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August 1, 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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"Guardians of the Galaxy," the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU,) introduces us to the space-faring scoundrel Peter Quill and the rag-tag band that unites around him in his attempt to save the galaxy.

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*************** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ***************

After an initial sequence more reminiscent of the four-minute montage in "Up" than with the film's slapstick-y trailers, the movie settles in to tell the story of Quill's efforts to obtain, and then regain, a mysterious and powerful orb. In the process of doing so, he is thrown together with four other miscreants: Gamora, an assassin with a heart of gold; Drax, a warrior consumed with regret and vengeance; Rocket, a genetically/cybernetically enhanced raccoon and bounty hunter; and Groot, a powerful sentient tree-creature.

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While the group is initially bound by mutual need and dislike, grudging respect eventually turns to affection and the group evolves from a bunch of isolated beings only out for themselves, into a team willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the galaxy.

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To do so, they end up opposing any number of forces, including the military forces of Xandar; Gamora's assassin sister without a heart of gold, Nebula; Quill's surrogate father, Yondu the bandit; and the story's "Big Bad," Ronan.

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Based on a relatively obscure team of comic book characters dating back to 1969, "Guardians" allows the MCU to both expand their canonically known universe, and simultaneously tell a story completely new to most of their audience. Combining both broad comedy and the grandeur of a traditional space epic, director James Gunn succeeds in dishing up a satisfying adventure that often seems like the love child of Indiana Jones and Captain EO.

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Chris Pratt, as Peter Quill, does a fine job of depicting the lone human of the film as a cocky survivor, still deeply wounded by his loss of both his mother and his planet. Although the ship-full of bandits who raised him may have taught him that only suckers care about others, the experience he gets working with a team shows him the value of family and brings him to the realization that it's never too late to do the right thing. While it might have been expected that Pratt would have the comedic chops from his work on "Parks and Recreation," the heart with which he imbues Quill is surprisingly effective.

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My personal favorite of the movie however, is Groot--who, despite being limited to vocalizing one sentence ("I am Groot") manages to be as expressive as any of the others. Ironically, of all of them, it's Groot who comes with the least amount of growing to do, as his taciturn compassion contrasts and balances Rocket's aggressive tendencies beautifully.

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Ultimately, what I find unique about "Guardians" as opposed to the other MCU films is how the characters struggle to achieve heroism. Rather than most superheroes who either spring out with fully-formed noble intentions from the beginning, or who surmount some life tragedy from a fairly privileged position, these guys are depicted as competent criminals, but vaguely penny-ante, and pretty jerky from the beginning. It's their journey to discover the potential in themselves and the strength they derive from each other that makes them both compelling and relatable (even the raccoon and the tree.)

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At one point in the movie, John C. Reilly's Corpsman Dey of the Nova Corps is relaying a warning from Quill (an escaped criminal) to Glenn Close's Nova Prime, in which he says "I may be an A-hole, but I'm not 100% d---." Nova Prime asks Dey, "do you believe him?" Dey responds "well, I don't think anyone's 100% d---..." Which is probably as good an overall message as any.

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"Guardians of the Galaxy" is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Directed by James Gunn and produced by Kevin Feige. Screenplay by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. The Executive Producers are Louis D'Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Jeremy Latcham, Nik Korda, and Stan Lee.

The film enters general release on August 1, 2014, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

*At the screening I saw, the last moments after the credits were suspiciously blank. This is a MCU film however, and chances are that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably got an post-credit sequence.

August 4, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 8/01/14

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, August 1, 2014. I started my afternoon off at Disney California Adventure

Walt and Mickey, Storytellers in Carthay Circle on Buena Vista Street.

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Molly catching up on the news in Carthay Circle

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Still working out on the Pier

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Only an 80 minute posted wait for the Racers this afternoon, the single rider line was only 15 minutes. Part of the queue received four misters/fans several weeks ago to help with the summer heat and lack of shade in that portion.

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The Sheriff welcoming us to Radiator Springs

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Rolling through town.

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Caught a performance by the All-American College band on the Backlot Stage

A video clip of the Band performing Zero to Hero.

Over at Disneyland they have moved on to the next set of turnstiles. This is the large grouping on center right as you face the park (the far side was done a few weeks ago).

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On Main Street Castle Bros is under wraps for some facade renovation. The shop is open still.

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Inside the windows/doors received covers featuring pictures of the outside view.

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A new guest interactive guest experience, The Adventure Trading Company, opened today. Their main base of operation is the Outfitters.

A sign out front letting you know about it.

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Inside a sign that sums up the experience. You become an Adventurer. You choose an adventure and pay $5 for a publication that explains it (or a second option available for $7.50 for a beverage that comes with a juju to commemorate it). You then set off on a journey and complete the task. You return and receive a Juju to mark the event and commemorate the adventure.

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Here is a closer look at three of the Jujus

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A display board opposite the sign with more details.

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Several Cast Members were in the store to explain the scenarios and issue you an Adventure Name. Here he is explaining about the Piranhahaha Juju. You purchase this guide then go to the Jungle Cruise to learn about being a skipper. Once completed you get the book stamped then return to get the Juju.

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Next up the Tiki Bird Juju. Here you are a casting agent looking for more birds to join the show. You walk around and need to take pictures of birds to earn the Juju.

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Here is a board showing the Jujus you can earn and the trait for each. You can also trade Jujus with cast members or others.

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There are three Jujus that are earned by purchasing drinks. Venomade at Bengal BBQ earns you this one.

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A closer look around the board.

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My adventure name today as assigned by the cast member since I could not come up with one.

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Walking through the Frontierland, the land for the Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush was cheap.. only 75 bits (it was 150 last Friday).

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If you did not have a Western name in mind you could pick one from a stack. My unlucky draw for the day.

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Billy looked lost out front of the Golden Horseshoe...guess he was waiting for his brothers?

