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August 2, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 5.)


As if there weren't enough things to distract a body, the Disneyland Hotel opened up its two new Tiki-themed eateries, Trader Sam's, and the Tangaroa Terrace.


Trader Sam's is more or less a bar with the same theming as the now-defunct Adventurer's Club. There are, apparently, no original pieces brought over from Florida, but some things have been duplicated...such as the ship in the bottle.


One of the conceits of the bar is that all the bartenders/servers are supposed to be Jungle Cruise skippers, and they periodically engage in some appropriate banter. It seems clear however, that like the 50's Prime Time Cafe, some CMs are better suited for role-play than others. This may come as a little bit of a disappointment to people looking for something identical to the Adventurer's Club, where the characters involved were primarily performers.


In any case, it's a fun place to stop by and get a snack. I tried the Ahi Poke and a Schweitzer Falls--the ahi was very fresh, so if you enjoy poke, you probably shouldn't have any hesitations about ordering it here. The drink (one of their non-alcoholic specialty drinks) was pretty unexceptional. A pet peeve of mine is when places conveniently don't put prices on their menu, which is the case with the non-alcoholic drinks here. Additionally, your AP discount only applies to the food you purchase--not the drinks, whether they are non-alcoholic or not.


Because the bar only holds around 40-ish people, there's an abundance of outside seating as well, along with live music. It's a fun, atmospheric place, and will doubtless be doing good business for some time to come.


Next door, is the Tangaroa Terrace which is modeled closely after Captain Cook's in WDW's Polynesian Resort. It has the identical touch screens, but a vaguely bland menu. I didn't get a chance to try anything there, but after the heavy theming of Trader Sam's, the interior of Tangaroa seemed frankly barren. It may have just been the time I was there, but it was pretty empty--presumably anyone ordering from here had taken their food outside to listen to the music.

One irking thing about both places, is that neither currently validate for parking. Consequently, a patron had better count on making the trek over from the parks, or scooting before your three free hours at Downtown Disney are up, and the lot starts charging their usual jillion dollars a minute over.

So then, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure opened up, and after all the years of waiting while work on it progressed, I finally got to ride it.


And? It's a nice ride. The music, as always, is great, and most of the set pieces look good. I personally feel that your reaction to it will depend heavily on what your expectations of it are. If you're looking for a cute dark ride along the lines of Pinocchio or Pooh, then you probably won't be disappointed. If you're looking for some massive E-ticket ride that is going to pull people away from Toy Story Midway Mania or California Screaming...well, maybe not.

Part of the problem for me is that the audio-animatronics seem a little uneven. After all the years of watching the Blue Sky videos on how carefully they were working on Ariel's hair, so it looked like it was moving underwater, a lot of the time it looks like a jiggly solid block.


Also, the lighting seems a little bright, to the point where it's sometimes hard to maintain the illusion of being underwater. In the big "Under the Sea" room, it actually has more of an "It's A Small World" feel to it, with little attempt made at hiding the lighting or the vehicle track.


This not to say that it's a bad ride however--when it works, it works brilliantly. The room with the Ursula figure is fantastic, and the lady herself must be one of the most fluidly moving AAs there is.


Which is why it's a little bit of a pity that you only see her that one time. Much like the movie, her ultimate defeat is pretty minimally represented--a small picture in the corner of the last room. If you blink, you might miss it.


Ultimately, I also think that all the videos and articles Disney put out about the making of the ride possibly robbed it of a little novelty for me. All the big scenes had already been shown, so after going on it once, I felt as though I had actually seen most of it before. For people who haven't been following its development so closely, it will probably have a much bigger impact.

Should you be put in the mood for purchasing merchandise afterwards, well, Disney has you covered on that front. Across the way in the Embarcadero, there lies all the neat stuff you would need to make your collection complete.


And with that, I think the Spring was pretty well done.

August 8, 2011

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1


I visited Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on Friday, August 5, and thought I'd share some photos and various observations from my visit.

Star Tours continues to be the hot Fastpass ticket (no real surprise there!). I got a Fastpass ticket at 8:15 a.m. which had a 10:30-11:30 return. At 11:20 when I exited the ride the return time was 11:20 P.M.! Though at least there were still Fastpasses left - but I'm sure they were gone within the next 15 minutes. This time on Star Tours I *finally* saw a character other than Leia - it was Admiral Ackbar. (When the rebel spy turned out to be male and not female I was sure I'd get someone different!) In five different tours I've been to all the various destinations now, and the only element I haven't seen is Yoda. I have some favorites - I like the Hoth scene (though I get a kick out of Threepio's aggressiveness in the pod race) and the final scene with the Death Star/Rebel Command ship, though I think the motion effects for Naboo are the best - it shakes you around quite a bit.

While I was in the queue I took this video of one of the droids in Droid Customs area - he may look familiar!

Since it was still early after I'd obtained my Star Tours Fastpass the lines were short and I took the opportunity to enjoy some attractions that were walk-ons. I always enjoy seeing Storybook Land, so I took a ride on Casey Jr. Circus Train. There were only three passengers - me and a man and his young grandson. There's some really nice views from the elevated railroad. By the way, the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction is still undergoing refurbishment - it's scheduled to re-open on September 2.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

Not quite as interesting as the back side of water - but it's the back side of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

I've seen lots of ducks and even swans enjoying the castle's moat, but never one of these! I think it's a cormorant.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

The Annual Pass Holder processing center in the Plaza Pavilion is shut down now. Starting this past week, annual passes are sold at the main ticket booths, and new AP holders can either get a PhotoPass photographer to take their photo or they can upload one from home.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

Tarzan's Treehouse was closed, but it's not on the refurbishment schedule, so I guess Tarzan and Jane just didn't feel like having visitors. :-)

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

There's a relatively new fruit cart/snack stand next to the Mark Twain's dock. In addition to healthy snacks like fresh fruit and trail mix, they also sell chimichangas, corn on the cob and turkey legs.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

Pirates of the Caribbean will be undergoing a fairly lengthy refurbishment starting on September 7. It's not scheduled to re-open until close to Thanksgiving. During this time the Blue Bayou restaurant will be closed as well. Oh, and do you remember how the Blue Bayou Kids' Menus used to double as a cute pirate hat? Now it's just a boring piece of paper - which gives them the flexibility to change it more often, apparently - though what's on the new piece of paper is what has been on the hats for quite a long time!

