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May 1, 2015

Review: "Avengers: Age of Ultron"



"You didn't see that coming?"

"Avengers: Age of Ultron," the penultimate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase Two films, calls once more on all our old friends (and a few new ones) to save Earth from imminent destruction.


Segueing smoothly from the "Marvel: Agents of SHIELD" setup this week, "Ultron" starts off with the team charging into action in snowy, war-torn Sokovia to retrieve Loki's scepter from HYDRA. Mission accomplished, the Avengers can finally afford some time for well-earned revelry...until Tony Stark's scientific curiosity, hubris, and personal demons set in motion actions of global endangerment.


To make things right, the heroes will travel the world trying to shut down an enemy as free-form as the internet, and as malevolent as a vicious child. New faces and old fears batter them at every turn, and the ruthless calculus of war and sacrifice may dominate in the end.


In an effort to differentiate this film from its blockbuster predecessor, Whedon makes a pointed effort to make the team's internal conflicts more personal and the violent consequences more international. Where "Avengers" showed the threat of an alien invasion largely confined to New York, "Ultron" filmed around the world in South Africa, Italy, and South Korea, grounding its more fantastical elements in real settings.


Where the film shines, however, is the smaller moments, when the team members are able to take a breath and interact as people rather than soldiers-at-arms. Peppered with Whedon's trademark humor, the party at the beginning is funny enough to regret that it isn't longer. All the actors--some of which have been inhabiting these characters for the last five to seven years--wear their personae like well-worn jeans, imbuing them with a comfortable sense of history.

[Shout out to Cobie Smulders' Maria Hill, who is subsequently shown doing what any real person would do after running around barefoot, shooting and fighting in a room full of glass walls.]


While all the heroes, the previously neglected Hawkeye in particular, get their moments of backstory and personal turmoil, Robert Downey Jr. heads up the cast with a solid performance of the billionaire genius who is as brash and egotistical as he is tortured.


James Spader as the titular Ultron also does a phenomenal job, making the "murderbot" an almost sympathetic creature of confusion and rage. Witty and almost inadvertently evil in parts, Ultron could easily claim ancestry from some of Whedon's larger "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" villains.

"You've obviously never made an omlet."

The one element that clouds the movie a little is the need to keep setting up the major Phase Three storyline with Thanos and the Infinity gems. The woven-in exposition is slightly opaque for anyone only casually following the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and leads to a scene with Thor and...some sort of scrying pool...that seems at once very coincidental and unconvincing. While it doesn't ultimately detract much from the pace of the film, it feels like one segment that was graphed onto the storyline in an inorganic manner.


Ultimately, the movie is a fun, action-filled romp that manages the feat, somewhat unique in today's comic book movies, of caring about its characters--both the headliners and the extras. The easy comparison would be with DC's grey, joyless "Man of Steel" which featured huge battle scenes between super-powered combatants who grimly rack up enough collateral damage to depopulate several cities without blinking.


By contrast, in "Ultron," virtually every battle revolves around the need to protect the surrounding civilians from the inevitable morbidity and mortality that follows any of their confrontations. The concern becomes an even larger issue as the fear of failing this duty propels Stark to the questionable actions that drive this movie...and perhaps some of the Phase Three movies as well. Even the portrayals of combat evolve as the seriousness of the matter increases throughout the film, from the more cartoon-y sped-up fighting in the opening, where ricocheting bullets unerringly find HYDRA shins and arms in lieu of more vital targets, to the final battle--gritty and dirty, with stakes alarmingly high.


What measures will Stark and his "Iron Legion" take to ensure the security of Earth? At what point does an armed security force change from a protective guardian to an oppressive gestapo? Something for Stark to consider while we wait for "Captain America: Civil War." Maybe something for the rest of us to consider as well.


"Avengers: Age of Ultron" is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Stellan SkarsgÄrd with James Spader and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige. The Executive Producers are Louis D'Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Jeremy Latcham, Patricia Whitcher, Stan Lee, and Jon Favreau.

The film enters general release on May 1, 2015, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

**Kidding. Unless they slip one in later, this one doesn't have an end-credit scene.

May 5, 2015

Star Wars Awakens: Upcoming Films from Star Wars Celebrations


Now I realize it's possible that some people may not have seen that trailer yet, but they are among a select population. The day it debuted at the opening ceremony of Star Wars Celebrations Anaheim alone, it racked up around 88 million views.


"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is the seventh installment of the pop culture juggernaut, given life after the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. Starting off a new trilogy which will take place some 30 years after "Return of the Jedi," the film is being directed by J.J. Abrams (lately of "Star Trek,") from a screenplay he co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan.


Because of the white-hot interest level inherent in the first new live-action Star Wars movie in a decade, the film has been shrouded in mystery--a tactic familiar to Abrams from his time on "Lost" and "Star Trek: Into Darkness." Consequently, the opening panel at Celebration, with both Abrams and Producer/Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, was avidly anticipated by attendees who waited in line all night from the afternoon prior.

While details were scarce, we found out that the movie will feature a scavenger...


A stormtrooper...


A pilot...


A super-cute droid...


...And some other familiar faces.


Later that weekend, we were treated to a return of Kennedy with director Gareth Edwards, who will be helming the first of the stand-alone "Anthology" Star Wars films, which take place outside of the core trilogy storyline.


Although still early in production (shooting will commence this summer,) "Rogue One" is reportedly a war movie, starring Felicity Jones ("Theory of Everything") as part of a rogue group of rebel fighters determined to steal some Death Star plans and bring a New Hope to the galaxy. It will be set between Episode three and four.

(Josh Trank was also scheduled to be present at the panel, but was absent due to illness. Subsequently, it was announced that he would be leaving his position as director for the second Star Wars anthology film.)

[All photos and videos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm]

May 8, 2015

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland a preview for Disneyland 60th


Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us this "preview" of Disney Paint the Night Parade.

The Disneyland 60th Anniversary kicks off on May 22nd with a new parade, new shows, entertainment and more.The new parade will be Paint the Night which will roll through Disneyland each evening. Though some elements will be new, it will be very similar to the Disney Paint the Night parade that premiered in Hong Kong last year. I was at Hong Kong Disneyland in April and saw the parade then. I watched the parade near its start in Fantasyland and then rushed to Main Street to catch it a second time. Here are some pictures and video clips from it that can act as a preview of what is coming to Anaheim. The Anaheim version will not have a show stop and will feature a couple extra floats: a tribute to the large drum from the original Electrical parade and a Frozen-themed float.

I have a trip summary page on my site from my time at Hong Kong Disneyland and then Tokyo Disney Resort featuring additional picture sets and videos.

Here is a full video of Paint the Night in case you want to listen to the audio while clicking through the pictures.

Tinker Bell and some fairies lead the parade.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Behind Tink you can see the Monsters Inc float.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Moving on these guys on stilts lead the way for the Monsters Inc team

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Sulley on the front of the float with giant doors that have video on them behind him.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Mike is on the back of the float.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Next up the Cars crew is rolling into view.

Lightning leads the way Mack is behind him.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Next up we head under the sea with the Little Mermaid

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Next up the Ballroom/Princess unit.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Belle is on the float representing the princesses. Behind her two large screens with video.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Trailing behind a series of candelabras.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

A rose performer.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Toy Story is next. Cowboys, Cowgirls, and Slinky Dog lead the way.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

The Fab 4 (Goofy, Donald, Minnie and Mickey) are the final group.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

They stopped for a show stop in front of me (note in Anaheim there will be no show stop). A video clip of their show stop including some guest interaction.

The ground and audience were being painted with lights.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

Sorcerer Mickey is the finale. Not sure what his float is besides a lot of lights though.

Disney Paint the Night Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland

After Mickey passed by I pushed through the crowd and rushed to Main Street to catch the parade again. Thanks to the show stop I was able to catch it and get to Town Square before the stop ended. So I could get a second viewing and some more video.

The parade on Main Street USA

Hope you enjoyed this "preview" of Disney Paint the Night. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Trip Report I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

May 11, 2015

Current and Upcoming Video Games from the Star Wars Universe


Video games have long been a major component of Star Wars fandom, and were well represented at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.


The biggest video game presented was Star Wars Battlefront, by EA.

A multiplayer action shooter with impressive graphics and meticulous film mimicry, Battlefront allows players to fight for either the Empire or the Rebellion, in ground combat or in the air.


Throughout gameplay, different weapons and abilities will be unlockable, giving the player the ability to take the roles of characters such as Darth Vader and Boba Fett.


Star Wars Battlefront will be released in North America on November 17, 2015 for PS4, XBox One, and PC. The first (free) DLC Battle of Jakku will be available December 8, 2015, with pre-orders able to access it one week early.


BioWare's Massively-Multiplayer Online Game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, had a stop in their Community Cantina Tour at Celebration, in which attendees could meet and greet the developers, community team, and other players.

Reputed to have the most story content of its kind, the game takes place in the Star Wars "Fictional Universe," between the events of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, and some thousands of years before the events of the films. Players can choose from a wide variety of the many character classes existing in the Star Wars universe, and create their own storyline based on their choices and actions. The game is subscription-based, with a limited free-to-play option, and has been online since 2011. The latest digital expansion pack was "Shadow of Revan."

In addition to the games represented at Celebration, the highly popular Disney Infinity just announced a new 3.0 update due in the fall which will introduce Star Wars characters into their already expansive roster.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition will feature three Star Wars Play Sets--one set in the timeline of each of the two trilogies (Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic, and Star Wars: Rise Against the Empire,) and one taking place during the action of the upcoming "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."


Additional play sets will be available based on the upcoming Pixar film "Inside Out," and the recent blockbuster "Avengers: Age of Ultron."


The Toy Box will be updated with two new multiplayer expansion games: Toy Box Speedway and Toy Box Takeover. A multitude of new figures of characters from across the broad Disney Company holdings will also be added, such as Sam Flynn and Quorra from "Tron: Legacy," and Mulan and Olaf.