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Inside Miss Lilly was entertaining guests.

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Moving on to New Orleans Square. Port Royal features new Haunted Mansion merchandise.

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A new Master Gracey shirt

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Temporary barriers still form a walkway by the artists.

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While walking through Fantasyland there was no line again for Casey Jr so went for a ride. They were just pulling the Storybook Land boats out since the parade had ended.

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Stopped by the Music of Nashville.

This afternoon Smith and Wilkes were performing.

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A new sign on Main Street, on the lamp post. Because of the Castle Bros work they are routing ECVs, wheelchairs and strollers through the stores vs the temporary walkway.

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The All-American College Band performing.

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There goes the band...the temporary walkway slows traffic down...especially when people stop to watch the band instead of walking.

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I wanted to go for a trip on the Monorail but the line/wait and my time/schedule/patience did not line up. So here is a look through the fence at the submarine lagoon.

You can see they have started to add color again. Hopefully next trip I can get an overhead shot to really show it.

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If you want a specific juju from the Adventure Trading Co be sure to play early in the day as they are limited each day.

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Caught a few minutes of Hard Days Night: A Tribute to the Beatles as they opened their 7:00pm set. They were marking the one year anniversary since they started performing at Disneyland.

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Then back to Tomorrowland for the 7:45pm Beatles set.

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A couple clips from the 7:45pm and 8:35pm sets.

Back for the 8:35pm Hard Days Night set. It features music from Sgt. Pepper.

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As I arrived on Main Street for Magical they announced it may be cancelled due to winds. I looked up and the flags were blowing so I decided to head toward the car.

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As I arrived at the Mickey and Friends garage Magical started as scheduled. So watched from there before heading home.

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Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.



August 5, 2014

Disney's Upcoming short "Feast"

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I was able to attend an event at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank and spend the day in the Roy E Disney Animation Building (the one with the sorcerer hat pictured above). We started the day off with a screening of "Feast". This will be the short accompanying "Big Hero 6" in theaters starting November 7, 2014.

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The film shows the evolution of one man's (James) romance with a woman (Kirby) through the eyes of their dog (Winston) in a series of short scenes covering several years in the 6 minutes of the film. The short's director Patrick Osborne chose a different path to sharing this story. He based the shots on a technique that was inspired by his use of the 1 Second Everyday app. This application takes a second of video and then stitches it together to create a film of your experiences. Patrick used it to catalog his life by looking at the meals he ate each day. This led to the basic structure of "Feast". As the title, "Feast", implies food and meal situations are a key component. They are the setting and activity that the film revolves around.

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"Feast" is the first short of a new program within Walt Disney Animation Studios to pitch and create shorts. As part of this program anyone at the Studios is invited to pitch to the studio's creative brain trust, made up of the studio's directors, story leads and John Lasseter. The team then picks the one to go into development. This is Patrick Osborne's first time as director but not the first short he has worked on. He was the head of Animation on "Paperman". He was also the co-head of animation on "Big Hero 6" prior to departing to direct this short.

In addition to this new program Patrick talked about the process to bring the short to the big screen, including the compressed time frame, about 18 months, and the many hats the director of a short wears while ushering it through the development process. He said that as soon as it was given the green light he was tossed into story development and they flushed out the story, taking his initial concept and visuals and turning it into the first treatment. Then they established the look of the film. The team started with traditional drawings then migrated to CG tests to achieve the look he wanted. Next up was shot production. One aspect that he highlighted here that interested me is the use of current technology - as they review the dailies they can annotate directly onto the frames as they are meeting. No more need for interpretation and writing it all down and you can leave visual notes/drawings as well as text directly on each frame/sequence you want to reference. The software handles everything and when he or the animators returned to their desks they could call up the footage and notes.

I found "Feast" to be very entertaining. In the span of six minutes with very little screen time devoted to the human characters, you will be taken on a roller coaster ride of human emotion and relationships as seen from Winston's perspective. The short's style and format goes in a different direction than traditional animation with the look, feel, shot selection and pacing giving it a unique feel that works well. Be sure to arrive on time for Big Hero 6 so you do not miss "Feast". It's worth seeing.


August 6, 2014

"Guardians of the Galaxy:" Press Conference with the Cast

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"Guardians of the Galaxy," the latest blockbuster from the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has just opened to overwhelming acclaim. The comedy/space epic adventure stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a self-interested interplanetary thief and scoundrel, who finds himself thrown together with an unlikely team of rogues in a frantic attempt to save a planet from destruction, and a race from genocide.

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As part of their extensive promotional tour, the film's director, James Gunn, and cast came to Burbank for a press conference at the Walt Disney Studios. Scroll to the bottom of this blog for footage from the Press Conference.

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Among the things we learned:

---One of the things that drew Gunn to the project was his childhood obsession with different planets in the solar system, for which he would draw pictures and people with different races, pets, houses, water systems, etc.

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---Pratt found the idea that he might be responsible for giving men body image problems "the nicest thing anyone ever said to me."
---Pratt knows that anyone with those problems can change them around if they are willing to work hard, and get a good coach and be coachable.
---Pratt is offering a course for $4,500 up front. (No, he is not. It's a bit.)
---[I would consider signing up for Pratt's course.]

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---Gunn initially did not want to test Pratt for the role, who he knew as "the chubby guy from "Parks and Rec."
---Twenty seconds after Pratt began reading, Gunn turned to his casting director and commented "chubby or not, if he's chubby, the world's gonna have to be ready for the first chubby super hero."
---Gunn says the heart of the movie is about opening yourself up to care, in a world where you're supposed to be cool and tough.
---[Say, wouldn't it be great if there was a place you could visit, to escape the cynical, snarky world? Where age could relive fond memories of the past, and youth could savor the challenge and promise of the future?]

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---Zoe Saldana (Gamora) fought the stunt people who "are hard, and think that girls are stupid," for her vision that her character's fighting style would be graceful, like a bullfighter.