I took quick rides on Haunted Mansion and The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, which were both walk-ons. I rarely ride Haunted Mansion except when it's dressed up for the holidays, and it seemed odd to see it in its "normal" configuration. Disneyland hasn't added any of the modifications to the queue or the hitchhiking ghosts like they have at WDW, though. Big Thunder Mountain had a less than 10 minute line (I love being in the park early in the day!).

On my way out of Disneyland to DCA I wandered into the Emporium. The construction walls are still up inside the store, cutting its available shopping area by at least 1/3. I don't know what the project is, but it will be nice when it is done.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

And meanwhile, over at DCA...

The monorail bridge doesn't look much like the Golden Gate at all now.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

Engine-ear Toys, Bakers Field Bakery, and Brrr-Bank Ice Cream are all closed now, and behind construction walls.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

This makes the walkway to Condor Flats quite narrow and congested, especially since it's the shortest route from the entrance to the World of Color Fastpass distribution area and to Paradise Pier.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

Here you can see the sharp corner with the top of the Carthay Circle Theater in the background.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

Now that Bakers Field Bakery is closed, it means one less option for those who might want breakfast in the park, so Taste Pilot's Grill is now serving breakfast from the time the gates open (usually 9:30) until 11:00.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

In addition to the pastries that were available at the bakery, they are also serving a selection of breakfast burritos. (People who want a mocha or latte or some other specialty type of coffee are out of luck, though.)

The menu is HERE. I decided to try the Breakfast Burrito, which is filled with scrambled eggs, potatoes, and cheese. It was very good, though the potatoes are seasoned with pepper, and have some bits of red pepper in them. They had fresh salsa available (as well as packets of Tabasco sauce) at the toppings bar. I was disappointed in the salsa - it was fresh, but didn't really have a lot of flavor. I would've preferred the La Victoria salsa packets available at Cocina Cucamonga. The new breakfast menu also offers a breakfast burrito with sausage, and an egg white and spinach burrito.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

The name of the ice cream place at Paradise Pier has changed - it used to be Catch a Flave, and now it's the Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company. The MENU is still the same, though.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

In a planter near Silly Symphony Swings I saw these flowers - they reminded me of the fountains in World of Color. Very appropriate.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

I knew that they had put a water play area in Paradise Park, but I'd never actually seen any of it in action before. In addition to the central fountain you see here, there are shorter fountains around the perimeter and misters as well. When I walked by this area later the Disney Channel Rocks show was running - but the fountains weren't. :-)

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 1

After this I went back to Disneyland - but I'll have more on that in Part 2, as well as some updated construction photos from DCA.

August 9, 2011

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2


So on Friday, after I'd made a pass through DCA, I went back to Disneyland so I could use my Star Tours Fastpass.

The Disneyland Band was performing in Town Square when I arrived, and I listened to the rest of their set. At the end they announced they would be performing in front of the castle at 11:30.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

After my jaunt through a galaxy far, far, away (note to self: protocol droids are not very good pilots), I went to the castle. There were a number of people lined up already, with several cast members making sure we stayed behind the gold line. The band came up Main Street and then went through Snow White's Grotto so that they came towards us through the castle and across the bridge.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

They were joined by a number of characters, including Mickey in his own band leader costume. Alice and the Mad Hatter came out later for the "Unbirthday" song. Eventually Mickey led the band back down Main Street.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

I'd done what I wanted to do at Disneyland for the day, so I went back to DCA again. The line for The Little Mermaid was up to 20 minutes, though that's not too bad. It was lunch time, so I went to try out something new at the Paradise Pier restaurants again. I was happy to see that there were a lot more people enjoying lunch there than when I was there two weeks earlier.

But I was very unhappy with Paradise Garden Grill - they again did not have the baklava. The cast member at the register told me they don't get it until later in the day. That's just unacceptable. If it's on your all-day menu, it should be available ALL DAY! It's not like Paradise Garden Grill has that extensive a menu to begin with, and the baklava is the only dessert item on it.

I went to Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta - I wasn't really that hungry since I'd had the breakfast burrito from Taste Pilot's Grill just a few hours before. I got a piece of the BBQ Chicken Flatbread. It was not bad - I prefer a thicker chewy crust to a thin crispy crust, though. The BBQ sauce was a little too sweet by itself, but worked well with the overall flavors.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

One interesting thing about the new Paradise Pier restaurants - they both scanned my Annual Pass correctly as a Premier pass. But when I used it at Taste Pilot's Grill and at Greetings from California they had to manually enter the discount code. I wouldn't have thought that newer registers would make a difference with that - seems like it should be an upgrade to the underlying computer system.

Here's a few photos of Cars Land.

