you are required to unclip your chain and hand it over to one of the guides who then clamps the free end onto a guidewire. This enables you to get as close as you can to the animals without the guides having to worry about you taking a header into the hippos. You can totally lean straight out with all your weight on the chain without worrying about it breaking.

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Although I had heard earlier reports from people that the hippos didn't come out for them, the CMs throw watermelon and lettuce into the water so they are heavily incentivized to appear.

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I understand they're only dangerous if they're wiggling their ears and blowing bubbles.

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When everyone has had their fill of hippo-gawking, you move on to the next highly publicized area of the trek, the suspension bridges.

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One thing you might bear in mind is that the real bridges are far longer and higher than the training bridges, spanning both the hippo pool and the crocodile pool. The slats on the bridges are irregularly placed, as if random ones had broken off, leaving large gaps that need to be stepped/jumped over.

There is a net directly under the bridge to support you if you happened to misstep--actually, when they initially said there was a net under the bridge, I had a vision of a large tightrope-walking net far beneath, where you'd just have to lie, barely out of reach of the crocodiles, until people could fetch you out, if you fell. Apparently they went for the less-dramatic route.

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Once on the other side of the two bridges, you again get to stand (clipped securely in place) over the crocodiles and observe while they dream sweet dreams of clumsy tourists and broken nets.

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After that, the on-foot portion of the tour is basically over, and they load you into a truck to take you on out to the Savannah. This part mimics the regular Kilimanjaro Safari ride with the exception that the driver is periodically able to pull over for pictures or extended viewing.

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Ultimately, you are brought to an observation deck where a cute multi tiered lunch box is presented to you, along with a flask of "Jungle Juice," and you get to sit and eat and listen to the Ankole Cattle moo while surveying the whole Savannah.

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The lunch was very good, featuring selections from Tusker House--prosciutto, chicken salad, melon, shrimp, salmon, and sun-dried tomato hummus. The three melon balls were exceptional.

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The whole deck was beautiful with an indigenous feel--they're not kidding when they say they have the nicest bathrooms in all of East Africa.

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After about 30 minutes, it's time to get back on the truck again, with some more animal stops when the wildlife cooperates.

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Eventually the truck brings you back to the unloading area for the Safari, where you return to your original outfitting station and trade in your vest for your locker contents. They give you your water bottle, a PhotoPass card and a discount code for a free photo CD, and you are relased back out into the wild of Harambe again.

In Review:
Most reviews on this tour that I've heard say that they liked the first part, with the walking, and the third part, with the eating, but were kind of meh on the middle, with the driving. I would tend to agree with this. Not only does the drive mimic the same drive as on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, but in some ways it's actually worse, as the truck they drive you in has seating way less comfortable/roomy/suited to sightseeing than the usual jeeps. The tour truck has "U"-shaped benches, much like the Jungle Cruise boats, and just like the Jungle Cruise boats, everyone is facing inwards, making it almost impossible to get a good look at anything unless you can swivel your head around 180 degrees, or unless they stop the truck to let you stand up. Our group had twelve people, of which three were children, and the seating was frankly, a little cozy--I can't imagine how close you'd have to sit together if you had a full group of large adults. Additionally, they only stop where they have areas to pull over, so some of those areas that you barely get a glimpse of on the regular safari? You still barely get a glimpse of them.

The tour is fun but the price is steep. Most people agree, I think, that at the current price of $129, it's probably worth it, particularly if you were going to purchase the Photo CD (list price is $149.) Unfortunately, as the tour guides told us, "you'll never see it this cheap again!" If they were to replace the middle driving section with some other "active" segment, or even just give more time to eat at the platform, I think it would be a better bargain. The metal water bottle they give you is a nice touch, but is totally blank--it seems reasonable to think that they might print "Disney's Wild Animal Trek" or something on the sides in the future.

The other issue is whether the nature of the tour limits its audience: The bridges seem long enough and high enough to deter people concerned about such matters, but are likely to be a little tame and Tom Sawyer's Island-y for anyone used to outdoor activities. If they could offer an alternative route that ziplined over the same area, or possibly let you actually hang over the ledge at the hippo/croc viewing areas, I think that could considerably boost the appeal.

Recommended: People who really, really like animals; people who like to try anything new at WDW; people who enjoy mild exertion; people already planning on buying the PhotoPass CD; people for whom money is no object.

Not Recommended: People who think they're going to get up close and personal with the animals; people looking for extreme thrills; people who hate walking; people who dislike heights.


*OK, it sounds bad, but I'm from the West Coast! When it's 8am at WDW, it's actually 5am for me!

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About February 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in February 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2011 is the previous archive.

March 2011 is the next archive.

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