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---Benecio Del Toro (The Collector) was the first kid in his neighborhood to have a pet alligator.
---Pratt complained that Saldana and Michael Rooker (Yondu) both kicked and hit him pretty hard during the course of the filming. "I felt my organs shake."

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---Vin Diesel (Groot) said he was sent a book of conceptual art when first in talks to do the picture. When he showed it to his kids and asked them which character they wanted him to play, "they all pointed at the tree."

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---Diesel noted that having recently dealt with death in both his personal and professional life, it was therapeutic to play a character like Groot, who celebrates life.
---Diesel's children now consider all trees to be his "brothers and sisters."

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---Each member of the cast named a particular song from the soundtrack that was important to them, except Rooker, who doesn't know the music.

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Also at the Studios, Hasbro had a display of some of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" merchandise they have available.

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So for an exciting, good-hearted adventure, hie thyself to the local cinema!

Related Links:
** Jeanine's review of the movie

** Deb and Linda's review of the movie


August 11, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 8/08/14

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on .

First stop today Disneyland. Cruella de Vil with the Hook and Ladder Company in Town Square.

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Plenty of Frozen inspired treats now at the Candy Palace

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Goofy Glaciers have moved into the far corner. Currently four flavors to choose from.

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From the Monorail you can see the section the section of the entrance that is being renovation. This is the third of four sections to be worked on.

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The submarine lagoon from the Monorail. The subs are scheduled to return in 7 weeks, September 27th.

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On Main Street the work continues on Castle Bros, but this week the walls have been pushed back so there is a narrow sidewalk available. Last week you had to go out in the street.

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The 2014 All-American College Band only has one week left. Here they are performing on the Hollywood Backlot Stage

A couple of clips of the All-American College Band performing on the Hollywood Backlot Stage.

Meet the 2014 All-American College Band as they play a medley of Disney music on the Hollywood Backlot Stage

Back to Disneyland for the 3:25pm Castle set of the All-American College Band. The band is marching down Main Street after their performance.

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The Club 33 window continues to evolve in New Orleans Square.

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The last section of scaffolding has been removed from New Orleans Square.

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Paused at a quiet spot in Critter Country to send a couple of tweets.

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Pinocchio on the Village Haus window.

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The nightly Flag Retreat in Town Square

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Over to DCA and a look at the Grand Californian renovation project.

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The Napa Rose, which is closed during the renovation project

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The Hearthstone Lounge renovation is complete and it has reopened.

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At the World of Disney Halloween has taken over one of the doorways opposite the tram stop already.

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The displays on the wall have been swapped to Halloween too.

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The 2014 All-American College Band arriving to perform before Soundsational

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Today a group of band alumni were on hand enjoying the performances.

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The Frozen pre-parade float making its way up the parade route.

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The construction walls in the back of Star Trader are gone. No real changes stood out to me.

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The rest of the walls are gone from the exit area of Space Mountain are gone too. It is substantially brighter now.

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The All-American College Band performing in Town Square at the Train Station.

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A full moon was rising behind the band this evening.

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Walking over to the Mad T Party at Disney California Adventure

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The Mad Hatter and Alice performing.

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The Disney Showcase on Main Street USA has an assortment of Halloween merchandise available too.

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A Halloween Countdown Calendar

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Found a spot along the Rivers of America for Fantasmic.

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Then returned to Main Street for Magical to end my visit.

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Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.



August 13, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 1]

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Ah Comic-Con.

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Nothing says the height of summer, like spending four and a half days with 130,000+ of your closest friends.

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Each year, fans of virtually every genre under the sun converge on Downtown San Diego to celebrate and enjoy all different forms of entertainment. As the largest comic-con in North America, it attracts any number of companies displaying their wares and promoting their new and upcoming products, and Disney is no exception.

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I started off my comic-con weekend at the Disney Infinity Preview Event.

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Located a block or so away from the San Diego Convention Center, the Disney Infinity Pop-Up Shop was open each evening and provided guests with an opportunity to try out Disney Infinity 2.0, along with the new playset "Guardians of the Galaxy."

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Along with gameplay time, the location also offered snacks, character artists, giveaways, special guests, and the chance to pre-purchase Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes.

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Also available for pre-order was the new Collector's Edition starter pack, exclusive to the Playstation.

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Subsequent to SDCC, Disney Infinity has continued to roll out new 2.0 characters such as Marvel villains Loki, Green Goblin, and Ronan.

Classic Disney characters haven't been ignored, either, with the addition of Aladdin and Jasmine...

...and Stitch and Tinker Bell.

Oh, and this guy, too.

The Disney Infinity Preview was, as last year, a really fun addition to SDCC, enabling people to escape the heat and rehydrate while getting some hands-on game time with the updated Disney Infinity universe. SDCC tickets were not required, making it accessible to anyone who could brave the traffic and the parking down there.


August 15, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 2]

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So the first day of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) saw the beginning of the weekend's vast schedule of panel discussions, starting off with talks on upcoming Disney animated projects "Toy Story that Time Forgot," and "Big Hero 6."

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See this poster? This was done for Toy Story by the comic book artist/writer Mike Mignola of "Hellboy" fame. I really wanted one, and they actually did gave them out, but inexplicably gave them out at the ABC booth in the Exhibit Hall, right as the panel was ending, thus insuring that virtually no one could get down there fast enough to get one before they were all out. Sigh.

That was, however, the only disappointment as Director Steve Purcell, Producer Galyn Susman, Head of Story Derek Thompson, and Moderator/Composer Michael Giacchino showed off some impressive clips and art assets from Disney-Pixar's "Toy Story that Time Forgot."