All 1.0 and 2.0 figures and discs will be compatible with the 3.0 update, which will come out on PS3, PS4, XBox One, XBox 360, Wii U, PC, iOS, and Android platforms. The Starter Pack will have a suggested retail price of $64.99.


May 13, 2015

Star Wars Celebration: Photos and Last Thoughts


For our last look back at Star Wars Celebration, I'm offering up some final thoughts and a slideshow of some of the various and sundry sights found around the Exhibitor's Floor and elsewhere.

The Good: Celebration had an enormous amount of content available and organized it fairly well in different interest tracks: Cosplay, Crafting, Literature, etc. The mobile application they developed was actually much better than the apps I've used for other conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con, enabling attendees to quickly access the day's schedule and sync it with a list of personal favorites. In general, lines appeared manageable for most of the smaller panels, and getting into the Arena presentations was at least not any more painful than you should probably expect at a big convention.

Most importantly, both the presenters and the guests seemed to be imbued with a fresh sense of enthusiasm and optimism for the franchise that only ratcheted up as the weekend progressed. Some of that surely was secondary to all the new activity brought on after the Disney purchase, but the clips and reports from the people involved with the new LucasFilm gave a sense of purpose and vision that bodes well for the upcoming films.


The Bad: While the line management got reasonably effective by the end of the weekend, the start was marked by an abundance of disorganization and shrill histrionics. Finding your way to the various locations wasn't helped by the fact that they named all the different venues unenlightening things like "Celebration Stage"...and then didn't put the names on the maps they uploaded to the app. Fortunately they updated the app regularly so the information was up by the second day, but it seemed as though it took about a day for enough information to disseminate through the volunteers to render them helpful.


The Ugly: Probably the worst part of the whole convention was the Celebration Show Store. The line to get in was horrific, and the line to check out was worse. When I got in line, I assumed that the line was going to move really fast, because otherwise the length of it would have made waiting in it ridiculous. Surprise! It actually took around two hours or so to get through the line to pay. By the time I got to the cashier, I could barely remember what I was there for. By Sunday, the lines had dwindled away, but so had most of the merchandise.

It seems as though it might streamline things if they limited the number of each item one person could purchase, and possibly instituted a "fastpass"-like system so that people could reserve a window of time they could enter the store. A similar fix might help with walk-throughs such as the "Force Awakens" Exhibit that had three to four hour wait times the days I checked, obligating them to cap the line around noon the last day.

Another workaround would be to purchase the VIP tickets that offer a number of perks, including reserved seating and a preview session in the store. The disadvantages, besides the increased cost, is that they are relatively limited in number and sell out almost as soon as tickets go on sale.

On the whole, however, I thought Celebration did a great job of feeding the audience's desire for more information about the future of the Star Wars franchise, while avoiding spoilers. It introduced new players while reintroducing us to a number of old ones, and was persuasive in presenting impressive prospects to come.

Next year, Star Wars Celebration will be held July 15-17, 2016 at the Excel London Exhibition Centre. Tickets and other information are available at http://www.starwarscelebration.com/

May 14, 2015

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15


Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, May 8, 2015.

Friday marked two weeks until the 60th Anniversary kicks off at the Disneyland Resort. This picture set features a look at the decorations that are showing up around the parks and hotels. Also this weekend was the Tinker Bell Half Marathon & the premiere of the Tomorrowland film in Downtown Disney.

Frozen Fun billboards are still up at the Mickey and Friends Tram stop. The 60th ones should be up soon.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The ticket booths have received some signage for the 60th.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The Downtown Disney sign repainting and renovation is complete.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Because of the Tomorrowland movie premiere & after party on Saturday, Tomorrowland will be closing early for day guests.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

60th decorations are showing up on the entrance and train station (the flags and banners)

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The lamp posts have received their decorations.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Main Street is decked out in a lot of blue for the occasion.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Sleeping Beauty Castle looks more or less the same as last visit. The final items have not been installed.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The scaffolding is down around Buzz, but the work is not complete yet. It sports a new color scheme matching the character and not really Tomorrowland.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The entrance sign received a new look too.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The Monorails featured wraps/ads for the Tomorrowland film.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

A check of the Mad T Party installation progress as we pass over Hollywood Land.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Unfortunately I was stuck shooting through a window so not the clearest of pictures. But you can see Grizzly Peak Airfield is nearing completion. It is scheduled to open next Friday.

Humphreys replaced the Fly n Buy shop.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Looks like all the pavement is in.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The AMC Theater will be hosting the Tomorrowland Premiere Saturday afternoon/evening.

Props were being installed this afternoon

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The blue carpet will be here leading to the theater.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Where the press line will be.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Next stop the Disneyland Hotel. 60th Anniversary signage as you enter the lobby.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

This weekend was the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Laura will be covering it in depth since she ran in the races. I will skip the Expo pictures in this set.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Outside work still continues on the fall protection.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The Paradise Pier Hotel has a sign up for the 60th anniversary

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

New 60th banners on the driveway entrance to the Paradise Pier Hotel.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Some of the windows on Buena Vista Street have received diamonds. (the glare was not helpful this afternoon)

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

A closer look in the window of the Atwater Ink & Paint store

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The Carthay Circle Restaurant has started to receive diamonds too.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Work continues on the facades in the Bay Area.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Most of the Frozen Fun has ended. The Snow Fest has closed and the signage removed.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

You can still meet Olaf, but he is outside now.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

More diamonds, this time the Elias & Co windows

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Interesting...noticed some marking around the hub on the ground. Looks like they will be drilling new holes for more crowd control ropes.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Peter Pan is still behind walls and the project was pushed to a July 1 opening date now.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The facade of Pinocchio is still being worked on too.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The Mark Twain now has 60th banners.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The Haunted Mansion remained closed. It reopens Saturday with the new Hat Box Ghost... was hoping for a soft opening Friday.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

The Fantasyland side of Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Soundsational passing through the hub.

No drum for the Chip/Dale/Goofy/Pluto they were just dancing along the parade route.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

No real visible progress above Tropical Imports

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Pizza Port has a promotion going on for the Avengers with special food items and a print available. Laura will be doing a food blog, she tried some of the treats.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

A lamp post on Main Street with 60th Anniversary decorations.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

Over at Disney California Adventure, on Buena Vista Street, the Julius Katz window features some diamonds now too.

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 5/08/15

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.

May 16, 2015

"Tomorrowland" Walks the Blue Carpet



On May 9, 2015, Walt Disney Studio's "Tomorrowland" had its world premiere at the AMC Downtown Disney 12 in Anaheim. Celebrity attendees walked a futuristic blue carpet down to the theater, greeting media and enthusiastic fans alike.

Present for the opening of the film were cast members George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Tim McGraw, and Thomas Robinson, as well as Director/Producer/Writer Brad Bird, Producer/Writer Damon Lindelof, Producer Jeffrey Chernov, Executive Producer John Walker, Executive Producer and Story Writer Jeff Jensen, Composer Michael Giacchino, and Co-Producer/VFX Tom Peitzman. Other luminaries attending included Disney Legends Tony Baxter, Bob Gurr, and Richard Sherman, along with Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, TJ Miller from "Big Hero 6," and Brett Dalton from "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD."

Among those kind enough to share a few words with us were Jeff Jensen, Richard Sherman, Tom Peitzman, Tony Baxter, Alan Horn, Michael Giacchino, Brett Dalton, and George Clooney.

"Tomorrowland" will be opening in general theaters on May 22, 2015.

May 18, 2015

"Tomorrowland" Press Conference


"You wanted to see Tomorrowland. Here it comes."
--Frank Walker


As you might have surmised, if you've visited Disneyland or EPCOT recently to see the previews, the next big Walt Disney Studios film up for release is the new Brad Bird movie, "Tomorrowland."

In a recent press junket, Bird, Screenwriter Damon Lindelof, Story writer Jeff Jensen, and cast members George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Tim McGraw, and Raffey Cassidy all gathered to talk about the upcoming film.



Some notes from the panel:

Brad Bird

--Brad Bird on Walt Disney's influence on "Tomorrowland:" "Some of the very last things that Walt Disney filmed were about this experimental prototype community of tomorrow...And he was talking about the park and he said, 'yeah, there will be an amusement park kind of like Disneyland, but the whole reason to do it, the main attraction, is this!' And he pointed to the city and said, 'it's going to be an actual place that you can try ideas and we'll take corporations and we'll collaborate with them on new ideas, and sell the ideas to the world, and try them out.'...Which part of it do you think wasn't done? It's that part. And it's understandable, because you needed somebody like Disney as a catalyst to make it happen. But on his deathbed, he was looking up at the ceiling and pointing out how the city would be laid out...The fact that he was, to his last moments, dreaming about this future and making crazy ideas happen, and be real, and accelerate the pace of that, was very moving to me. And if the movie caught even a little bit of that, I think we will have succeeded."

Raffey Cassidy

--Raffey Cassidy on the relationship between her character and Britt Robertson's character: "I think the relationship between Casey and Athena is quite friendly, because Athena just wants to get Casey and Frank together, to try and save the world."

George Clooney

--George Clooney on getting involved with the project: "I have to say, just so we're clear, when Damon and Brad showed up at my house, they said, 'We've got a part that we've written for you.' And then I opened up the description of the character and it's a 55-year-old has-been, and I'm kind of going, 'Hang on a minute, which part am I reading for?'"

Britt Robertson

---Britt Robertson on the role of NASA as a source of futuristic optimism: "NASA represents this unknown, and the human race being able to explore the universe and other things that are out there...We're talking about a movie that's saying, 'we don't know what our future is. It's not determined for us, and maybe if we go out there and explore the world, maybe if NASA wants to go and see what else is out there, then maybe that will have some helpful part in making our future something to be excited about.'"

Tim McGraw

---Tim McGraw on his experience playing a dad, versus his real-life role as a dad: "I was thinking of the scene where we were shooting in the car, Britt and I. We had a long conversation...We were talking about life and talking about guys. It was pretty reminiscent of some of the conversations that I've had with my daughters. In fact, I had to be upset in that scene and I had just been upset with my daughter...the night before about something. There were a lot of parallels for me, for sure, yeah."

