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June 3, 2011

Little Mermaid Ride Opens

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Lee and I are at Disneyland for a short (but action-packed) afternoon/morning of events, including the grand opening of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, the official premiere of Mickey's Soundsational Parade, and the grand opening of Star Tours - The Adventures Continue.

Thursday afternoon was the opening of Little Mermaid. It was grand in true Disney style, with great music and appearances by Little Mermaid musical composer Alan Mencken and the voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson. (I just love her!)

I think it's far easier to show you the opening than to try to explain it, so here's the video that Lee took.

After the opening we had the opportunity to ride the new attraction, which was Lee's first time. I noticed things I hadn't seen before - there is a lot of detail! Lee was impressed by Ariel's hair, the pico-projectors in Sebastian's eyes and how good a job they did hiding the supports for most of the characters - so they really look like they are floating.

I had the opportunity to interview Frank Antonides, from Walt Disney Imagineering, about the overall concept for the new Little Mermaid attraction.

Later, I had the opportunity to ride Ariel's Undersea Adventure again, this time in the company of Imagineer Frank Reifsnyder who pointed out many of the design details of the attraction.


Coming up we'll have more information and videos, including the Grand Opening of the updated Star Tours at Disneyland, more interviews and a presentation on the continued re-imagining and expansion of Disney California Adventure.



June 4, 2011

Disney Soundsational Summer Press Event - This and That

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We probably aren't going to be able to post the rest of the video for a while (we don't have very high bandwidth internet service right now), but I wanted to post a few more thoughts and impressions about the press event.

Here's a photo from the Little Mermaid opening. From left to right: Tom Staggs, Alan Mencken, (Ursula in the Broadway version of The Little Mermaid), Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll, George Kalogridis, and Al Weiss.

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Seeing Jodi Benson perform again was one of the highlights of the ceremony for me - there's something just so genuine about her, and such joy in her singing.

I think they always do some nice work in decorating the Media Center for these events - this time we felt like we were under the sea!

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And we also took a little side trip to a galaxy far, far away. :-)

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Here's one of the Mermaid ride vehicles (the front closes down like the vehicles on the Haunted Mansion do).

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And this is one of the two wheelchair/ECV accessible vehicles - King Triton's Chariot. The back lowers to become a ramp, and the loading belt is long enough that typically they can load the wheelchair/ECV without slowing down the ride.

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Thursday evening they had several of the suites at the Disneyland Hotel available for us to tour - the Mickey Mouse Penthouse, The Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, the Adventure Suite, and the Big Thunder Suite. I have LOTS of photos, which I will put up in the hotel photo gallery when I get a chance.

The suites are quite elaborately designed and decorated, but the thing that people found the most fascinating were the bathrooms - and they were ALL different. Here's one from the Big Thunder Suite:

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And one from the Adventure Suite (I would find this rather intimidating! :-) )

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This morning (Friday) I had an interview fairly early in the Star Tours queue. There were LOTS of eager Star Tours fans aready lined up outside the esplanade. No photo of that, but I did get a photo of the (almost) empty Esplanade looking towards DCA. :-)

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Darth Goofy was hanging around outside Star Tours (somehow the Mickey Mouse boxer shorts detract from the whole "menacing" thing).

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We'll post my interview with Star Tours Art Director Susan Dayne to youtube when we get a chance.

While we were waiting for the Star Tours opening ceremony to begin there were stormtroopers stationed on the Rocket Rods track above us to make sure we didn't get out of line.

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Afterward much of the cast posed. I thought Angela's costume and hairstyle were a nice acknowledgment of the previous version of the attraction.

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We will have video of the Opening Ceremony Coming Soon. (I know, you've heard that before!)

We rode Star Tours again, and this time we finally had a chance to see the queue - neither of us had been through it yet - they had taken us in a back door. (If you missed it, the video of our Star Tours ride-though is HERE.

One of the things that Steve Spiegel told us is that at this point in time in the Star Tours universe, Star Tours is a new start-up company, so the Starspeeder 1000s are brand new, as are their facilities. Even C-3PO is shiny and new looking.

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The security droid is fun - he has a number of sarcastic comments. One exchange we heard we found quite familiar - something along the lines of "We're all fine down here...how are you?" And then he does something and says: "It was a stupid conversation anyway." :-)

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We had another fun flight - though the Empire did not discover that I was the rebel spy this time. :-) We had the same opening scene and the same character interaction as yesterday, but visited two new places: Tatooine, where we were in a pod race (who knew that C-3PO had such a competitive streak?), and the Death Star. That ending is cool, you end up on the flag ship of the Rebel Fleet, and are hailed as heroes by Admiral Ackbar and othere Rebel leaders. A lot of the actors in that scene are Walt Disney Imagineers or Lucasfilm employees.