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Initially planned as a six minute short, John Lasseter was impressed enough with the footage that he asked them to expand it to a half-hour Christmas special. The basic story is that Bonnie, the recipient of all the toys at the end of "Toy Story 3," takes them to a friend's house where they encounter a new set of toys--the "Battlesaurs"--who do not realize they are toys.

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The leader of the Battlesaur society is the Cleric--the spiritual head of their culture.

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There are a number of different types of soldier Battlesaurs, because they are constantly needed to fend off the Outland Beasts, like the Goliathon.

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(All the inhabitants of the Battlesaur world have been mutated from...conventional dinosaurs, through irradiation from Zeta Rays.)

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Our lead Battlesaur is Reptillius Maximus, who is of the Champion class, and wielder of the mighty Star Talon, a sacred weapon. He is voiced by Kevin McKidd.

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Our lead of the familar Toy Story cast is Trixie, played by Kristen Schaal. As a surprise, when her character was introduced, Kristen Schaal herself joined the panel.

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(When asked why she thought Trixie was chosen as the star toy for this outing, Schaal responded "...Tom Hanks is really busy, but I am completely available.")

As part of the Christmas setting, a new Toy Story character is also introduced, the mildly disturbing Angel Kitty. ("I am armored with goodness.")

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For those who want to recreate the story afterwards, there will also be actual toys on sale of the various film characters in their battle gear.

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The special "Toy Story that Time Forgot" is schedule for broadcast on ABC, December 2, 2014.

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Next up was a panel on "The Art of Big Hero 6," the upcoming feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS.)

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The panel, which did not allow photos or video of the displayed art, featured Producer Roy Conli, Visual Effects Supervisor Kyle Odermatt, Production Designer Paul Felix, Director Don Hall, Character Designer Shiyoon Kim and Visual Development Artist Lorelay Bove.

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The project came about when Hall developed an interest in creating a project that would join both WDAS and the recently acquired Marvel properties; the relatively obscure "Big Hero 6" seemed to fit the bill, and with Marvel's blessings, became the studio's love letter to Japanese culture.

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The creation of the film's setting "San Fransokyo" took an enormous amount of work, requiring the animators to start with a geographical map of San Francisco, and then increasing the hill size and skyscraper density to give it the feel of Tokyo. Combining the detailed ornamentation of a Japanese city with the Painted Lady architecture of SF, and throwing in some quarter of a million trees and one million streetlights, they created an image of a city that had both depth and energy.

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Kim then described some of the process he went through while trying to find the character Hiro, the 14-year-old genius protagonist.

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Looking to his own childhood for traits like perpetual bedhead, Kim also tried to incorporate elements of today's youth, making him an expert multitasker.

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Hiro's inflatable robotic sidekick Baymax, a health professional turned superhero, came out of multiple visits to various robotic departments at a number of different universities. Wanting a huggable robot, Hall finally found a prototype for a robot composed of vinyl balloons that he thought was perfect. Baymax's face, a simple two circles connected by a line, was derived from the openings on a bell, his walk from a penguin, and his general shape language from a rice cooker (adorable, but with hidden technology.)

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To introduce some clips from the film, the panel was joined by Hiro's voice actor, Ryan Potter.

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Subsequently, we were treated to a brief description of each of Hiro's other teammates:

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Of course, the Big Hero 6 experience didn't end with the panel--there was already a reasonable amount of cosplay anticipating the movie.

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Attendees of the panel were also treated to a small Kaiju!Fred! as a giveaway.

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Downstairs in the Exhibit Hall, "Big Hero 6" had their own booth, where a limited edition armored Baymax was for sale.

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On display were other toys and figures that will be on the market closer to the film's opening.

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Guests were encouraged to #MeetBaymax and take a photo with him, at which time they might be given a smaller Baymax of their own (until the booth ran out for the day.)

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"Big Hero 6" is scheduled to be in theaters November 7, 2014.


August 22, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 3]

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While Disney didn't have much to present at SDCC on the next Star Wars movie, currently in production, Star Wars in general was as prevalent as it usually is.

Frequent Star Wars Weekend host Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka from The Clone Wars) was present in the Exhibit Hall, at the Her Universe booth.

Star Wars cosplayers were out in "Force."

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And there was plenty of merchandise related to both the existing movies, and Disney's next foray into the Star Wars universe, "Star Wars Rebels."

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Premiering this Fall, the new animated series (which was prominently featured at Disney Hollywood Studios' Star Wars Weekends this year) takes place directly after the enactment of Order 66, which called for the termination of all Jedi. The story follows Ezra, a 14-year old Aladdin-esque urchin, who joins up with the crew of the Ghost to fight back against the ever-increasing oppression of the new Galactic Empire, and to learn what it means to have a cause larger than yourself.

As a backdrop to his journey, the series will show the grassroots origin of the rebellion from a handful of scattered individuals to the Rebel Alliance seen in Star Wars IV.

At the main Star Wars Rebels panel discussion, Dave Filoni (Executive Producer,) Freddie Prinze Jr. ("Kanan,") Simon Kinberg (Executive Producer,) Steve Blum ("Zeb,") Taylor Gray ("Ezra,") Tiya Sircar ("Sabine,") and Vanessa Marshall ("Hera") were in attendance.

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Some of the discussed topics:
--Marshall is by far the biggest Star Wars fan of the cast.
--Light saber fights will be infrequent on the show, given that all the remaining Jedi are in hiding.
--"Rebels" will resemble the original trilogy more than Filoni's last series "Clone Wars."
--The cast often records as an ensemble, developing a family dynamic similar to that of their characters.
--Art direction is aimed towards the original Ralph McQuarrie designs.
--During SDCC weekend, Marshall and Sircar became honorary members of the costume club "Mandalorian Mercs."
--The series will begin with the Jedi branded as traitors, and show how the Empire oppression gradually breeds rebellion.
--As the show progresses, each character's motivation for joining the rebellion will be revealed.
--Prinze Jr. says that Kanan has an adolescent darker side as a result of having his training cut short when Order 66 exterminated over 90% of the Jedi, but learns control by teaching Ezra.
--The ship's droid "Chopper" is less cooperative than R2-D2.
--Fan expresses doubt that a "girl" like Sircar would be interested in Star Wars, setting genre social equality back another 60 years.