Damon Lindelhof and Jeff Jensen

--Damon Lindelhof on coming up with the movie's concept: "...I've always been really interested in the future and I kind of feel like all the movies that I've been exposed to over the course of the last 20-30 years have shown me a future that I don't really want to be living in."

--Jeff Jensen: "...A lot of Disney really inspired and informed the movie, especially, I think, EPCOT, the whole idea and original idea behind EPCOT, and how that evolved as a sort of laboratory for the future."


--Clooney on the theme of "Tomorrowland:" "...You know, we live in a world right now where you turn on your television set and it's rough out there. And it's not fun. And it can really wear on you after a period of time. And we see generations now feeling as if it's sort of hopeless, in a way, and what I love about it is it sort of speaks to the idea that your future is not preordained and predestined, and that if you're involved...A single voice can make a difference and I believe in that. I happen to believe in it, and so I loved the theme or the idea that, you know, there's still so much that we can all do to make things better. And I liked it. I thought it was great."

"Tomorrowland," rated PG, will be released in theaters May 22, 2015.

May 19, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo and 10K

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon logo

This year for the first time the Disneyland Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend was moved from January to May - specifically to Mother's Day weekend. I was not sure how that change was going to work out, but it ended up being a great time, at least for us.

Although there was an Inaugural 10K last year, running both the 10K and the half marathon was not considered a "challenge" as it is with the other half marathon weekends. But this year runDisney introduced the Pixie Dust Challenge for those running both races, and Lee and I signed up for that.

The week before the race, runDisney released some statistics on the race entries:

Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon Weekend Fun Facts:
32,050 total registrations
16,000 1/2 Marathon
10,000 10K
4,550 5K
1,500 Kids Races
5,000 Pixie Dust Challenge

I was alarmed when I first saw this - 21,000 in the half marathon would've been too many - but the numbers for the 10K and half included the 5,000 Pixie Dust Challengers. I think those are reasonable numbers for the two courses.

The first event of the race weekend is always the Expo, which opened on Thursday morning. Those running the 5K on Friday morning needed to pick up their bibs on Thursday - and it was also the first opportunity for people to grab the Tinker Bell merchandise. Unfortunately, "grab" is often an appropriate choice of word. I REALLY wish that runDisney would institute merchandise limits, or offer more of it that can be pre-reserved by people who are actually RUNNING the races. It's not right that a lot of this stuff shows up on eBay two hours later...I refuse to buy it there, no matter how much I want something.

Anyway...as I'm sure many of you have heard, California is in the midst of a multi-year drought, so guess what happened the morning of the 5K? Yep, it rained. I'm sorry that it wasn't as nice an outing for the runners as it normally is...but I'd like to invite them to please extend their stay in California as long as they would like. :-)

I've never run this 5K, but everyone who has says it's runDisney's best 5K race. It starts in Disneyland on Main Street and runners go through both parks, finishing in Disney California Adventure. Maybe next year...

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Packet Pickup

We arrived late Friday afternoon and went to the Expo. The packet pick-up was in the underground parking garage of the Disneyland Hotel, as usual. There were some fun pictures at the entrance.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Packet Pickup

It didn't take long to pick up our bibs. I also got a wristband, since I qualified for the pink Coast-to-Coast medal, because I ran the Princess half marathon in February, and was now running the Tinker Bell half marathon. Because we were running the Pixie Dust Challenge, we had to get our runDisney mug shots taken.

pink coast-to-coast wristband

We went upstairs to the Convention Center, where the main Expo was held. There were some cute banners at the entrance. I thought they did an especially nice job with the decor this year.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo Entrance

That Tink is such a hussy... :-)

Tinker Bell kisses Lee

It seemed to me as though there were more vendors than we saw at the Star Wars and Avengers Expos, so that was nice. But still, the area was not overly crowded, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

We picked up our shirts...one nice thing about moving the race to May is that we received short sleeve shirts and not long sleeve. I really liked the blue and green shirts. When I first saw a photo of the Pixie Dust Challenge shirt online it looked like a raspberry color (ick), but in person it's more of a grape color. Not my favorite, but not as bad.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirts 2015

We checked out the official merchandise area...though they had lots of merchandise out, a lot of if was the same stuff in different places - we could tell that a lot had sold out. As I expected, the two things that I wanted, the Pixie Dust Challenge mini medal and one of the Pixie Dust Challenge car magnets, were sold out. I was still able to purchase the Mickey-ear magnet, though. And thanks to a friend who had an extra, I also have the mini medal now. (You know who you are - thank you!!!)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon merchandise

There was the usual speaker series, but we didn't stay for any of that. We wandered through the non-Disney part of the Expo, also. Lots of neat shirts, and the booths selling the various types of running skirts were very popular.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

And the New Balance booth was really hopping, since they introduced a new Tinker Bell-inspired running shoe that was just made available this weekend. They were VERY popular, and we saw lots of people walking around wearing them. There were accessories that you could buy for the shoes, like wings and pom-poms, and they also glow in the dark!

New Balance Tinker  Bell shoes

There was a photo-op in the lobby of the Expo, so we took advantage of that before leaving the Expo. We had an early dinner at Tangaroa Terrace and then spent some time over at Disneyland before calling it a night - we had a 10K to run at 5:30 the next morning.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon photo backdrop

Tinker Bell 10K - Saturday, May 9

The alarm went off at 3:30...not quite as early as for the races in Florida, and since we were in our own time zone, we weren't also dealing with jet lag. That's another thing that makes the California races so much easier for us!

I had a new outfit to wear for this race. It wasn't any specific character, instead it was just a sort of dark fairy. Rather than wings I had made myself a kind of winged cape. One advantage of it was that I could wrap it around myself a little bit while we were waiting to stay warm.

Tinker Bell 10K dark fairy costume

One of my concerns with the race moving to May was that the weather might be very warm (80s and even 90s in May is not that uncommon), but it ended up being a little cooler than normal. The conditions Saturday morning for the 10K were as good as it gets, I think - it was about 55 degrees at the start. Overcast and not much of a breeze. Really great running weather!

We met up with the Mickey Milers before the race - they were easy to find in the dark since many of them wore their bright yellow shirts (including Lee).

Mickey Milers before 2015 Tinker Bell 10K

We headed to the corrals about 5:00. For some reason I was in Corral A for the 10K and Lee was in Corral B. Last year we were both in A, and this year there were other men in A (legitimately), so I'm not sure why he wasn't in A. He was going to run the 10K for time, and I wasn't sure what I was doing, though I hoped to get some photos, which meant that being in A would be an advantage, so I went up to A instead of going to B with him.

It's always fun being in A, where I'm actually close to the start line and able to see the stage and what's going on. Tinker Bell and Fawn were on-stage before the race to wish us luck. The race started right on time at 5:30, and we were off!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K start

The 10K course was a bit different this year than last year - but it was all good changes! At the start we were outside the parks for just over a mile (same as last year), but then the rest of the time we were in the parks or backstage until the last tenth of a mile when we crossed Disneyland Drive and headed to the finish line near the Paradise Pier Hotel. I loved this course - it's my favorite 10K course now. (You can see the map HERE).

The first characters I saw were Chip and Dale on Main Street, but there was a line, so I didn't stop. We ran to the end of Main Street (Mile 2) and into Frontierland past Big Thunder Mountain and into Fantasyland, where Alice and the Mad Hatter were next to the Carrousel. That line was only about six people, so I stopped.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Alice and Mad Hatter

Iridessa was near Pixie Hollow, with only a couple of people in line.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Iridessa

The course went back to the hub and then into Tomorrowland, past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn, then on "small world way". Rosetta was there, also with only a couple of people in line. In a pixie-themed race I wasn't sure why the lines for the pixies were so short, but it very nice for me!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K  Rosetta

Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar were in Toontown, but that was a much longer line, and I didn't stop. We went backstage behind Toontown (Mile 3) and ran around the backstage perimeter of Disneyland until we came back out at the Esplanade (Mile 4) and ran across into Disney California Adventure.

The course went down Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Blvd, past the Tower of Terror and into "a bug's land". Silvermist was there, with no line. Nice.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Silvermist

From "a bug's land" it was back towards the Winery and then left towards Paradise Pier. Vidia was near the entrance of Ariel's Undersea Adventure. Two people in front of me there, so it was another quick stop.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Vidia

We went across the bridge past Ariel's Grotto and around Paradise Bay. I was surprised that the World of Color fountains weren't running. We went backstage at the parade gate near Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and soon were at the mile 5 marker.

I hadn't really been paying attention to the time, but when I saw the time at mile 5 I knew I could finish in less than an hour if I kept a reasonable pace. We re-entered the park at Paradise Wharf and ran into Cars Land past Radiator Springs Racers. Lightning McQueen and Mater were out near Ramone's but I didn't stop. We went backstage again and ran around the perimeter of DCA behind Cars Land and Paradise Pier before crossing Disneyland Drive (Mile 6) and headed towards the finish.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Finish Line

My time was 58:23: I made it in under an hour WITH photo stops, so I was very happy with that!

When I went through the refreshment area there was PowerAde and water and bananas...but no runDisney boxes. No food at all other than the bananas. What???? We found out later that there was a problem with one of the items in the boxes, so they pulled them for the 10K, even though they had given them out at the 5K the day before. Sigh.

I didn't have too long to wait until Lee arrived - he had a great run and finished with a personal best of 56:55!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Laura and Lee finish

We visited with a few friends in the finish area but we didn't linger for very long - it was still early (6:45), and we were getting a bit chilled so we went back to our hotel.

The 10K is still my favorite race distance - it's so nice to be done in about an hour. And this one in particular is a lot of fun. Maybe not quite as much fun as last year, when Lee, Eddie and I goofed off and took almost two hours to finish, but I still enjoyed myself this year. As I mentioned earlier, I really like this course. Last year's course was good, but they certainly improved on it this year.

Another change from last year was the characters: last year it was mostly regular Disney characters like Chip and Dale, Daisy, and Buzz - though it did have the Haunted Mansion bride and parasol girl (BEST CHARACTER STOP EVER!). This year in addition to the regular characters there were the pixies, and in a pixie-themed race that's quite appropriate! I really enjoyed them - they were into their characters, with just the right amount of sass and attitude.