The part of the Cadillac Range visible above the Pacific Wharf looks to be fairly complete and colored.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

There's starting to be some more structures visible inside.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

Here you can see part of the building for Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

There's not really any changes in Blue Sky Cellar, except to the one case on the wall that is updated approximately monthly. Right now there's an aerial photo (which, considering the subject matter, is also an Ariel photo) showing the park in April of this year.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

There's been a wine display case sitting next to the projection screen for a while, but I'd never looked inside it before. There are several bottles of "Imagi-noir" and "Zin-fun-del", as well as a bottle of "WED Wine" and a bottle from the Lasseter Family Winery.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

Blue Sky Cellar is scheduled for another update this fall. I was told by the cast member there that it would focus on the Buena Vista Street area of the park rather than Cars Land.

I took a quick trip through Flik's Fun Fair. Francis' Lady Bug Boogie is undergoing refurbishment - they have even removed the cars from the attraction! The Disneyland calendar does not show a date for its return.

Disneyland Updates and Random Observations - August 5, 2011, Part 2

I guess I should talk a little about the weather and the crowds. It was a beautiful summer day - sunny but not too warm. The parks were pretty busy - about what you would expect on a summer day, and, especially on Friday, the park gets busier as it gets towards late afternoon and evening when the Deluxe and Premium AP holders show up for the evening activities (Southern California passes are blocked out for another couple of weeks).

And that was my day at the parks.

August 14, 2011

Expo Fever: Catch It!


Has it been two years already? Expo time has rolled around again for the Disney Faithful over at the Anaheim Convention Center this upcoming weekend. With the recent release of the final schedule of the three-day event (http://d23.disney.go.com/expo/D23Expo11_GuideBook.pdf,) it may be time for attendees to start analyzing a plan of attack. Here are some of my thoughts as I peruse this year's program.


One difference as far as how the layout of the convention stands this year, is a consolidation of the rooms used for the various presentations. Last Expo, there were a handful of large Arena/Theater rooms, and then a variety of smaller conference rooms; this year, there are basically three different rooms--the Arena, Stage 23, and Stage 28--with different activities and meet and greets taking place at different pavilions out on the floor.

On the one hand, this should eliminate some of the confusion of finding the correct room for the correct panel, and on the other hand, this means the flow of humanity trying to get into a given room at a given time will be that much heavier. I haven't seen any numbers as to how many people fit into each room, but it is to be hoped that the organizers have learned from last time, when some of the rooms' maximum occupancy proved to be woefully inadequate to the demand.

Another thing I'm hoping they've streamlined is the whole process of security while entering the big Arena presentations. Last year, entrants had to undergo a multi-step process which involved getting searched for electronics, bagging and handing in any phones, cameras, or recording equipment, and then getting wanded on the way in. The whole thing took an incredibly long time to the point where some of the presentations looked like they closed a lot of people out with still-empty seats because they just ran out of time to let people in. Unfortunately, even after you got in, the nightmare wasn't over because you had to go through a huge chaotic mess to reclaim your contraband when everyone was let out. I'm not necessarily advocating people show up to these events buck naked, mind you, but it might facilitate the whole ordeal for the rest of us.


With the elimination of last year's fourth day, it appears there's a heavier integration of the Disney Channel programming throughout the whole weekend, with an emphasis on Sunday, where they seem to drop Stage 28 entirely. It seems odd that after cutting a day they would actually end up having fewer panels, and would choose to have the lighter schedule on one of the weekend days, which one would assume would be more heavily attended. Friday, by contrast, has a plethora of presentations, often scheduled simultaneously, presumably as counter programming to break up the crowds. A lot of the historical content is absent, partitioned off, no doubt, for the Destination D events, as are the large ABC pavilion/presentations. Maybe they got tired after the huge Pan Am publicity blitz they just had at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Putting aside the merchandising events and meet-and-greets, the number of presentations per day breaks down like this: Friday--13, including the popular Legends Ceremony, Parks and Resorts talk, and Dick Van Dyke performance; Saturday--11, including the Studios presentation, Pixar, and Legends panel; Sunday--8, with the big presentations being Marvel and Disney Channel, and the other offerings including the DCL announcements and three panels at least partially presented at other events. For the traditionalist Disney fan, unless they add more events between now and then, it appears that Sunday's going to be a fairly light day.


The other thing of note is that they look to have eliminated most of the late-evening programming. Last Expo, each night they showed vintage films or new documentaries until around 11pm, with appearances by such celebrities as Richard Sherman and Mary Costa. This year, you're pretty much free to head out to Electronica after about 8:30pm.


Ultimately, the key to surviving Expo with your sanity intact is going to be prioritizing what's important, and taking into account the amount of time each factor is worth to you. Would you rather meet Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry? Or see the Studios presentation? Don Hahn's "Why We Create," or the Parks and Resorts show? If you want to see Parks and Resorts, is it worth missing the four other panels that'll be going on while you wait in line to get in?


The lighter schedule is likely to win approval from people who found last year draining and stressful from so much going on. Personally, my tendency is to want to go full-bore and just forego food and sleep for the whole weekend...then check into a hospital after it's over, but your mileage should probably vary.

In any case, it looks to be a great weekend filled with all the Disney information, minutiae, and magic we've come to expect from D23. See you at the Expo!

August 20, 2011

2011 D23 Expo - Day 1


Well, Day 1 of the 2011 D23 Expo is history. While it's had some
special moments, for the most part it was a very frustrating day.


The Expo opened to D23 members at 9:00 and to the general public at
10:00. Or I should say that was the *announced* opening times.
The lines were HUGE by 8:30, and they did let D23 members in earlier
than 9:00, but it still took a ridiculously long time to go in. I
got in line at about 9:10 and it took me almost 50 minutes to get
inside. And there were still lots of people behind me. And they
hadn't even started to let those in the General Admission line in!