The next day a roundtable discussion with the panelists was held:

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Freddie Prinze Jr.

Simon Kinberg

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Dave Filoni

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Vanessa Marshall and Steve Blum

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Tiya Sircar and Taylor Gray

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"Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion," the series premiere, will air September 29 on WATCHDisneyXD.com, the WATCH Disney XD app for smartphones and tablets, and Disney Channel SVOD; October 3 at 9pm ET/PT on the Disney Channel; October 4 on Disney XD VOD, and for purchase through Apple iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play; and October 6 on Disney XD at 8pm ET/PT.

August 24, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 8/15/14

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, August 15, 2014.

First stop today, Disney California Adventure.

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The Grand Californian is still covered in scaffolding and mesh as the renovation work progresses.

You really cannot tell the progress.

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Still working out on the Pier. I did not walk out there.

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It had been a while since I walked through Bugs Land. Hopper has returned outside the entrance to Tough to Be a Bug.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 8/15/14

The Disneyland Resort 2014 All-American College Band wrapped up their season Friday night.

A clip of the trombone section performing on the Hollywood Backlot Stage.

Meet the 2014 All-American College Band (this was from last week).

Made my way over to Disneyland next. A look at the recently completed section.

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A closer look

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The work on Castle Bros. has wrapped up.

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Heading into Tomorrowland. The Astro Orbitor and Matterhorn.

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The second section from the left of the turn stiles that are now behind the walls, this is the last section to be worked on.

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Passing over Tomorrowland. A look at the Sub Lagoon

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3:25pm Castle Set for the All-American College Band

A couple clips from the performance (for full videos of the various performances visit my summary page

Stopped by the Big Thunder Ranch to listen to the Music of Nashville As usual it was not very crowded. The set was already underway.

Probably just over 50 guests in the audience.

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Miss Lilly performing in the Golden Horseshoe

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Land was cheap this afternoon, only 50 bits.

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For the Haunted Mansions 45th anniversary there are prints available at four dining locations. They are $5 with a min. $30 purchase.

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The Plaza Inn print

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The temporary sign is still up even though the scaffolding is gone. Wonder if more work is coming.

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Time for the nightly Flag Retreat

A clip of the All-American College Band performing at the nightly Flag Retreat Ceremony,

Folding the Flags

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The Haunted Mansion turned 45 last Saturday. So paid a visit today.

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Last week several people commented on the waterfall in Critter Country. Here is a wider picture showing where it is.. you can just barely make it out in the background here.

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Walking back through Adventureland. A sign for the Adventure Trading Co

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Time for the All-American College Band pre-parade.

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A couple clips of the band performing before Mickeys Soundsational Parade

The Matterhorn this evening.

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Haunted Mansion 45th Anniversary merchandise was still available.

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As were quite a few open edition items.

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The 2014 All-American College Band making its way to Town Square for the finale performance of the summer.

A couple of clips from the performance including the opening number, Bubbles was a Cheerleader and Let it Go.

Here is a video of the final number.. their Earth, Wind & Fire tribute to conclude their season.

A penguin in the window of the Jolly Holiday Bakery

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Mickey Macaroon at the Jolly Holiday Bakery

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The back of the Adventure Trading Co sign in Tropical Imports (as seen from the Jungle Cruise queue).

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Went for a night trip on the Jungle Cruise

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A light in the Pioneer Mercantile

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Halloween props are out in front of the store.

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Inside an old style cowboy Goofy on a t-shirt.

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Closed out my night with Magical. It started nearly 20 minutes late. I heard there was a delay with Fantasmic and this was the ripple effect.
There was no sight of Tinkerbell or Dumbo this evening.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 8/15/14

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




August 25, 2014

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 8/22/14

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, August 22, 2014.

The walls are down at the end of the Mickey and Friends Tram stop area.

The area at the far end (guess that is the South end, opposite the structure) is now used for the loading of the accessible shuttle so you no longer have to cross into the Pinocchio lot to use it.

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There are plenty of signs up now too

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First stop Buena Vista Street. Trolley Treats had a message up for everyone heading back to school.

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Goofy was conducting a concert when I arrived in Paradise Pier.

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The renovation work on the far side of the Pier has spread and now both food kiosks are behind scrims.

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Stopped by Radiator Springs Racers for some tractor tipping and a race since the single rider line was short, only about 10 minutes.

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Next store at Luigi's there was no real line. We waited one cycle.

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Halloween Merchandise in Off the Page

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Frozen and Marvel prints make for an interesting combination on the wall.

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The first three issues of the Figment comic book were available for purchase.

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Several Frozen books and not sure why a Marvel comic was on the same rack.

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The Marc Davis book is available.

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Random flower shot.. took it because it is close to USC colors.. FIGHTON!

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Walking toward Disneyland. The same section of turnstiles is being worked on as last week (the second from the left).

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The Disneyana store is celebrating 45 years of the Haunted Mansion with a selection of Ghostly Materials.

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Inside the vault..

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The Disney Gallery in the Opera House Lobby was not swapped out.. it still features the Mechanical Kingdom. Was hoping for a Haunted Mansion exhibit.

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The shops from the Disney Showcase around through the Music Shop are under wraps for exterior renovation.

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Snow Machines have been installed in the hub. Seems really early for Christmas already.

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The scaffolding is down from around the subs as they move toward opening in about 5 weeks.

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A better look at the subs.

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Walking through Frontierland, this sign was up at the Legends of Frontierland Trading Post.

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Inside the Golden Horseshoe Miss Lilly was performing.