The medal was slightly different this year - it's the same design, but a pearl-like finish was added to the pixie wings, and it looks very nice.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Medal

Another nice thing about finishing early...we had enough time to shower and dress and still get to Disneyland in time for early entry! (It started at 8:00) Tink was already greeting guests in Pixie Hollow, so we went to visit. She and Silvermist were very happy to hear that we had enjoyed the race and that we would be out there the next day, too. They were really cute.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Tinker Bell and Silvermist

Part one of the Pixie Dust Challenge complete, next up: the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.

May 20, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, Half Marathon

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon logo

Sunday, May 10 - Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Happy Mother's Day! There were a lot of moms who apparently thought that getting up early and running a half marathon was a fine way to spend Mother's Day.

We set the alarm for 3:30 again. We'd brought yogurt and bread and peanut/almond butter to eat in our room. Lee was very happy when he'd seen the signs in Downtown Disney and the hotel on the previous days stating that that several places that serve coffee would be opening early on race mornings. So at 4:00 he went down to the Hearthstone Lounge for his coffee. He was the first customer there.

For this race we were both going to run with wings. Lee dressed as Terence, who is a keeper of pixie dust. (He's a character from the Tinker Bell movies - a lot of people don't know who he is, but the pixies all recognized him!) These were new (and larger) wings for both of us, so we weren't sure quite how they would work out for us. They were definitely a lot wider - we both had to go sideways through doors! :-) I realized I'd have to be much more careful to allow enough space during the race when I was trying to pass people - particularly between people.

In the pre-race area we met up with my friend/co-worker Janet. It was her first half marathon, and she was very excited - and a little nervous. Yep, we've all been there! Any of the Disney half marathons are really terrific first half marathons, but I think this one is an especially good "first" for a woman. (She did GREAT, and finished in 2:08:04 - and she wasn't even wearing wings!)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We went over to see the Mickey Milers, where wing expert Lee helped Caryn with her wings.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mickey Milers

At about 5:00 we headed to the corrals again. For the Tinker Bell Half Marathon they don't let men start any higher than Corral B, so I went back there to run with Lee. Since we were both dressed up I wanted to get some photos of us, hopefully with the pixies.

It was another terrific morning for running. About the same temperature as the day before, but the sky was clear, and it felt a little cooler. I had a mylar sheet (saved from a previous runDisney race) wrapped around me while I was waiting.

For the half marathon there were some fireworks that went off during the national anthem.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon fireworks

I was surprised that it was Minnie and Daisy who came out on stage with the announcers just before the start of the race and not Tinker Bell like we'd seen the day before. The race started just a little after 5:30, and Corral B started about 7 minutes after Corral A. Our start time was just a little less than 10 minutes off of the official clock, so that made it easy for us to know where we were time-wise when we saw the mile markers during the race.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

The first mile and a half was like the 10K course, but then instead of going into Disneyland we went into Disney California Adventure. We went past the Tower of Terror, down Hollywood Blvd, and then down Route 66 through Cars Land, and around Paradise Bay. The first pixie we saw was Silvermist,and the line was fairly short.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Silvermist Terence running costume

Vidia was not too far away, again with a pretty short line. In my dreams I am a fast-flying fairy like Vidia...

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Vidia Terence

We ran out of DCA and across the Esplanade into Disneyland and onto Main Street. Goofy, Chip and Dale were out with one of the Soundsational floats, but had a very long line so we didn't stop. We were just past mile 3 in the race.

We ran around the hub and through the castle, then around the Carrousel. The Lost Boys were riding the Carrousel, but I couldn't get a good photo. One of the monorails, with the new Tomorrowland movie logo, was gliding overhead as we ran past the Mad Tea Party. We headed back to the hub passing Pixie Hollow, where there was a long line for Tinker Bell. It was the longest that we saw - not surprising.

Tomorrowland monorail

This course spends a lot of time going through Disneyland, which is really nice. We went back to the hub so that we could go into Tomorrowland. The Storm Troopers were out by Tomorrowland Terrace, and they had a very long line. I'm not quite sure how Storm Troopers fit in with Tinker Bell, though...

From there we went past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn and out towards "small world" where we saw Rosetta and Iridessa. They were especially thrilled by Lee's Terence costume, and very complimentary.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Rosetta Iridessa Terence

Then we went backstage behind "it's a small world", and to mile 4. One of the trains was parked back there.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Disneyland train

We ran back into the park next to Big Thunder Ranch and then around the Rivers of America. Jack Sparrow and a couple of pirates were on the bridge above the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. Gee, with a race full of women I can't imagine why they would make Jack Sparrow inaccessible like that! :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Jack Sparrow

Mile 5 was near the entrance to the Haunted Mansion. We went backstage again by Splash Mountain and ran around the perimeter of Disneyland until we emerged near the Esplanade and then ran through Downtown Disney.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mile 5

Next to the Disneyland Hotel is one of my favorite parts of the Tinker Bell Half: that's where the Red Hat Society cheers every year. This year there were several hundred of them cheering and ringing cowbells and high-fiving runners. Seeing them is always one of the highlights of the race for me!

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Red Hat Society

Just past mile 6 we found "Captain Hook". :-) We were almost at the 10K point, and about to leave Disney property. That's one of the things I like the most about this course compared to the other half marathon courses: we're almost halfway through the race before we leave Disney! It really makes the race seem to go a lot faster. Lee was feeling his PR from the day before and wanted to slow down a little, so I went on ahead at my own pace.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Captain Hook

After we leave Disneyland resort property we run north through an Anaheim neighborhood of houses and apartments. Since it's still quite early on a Sunday morning, Disney puts up some signs to remind us to be quiet. I've never really found runners to be all that noisy when we're running, except for those who carry their own music and speakers. I ran past one of those guys later in the race - I sped up and ran through a walk interval to get past him.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Neighbors sleeping

We turned right and headed east, and into a slight breeze. I could feel some resistance against my larger wings...so I was hoping I'd get a little added push from them when we turned west again.

About mile 8 we run out of the "quiet zone" and into downtown Anaheim - and into the enthusiasm of marching bands and cheerleaders. The route takes us down the Anaheim Center Street Promenade.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Anaheim Promenade

We went around the corner past the Anaheim Public Library.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Anaheim Public Library

We run down Harbor Blvd past the mile 9 sign and back towards Disneyland...and just when it looks like we're getting close, we turn left on Ball Rd and head away from the park. Major fake out for those familiar with the area...there's still over three miles to go! Since there were no clouds we were getting some sun on us by then and it was starting to feel a little warm even though the temperature was only about 60 degrees. I should mention that we had very nice support from the community once we got away from the "quiet zone". Quite a few high school bands and cheerleading squads to cheer us on, and a lot of people out with signs and cowbells, too. Runners appreciate all of the support - thank you!

We went all the way south to Disney Way and then did a loop around some of the Good Neighbor hotels before turning onto Harbor again briefly (Mile 12) and going backstage near Disneyland. We stayed backstage behind Cars Land and Paradise Pier before crossing Disneyland Drive for the final dash to the finish line.

I finished in 2:18:24, so I had a pretty good second half of the race. After I got my Tinker Bell medal I went to the Pixie Dust Challenge and Coast-to-Coast area to pick up my other two medals. Ahhh...it's just not a Disney race without that "clank, clank" sound! :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals

For this race they had refreshments for us. We had heard rumors that the reason there were no runDisney boxes for the 10K was because they had discovered that the applesauce in the boxes was past its "use by" date. So someone (I'm sure it was some of the volunteers) had opened up all of the race boxes, discarded the applesauce, and separated the contents into different bins. At the front of the line we got a bag with a Clif bar and a moist towelette packet in it, and then as we went down the line we could get the other items that had been in the box.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon refreshments

I thought the bag was a lot easier to handle than the boxes are since I could hang it around my hand or wrist. And I also didn't have to take items that I really didn't want. But I still don't like the box contents and wish that we had REAL food.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon refreshments

I waited a bit for Lee to finish...his time was 2:25:16. Any time we finish a Disney 1/2 marathon in under 2:30 is really good for us!

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon finishers

The Tinker Bell half marathon medal also has the pearl-like finish on the wings like the 10K medal did.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medal

I don't care for the Pixie Dust Challenge medal at all. It looks like a child designed it. I hope they'll re-think this one for next year.

2015 Tinker Bell Pixie Dust Challenge medal

And here's the pink Coast-to-Coast.

2015 pink Disney Coast to Coast medal

When runDisney announced last year that the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend was moving to May - and Mother's Day weekend, to boot - I had a lot of reservations. This is, after all, a race for women - and a lot of women want to be with their families on Mother's Day! I wondered if that affected registration: this half marathon has in the past sold out very quickly (often the day that registration opened), but this year it didn't sell out for several weeks.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon stage

The weather was also a concern. It's not uncommon for southern California to have some very warm days in May - I've been at Disneyland when it's been in the 90s. Now, it's not that warm at 5:30 in the morning, but still - temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s are very warm when you're running 13.1 miles. Fortunately we had exceptional weather this year - except for the 5K. And even that was "exceptional" - it very rarely rains in southern California in May!

This was the 4th Tinker Bell Half Marathon, and our fourth time running it. I hope they'll do something special for the "Perfectly Tink" runners on the 5-year anniversary next year. This is still my favorite Disneyland 1/2 marathon course. I think that overall I prefer Star Wars half marathon weekend to Tinker Bell, but it's really close, and I still think Tink has the better 1/2 course (the 10K courses are very similar now). But there's just nothing like all of the costumed Star Wars cosplayers along the Star Wars course. Though I think Disney did a better job with characters for the Tink races than they did for the Star Wars (and Avengers) races. I thought there were a pretty good number of character opportunities as well as a good selection of characters in both the 10K and the half marathon.

Thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers and cast members who work so hard, and are so incredibly cheerful on these early mornings! And thank you to all of the bands and cheerleaders and members of the community who come out to cheer for the runners, including the Red Hat Society ladies. It just wouldn't be the Tinker Bell Half Marathon without them.

One final photo - this is the start line that we drove under as we were leaving - just about 7 hours after we had run under it. :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon start line

May 21, 2015

World of Color - Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney

World of Color Celebrate

The Disneyland Diamond Anniversary Celebration kicked off last night with the media preview of the new World of Color - Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney show. We'll be bringing you a lot more information on it as we have time, but for now I wanted to share a few thoughts.

Here's video of the entire show. We will post a high-definition version when we have more time and bandwidth.

The show is hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse - live action Neil and animated Mickey. I was not sure how well this would work, but it's fun. I wish there were outtakes. :-)

World of Color Celebrate Neil and Mickey

There are some fabulous new lighting effects. I don't know if it's projections, lasers, lights, or some combination, but color seems to ripple and flow through the air. It's just stunning.

There's also some awe-inspiring new fire effects - like a 300' pillar of fire. That drew a lot of "wows" from the audience.

World of Color Celebrate fire pillar

The first version of World of Color was more about the fountains. This one relies heavily on projections. In addition to the mist screens and the screen in the loop of California Screamin' Mickey's face on the Fun Wheel is a new projection surface. The latter two, because they are a solid surface, are used to great effect for the animation sequences where we need to be able to see more detail. While I thought the projections on the mist screens were significantly improved and much clearer than in the past, they aren't a reliable surface for anything detailed. The higher screens also added some additional dimension to the animation, since images could move up or down more than in the past. There was some really nice stuff.

World of Color Celebrate

Because of all of the animation, I don't think this show is going to look very good unless you're watching it from the viewing area. There's just way too much that you're going to miss. With previous versions there was enough going on with the fountains that there was generally still something to watch even when you couldn't see the screens.

For me the show started off a little slowly, but it definitely kept building and building and that last half was truly spectacular. With the focus on Walt Disney and his dreams, especially in the first part, I think this show is going to be very popular with Disney fans, but I'm not sure how well it will go over with mainstream America.

World of Color Celebrate Walt Disney

Unlike the previous version, there's very little familiar music in this one. Most of it is an original score by John Debney, which I enjoyed very much. But again, that may not be as popular with others, especially kids.

But because the music was new, I found it very jarring when suddenly the (very) familiar strains of "Let it Go" started to play. I know that "Frozen" is still extremely popular, but I'm very tired of it. I have to think that some pressure was put on the show designers to include it in the show, because, as I said, I didn't think it fit. The animation and fountains during the song (and it was almost the ENTIRE song) were really beautiful, but...

World of Color Celebrate

The theme park section was my favorite - it included music/images from the Tiki Room, Pirates, and Haunted Mansion, to name a few. It ended with Star Tours, which incorporated Star Wars music AND some scenes and dialog from the upcoming "The Force Awakens" movie.

World of Color Celebrate

There was a wonderful little "kiss goodnight" at the VERY end - and I mean the end after you think the show is over, there's no fountains or lights, and just the "Forever Young" song playing. Wait until the end of that. Trust me.

I really liked this show, and I am so looking forward to seeing it again in a couple of days! In talking with people afterward, I know there were a lot of things that I missed seeing, so I'll be looking for them!

May 22, 2015

Review: "Tomorrowland"



"If I was walking down the street and I saw somebody with a jetpack flying over me, I'd believe that anything's possible. I'd be inspired. Doesn't that make the world a better place?"
--Frank Walker

"Tomorrowland," Brad Bird's latest oeuvre, is a paean to a time when the future was perceived as bright and limitless, and technology inspirational rather than oppressive.


The filmmakers have been fairly insistent on maintaining secrecy over the details of the plot, but in brief, "Tomorrowland" tells the story of why an essentially optimistic world might lose its sense of wonder and turn towards cynicism and despair. It does so through the eyes of a bright young girl named Casey Newton who gets a glimpse of Tomorrowland--where the best of all possible futures is being developed--and then is determined to see more.


On her adventure, she will encounter any number of dangers, and enlist the help of Frank Walker, a bitter loner who knows more about Tomorrowland than he would like to admit, and Athena, a young girl who is at once much more and much less than she appears.


Long-time Disney fans might remember that the first reveal on this film was in the summer of 2013, when Disney unveiled an alternate reality game called "The Optimist." Based around the story of another bright young girl investigating a secret society of visionaries, players traveled around Disneyland and Los Angeles to different Walt-Disney-related landmarks, uncovering clues and special items. Ultimately, the game revealed that Walt Disney (among others) was a member of the Plus Ultra society--people who believed in and worked to make a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. They operated out of a secret/hidden locale that was accessible through the "it's a small world" exhibit at the 1964-65 World's Fair.


The game culminated at the 2013 D23 Expo, where people solved riddles, took a ride on the Lily Belle, and ended up in the Main Street Cinema, where a short film confirmed the society's existence and proffered membership pins for those ingenious enough to make it to the end.


At the same Expo, Bird and Lindelof uncovered the "Dusty Old Box" that apparently was found in the Walt Disney Studios and dated back to 1952. In it were articles and blueprints that seemed to verify Walt Disney and his Imagineers' Plus Ultra involvement. The contents, along with a variety of other artifacts were on display and viewable through a mobile app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tomorrowland-d23-2013-disney/id684585068?mt=8


I go through this backstory, so that, like me, you can go in with a knowledge and appreciation of the depth of thought that went into the world of this movie, and unlike me, will not have the expectation that it will all have much to do with this particular movie. The retro World's Fair segment and the futuristic Tomorrowland are beautiful and beautifully done, but make up relatively short sequences in the beginning and end of the film. The bulk of the film is the "Wizard of Oz" style journey Casey takes that spans time and space, and utilizes motorcycles, bicycles, rockets, and a Chevrolet Volt.


George Clooney, although not making an appearance until after the film is well underway, is a good choice for the part of the cranky, defeated Walker. His innate charm keeps the character likeable despite his initially forceful repulsion of Casey and complicated relationship with Athena.


The highlight of the movie however, is Raffey Cassidy who is fabulous as Athena. In some ways carrying the bulk of the film on her tiny, sturdy shoulders, she has all the bright appeal of a young girl, but the depth and maturity of something quite a bit older.

"I'm the Future, Frank Walker."

At the end of the day, "Tomorrowland" proves to be an enjoyable action-adventure movie with some nice performances and some beautiful set pieces. As you'd expect, from someone with Bird's eye for detail, the World's Fair recreation (keep a look out for Composer Michael Giacchino as the "it's a small world" ride operator) and especially the Tomorrowland visions are spectacular--so much so that it comes as something of a let-down that after a brief glimpse it's taken away from us, just as with Casey.


The movie's message, that the Future is likely to be as good or bad as you make it, is a positive one, and the emphasis on a teenage girl's intelligence and perception over her romantic proclivities is refreshing. If I still think wistfully on the film that might have been, that focused more on Walt Disney and Disneyland's involvement in "Tomorrowland's" secret society (material that was included in the film's precursor novel "Before Tomorrowland") it is more on me than on Bird or Lindelof. It's hardly their fault, after all, that I went in wanting "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and they gave me "In Search of the Castaways."


"When I touched this pin, I saw this place--someplace amazing. And it felt like anything was possible. And then it was gone."
--Casey Newton

"Tomorrowland." Rated PG, it stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and Thomas Robinson.

Directed by Brad Bird, with a screenplay by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, based on a story by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, and Jeff Jensen. Produced by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, and Jeffrey Chernov. The Executive Producers are John Walker, Bernard Bellew, Jeff Jensen, and Brigham Taylor.

The film enters general release on May 22, 2015, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

May 25, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, The Food, etc.


This was a short trip for us - just two nights, but we still had the opportunity to try out some thing that were new to us.

Friday after we visited the Expo we had dinner at Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel. When it originally opened it had the touch screen ordering kiosks, but now you order your food at the register.

I had the Teriyaki Chicken Breast Sandwich with caramelized pineapple, havarti cheese, lettuce and tomato. For sides I had my choice of regular French fries, sweet potato fries, tropical slaw or tropical fruit. The latter was a new choice since the last time I'd been here, and that's what I chose. I really enjoyed all of it - the sandwich was really good with the pineapple and chicken. And it had the right amount of sauce - a little drippy but not overly sloppy. The fruit was good, too.

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich tangaroa terrace

Lee had one of his traditional favorites: Kalua-style Pork Flatbread. Pulled pork, barbecue sauce, red onions, cilantro and mozzarella.

Kalua pork flatbread tangaroa terrace

While we were eating, we saw several of the Disneyland cats lurking in all of the greenery in that area. Though one of them sat on a low wall right near our table. It wasn't particularly shy like most of them are. Pretty cat, but we did not attempt to pet or feed it.

Disneyland cat

Later in the evening we were in Tomorrowland, where Red Rockett's Pizza Port has some special menu items inspired by the new Avengers Age of Ultron movie. There's this Iron Man Refillable Mug:

Iron Man mug Age of Ultron

And a Black Widow Parfait.

Black Widow Parfait Age of Ultron

We tried the Iron Man Red Velvet Waffle. I wouldn't have called it waffle - more like a flat cupcake. But it was pretty good.

Iron Man Waffle Age of Ultron

There's also a cookie shaped like Captain America's shield. This was just ok.

Captain America Shield Cookie Age of Ultron

Saturday morning after the 10K we went into Disneyland for breakfast at River Belle Terrace. We arrived just after park opening at 9:00, and it was already very busy. They didn't seem ready for it, and the line moved very slowly - it was 25 minutes before we had our food! By the time we finished eating the line was out the door, so it got worse.

I had my usual Cinnamon Roll French Toast with scrambled eggs and bacon. It's always good.

River Belle Terrace Cinnamon Roll French Toast

Lee had the Mark Twain - the classic American breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, and a biscuit.