Back over at DCA they took us back into the Cars Land construction area for the What's Next presentation. It's always interesting to find out what's coming. We were actually seated just outside what will be the entrance into Cars Land from Paradise Pier.

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Highlights were Kathy Mangum and Kevin Rafferty taking us on a video tour of Cars Land and showing us where the buildings are and giving us some details about what's going to be happening inside. They are really doing some pretty amazing theming. That'll all be in the video, coming soon. :-) Opening date is still "Summer 2012" - nothing more definite than that.

We also heard about the Disney Cruise Line from Al Weiss, and Joe Rohde talked about Aulani, the new resort opening in Hawaii in August.

We'll have video, really. :-)

And we're not done yet! I participated in a round-robin table discussion with other members of the media. They rotated Disney Imagineers and management through the room and we were able to ask them questions. This is always pretty interesting, since we hear things that they don't necessarily talk about in other forums.

So a few things that stood out to me:

Kathy Rogers and Tom Fitzgerald talked about Star Tours. They are obviously really pleased with it and that it's finally open for guests to experience. I asked about the simulators, and if they were any different. Tom said no, but that they are using more of the capabilities of them now than they did before. They also looked at what they were capable of, and designed some of the scenes around that.

Al Weiss talked about the Disney Cruise Line. The new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that will be on the Fantasy is not displacing any public space that's currently on the Dream - it will be put into space that is conference area on Deck 5. And there's apparently some chance that they will be doing shorter 3-4 days cruises out of Los Angeles in the future - those of you who read my Alaska cruise blogs will know that's something of particular interest to me.

Mary Niven and Bob Weis overviewed the DCA Expansion. I asked about the future of the Food and Wine Festival - Mary couldn't tell me for sure that it would be back, but said that festivals are definitely something that they want to bring to the park when the expansion project is complete.

Of course we all had great interest in what Kathy Mangum and Kevin Rafferty had to say about Cars Land! As far as opening date, they still say "summer 2012". It's obvious from what we'd seen earlier that there's still quite a bit of construction to do, but they are getting closer to being able to start installing and testing ride systems. As you've seen from models and even the existing rockwork, Cars Land is very colorful, and they've done a lot to try to make sure that the materials and finishes they use will retain that color for a long period of time.

Last was the John and Steve show - John Addis and Steve Davison talked about the Soundsational parade. The soundtrack from the parade is very musically complex - there's many layers to it, and Steve said it took four times longer to record than any other soundtrack. He called it a "river of music" and "music in motion".

As you can tell it was a jam-packed 24 hours. Whew. We still have lots of other photos and video to go through - some of which will be used to update other pages on AllEars, or to develop some new pages on new attractions like Ariel's Undersea Adventure.



Star Tours Opens in Disneyland - Press Event!

On Friday morning I was in the Star Tours queue, where I had the opportunity to speak with Susan Dayne, Art Director for Star Tours. I apologize for the audio - I have a cold and I was losing my voice, so I'm afraid it's hard to hear me - but fortunately Susan did most of the talking.

The opening ceremony for Star Tours - The Adventures Continue was on Friday morning. It was not nearly as flashy as the one at Disney's Hollywood Studios - no George Lucas for us and it was fairly short.


One of the highlights of the day was getting to ride the updated Star Tours attraction with the man responsible for writing the show and all the dialog - Show Writer (and Show Rider) Steve Spiegel. In this unique experience, we got to talk to him before, during and after the ride!


June 5, 2011

Disney Soundsational Summer Press Event - What's Next!

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As promised, here's a number of videos from the Disney Soundsational Summer press event.

There was quite a bit of info presented in the What's Next presentation, which was held in the construction area just outside one of the entrances to what will be the new Cars Land. Disneyland President George Kalogridis talked about the DCA Expansion and some of the other changes that are still coming to DCA.

Kathy Mangum and Kevin Rafferty, the lead Imagineers for Cars Land, gave a really interesting presentation on Cars Land, including a video overview where they described what the buildings are, and what will be going in them. They went into quite a bit more detail about the theming than I have heard before - I thought it was fascinating.

Joe Rohde gave a very interesting presentation on Aulani, the new Disney resort that will be opening in Hawaii in August. It's obvious that he's very passionate about it. I'm not even going to try to go into all of the detail - just watch the video. :-)

That's all the video that we have for now - I will have more photos of the hotel suites and some other updates later.



June 22, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 1.)

While I attended a multitude of events and places last month, most of them have already been covered in depth erstwhile. Here then, for your perusal, is a more superficial accounting of what you might have seen had you been in my slightly-tired shoes recently.