Toward the end of the show they honored several Legends of Frontierland. (Guests who made an impact today in the game).

The Pirates wait time sign looked more detailed than I remembered it.. is this relatively new or have I just managed to not pay attention to it?

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Plenty of Haunted Mansion 45th anniversary merchandise was still on the shelves.

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Went for one last ride inside the Mansion. It closes Monday for the switchover to the Nightmare Before Christmas which will run from mid September through early January.

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Next stop Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.. the line was just barely outside, less than 10 minutes.

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A fairly rare sight.. an empty queue for Mr. Toad.

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I attempted to get a video of the experience... my camera did not do well.. so be warned this does not do the attraction justice.

Sleeping Beauty Castle with the Matterhorn in the background.

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Hmm.. last week Halloween props were out front. This week nothing. Wonder if they caused traffic issues with the Legends of Frontierland going on? Anyone know the story?

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Haunted Mansion fans.. I need some help. What is the owl reference?

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A pumpkin Mrs. Potts in the window.

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Down the street more Halloween/fall props are in the windows.

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The Fortuosity Shop birds have returned for the fall.

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Onto the Emporium windows.

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Plenty of Halloween, Haunted Mansion, and Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise in the Emporium now too.

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Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 8/22/14

The Fire House on Main Street USA

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Disney Studio 365 will be closing September 2nd and will be transformed into Elsa & Anna's Boutique which will open mid-September.

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The front display is already Frozen merchandise.

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Since the store was not busy here is a quick look around.

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A look at some treats at Marceline's Confectionery.

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Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.



August 26, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Preview

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2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

This weekend, August 28-31, is Disneyland's Half Marathon weekend. (This is #9, for those keeping track of such things - like me.) Events include the Health and Fitness Expo Thursday-Saturday, the Family Fun Run 5K on Friday morning, the Disneyland 10K and Kids Races on Saturday, and the Half Marathon on Sunday. The Dumbo Double Dare race challenge, where participants run both the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday, will be held for the second time.

According to runDisney there are 18,000 registered for the half marathon, 10,000 for the 10K, 6,000 for the 5K, and 1,500 for the Kids Races. Of the half marathon/10K runners, 6,000 are registered for the Dumbo Double Dare. All 50 states are represented, and there are runners from 25 different countries. In 2013 there were 17,800 registered in the half, 8,400 in the 10K, 5,000 in the 5K, 1500 in the Kids Races and 5,300 in the Dumbo Double Dare. So the 10K and 5K are both seeing a 20% increase - hope that won't translate to overcrowding on the race courses.

This will be our 7th time running the half marathon, and Lee and I are signed up for the Dumbo Double Dare again, also. We really enjoyed this race challenge last year, though we are hoping for slightly cooler/less humid conditions this year. So far it's looking promising - the forecast is for 67 at the start rather than 73 like we had last year.

We had a great time running the Inaugural Disneyland 10K last year. I thought the course was very well laid out - all but the first two miles are on Disney property, and there was a lot of in-the-park time. I really enjoyed the finishing stretch running through Downtown Disney to the Disneyland Hotel, where there were so many spectators to cheers us on along the way. The course wasn't too congested, either. My biggest complaint last year was that it was almost three miles between the first and second water stops. It was very warm and humid last year, so I was really thirsty by the time I reached the second water stop. This year it appears runDisney has addressed this: according to the 10K course map the water stops will be at mile 1, mile 3.25, and mile 5.75. Much better.

Something different this year is that the 5K and 10K will be held on separate days. Last year they were both on Saturday morning, with starts only an hour apart, and that complicated the start process - there was a delay in getting the 10K runners to the starting corrals. Though it was nice to start the 10K at 6:30 instead of 5:30...we got to sleep in a little. :-) This year the 5K, 10K, and half all start at 5:30. (5:30 does not seem like a very "family friendly" time for a "Family Fun Run 5K", though.)

One of the things that I was hoping for was that they would change the theme of the 10K each year like they do the 5K, and it appears that I got my wish! Last year's theme was Alice in Wonderland, and this year it's Lilo and Stitch! Whee!!!! So that means new 10K bling, of course:

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As you see, the Disneyland Half Marathon medal also received a slight re-design.

Last year there was a huge demand for merchandise when the Expo opened on Friday morning. Disney was not prepared for it, and the lines were long - and they also ran out of almost all of the Dumbo Double Dare merchandise that first morning. It will be interesting to see what happens with the merchandise area at the Expo this year. We won't arrive until Friday afternoon, and I hope there will still be something left by then. Though I need another shirt like I need another hole in the head...

Speaking of shirts - as a Dumbo Double Dare participant I will receive three shirts: one for the 10K, one for the half marathon, and one for the challenge. And this year, for the first time in Disneyland Half Marathon history, there was the option of selecting a women's cut shirt when registering for the race! That makes me very happy, since the unisex shirts just keep getting larger and larger - even an Extra Small is too big for me, and in fact my XS shirt from last year's race fit Lee!

The Disneyland Half Marathon is an "easier" race for us because it's close to home - we can drive instead of fly, and we get to stay in our own time zone. Still, we enjoy staying for several nights and turning it into a long weekend where we can spend some time in the parks, and hang out with friends who have come to run the races.

Disneyland Half Marathon, here we come!

(I'll be blogging about our race experience, but if you're interested in reading updates during the race weekend, follow me on Twitter: @AllEarsLaura)


August 27, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 4]

Continuing with the various goings-on at SDCC, Phineas and Ferb had a panel on their upcoming season, including the creators, Swampy Marsh and Dan Povenmire, and voice actors Vincent Martella, Alyson Stoner, Olivia Olson, and Dee Bradley Baker.

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They spoke briefly on the show's casting and development, and then went on to discuss their recently completed Star Wars crossover episode.