There are fewer sessions this year, and they are holding them in
just three rooms this year - the Arena, Stage 23, and Stage 28. The
good news is that the rooms are larger than they were two years ago,
but even so none of them are large enough for the number of people
who want to attend. People are lining up sometimes 3 and 4 hours
before a session starts - I heard people ask this afternoon if it
was possible to start lining up TODAY for the Walt Disney Studios
session that's in the Arena TOMORROW.

There are fewer food locations this year and the lines there are
ridiculously long, too - and we won't even talk about the prices.
$8.00 for a hamburger with NO fries or chips, just a slice of
tomato and pickle.

I wasn't able to attend very many sessions today, and they all
started at least 15 minutes late - which makes it even less possible
to try to attend other sessions.

So what did I do today?

Once I finally got inside the building I started by finding the
Arena and figuring out where I needed to go to get into the
Disney Legends ceremony.

That was pretty special - they inducted 12 new Disney Legends,
including Regis Philbin, Guy Williams, and the women who were the
voices of the more modern Disney Princesses: Jodi Benson (Ariel),
Paige O'Hara (Belle), Linda Larkin (Jasmine speaking), Lea Salonga
(Jasmine singing, Mulan), and Anika Noni Rose (Tiana). The four
ladies sang some of their signature songs, and at the end they all
performed together, as you'll see in this clip.

Guy Williams died in 1989, but his family accepted on his behalf - his son even brought along his "Zorro" sword!


All of the award winners were escorted by a Disney character, with the exception of Regis Philbin who enjoyed the company of three lovely Disney princesses!


Also inducted was Jim Henson. Kermit the Frog and Rowlf performed
"Rainbow Connection". You know how some songs just "get you right
here"? That one does it for me...and there weren't too many dry eyes
in the house.

That started late, so it ran late, and I wasn't able to get into
the next session I had hoped to. I wandered around the Show Floor a
little bit, but didn't have time to really see anything before
eating the almond butter and jelly sandwich that I had brought with
me, while sitting on the floor because all of the tables were packed
(at least the floor was carpeted!).


Then it was time for another line - this one for the Walt Disney
Parks and Resorts presentation. (As members of the press, we did
have a special line for presentations in the Arena, but still had to
get there 30-45 minutes early.)

There were no real surprises in this one. It was hosted by Tom
Staggs who brought out other guests like Bruce Vaughn, Joe Rohde
(recorded), Bob Weiss, Kathy Mangum, and George Kalogridis to talk
about things like the Fantasyland Expansion, Aulani, Shanghai
Disneyland, Cars Land, and Disneyland. I have lots of video that I
haven't had a chance to process - while there were no surprising
announcements, there were some nice computer simulations of Shanghai
Disneyland and recent photos of the Cars Land area.

That also started late and ran late, so I had about 45 minutes until
the Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament was going to start at 6:00
(which didn't start until almost 6:20). There was a queue for
that, though fortunately it didn't fill up that quickly. (They had
a separate queue for the Dick Van Dyke & The Vantastix program,
which was going to be held in the same room - it was at 8:15 and at
5:15 there was already a lot of people queued up for it.)

There were 20 people who were semi-finalists for the Trivia
Tournament, and wow, they really knew a lot of trivia! They asked
them some very hard questions - like the number and street of the
house Walt Disney was born in (and the person knew the answer!!!).
And they asked someone to spell "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".
They even brought out some costumes and props from the Disney
Archives and asked questions about them. There were multiple rounds
with different formats to make it even more interesting. John, the
guy who won, was head and shoulders above everyone else - during
the "Lightning" round where they buzzed in, sometimes he buzzed in
before the host (Daniel Roebuck from Lost) had finished asking the
question - and he still got them right.

Here's what they were playing for - John gets his name on this
trophy, and he gets a cruise on the Disney Fantasy next year.


I enjoyed that, but of course it also ran late, and the queue for
the Dick Van Dyke show, which I would've like to have seen, had been
full for a long time. Since the Archives and Expo Floor were closed
by then I called it a day.

I hope the entry procedure tomorrow will be better...but they've
already announced that tickets are sold out for Saturday, so I'm
sure the crowds will be even worse.

2011 D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards


Here's some more photos from the Legends ceremony on Friday.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Bob Iger spoke in a recorded message:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Tom Bergeron was the host:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

There was a "Disney Legends In Memoriam" segment, recognizing those no longer living:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Anika Noni Rose was honored for her role as Tiana.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

And Linda Larkin was Jasmine's speaking voice:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

While Lea Salonga was Jasmine's singing voice, as well as the voice of Mulan (and she commented how grateful she was that Linda Larkin doesn't sing!):

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Paige O'Hara said that she is still recognized as the voice of Belle - even though Belle never ages and she does. :-)

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Jodi Benson proudly showed off her Disney Cast Member id card:

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Here are Paige O'Hara and Lea Salonga performing some of the signature songs for their characters.

And Anika Noni Rose and Jodi Benson:

Ray Watson was Disney's Chairman of the Board in 1983, and during his career was recognized as a real estate development visionary.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Barton "Bo" Boyd was THE merchandising guy, eventually named Chairman of Disney Consumer Products. Two of his daughters accepted on his behalf and shared some wonderful stories about their dad.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

I already shared this photo of Guy Williams' family accepting his award. I was very happy to be in attendance for this one, since I've always loved Zorro.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Jack and Bonita (Granville) Wrather were both recognized for their contributions in building the Disneyland Hotel (apparently Jack thought the chances for something in "Anaheim...ANAHEIM???" to succeed were not very good.)

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Kelly Ripa, in a recorded video, shared some of her favorite memories of Regis Philbin.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

And Regis? Well, I think he was honored for just being Regis. :-)

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

Jim Henson was the final honoree this year, and two of his kids, including son Brian, who has taken over as Kermit the Frog, accepted and shared some great stories about growing up with Jim Henson as their father.