Last month saw the publication of Dick Van Dyke's new autobiography "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business," with the man himself participating in book signings in various cities around the country. I attended the one in West Hollywood, where he appears as hearty and spry as ever.

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A few days later I hopped a plane and, after some alarmingly inconvenient flight cancellations, made it over to WDW to attend this year's D23 Destination D. Jack Spence has done a great job reporting on the events of those days in his blogs, but here are some personal highlights:

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The comic stylings of the always-knowledgeable Becky Cline and Paul F. Anderson as they gave us even more Weird Disney--WDW style.

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More fascinating details about Walt's proposed City of the Future as presented by Steven Vagnini and Paul F. Anderson.

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Rob Klein and Tim O'Day showing us some of what surely must be the trippiest footage of WDW ever committed to film, including a Grad Nite film that cannot or should not exist on the resume of anyone connected with it.

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The hilarious, high-energy presentation of Jason Surrell, Alex Wright, and Jason Grandt on some of the many different manifestations their obsessions with Disney and detailing have taken. This presentation got a warm reception from all the audience, as they recognized kindred spirits in geekery.

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Marty Sklar's panel of stars, including Debra Browne, Orlando Ferrante, Bob Foster, Bob Gurr, and Ron Logan. Anything with Sklar is aces, and Gurr is a party all by himself.

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The absolute pinnacle of the weekend however, was the Magic Journeys concert that closed out the event. It began with a concert and reminiscence with Richard Sherman and really only built from there.

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As he began to enter in on "One Little Spark," the original Dreamfinder and Figment came out and joined him for a few choruses. The room exploded in a swell of WDW nostalgia.

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After a performance of Golden Dreams by some long-standing Entertainment CMs, the WDW Cast Choir Encore! came out and did a medley of all those old EPCOT songs that everyone still wishes they were using today.

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It was a phenomenal show, and a great way to cap off the weekend.


June 23, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 2.)

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So after the end of Destination D, I ran over to the Magic Kingdom to catch the new interactive headstones over in the Haunted Mansion queue.

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They're amusing enough, but it's true that they don't do much to maintain the genuine air of suspense and disquiet that some find an integral part of this attraction.

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While the technology they use to make the structures react to your touch or vocal responses is impressive, I'm not sure I find them sufficiently compelling to seek them out.

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If you're a fan of the interactive elements they installed in the Winnie The Pooh queue recently, you will doubtless be entertained with these. Everyone else can probably stand to take the bypass line after seeing them once.

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The next day I headed over to EPCOT to take in the residual of the Flower and Garden Festival that had unfortunately just ended the week before.

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Ah well, at least most of the topiary was still up. The weather was exceptional that day--possibly the best ever, in all my time at WDW.

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It's amazing how much more pleasant it is to wander around World Showcase when you're not dodging in and out of buildings, trying to escape the stifling heat and humidity.

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Eventually the sun set, as it usually does...

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...and we gathered around the fire. It was a lovely day.

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The next day I tried out an eatery completely new to me: The Fountain at the Swan/Dolphin resort. I had a shake and a burger.

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Honestly? Color me unimpressed. The shake came out quickly and was appropriately sweet and chocolate-y and bad for you, but then the burger took approximately an eon to get made and delivered to the table...and this was with the restaurant pretty much empty. It was a decent-enough burger, but a trifle overdone and with a bun totally inadequate to contain the contents. I'm not sure whether it had sat awhile and the bread had soaked through, but it basically disintegrated under the weight of the patty in pretty short order. Given that you either have to walk over from the Boardwalk or pay the Swan/Dolphin's pricey parking fees to get there, I'm not going to be rushing back anytime soon.

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The rest of the afternoon I spent over at Animal Kingdom, taking in some shows, and eventually ended up at Hollywood Studios, exploiting the Star Tours II soft openings, where photos were forbidden.

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As a measure of how empty the park was, Fantasmic! was only about a third full, allowing me the first chance to see it in probably over a year.

The next day: Star Tours/Wars excitement ramps up.


June 26, 2011

Disneyland Fireworks - Where's Your Favorite Spot?

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Last week on the Disney Parks Blog, they announced that there would be a special fireworks show at Disneyland on July 1-4. Disney's Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky will combine patriotic music with lots of red, white, and blue fireworks. The show is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. on July 1-4. And over at Disney California Adventure there will be a special Independence Day pre-show for World of Color on those same days.

But the new fireworks show reminded me of a question I've been meaning to ask: What are your favorite places to watch the fireworks? And why? And since Disneyland runs several fireworks shows throughout the year (Remember...Dreams Come True, Magical, Halloween Screams, and Believe in Holiday Magic), please comment on any or all of them.