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Upcoming episodes they mentioned included one written by Damon Lindelof of "Lost" fame; a zombie episode "Night of the Living Pharmacists;" "Tales from the Resistance," a return to the 2nd dimension; and a teen-aged version set ten years in the future, for which they ended up hiring a fan artist based on her deviantART to work on the character design:
http://kicsterash.deviantart.com/art/Today-is-Gonna-Be-a-Great-Day-341545978

"Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero," a genial-appearing series slated for Disney XD in 2015 was also previewed during the panel, in the form of a "first look" clip now online at USA Today:
http://www.usatoday.com/media/cinematic/video/13914981/exclusive-clip-penn-zero-part-time-hero-first-look/

ABC TV had a number of panels on their popular genre shows--so popular that I wasn't able to get in any of them. Fortunately, like most SDCC panels, they are searchable on YouTube, and trailers for the upcoming seasons were shown at the Exhibit Hall, in their ABC Castle booth.

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In this booth, if you were patient and waited the ~45-90 minutes required, you were able to go in and watch a prolonged (and mildly risqué) trailer for the new series "Galavant," with music and lyrics by Alan Menken (Disney Legend) and Glenn Slater ("Tangled.")

(Actually, they wanted you to sing along with the trailer, which seemed kind of demanding, since no one had heard the song before. Pass.)

After that, guests were free to visit Mr. Gold's pawn shop (from "Once Upon A Time,") and select a magical object that yielded a pin from a specific show. If you went through the whole process or were adept enough at trading, you could accumulate all five or so pins, which would entitle you to a ticket to the Once Upon A Time autograph session on Saturday.

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The pin I got referenced "The Quest," a new reality TV series currently airing on Thursdays that takes place in a fantasy-medieval setting.

Of all the shows they previewed, I actually found most of them fairly interesting, although given that I had to listen to them played over and over again for the hour I spent in line, it could be Stockholm Syndrome.

"Once Upon A Time" promotion mostly revolved around the upcoming season's tie-in with the blockbuster "Frozen" franchise, as revealed in the end of last season.

The show's presence didn't stop on the floor either, as themed pedicabs were available outside the convention center.

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Why, even Petco Park wasn't immune to Elsa's icy blast.

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Next time: "Make Mine Marvel."

August 29, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Part 1

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2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We're here for the 9th annual Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Our first stop was the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up our bibs and shirts - and do a little shopping, too. :-)

The bib pick-up is still down in the parking garage below the convention center but they switched the ramps used for entry and exit, which I think has helped the congestion and confusion of getting into the Expo itself, since they also changed that entrance to be a side door into the main convention center.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

As usual the bib pickup process was very efficient - very few people down there, and plenty of volunteers. Just a short wait and we had our bibs and the sticker with our race number on it, which we would use if we were checking a bag. Those getting coast-to-coast medals were also getting their wristbands there, but we already got our medals this year.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

One thing Lee noticed - they often have mile signs from previous years or other props set up for photo ops down there, but there wasn't anything this year. :-(

We went upstairs to the Expo. Because they have changed the entry point, they had to move the t-shirt pickup area 90 degrees. I thought this gave them a smaller area for exhibitors, and it seemed to me as though there were fewer exhibitors this year. St. Joseph Hospital, who in the past has been the main "health" sponsor, and has a very large booth, seemed to be missing. (Celebration Hospital in Florida seems to be the sponsor, at least on the shirts, but no Expo presence. A Florida hospital for a California race? Seems odd to me.)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Anyway...the Expo floor was not crowded - this was about 3:00 in the afternoon. We went and picked up our shirts. The race theme for the 10K is Lilo and Stitch, and the shirt is really cute. The Dumbo shirt is very cute, also. And I like the design on the half marathon shirts though I don't care for the color. (Though it's way better than last year's orange shirt!) And hurray for the women's cut shirts! They actually fit!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Our next stop was the Official Merchandise store. Last year they ran very short on merchandise, especially Dumbo Double Dare, and by the time we arrived there was only one Dumbo item left (a lime green hoodie - ugh), and a limited selection of other items.

This year, even though the Expo started the day before, there was still plenty of Dumbo and other items to be purchased.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

As far as I could tell nothing was sold out - or at least items that I was interested in were still available. So this year I got my Dumbo magnet and my mini-medals.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The thing that WAS missing from the store was 10K merchandise. No shirts, magnets, mini-medals, etc. Last year there was at least one shirt, but nothing this year. And it wasn't that it was already gone - friends who went at opening on the first day also said there wasn't any 10K merchandise. I don't get it.

Around the perimeter of the merchandise area they had some cool artwork for other upcoming runDisney races.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

After we shopped we wandered around the Expo floor and visited some of the vendors. As i said, there seemed to be a lot fewer exhibitors this year.

Our friend Kim (who we know from Team AllEars) was the first person we ran into that we knew. They had a really cute 10K photo op set up outside the Exhibit Hall, and the line was short so we all posed for a photo.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We went and checked into the Grand Californian and got unpacked. We are in a nice studio - it's on the first floor, which isn't my favorite, but we're at the end of the hall with a stairwell on one side and a one-bedroom unit on the other, and it's actually very quiet and out-of-the-way! And the great thing about the first floor is not needing to use the elevator.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Later we went over to Trader Sam's to meet some other Team AllEars friends - and also ran into a couple of friends from the rec.arts.disney.parks news group! Trader Sam's was very busy - we lucked out and were able to get a table outside for the five of us. But there was a line of people waiting to go inside - even if all you wanted was to go to the bar and order a drink so you could sit by the fireplace you had to wait in line! The servers working the outside tables were very busy, and we had to wait a while for someone to take our food and beverage orders. (I'll have a separate blog on food.) Lee ordered the Piranha Pool - it was pretty good, and very colorful, though thinking too much about what the red color in the drink represents is probably not very appetizing. Forget I mentioned it.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We met up with some other friends later in the Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand, but we tried to make it a relatively early night since we had a race the next day!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

And that brings us to 10K morning!