D23 Expo Day 1 - Legends Awards

And then Brian performed that wonderful Rainbow Connection number that I have already shared here: http://youtu.be/IUUNumejg4w

But he also performed this funny little classic that his parents developed in 1956:

It was a warm, wonderful, and heartfelt ceremony - I'm very glad to have seen it.

August 21, 2011

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2


Day 2 of the Expo...

The Expo is sold out today, so there's even more people. So far I can't tell if things are going a little better today or if I just don't care as much.

People started lining up OUTSIDE the convention center I don't even
know how early to get into the Walt Disney Studios presentation,
which was scheduled to begin at 10:30. When I arrived in the
convention center around 9:00 the line inside already stretched most
of the way across the lobby (plus whatever was in the normal queue
that I couldn't see), and they were telling people that both the
primary and standby queues were full, and they wouldn't get in. And
at that point the General Admission folks weren't even allowed in
the building yet.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I hadn't planned to go to the Studios presentation anyway so I
decided to wander the exhibit floor instead, since I hadn't a chance
to see much of that yet. There were still plenty of other people
around who weren't going to the Studios presentation, either. I
started at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Carousel of Projects.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

There's a model of the Fantasyland expansion at Walt Disney World - it's too big to get all in one photo. This is the Dumbo/Casey Jr. section:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

Snow White's Cottage and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with the Beast's Castle and Ariel's Underwater Adventure in the background:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And a full-size model of a car on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

They had the Madamoiselle Minnie figure that will go in the
Atrium on the Disney Fantasy.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

Lots of things from Cars Land...

One of the mini tractors from Mater's Junkyard Jamboree:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And the car that it pulls:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And a ride vehicle from Radiator Springs Racers:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I asked the Imagineer there about the attraction and its similarity
to Test Track - he said in the end they probably only kept 20% of
the Test Track components, and everything else was new/different.

There were several car hoods painted by Chip Foose which will
hang in Ramone's House of Body Art. This one has hidden mickeys on
it somewhere. Or so the Imagineer told me.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

Here's a model of Buena Vista Street:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And a larger model just of the Carthay Circle Theater.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

There's not much about Shanghai Disneyland - just this model.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

The most fun thing is The Amazing Destini. This is an
artificially intelligent audio-animatronic fortune teller. There's
no "man behind the curtain" - it interacts with guests based on
what it detects from facial expressions, height, proximity, etc.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

On this screen off to the side you can see its "brain" and what it
is sensing. In the middle panel are all the faces that it is
tracking, and what it was sensing for things like age, eyes
open/shut, mouth open, happy, sad, angry, surprised, impatient, head
angle, talking, etc. (If you click on the photo you can see the
full-size version where you can read it a little better.)

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I ran into fellow AllEars Team Member Erin Blackwell, and we chatted
for a while - it's been a very frustrating experience for her, too.

I wandered around the Disney Living area a little bit. This is some
cute Prep & Landing merchandise from Hallmark.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And an interesting facade here.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

A huge cupcake display at the Celebrations booth, where they were doing
some cake decorating demos.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I liked these big balloon decorations!

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

Quite a large booth dedicated to Pirates of the Caribbean: On
Stranger Tides
(coming soon on DVD and Blu-Ray) which included
some props from the movie.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

And how can you not smile at a Lightning McQueen constructed
out of Legos? :-)

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

The line to get into the Archives exhibit was long, so I went to the
queue area for the Once Upon a Time screening. Which was
still an hour and a half away, but it gave me time to write a lot of
this blog.

I really enjoyed Once Upon a Time. And thank goodness, it
only started 5 minutes late!

The show was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, who were
the executive producers of Lost. In it, the storybook fairy tale
world of Snow White and Prince Charming and Rumpelstiltskin and
Little Red Riding Hood collides with our modern world of traffic and
email and credit cards and cell phones. It was really fascinating and
I think we were all drawn into it - I didn't hear ANYONE talking
during the show! It's really a very rich world with a lot of detail.
I'm not sure about it being a weekly series, though - I think it
would work better as a movie or a mini-series than as an on-going
serial. At some point it will need a resolution or I think people
will get tired of watching it.

There was a short Q&A period with the producers and Disney Geek
Jeffrey Epstein at the end, in which they 'fessed up that there are
a lot of references to Lost in the show (since I never watched that
one, they were "lost" on me.) We'll see a lot more fairy tale
characters introduced in future episodes. The show premieres on
ABC on Sunday, October 23 at 8:00 p.m. At this point ABC has
ordered 12 episodes, and then we'll all see. I'll be watching!

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I hoped to get into the "Good Look at Buena Vista Street" presentation -but it filled up more than an hour before it started while I was still in the screening. I found out later that they unveiled this maquette of a new statue of Walt and Mickey that will stand on Buena Vista Street - a "bookend" to the Partners statue in Disneyland.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 2

I met up with Lee and DebK and we went down to the exhibit hall to shoot some video of the show floor and some of the exhibits, so we hope Lee will have that edited and posted soon.

Around 4:00 they announced that the regular queue for the 6:30 "Imagineering's Guide to Creativity and Innovation" session was full, and at 4:30 they announced that the standby for it was ALSO full. Ridiculous. We thought we'd go to the Archives but that had a long line (probably 30-45 minutes), so we called it a day.

So let's see...in my almost 8 hours at the Expo today I toured the show floor twice, waited for a session for over 90 minutes, saw a one hour session and, um...well, that was all. Yeah, just another typical day at the D23 Expo...