River Belle Terrace Mark Twain Breakfast

That afternoon we had a late lunch at the Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand Californian. We were there with a group of Mickey Milers. We've been there before with groups...the lounge really doesn't seem to handle groups very well, and the service is slow. A few members of our party bought drinks at the bar instead of waiting for our server - that was a lot faster.

Anyway...we were the only people who ordered food. I had the Chicken Quesadilla, and it was very tasty. The guacamole was especially good - it had chunks of avocado and was served in an avocado shell.

Hearthstone Lounge Chicken Quesadilla

Lee tried the Robusto Flatbread with chorizo, potatoes, and Burrata cheese. It took a lot longer for his food to come out, but he enjoyed it.

Hearthstone Lounge Robusto Flatbread

Since we had a half marathon the next morning we went with our traditional pasta dinner at Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta that night. We both had the Five Cheese Ravioli.

Boardwalk Pasta Five Cheese Ravioli

We had an adventure finding a place to eat after the half marathon on Sunday. We met friends at the Uva Cafe at 10:00, but they were slammed, and were no long serving breakfast. Most of the places in Downtown Disney were busy, especially the counter service locations. Eddie recalled that Trader Sam's was supposed to open at 10:30, so we went there. There were several other parties also waiting for Sam's to open.

We were able to get drinks, but the kitchen didn't open until 11:00. (There were a few breakfast items we could've ordered, but by then we wanted the "real" menu.) We sat inside, and it was a lot of fun seeing all of the effects when people ordered the specialty drinks. There were a lot of shipwrecks. :-)

Trader Sams Shipwreck

And lots of volcano eruptions, too - I caused one of those with the Krakatoa Punch.

Trader Sams Krakotoa Punch

Lee and I ordered the Pu Pu Platter, which comes with Asian wings, Portuguese sausage, tropical slaw, and (the best part) panko-crusted Chinese long beans.

Trader Sams Pu Pu Platter

We also had the Chicken Lettuce Wraps. These are do-it-yourself wraps: you get a bowl of butter lettuce leaves, and a plate with chicken, crispy rice noodles and hoisin sauce, and make your own. Yum.

Trader Sams Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Lee had the Kalua Pork Flatbread again - the same thing he'd had at Tangaroa Terrace on Friday (they share a kitchen with Trader Sam's). It was all a really good meal.

Trader Sams Kalua Pork Flatbread

That's it for the food...but we had some time to wander around the parks a bit, too. The Diamond Anniversary Celebration starts soon, and decorations are going up all over the park.

Diamond Anniversary Decorations

On Friday evening we went to see the preview of the new Tomorrowland movie. It was very different than any of the previews I'd seen on-line or in a theater. Looks very intriguing. In the former Starcade location next to the theater is the Hall of Inventions with props from the movies, like the jet pack.

Tomorrowland movie Hall of Inventions

Saturday was the day that the Hatbox Ghost returned to the Haunted Mansion. There have been rumors of this for months, and since Disney finally confirmed it a couple of months ago fans have been anxious awaiting his "reappearance". The Fastpass machines were actually in operation, and that usually open happens during the holiday season. We got a Fastpass and then stood in the Standby line, which was about 25 minutes long at that point.

Haunted Mansion

The Hatbox Ghost is placed between the attic and the graveyard. We were able to see it long enough to see his head go from the hatbox back to his shoulders. It's a pretty well-done effect.

Haunted Mansion Hatbox Ghost

We were passing through Tomorrowland as a Jedi Training Academy session was starting. This is the first time I've ever seen a female Jedi master. She had a couple of new "Jedi jests".

Jedi Training Academy

May 27, 2015

Up All Night - Disneyland Diamond Anniversary 24-hour Party

Disneyland 24 hour event

As part of the kickoff of the Diamond Anniversary Celebration, Disneyland also threw a 24-hour party. Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure were open from 6 a.m. on Friday, May 22, through 6 a.m. on Saturday, May 23. Jason, Jeanine, and Laura attended and provide their comments and photos below.

12:00 a.m.,Hour -6

Laura: When I left Disneyland just before midnight on the 21st, there were already hundreds of guests queued up in the tram area east of the Esplanade, some with tents set up, many with sleeping bags or blankets. The people at the head of the line had arrived at 3:00 p.m., so they had already been waiting for 9 hours!

Disneyland 24 hour event

When we returned at 5:30, the Bag Check line stretched all the way back to the guest drop-off area on Harbor, but it was steadily moving. Once past bag check, the line at the turnstiles was short.

Main Street wasn't yet totally packed, but it was getting close. Guests were being held at the end of Main Street.

Disneyland 24 hour event

6:00 a.m., Hour 0

Laura: At 6:00 there were fireworks along Main Street and over the castle, and guests began WALKING :-) towards their destinations. And people were already staking out spots for the first Paint the Night parade - which didn't start until 8:50 that night!

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: At 6:00 we were on Main Street and ready to start the day. It was incredible to watch a constant stream of guests walk by us for around 30 minutes straight!

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: 0600 On Main Street, roughly six hours before I typically like to start my day. At least Mickey and the Cast Members waiting to welcome everyone in looked more awake than I felt.


After the countdown and the fireworks, the floodgates opened.


7:00 a.m., Hour 1

Laura: After breakfast we walked back up Main Street. You'd think this huge line was for some kind of exclusive merchandise...but it was the line for Starbucks!

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: The new Peter Pan window at the Emporium debuted that day. The others are still to come.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: After the first of what would be several Diet Cokes of the day, we commemorated the hour at one of the many clock face photo-ops set up around the parks. Jason and I nominated Laura as the subject.


8:00 a.m., Hour 2

Laura: Matterhorn Bobsleds had just opened to guests that day, and many people rushed there first thing to get a look at the new Abominable Snowman. The line was 150 minutes long! Other than the Matterhorn, wait times elsewhere were much shorter than I expected given the number of people in the park.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: This is the end of the line for popcorn buckets...you can see the cart in the distance, around the corner. Laura counted just under 100 guests in line.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: The cause for the long popcorn lines was the introduction of quite a few new popcorn buckets. These Big Thunder Mountain buckets look somewhat related to the "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train" cars in WDW.


9:00 a.m., Hour 3

Laura: We went over to DCA to check on conditions there. It was a lot less busy than Disneyland. We were even able to get Radiator Springs Racers Fastpasses with a 2:05 (p.m.) return time.

Many of the PhotoPass photographers had a clock face at their station to use in the photos. And the Disneyland Resort Twitter folks were doing something fun: if you added the #Disneyland60 hash tag to your tweets, they might pick them up and retweet them with something extra added! It's actually an animation, and the diamonds sparkle.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: A special edition of the Buena Vista Bugle was on the newsstands that day.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Even DCA got its share of accessorization for the 60th.


10:00 a.m., Hour 4

Laura: The Carthay Circle Restaurant has been blinged up for the anniversary, also. I know some don't care for it, but I like it.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: I had to check out of my hotel and move my car...this is the line of cars to get into the Toy Story lot. I ended up trying to go for the Mickey and Friends garage and it was closed so I ended up back at Toy Story, which is where I should have gone in the first place.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: I also had to pack and get out of my hotel room. After returning, I stopped by the Media Center for another Diet Coke and checked out some of the merchandise displays, such as this one for light-up drink diamonds.


11:00 a.m., Hour 5

Laura: We checked out some of the new entertainment for the Anniversary celebration. The Red Car Trolley News Boys have added a new song, and Minnie Mouse, dressed as a flapper, has an appearance in the show.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: 60th Anniversary cotton candy bags. All of the napkins, cups, plates, etc. are also new for the anniversary.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: Hopefully the new number "If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It" won't encourage the misattribution of the phrase to Walt Disney.


12:00 p.m., Hour 6

Laura: Just a couple of people in front of me at the popcorn cart near the Fun Wheel when I bought a purple Mickey balloon popcorn bucket for a friend. (The red one was available at the cart near Soarin' over California, and the blue from the cart near the Storytellers statue.)

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: We caught a performance of Five and Dime's new show which includes three new songs: "Million Dollar Baby", "I've Got Rhythm", and "Sing Sing Sing."

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: Another photo-op! Jason and I volunteered Laura again.


1:00 p.m., Hour 7

Laura: Donna the Dog Lady, one of the Citizens of Buena Vista Street, and her dog Lady were wearing some special anniversary jewelry.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: Returned to Disneyland and found most of the curb space along Main Street already claimed for the 8:50pm Paint the Night Parade.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: One more photo-op. Laura wasn't feeling this one.


Laura: Actually I wanted to do this one, but the line was always too long - even at 4:00 a.m.!

2:00 p.m., Hour 8

Laura: We'd gone back to Disneyland where I was in search of the Anniversary stein (which was sold out for the day). I already had several purchases I wanted to take back to my hotel, so I left Disneyland around 2:00. There was a huge crowd of people in the Esplanade, and the turnstiles were closed - only a few people were being allowed in the park. I asked a cast member and was told they were only allowing re-entrys. I asked if those with dining reservations would be allowed in and he said yes - we would be able to bypass the line and re-enter one hour prior to our reservation time. Since Lee had gone back to San Diego, and was returning that afternoon, I hoped that was going to work!

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: Passing by Sleeping Beauty Castle. The park had stopped admitting new guests by this point so the crowd leveled off and as more guests claimed their spots for the parade and fireworks the rest of the park was pleasant to walk around.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: Quick run into The Star Trader for a merchandise run--the anniversary "R2-D60."


3:00 p.m., Hour 9

Jason: Stopped for lunch and Jeanine and Beci joined us. They had this mocha chocolate funnel cake from the Stage Door Cafe (which by the way took us half an hour to get because of a very slow moving line).

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: For verily, we did partake of the mocha chocolate funnel cake. And it was good.


4:00 p.m., Hour 10

Jason: My first attraction of the day, the Mark Twain. As you can see New Orleans Square looks better than on many Friday afternoons.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: So at one point, while we're digesting an enormous amount of funnel cake, we look up and see the Mark Twain going by, suddenly realize we could be on it right now, and run over.