We'd agreed to meet friends in the lobby at 4:40, so we scheduled a wake-up call (and set an alarm) for 4:00. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Disneyland races, where we can walk from the hotels to the starting line, so there's no need for buses, and no need to get up insanely early? I have? Sorry...but it's one of the things I REALLY love about Disneyland races as opposed to WDW. We were walking from the hotel to the pre-race area at the same time we would've been walking from the pre-race area to the corrals in Florida.

Since the 10K had a Hawaiian Stitch theme, Lee and I (and a lot of others) dressed Hawaiian. Lee and our friend Michael both wore Disney Hawaiian shirts and board shorts. (The shirts were very hot, but they both said the shorts were comfortable.)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

I did my take on Cinderella goes to Hawaii. I was wearing a short grass skirt, though it's hard to see. I thought the rustling might get a little annoying but it was fine.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We had no problems getting to the pre-race area - very appropriate that it was in the Lilo parking lot!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Most people had already headed to the corrals, but there was still a DJ out on stage.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The weather at the start was slightly better than last year - 66 as opposed to 73 - but still 80-90% humidity, so it felt warmer. By California standards we've had a very humid summer.

The race went off right on schedule at 5:30. Lee and I were running with Michael and Stan, and we were towards the back of Corral B. We crossed the start line about 8 minutes after the race started. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone around us was going about the same pace that we were - we didn't have really slow people to go around, nor did we have really fast people blitzing by us.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The first two miles of the race are outside the parks - the race goes south on Disneyland Drive to the Anaheim Convention Center, then through the Convention Center grounds and back onto Harbor, then north until we take a left and go backstage at Disney California Adventure near the Tower of Terror, just before mile 2. After that it's all on Disney property.

We ran through Radiator Springs down Route 66 - the neon lights were on and the mountain range was nicely lit.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Then we took a lap around Paradise Bay and ran by Grizzly River Run and Soarin' (and the mile 3 sign), then down Hollywood Blvd, and backstage next to the Tower of Terror.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

One disappointing thing - other than Mater in Cars Land, there were no characters out on the course in DCA! They had an Elvis near Little Mermaid, but that was it. :-(

We stayed backstage until we entered Disneyland's Town Square.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Then we ran down Main Street (no characters) and into Tomorrowland (also no characters, but the mile 4 sign was next to Innoventions).

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Chip and Dale were near "it's a small world", but the line was pretty long, so we kept going. We looped around the backstage areas before re-entering the park at ToonTown, and ran back towards Fantasyland. This part of the course was somewhat narrow, but it wasn't unpleasantly congested for us - I'm not sure about those who were later in the race, though.

The mile 5 sign was near the Carrousel. I was surprised that there were no characters in Fantasyland, either.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We ran into Frontierland and right by the Mark Twain was Stitch! Dressed as Elvis! I expected the line to be huge but it wasn't - maybe 15 people in front of us, and the line moved quickly.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Next to Splash Mountain we went backstage again, and around the perimeter of Disneyland and into Downtown Disney. About .4 miles left at that point, with lots of people to cheer us on to the finish! We passed the mile 6 sign near Tortilla Jo's.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

When we made the right turn at the Disneyland Hotel the finish line was in sight about 100 yards away. The guys gave me a bad time about how I took off at a full sprint with no warning - but they don't seem to have had any problem keeping up with me, and in fact both Michael and Lee finished ahead of me. (Thanks to our friend Eddie for taking this finish line photo of us - he finished about 20 minutes ahead of us.)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

My official time was 1:09:41. Not bad, since we stopped for some photos. It was a really good race for me - I felt good the whole time and didn't get too overheated despite the humidity, though it made a big difference that we never had sun on us. I'm hoping for some additional cloud cover tomorrow.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We all got our Dumbo Double Dare wristbands which we will exchange for our medals when we finish the half marathon. And of course we have our "Tiki Stitch" medals. I really like this one - great design! For some reason it's lighter in weight than most of my other Disney medals. That's not necessarily a bad thing. :-)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

After finishing we got the usual silly runDisney food boxes. Sigh. We waited in the finish area until most of our other friends had finished - a couple of them were walking (but FAST), and started in later corrals. Everyone did great!

Then we tried to walk back to the hotel...ugh. We had to cross the race course in Downtown Disney. They had crosswalk areas set up but it still took a long time to cross the first one - and then there was a second one further down! The end of the race actually went by us before we got across that one. It took us 30 minutes to get back to our room! Very frustrating.

Some thoughts on the 10K...I still really like this course, and all the park time we get. And I LOVE the 10K distance. It's very nice to be done in a little over an hour! And it's especially nice for me to not have to wear a hydration belt like I do in longer races.

I also love the fact that they changed the theme for the 10K this year - Alice in Wonderland was a fun theme last year, but it was great to have something different, and I hope they will continue that in the future.

This year I was very disappointed in the lack of characters along the course, especially compared to last year, and to what we experienced in the Tinker Bell 10K in January. (Haunted Mansion Ghosts. Best. Photo. Stop. Ever.) In all fairness I suppose I should mention that there were a number of Elvis characters along the course, in places where in the past there have been Disney characters, and I didn't stop for photos with them. But they weren't Disney characters.

The water stops were MUCH better spaced this year. It helped that it wasn't as hot as last year, but I was still ready for some water at all three stops.

There were 20% more entrants in the race this year, and I was a little worried that it might seem more crowded than last year, but it was fine. But I started in Corral B - those in later corrals might not have had the same experience. According to runDisney there were 10,000 entered in the 10K, and 9603 finishers - that's a very high percentage, since I know there weren't 10,000 who actually started.

It was a fun morning, and I really enjoyed the race and running with Lee, Michael, and Stan.

Half Marathon tomorrow!


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About August 2014

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in August 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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