2011 D23 Expo - Tour of the Show Floor


Lee and I spent some time wandering the Show Floor at the D23 Expo on Saturday, and he put together this video which will show you some of the things that we saw.

August 22, 2011

Costumes at D23 Expo

Laura's husband, Lee, spent part of the afternoon Sunday on the Expo show floor taking pictures of some of the folks in attendance who dressed up in costumes. While not as prevalent as at an event like Comic-Con, there were a surprising number of costumed attendees.









2011 D23 Expo - Day 3


Sunday - the final day of the D23 Expo.

There were noticeably fewer people today - not that it made a great deal of difference in the lines. The sessions that started before noon were not packed (the Marvel session in the Arena was only 1/2 to 2/3 full), but the afternoon sessions were again filled up 1.5-2.5 hours in advance. I never did get in to see the Archives - the line was always huge, and they closed the line at about 3:30 today.

Most everyone I talked to was very frustrated about the Expo - quite a number of people left early yesterday and went over to the parks instead, and I talked to people today who had friends/family that were in the parks instead of at the Expo.

But back to today's events...

I was able to get into the 9:00 Imagineering the Dream and the Fantasy session. Imagineers Joe Lanzisero and Bob Zalk talked about some of the challenges and different ways of thinking they had to take into consideration when designing for a cruise ship instead of a theme park.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

Here's a few things they talked about:

-- Cruise ships tell stories, too.

-- Guests are going to spend days aboard a ship rather than minutes on board an attraction.

-- The need to balance Disney whimsy with elegance.

They showed some examples of what guests see on the virtual portholes. On the Fantasy there will be some new characters.

They also talked a little about the new "show" in Animator's Palate aboard the Disney Fantasy. Before dinner guests will have the opportunity to create their own drawing of a character:

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

The drawings will be collected, and some of them will be animated and included in an animation sequence that will be shown later. There will be different animation sequences in different parts of the room - so a guest's drawing, if it it chosen, will be displayed on the screen that they can see.

Here's a look at the Disney Fantasy, still under construction in Germany.

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

After that session, I almost immediately got in line for the Radiator Springs Reality panel, which wasn't scheduled for another three hours (and it was full two hours before it started). I had friends to wait with, so the time went faster.

I don't have time to write about this panel right now, but I'll talk about the contest they announced at the end. John Lasseter, as most Disney fans know, was a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland (in 1977-1978). Unfortunately he has no photos of himself in that role, so he's looking for someone who has a photo of him. The prize is a trip to the grand opening of Cars Land as a VIP guest of John Lasseter. For more details, visit http://johnofthejungle.com And he warned us that Pixar developed digital compositing, so they will know a fake if they see one! (In this photo he was a Jungle Cruise skipper for a day during Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration.)

2011 D23 Expo - Day 3

We'll have more on the Marvel session that Lee attended, and on the Radiator Springs session, coming soon.

August 23, 2011

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality


The Radiator Springs Reality session was a panel discussion on Cars Land, featuring John Lasseter, Kathy Mangum, Kevin Rafferty, Jennifer Mok, and Roger Gould. They are putting a lot of thought and effort into the details of this all-new land, and really want guests to feel like they are in Radiator Springs.

John Lasseter, shown here with his Cars 2 namesake, John Lassetire, spoke about the re-imagining of Disney California Adventure, and one of his goals in bringing Disney characters into the park - something the original park was lacking. (He had to stop himself a couple of times from saying some uncomplimentary things.)

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

He also showed off his custom Cars Land hardhat, painted by Chip Foose.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

One of the early concepts for a new land in DCA was Car Land - going along with the car-based culture of California.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

I think all along John Lasseter wanted to bring back his favorite ride from Disneyland, the Flying Saucers. And that has become Luigi's Flying Tires in Cars Land.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree has 22 baby tractors pulling a car that whips around behind them. They built a car and pulled it behind a real tractor in the figure-eight pattern that the attraction will have. The attraction will also feature a jukebox made out of old car parts, new music and dialog for Mater, and lots of Mater's tall-tale memorabilia in the queue.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

The head honchos are all smiles after a test ride last summer. (Ride testing begins next week.) Of Cars Land's 12 acres, Radiator Springs Racers is 6 acres. There are two different body styles for the cars and each comes in four different colors.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Kathy Mangum showed this time-lapse video of the construction of Cars Land, from ground-breaking pretty much up to the present time. The sun shines a lot in Anaheim!

Some of the turntables for Mater's (some of them are already covered up).

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

A look down the main street of Radiator Springs through a very wide-angle lens. The framework for the Court House is visible in the middle - it's the last to go up because of the need to move construction equipment through that area.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Lizzie's Curio Shop:

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Examples of some of the car-inspired design details that are going into the Curio Shop and wherever else they can put them.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

A Fettuccini brand Flying Tire. The silver handles on the left and right of the seat are air valves which will allow riders to spin the tire.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Ramone's House of Body Art

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Here you can see the dual slots on a steeply banked curve of Radiator Springs Racers. They promise g-forces, 40 mph top speed, and you never know which car is going to win.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

The final scene in the ride is Taillight Caverns.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Jennifer Mok talked about the landscaping and plants and trees they are bringing in to simulate the desert environment of Radiator Springs - while still providing some shade for the guests!

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

There's going to be lots of different kinds of strange-looking cactus.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Roger Gould talked about some of the story details. Radiator Springs Racers is set during Cars 1.5, and the rest of Radiator Springs takes place post Cars 2. Flo's V8 Cafe, pictured here, has been expanded due to the new-found fame of Radiator Springs. (They joked that Flo's is going to be so popular they might need to put in a Fastpass system for the restaurant!)