Laura: We attempted our return to Disneyland at 4:30 - our dinner reservation was 5:20. Disneyland Resort had tweeted that Disneyland was still closed to entries, but DCA was still available. The line for bag check extended all the way back to the guest drop-off area! Because of our dining reservation we bypassed it and were allowed in, where we were sent to the "Special Event" turnstile. The cast member had reservation lists from all of the restaurants. Most of the people in front of us had problems, but she was able to quickly find ours and let us in the park. Whew.

5:00 p.m., Hour 11

Laura: On our way back to Frontierland we stopped by the Times board. Considering the park was at capacity, the wait times weren't that bad - on a busy summer day the waits for the "E-ticket" rides approach two hours. But a lot of people were waiting for the parade and not riding rides. The crowds along the parade route looked like the parade was 30 minutes away and not almost four hours!

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: Stopped by the Springtime Roundup and saw Mickey. The area was very quiet with the usual short lines.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: At this point it was time for our dinner reservation at Cafe Orleans. Unfortunately, their fire alarm had gone off earlier, and as a result, they were backed up by about 45 minutes and had dispensed all their pagers. This restaurant must have bad luck, because the last 24hr day I tried to eat there, they had had a power outage and couldn't seat anyone then, either.


6:00 p.m., Hour 12

Laura: Halfway there! About a month ago I'd booked the Fantasmic! dining package at River Belle Terrace because I wanted to see how the Disneyland Forever fireworks would look from the Rivers of America. Lee and I had a lovely dinner - the restaurant was an oasis of calm, and it was very nice to be able to sit and relax and enjoy a good meal. The food was surprisingly good, and we had excellent service. It was my first real meal of the day - the food lines in the parks were SO long! There were a number of special food items just for the day, but for me the lines were just too long to justify it. Our meal was definitely worth the $42/person price tag on this particular day. And as you'll see from the photo, we enjoyed our little art project, too. :-)

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: A check of Main Street.. not bad...it is usually worse after the 6:30 Soundsational parade!

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: So we finally got seated and served.


One thing you had to be mindful of by this stage of the game was the fact that the restrooms were starting to uniformly have lines extending outside the doors. New Orleans and Main Street were particularly bad in this regard, for men and women alike.

7:00 p.m., Hour 13

Laura: There were special 24-hour event photo stations set up throughout both parks. Most of them had 20-30 minute lines, but this one in Tomorrowland was short. It was nice to finally have one of these photos with Lee in it! Disney blinged this one up for us, too.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: Time for some music...a Hard Day's Night performing at the Tomorrowland Terrace.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: So by this time we were hearing (with what was becoming progressively weaker cell service) that Disneyland was in Stage Three Closure--no admittance or re-admittance to any guests. Curious, we went out to the front of the park to check it out, and the esplanade...didn't look too bad, actually. Apparently all the guests that had been there earlier had either been diverted to DCA or otherwise dispersed. Speculative thinking was that the park would be closed until after midnight.


8:00 p.m., Hour 14

Laura: We had met Jason and party in Tomorrowland where they had a table since they were listening to the band at Tomorrowland Terrace. It was very nice to sit for a while and chat while listening to the music. We all had Fastpasses for the 9:00 Fantasmic!, so not long after 8:00 we went looking for a restroom. With so many people in the park the lines had been out the door - even for the men's side - at most of them. The one near the Tomorrowland train station is large, and usually empty, but even it had a line out the door on the women's side. But because the facility was so large the line moved quickly.

Jason: Passing by Sleeping Beauty Castle on the way to Frontierland for Fantasmic. Cast Members would not let people stop for a photo so this was taken while walking...

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: Going up to the train station to catch a ride over to New Orleans Square for Fantasmic! afforded us a nice view of an increasingly over-populated Main Street.


9:00 p.m., Hour 15

Laura: Time for Fantasmic! Our section was near the center, so we had a great view. Unfortunately we'd forgotten the seat cushions we got in January (only Blue Bayou gives those out), so it was rather uncomfortable after a while. After Fantasmic! ended we had a short wait for Disneyland Forever. Wow...it was still a great show! I felt that we had a terrific view. The fireworks were almost centered over the mist screen. So unlike Main Street, we didn't have to look to the left or right to see the projections, and then miss the fireworks that were straight ahead. We weren't as immersed in the projections as we were on Main Street, and they weren't quite as clear on the water as the buildings, but it was still terrific, and a slightly different experience than seeing them from Main Street - which is what Steve Davison has been telling us all along. Lots of "oohs" and "ahs" from the crowd.

Disneyland Forever

Jason: Fantasmic followed by Disneyland Forever. This picture is from near the end of Disneyland Forever and I thought a great way to end my day in the park.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Laura: I found it very interesting that Jason and I independently chose the same scene from Disneyland Forever, but I left them both in to demonstrate how the view of the show is different depending on your location.

Jason: A quick note on Disneyland Forever from the Fantasmic viewing area. I watched from the Pirates Bridge which offered a decent view of the show. During Disneyland Forever the use of the water screens, some limited effects and additional fireworks in the area was a nice plus compared to previous shows. It is a solid alternate experience. If you did not know what you were missing on Main Street I think you would walk away satisfied. For me it did not hold the same level of immersion as Main Street and I kept thinking of what I was missing. Anyone watch from the Small World Mall? Curious how that looks. Also I would like to see how it is from up near the castle where you can clearly see those projections. So far out of the two locations I have tried Main Street is a clear winner but Fantasmic is not a bad alternative.

Jeanine: I was also up on the Pirates Bridge (section "green") for Fantasmic! and Disneyland Forever. It's a nice vantage point, but a pretty small area--if you're not one of the first people there, you're going to be behind people which can be no sweat if you're tall (Jason) but problematic if you're short (me.) I thought the projections on the water screens were fine and actually easier to make out than trying to see the castle ones from a distance (I had not seen the fireworks from Main Street at that time.) The main disadvantage is that you don't get the full effect of the castle fireworks or the various flying elements of the show.


10:00 p.m., Hour 16

Laura: Lee and I left Disneyland. Our plan was to sleep for a few hours and then return to DCA - I had a Fastpass for World of Color at 3:00 a.m. LOTS of people were leaving Disneyland now that they had seen both the parade and the fireworks, but there were still lots of people in the Esplanade waiting to get into Disneyland, and lots of people outside the bag check area waiting to enter the Esplanade.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jason: A look at the Esplanade on my way out as I headed for my car. The park was still closed and would be for several more hours. Guests were kept back from the entrance so there was no problem leaving and not a long wait for the Toy Story bus either.

Disneyland 24 hour event

Jeanine: By the time Disneyland Forever finished, we had been standing in that one spot for something like two hours, so wandering around to find a place to sit down was kind of a priority. Unfortunately, while the lines for the attractions might have been manageable, most surfaces available for sitting were already taken up by people apparently hunkered down for the night.


11:00 p.m., Hour 17

Jeanine: At least there was a moment now to get some rides in. Managed to see the Haunted Mansion's newest occupant.


Also tried to get coffee at Starbucks, but the line was to the door and estimated to be about one hour long. Decided to wait until breakfast.

12:00 a.m., Hour 18

Jeanine: Ok, time for breakfast. The only difficulty was that, although the reservation at Carnation Cafe was for breakfast, they were only serving the dinner menu. Fortunately, a cherry malt is also the Breakfast of Champions.


Now, I was beginning to hear that, although the park was still closed to entering guests, parts of Disneyland were relatively empty. Since I was still on Main Street, where everyone was clustered for the 0100 Paint the Night parade, I didn't see it.

1:00 a.m., Hour 19

Jeanine: Went out to the front again to see how things were going, now that the parade had gone by and Main Street was beginning to clear. From the looks of things, it seemed clear that they would begin to start letting people in again shortly, although you got different opinions on that depending on how peripheral the Cast Member was. Meanwhile, the Dapper Dans worked overtime.


2:00 a.m., Hour 20

Jeanine: I had a FP for the 0300 World of Color: Celebrate! but decided I wouldn't go if I couldn't come back to Disneyland. While I sat there in the front mulling it over, they finally opened up the gates to all guests, who came running in, whooping and shrieking up a storm. Finally, I decided to chance it, figuring that there was no way Disneyland would refill up to capacity in the time it took to watch World of Color. After exiting Disneyland, however, I found that there was a huge stationary line in the esplanade waiting to get into DCA. I asked a Cast Member how I would get in, and they replied that DCA was at capacity and closed. It might reopen soon, but all these people would need to be cleared out before anyone else would get in. Gave up, went back in to Disneyland, and checked out the new exhibit "Drawing Disneyland: The Early Years" in the Disney Gallery, which highlights five of the original WED Imagineers who were instrumental in designing the different lands of Disneyland.

Harper Goff--Adventureland

Laura: Our alarm went off at 2:00. Lee opted to get some more sleep, but I went to the parks - I was hoping that by now the security line was gone/reasonable. The most recent tweet from Disneyland Resort said that Disneyland was still not open, but guests were still allowed to enter DCA. At 2:20 the bag check line had maybe 200 people in it, but we were told that BOTH parks were at capacity and they weren't letting anyone in. Since the 1:50 Paint the Night parade had recently ended I saw lots of people coming out of the Esplanade, so I hoped that would change soon. At 2:45 they opened bag check, and we were free to enter either park once inside. I hot-footed it to Paradise Bay.

3:00 a.m., Hour 21

Laura: The World of Color area was PACKED - even with my Fastpass I wouldn't have had a good spot, and I wanted to see how it looked from the side anyway. So I went over to Jumpin' Jellyfish. I was surprised that there weren't too many people over there - I even got a spot on the rail, even though I arrived just before 3:00.

I thought the show looked good even from the side - the projection screen on the Fun Wheel was very clear, so I still had some idea of what was going on. It's much better to see it from the front, of course - there's a lot you miss when you can't see the projections on the mist screens. But it's still interesting to see the fountains from the side.

World of Color - Celebrate

Jeanine: Finally got to use one FP for the day--Indiana Jones at 0310.


4:00 a.m., Hour 22

Laura: Once World of Color ended, lots of people left. There were still quite a few over at the Diamond Mad T Party, though. The "White Rabbit" DJ was on stage, and there were a number of people enjoying the music - a few were even dancing.