I don't see the fireworks shows that often - I tend to make my visits early in the day and leave by early evening. I'm not a night owl, so that hour-and-a-half trip home after the fireworks are over is not very appealing. So when I do see the fireworks it's usually because I've made an effort to do so and watch them from someplace on Main Street.

Though quite by accident Lee and I were wandering through Downtown Disney one evening when the fireworks were going, and found that this spot, between Tortilla Jo's and House of Blues, gave us a very good view of most of the show.

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To share your comments, please use either the "Feedback Form" or "Comments" links at the bottom of this entry. If you use the "Comments" form, then please, please remember to put the word "blog" in the box provided. That's our anti-spam mechanism, and if you don't do it, then all of your words of wisdom will end up in the SPAM folder - and we don't want that!

I'm looking forward to reading what you all have to say!



June 28, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 3.)

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A late start was in the cards for the next day, as the midnight Star Tours Meet Up was that evening, and I was attempting to keep my candle from burning out at both ends. That afternoon I visited the Magic Kingdom to check out the new Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet location recently installed in the Town Square Theater on Main Street.
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The conceit behind it is that Mickey is performing a magic act at the theater and you, like some overzealous groupie, are going backstage to accost him in his dressing room.
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The detailing in this whole area is impressive and seems frankly out-of-proportion for what is more or less a photopass set up. Virtually all the items reference other films or places in the Disney canon, with particular emphasis on the Pixar short "Presto."
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On his dressing table: A bill of sale for a motorcar Mickey has apparently purchased from Badger, in the name of J. Thaddeus Toad Motors; and a bag of birdseed for the occupant of the cage just out of frame on the right. The label on the bag marks it as "Tuppence" brand seed and, if you could zoom in on it, displays a tiny bird--a wren, for architect Sir Christopher Wren, who built St. Paul's Cathedral, which is of course, where the old bird-woman sits and sells the bird seed in Mary Poppins. THAT'S how deep the detailing goes.
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On another shelf, sits some innocuous items that, when considered a moment, represent the other three parks' icons: The Hat, The Tree, and The Ball.
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Even his trunks (holding canisters of "Magic Feathers) have stickers from all the different parks around the globe, from the Mira Costa hotel at Tokyo Disneyland Resort, to Club 33 in Anaheim. His magic rings hang in an interesting formation...
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Leaving the Magic Kingdom for the Disney-sponsored Star Tours Meet, I headed over to Blizzard Beach, where we were to check in and board buses to Hollywood Studios. At the parking lot were some DJ's playing music out of the back of their van, asking trivia questions, and generally trying to entertain people waiting in a long line to register.
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Once arrived at the Studios, we were ushered in from backstage through a fog-filled tunnel into the immediate vicinity of Star Tours.
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On the other side of the tunnel were a plethora of aliens from the Star Wars canon.
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The ride was open for all to experience, with a a combination of new and old elements in the queue, and 50-odd different flights around the galaxy. Just not with Captain Rex.
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Outside of the ride, there was an ice cream sundae bar, various props, and a stage where some Imagineers were available for Q&A.
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At the end of the night, all participants were given one of four posters depicting four theoretical Star Tours destinations. Fifty people drawn at random were given all four, signed by two of the artists that drew them--a great souvenir!
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The event ended around 2am, and although some people went straight back to the front of the park to sit in line until opening, the less-persistent of us went home for a few hours of sleep. Then, it was back again the next day to see the opening ceremony for Star Tours--featuring Bob Iger and George Lucas.
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There was, of course, the usual copious amounts of merchandise for sale.
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The rest of the day was spent in attending the many specialty shows they had going with that weekend's Star Wars celebrities. The first was Behind the Force with host James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, and Clone Wars Supervising Director Dave Filoni.
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Then Inside the Ackbar's Studio with Anthony Daniels and Daniel Logan...
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...Followed by Anthony Daniel's solo show Inside the Saga.
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The day's presentations wound up with James Arnold Taylor's high-energy one-man cavalcade of voices in Obi-Wan and Beyond.
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At night they had their traditional Hyperspace Hoopla which was moved to the central Hat stage instead of the little area they usually use right outside Star Tours. While it was a vast improvement over everyone trying to squish themselves in to get a view, the visibility was still pretty poor secondary to everyone putting their young (and not-so-young) kids up on their shoulders*. For some reason, even though they had a number of large video screens around that area, they didn't put any of the show on the screens, so they weren't much help.
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It was a reasonably corny but enjoyable show, and irreverent enough to make a fitting end to the Star Wars-filled day. The next day I flew home.

Next up: Everything Opens at Disneyland.


*By general consensus, I think we agreed that if your kid is a) driving, or b) wearing a bra, they might not need to be up on your shoulders anymore.

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About June 2011

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

May 2011 is the previous archive.

July 2011 is the next archive.

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