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Ramone's custom paint system has a familiar name.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Luigi has a framed blessing from the Pope-mobile!

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

Radiator Springs was founded by Stanley (Stanley Steamer), who offered free water and replacement radiator caps to cars that overheated at his Stanley's Oasis establishment. If I remember correctly, this will be part of the queue for Radiator Springs Racers.

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

They had to build various audio-animatronics of the cars - this is Mack. (Does that make them auto-animatronics?)

2011 D23 Expo - Radiator Springs Reality

They still aren't saying when Cars Land will open - just summer 2012.

August 26, 2011

How I Would Fix the D23 Expo


If you've been reading my blogs I'm sure you know that I was not very happy with this year's D23 Expo. It was a very frustrating experience for me, and I talked to others who had much worse experiences than I did. There were a lot of "lowlights" and very few "highlights" for me this year.

The first D23 Expo two years ago also had its share of problems - and you would have thought they would have learned something from that, but unfortunately that apparently was not the case. I'd have to say, at least as far as the sessions go, that things were much worse this time. (Not with the content - the sessions themselves were first-rate.)

Two years ago there were more sessions scattered across more rooms, some of them occurring simultaneously. The rooms were too small for most of them, but at least there were more choices. This year, sessions were only held in three venues - the Arena, Stage 28, and Stage 23. These rooms were larger than they were two years ago - but there weren't very many sessions scheduled in them. In fact there was NOTHING scheduled in Stage 28 on Sunday. They did use some of the smaller rooms - but as queues for all of the people who were lining up for sessions 2-4 hours early!!! With very few exceptions, if you didn't queue up for a session at least 2 hours in advance then you didn't get in. So you had lots of (unhappy) people who were standing in line rather than being on the show floor or buying food and merchandise.

Enough of that...here are some of my ideas to try to fix it:

1. This first one is really an either/or...either limit ticket sales OR schedule more seminars so that people have more options.

I personally think that they should go with limited access, and sell one type of ticket that allows access to the exhibit floor and the Archives ONLY, and another more limited ticket that also allows access to the seminars and arena presentations. That would cap the number of people trying to attend the sessions and give them a better chance of getting in without wasting time in line. What they did this year with the Sorcerer and Premiere tickets was a good start but I think they need to expand it and offer an option that isn't quite that expensive to those like me who just want to be in the room and don't care about sitting close. (Destination D at Disneyland was like that last year - I could walk in any time and always find a seat. Though it might be way over on the side I could always hear the presentation and they had big video screens so I could see what was going on.)

If they aren't going to limit ticket sales then they need to add more content - this year there just wasn't enough to do. Something like Comic-Con has 10-20 sessions going on simultaneously, so people can always find something to do, even if their first or second choice is full. We just didn't have anywhere near those kinds of options this year. The sessions don't all have to be panel discussions - they could just show us Disney TV shows or movies! This year there were a couple of screenings that were packed - they could have re-shown those at later times without the panel discussion that went with them. Guy Williams was inducted as a Disney Legend - how about showing us some episodes of Zorro? Or showing the movies featuring all of the Disney Legend princesses?

2. (Thanks to Michelle B. for this idea) Implement some kind of Fastpass system.

Only one per day per person - but it gets you into whatever session it is valid for without waiting in line for 2+ hours. If I'd known each day that there was ONE session I was going to be able to attend without having to wait for two hours, I would have been a lot happier.

3. More efficient room-loading.

You'd think that Disney, which moves thousands of people around every day in the theme parks, would know how to efficiently get people into a room. Nope, didn't work that way. It did get better as as the weekend went on, but on Friday most sessions started at least 20-30 minutes late (I think the Dick Van Dkye show was 45 minutes late!) since they were still seating people right up to the time the show started. It was especially bad in the Arena since it held a lot more people.

4. Better training for the convention staff.

The red-shirted convention staff really didn't know what was going on - if you asked the same question to three different people you got three different answers.

5. Satellite rooms.

If they are going to have rooms that are too small, then offer a satellite viewing location where people can stand and watch on a big screen. I didn't have to be in the room for any of these events - I just needed to be able to see and hear what they were saying.

6. Better entry procedures.

People were waiting in line for over an hour just to get into the Convention Center in the mornings. Starting the day off with a negative experience is just wrong.

For those of us who filled out a yellow card at the Expo, Disney sent out an email with a link to an on-line survey on the D23 Expo - I received mine on Tuesday and have completed it. It was fairly lengthy. They asked questions about the experience and provided a place for me to explain my answers. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that - or even if there will be another D23 Expo. At this point, unless they implement some changes, I have very little interest in attending another Expo - but I will definitely go to another Destination D!

August 28, 2011

2011 D23 Expo: Lee's Thoughts on the "Headliner" Events

I had a more positive D23 experience than Laura, probably because I was only there for two days and because I attended the 'headliner' events in the Arena both days I was there. Those were the only events that had designated Press seating, so I didn't have to wait in line for hours and hours to get in. All of the events in the Arena Stage are very well-produced with a nice stage, excellent lighting and sound system and three very large projection screens. Those events also tend to be longer - the Disney Studios event was the longest at almost three hours.

Building Worlds: Inside the Walt Disney Studios

The Studios event started almost on time at 10:30, in spite of the required camera check. This was the only event at D23 this year that required this and it is understandable why Disney doesn't want images of all of the pre-release and work-in-progress footage they show put out on the Internet.


This event was similar in format to the one they did at the first D23 Expo in 2009. The event started with a super trailer reel that highlighted the films released in the last year (or so). Then the master of ceremonies, Rich Ross, Chairman Walt Disney Studios, welcomed everyone. He then introduced, in turn, the representative for each of the studios that make up the combined Walt Disney Studios (Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Marvel) to highlight their upcoming movies.