Diamond Mad T Party

Jeanine: Went over to scope out the Toontown Pajama Party, which was supposed to end around 0400. Toontown had played host to a pajama party previously on a 24hr day, but skipped it last time. This year saw a return of the bean bag chairs, the cartoons up on a big-ish screen, and karaoke.


Mickey and Co. were also in pajamas and busy meeting and greeting.


5:00 a.m., Hour 23

Jeanine: Rode Roger Rabbit for the First Time in Forever (I don't get back to Toontown all that often) and then exited the closing Toontown for it's a small world. I did not get transported to "Tomorrowland," despite wearing the symbol, but did meet up with Laura and took a ride on Casey Jr.


Laura: I went back over to Disneyland. Not too many people still roaming around - most who were still in the park were sitting around, trying to make it through the final hour! I met Jeanine back at "it's a small world".

Disneyland 24 hour event its a small world

6:00 a.m., Hour 24

Laura: No closing ceremony - we were at the castle, and there was an announcement, and nothing else. We made our way out to Main Street hoping to see the characters waving goodbye from the train station, but no. While I didn't make it the full 24 hours, I managed to be in the parks for about 17 hours, which was more than I expected to do. It was an interesting experience: sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, though much more of the former than the latter for me.

Jeanine: We close out one more 24hr day at the Castle.


While there was a congratulatory announcement and a playing of the Mickey Mouse Club Theme Song, it's always a little anti-climactic when they don't have any live hosts or fireworks or anything to commemorate the ending. Additionally, the characters they usually have out by the train station waving goodbye to people leaving after 24hrs, were whisked away almost at the same time as they were playing the announcement at the castle, leaving only Disneyland Ambassador Allie Kawamoto and Walt Disney World Ambassador Nathaniel Palma.


Final Comments

Jason: When Disneyland announced another 24 hour day to kick off the 60th anniversary and that they would hold it on Memorial Day weekend and start three new night time shows on the same day I thought it was an idea asking for trouble. I hoped they were planning plenty of preview opportunities to relieve some of the pressure on being there opening night. The controversial decision to close Disneyland in the early afternoon and not reopen it until well after the second Paint the Night Parade paid dividends for those inside the park but left those outside frustrated and people like me scratching our heads at the decision to run the 2nd parade so long after the first. For those of us inside Disneyland all day if you were not checking in with those outside the berm you experienced a fairly pleasant day. The crowds were heavy but felt less so than the holidays thanks to the large number of guests holding spots for Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever. The park never felt over crowded to me and I have been there on some high attendance days...the largest being the final day of the Main Street Electrical Parade. The food lines were long and slow and as the day went on the restroom lines were substantial but other than that it was a relatively smooth day. For those outside the berm though it was a completely different story.

Jeanine: I would agree with Jason that it seemed like a combination of factors likely to draw in huge amounts of people--a situation which ultimately proved to be true. The organization and communication which appeared to work fairly well in the morning, eventually seemed to break down under crushing volumes of guests and fatigue as the day wore on, with Cast Members doing the best they could with outdated or distorted information.

If Disneyland, with its relatively small areas, plans to court these kinds of crowds for these kinds of events in the future, they might need to take a page from some of the international parks more used to dealing with these issues. In Tokyo Disneyland, guests are prohibited from putting down blankets or reserving seats for parades and shows until around an hour ahead of time. While difficult to enforce in our society, more focused on individual freedoms, such a policy might have helped free up some of the congestion on Main Street, where people were sprawled out on the sidewalks from 0700. In some aspects, however, Disneyland did relatively well--counter service restaurants had fairly dauntingly long lines, but sit down restaurants seemed to have a lot of availability, particularly after midnight. The restroom situation was inconvenient, but nowhere near as bad as, say, Universal Studios Japan that I visited last year, where lines for the women's restrooms ran around 45 minutes for most of the day.

I've done three full 24hr days by now, (plus one just overnight) and while it's a long, tiring endeavor, and you can't plan on doing many attractions, there continues to be something special about being in the parks all night long which will doubtless continue to attract crowds whenever the occasions occur, with or without new shows, or parades, or even diamonds.

Laura: Ditto what Jason and Jeanine said. I want to say thank you to the Disneyland cast members, who managed to be gracious and patient under what had to be very difficult conditions for them. And I was also impressed with the behavior of the guests, too - though we were all tired, I thought people were more pleasant and courteous than they are on a normal day. This was my first 24-hour experience: as Jeanine said, there's something special about being in the parks all night long - or most of the night, at least. :-)

May 28, 2015

Disneyland's Paint the Night Parade A HUGE SUCCESS

Paint the Night drum

Paint the Night is Disneyland's new nighttime parade. It brings the electrical parade into the 21st century with 1.5 million LED lights, all under computer control. The parade features floats, Disney characters, imaginative costumes, animation, light and choreography, and a bouncy soundtrack that might stay in your head for a while. Don't say I didn't warn you.

You can watch the parade in this video:

The eight parade units include nods to classic Disney animated features like Peter Pan, the princesses, and The Little Mermaid, as well as the Disney-Pixar hits Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Cars. There's also a Frozen float with Anna, Elsa, and Olaf. And it pays homage to the original Main Street Electrical Parade in a couple of ways: the light on the end of Tinker Bell's wand is a rosette from the original parade, and if you listen carefully, you'll hear the Baroque Hoedown woven into the new soundtrack.

Paint the Night Tink

The main theme is "When Can I See You Again" from Wreck-it Ralph. As the various parade units pass by, there's also musical selections from the associated movie, such as "You Can Fly", "Life is a Highway", "Under the Sea", and (of course) "Let it Go". The musical style even changes to match the floats: for example, the theme is much more subdued and melodic during the Princess segment.

Paint the Night is not just about the lights - it's about motion, too! Some of the floats and dancers incorporate motion elements that are really visually interesting, such as the spinning jellyfish dancers and the pinwheel dancers. And the whirling intertwined mobius-strip-like thing on the back of Mickey's float leaves me shaking my head thinking "how do they DO that?"

Paint the Night jellyfish

And then there's the choreography - and it's not just dance choreography, but light choreography as well, with lights that are synced to the music. The floats and dancers interact - for example, the "Cars Crew" dancers are sometimes all the same color, and sometimes different colors - and sometimes the lights go off completely which makes them seem to disappear!

We saw the Dream Lights electrical parade in Tokyo Disneyland last year, which blew me away, but Paint the Night takes it to a whole new level. The original version of Paint the Night premiered at Hong Kong Disneyland in September, 2014. The Disneyland version has a few exclusive elements: the entire Frozen unit is new, as are the drum and some of the costumes.

The opening unit with Tinker Bell and Peter Pan includes a wildly modern version of the Electrical Parade drum with lights that do all sorts of crazy things.

Paint the Night drum

The doors on the Monsters, Inc. float spin around, and the doors appear to open and close as different characters and scenes appear on them. Mike and Sulley are both on the float, though Mike is a static character, which I found very odd.

Paint the Night Monsters Inc.

In addition to the dancers I mentioned earlier, the Cars unit also includes Lightning McQueen, DJ, and Mack the truck. At 54', Mack is the longest float in the parade - a life-size truck.

Paint the Night Mack

Mack's sides are a 3-dimensional volumetric display - yeah, that sequence of words didn't mean anything to me the first time I heard it, either. But it's really impressive. Not so much images as very colorful 3-d patterns that appear to move across and forward and back. It's a shame that this goes by so fast because I find it really fascinating.

Paint the Night Mack

The Little Mermaid float is preceded by beautiful dancing coral. The float features a 12' King Triton, with Ariel (as a mermaid) on the front. Accompanying the unit are puppet versions of Marlin and Nemo, who "swim" in and out of the coral and the jellyfish dancers.

Paint the Night Little Mermaid

Slinky Dog is the main figure on the Toy Story float. His "coils" are kaleidoscopic illuminated spinning disks - more of the motion elements that I mentioned before. Woody is perched on Slinky's neck, and Buzz sits in front of his tail.

Paint the Night Toy Story

I thought that the Princess float was the most beautiful. Belle stands at the front in a brilliant illuminated ball gown with a 17' rose behind her. Video screens around the rose show scenes from "Beauty the the Beast" and other romantic images.

Paint the Night Belle

Cinderella and Rapunzel follow in gazebos illuminated by softly glowing candelabras. The feathery dove dancers alongside are very gentle and graceful and lovely.

Paint the Night princesses

At 30', the Frozen float is the tallest in the parade. It's also exclusive to Disneyland, and not a part of the Hong Kong parade. Anna and Elsa stand on the balcony of Elsa's ice palace, while Olaf stands in an icy grove of trees on the back of the float.

Paint the Night Frozen

Paint the Night drum

There are six etched "ice" windows, depicting Anna and Elsa, the trolls, Kristoff - and Sven gets his own window, too!

Paint the Night Frozen

The final parade unit features Mickey and the gang. The pinwheel dancers lead out (it was fascinating to watch them spin and change color), followed by Minnie, Donald, and Goofy, riding on lighted spheres with changing colors and patterns.

Paint the Night spheres

Sorcerer Mickey follows, atop a 12' "kinetic sculpture". I've watched the video multiple times, and I still have no idea how it works. But it's cool!

Paint the Night Mickey

The parade follows the usual Disneyland parade route: from "it's a small world" to Main Street. During busy times of year it will run two times a night, and the second parade will proceed from Main Street back to "it's a small world". The parade is about 15 minutes long. There's no performance stop in this one, so any place along the route should offer the same viewing experience.

Paint the Night pinwheels

While I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the original Electrical Parade, I enjoyed this parade a lot, and think it a worthy successor. There are many details that I missed when watching it, and only picked up on seeing the video. Like the Monsters, inc. characters in the doors, and the huge ice chandelier in Elsa's palace, and the Mickey-head patterns on the character spheres, to name a few. I think it will be a highly repeatable experience that will be very popular with guests.

"When can we do this again?" :-)

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About May 2015

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in May 2015. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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