Typically each of the individual studio presentations started with a teaser/trailer reel. Then the studio spokesman like John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer Walt Disney and Pixar or Kevin Feige, Producer and President, Production, Marvel Studios introduced a couple key people from each of their movies (typically the Director and the Producer). These folks talked about their movie, showed never-before-seen clips from the movie and brought out a couple of stars to talk about working on the movie. If a movie is far enough in the future that they haven't started filming it yet, you may see concept art, animated storyboards or computer graphics tests.


With that overview of the event, here are a few highlights and observations:
- John Lasseter continues to be one of the most interesting celebrities ever - he's personable, unassuming, funny, and passionate about what he does. He is also legendary for always wearing Hawaiian shirts, so early in his talk he said "I know you all want to know what shirt I have on today, it's the official Cars 2 shirt."
- It is Pixar's 25th anniversary, so Buzz and Woody rolled out a big cake. John Lasseter said that he learned in grade school to share, so he announced "cupcakes for all" and 50 staff members walked in carrying cupcakes that were passed out to everyone in attendance.
- I am not very "star struck", so the guest stars are entertaining but not the thrill for me that they are for some people (based on the amount of screaming). I do like to hear the actors talk to get some idea of what they might be like in real life. Marvel definitely won the star power competition when they brought nearly the entire cast for The Avengers out on stage.
- The Marvel films received a surprisingly strong reaction from a Disney fanatic audience - especially Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers.


Movies that I thought looked good:
- Brave - an original fairytale by Pixar, this is also their first "period piece" (they said this is hard to do in computer graphics), and the first with a female hero.
- Planes - think Cars, but with airplanes.
- The Avengers - major superhero action.
- Wreck-It Ralph - an animated story of a video game villain who escapes his game and goes on a quest through other video games in an attempt to become a hero, done in "8-bit" animation like an old computer game.
- Monsters University - a Monsters Inc. prequel.
- Chimpanzee - this year's Earth Day Disneynature release - the story of a baby chimp that gets left behind and is adopted by an older chimpanzee.
- John Carter - based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs science fiction series. They spent quite a bit of time on this film that could be the foundation for many sequels.
- The Muppets - the Muppets reunite to save the Muppet Theater.

The Marvel Presentation


Living in San Diego and being a frequent attendee at the San Diego ComicCon, I was momentarily confused when Marvel started their presentation with a highlight reel showing this year's Marvel panel discussions and the Marvel booth at ComicCon. However, it was a good way to get the crowd amped up and that was followed by a video taped welcome from the one-and-only Stan Lee, greeting us from the secret command post where he was busy defending us from the bad guys.


The remainder of the session was hosted by Marvel's Creative Lead, Joe Quesada. Joe explained that he has been doing talks called "A Cup of Joe" at comic conventions since 2000. Typically those are focused on upcoming products and long Q&A sessions. Joe said that Disney recognized that many of the people in attendance at D23 aren't familiar with the history of Marvel, so he changed the format for this event. I remember when it was announced that Disney was buying Marvel that there was serious concern from comic fans that Disney would ruin Marvel. I got the impression that part of Joe's mission was to explain how Disney and Marvel fit together, as well as to try and bring some of the Disney faithful into the Marvel comics fold.


Joe explained that, like Disney, Marvel is about storytelling. Marvel now has over 8000 characters to tell stories with and that is Disney's interest - expanding the base of characters and stories they have to work with. Joe also said that Disney gives Marvel freedom for independent operations but adds financial resources and marketing muscle. Marvel is almost 75 years old. It was founded in 1939, but really took off with Captain America in 1941. Stan Lee started as production assistant at Marvel, but he wanted to be a "serious" writer and expected to do that somewhere else. Instead, Stan created the Fantastic Four in 1961 and Spiderman in 1962 which were the first of a new breed of superheroes who were normal people with the same problems we all have to face. Prior to this, superhero comics focused on the superhero identity rather than the real person behind the mask.

Marvel comics went on to be a huge pop culture phenomenon in the 70's and 80's with sophisticated stories. Marvel experienced unprecedented growth in the 1990's, but along with the rest of the comic industry became too focused on artwork and collectible values instead of stories. When the bottom fell out of the comic speculator market Marvel went into bankruptcy. Marvel had to rediscover their DNA - the character-driven stories. Joe drew a parallel to what happened with Disney animation in the years prior to the release of Beauty and the Beast. Joe also made a point that, as a casual comic fan I hadn't recognized, all of the Marvel stories take place in the same time period and in the same universe so the characters can interact with each other allowing Marvel to do really big stories. The Avengers comics and upcoming movie are an example of this, as all those characters started out in their own comic books.

Marvel has been successful licensing content to other movie studios - Sony does Spiderman, Paramount does Iron Man - but they started Marvel Studios because they lose too much control when they license out content. For example, a Spiderman/Iron Man cross-over is unlikely because the rights belong to two different studios. Marvel also has a TV studio that produces "Saturday morning" cartoons. The TV studio is experimenting with using computer animation to take original 2D comic books and turn them into animated comics with depth and motion. If that approach is commercially successful, they have literally tons of content to build on.

Towards the end of the presentation, Joe showed all of the teasers from the previous Marvel universe superhero movies (both Iron Man movies, Hulk, Thor, Captain America) that set up next year's Avengers movie. He then took questions for about 15 minutes. Of interest to AllEars fans, during the Q&A he did say the Marvel attractions will remain at Universal Studios but that "there have been talks" about bringing Marvel characters to the Disney theme parks.

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About August 2011

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

July 2011 is the previous archive.

September 2011 is the next archive.

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