From sunny southern California Laura Gilbreath, Jeanine Yamanaka and photographer Jason Dz bring a west coast perspective as they blog about trips to Disneyland, D23 events, Disney cruises, runDisney events and occasional pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend - A Look Back
It's time for the 10th Annual Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend!. In this blog I thought I'd take a look back at the very first Disneyland Half Marathon and some of the changes over the years. I remember how excited we were for the Inaugural race weekend nine years ago, on September 15-17, 2006. At the time Disneyland was still celebrating its 50th anniversary, and this year it's the 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration!
A lot of things have changed since that first Disneyland Half Marathon. The very next year the race weekend was moved from the third weekend of September to Labor Day, where it has remained ever since. In 2008 the first Coast-to-Coast medals were awarded to those who had finished the WDW Half Marathon or WDW Marathon in January, then finished the Disneyland Half Marathon that same year. With the addition of the Disneyland 10K in 2013, the race weekend has been extended a day, and now starts on Thursday. The year 2013 also introduced the Dumbo Double Dare race challenge, with an additional medal awarded to those who finish the 10K and the half marathon.
There are many more participants - according to runDisney, more than 29,000 people will participate in the events of this year's half marathon weekend. The Inaugural half marathon was capped at 12,000 runners, while this year's race will have more than 18,000 runners.
The first half marathon took about five months to sell out...this year's race was sold out within hours. In 2006 the registration fee for the half marathon was $85 and the 5K was only $25. The kid's races were $5 per child. Seems like a bargain compared to this year's $199/$75/$20 fees - though the price certainly does not seem to have discouraged people from signing up.
I think that first year was a bit of an experiment, and the race organizers weren't sure how well it would go over. There were a few signs of that, like the mile markers. A lot different than what we are used to now.
I think they really outdid themselves when it came to Disney characters along the course. I have photos from 16 different character stops! In that first race, long before the days of cell phone cameras, I was one the few people who carried a small camera with me. This was also before the advent of PhotoPass, so there weren't a bunch of Disney photographers with the characters, and it meant that not very many people stopped to have their photos taken with them. We stopped for all of them in that first race - and some of them featured multiple characters, too - like five Alice in Wonderland characters, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Phillip and the three fairies, and Lilo and Stitch. And my estimate was that the photo stops only added 10 minutes to my finish time...you sure can't do that now.
The race experience itself was excellent that first year. I didn't notice any major first-year glitches. I think my biggest complaint was that the race shirt had long sleeves - why would you do that for a race held in southern California in September?
Here's a comment I wrote about the refreshments in 2006: "In the refreshment area there were drinks, as well as fruit, bagels, muffins, and yogurt parfaits." I really wish they would bring THOSE sorts of refreshments back rather than those runDisney MRE boxes...
One thing that hasn't changed is the tremendous community support the half marathon receives from the city of Anaheim. Even in that very first race we were cheered on by high school bands, cheerleaders, and Boy and Girl Scouts. And we were entertained by two large dance groups - a Polynesian group and a mariachi group. Both of these featured participants of all ages. All of those groups have continued to be a presence on the course every year, and I always look forward to seeing them.
And I must put in a good word for the amazing and hard-working volunteers and cast members, also. They are essential to the success of this race weekend, and have been wonderful every single year.
The medals were just as gorgeous then as they are now - that first castle medal was pretty special. This year, in honor of the 10th race and the 60th anniversary, there's a new medal that goes along with the diamond anniversary theme. I'll be happy to add that one to my collection, too.
This will be the 8th time that Lee and I have run the Disneyland Half Marathon. Each of them has been memorable in some way and I'm looking forward to this year's race.
D23 Expo 2015: Disney Store and Disney Interactive
Last day of the Expo! One more turn around the floor before the crowds hit.
[All photos and video, unless otherwise attributed, are courtesy of Disney.]
Over in the Disney Consumer Products Pavilion, new merchandise, some of which I've only seen at the Disney Stores in Japan, was displayed with a heavy Tsum Tsum emphasis.
The Pixar section of the Walt Disney Studios booth had an exhibit of concept art and sculpts from their latest film "Inside Out."
Also in the WDS booth was a small area set up for animators to give talks and demos throughout the day. It was a huge disappointment that I never was able to get over there while they were going on, because their schedule sounded fantastic.
Photo ops abounded, from the spacepod in "Guardians of the Galaxy"
...to Baymax, in San Fransokyo.
At this point, I had wanted to try to get into the Disney Store booth, because I have a minor Tsum Tsum problem (I can stop anytime I want! You don't know me! You're not my real Mom!) Bearing in mind that this was the only booth I wasn't able to ever get into last Expo, I headed over just as the floor opened to Gold/Silver members. What I found was this line--which didn't look that bad.
...Except those were actually the people with the Sorcerer's package, some of whom had been waiting something like an hour or so for the store to open. On the other side of the walkway, there was a corral probably 2-3x larger, that had another hour or two worth of line already in it, waiting to go in after the Sorcerers.
So it didn't happen. I did eventually get to walk in and look around, but I had to promise not to buy anything.
The tree in the center was designed to show the dualism of the limited edition Hero/Villain Disney Fairytale Designer doll pairs, with Happily Ever After on top, and Happily Evil on the bottom.
There were Star Wars action figures, of which the C3P0 and R2D2 were exclusive to Expo shoppers.
At least the Peter Pan and Captain Hook dolls looked like they were fighting. The girls all just looked like they were pretty much snuggling up to their villains, which was particularly disturbing for Elsa and Hans.
So close, and yet so far. The cast member I spoke with thought that the goat was Expo exclusive.
At this point, by the time I stopped sobbing, it was time to go up and try to see some panels. By and large, the morning panels were almost always partially empty, likely due to the fact that a lot of people were still outside waiting to get let in.
There were actually a ton of panels I wanted to see at the same time, and yet I also was going to have to leave early to get checked in to the Hall D23 panel right after, so I basically ran along the second floor, popping in and out of each panel that was going on in the time I had.
Disney Artist and Historian Stacia Martin did her usual charming job with "Sounds Delightful: Disneyland Edition," in which she played seldom heard vinyl recordings associated with Disneyland to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Down the hallway, "Disney Kingdoms" was doing an expanded version of their panel from SDCC (which I wrote about here) with writer Jim Zub, Josh Shipley and Thomas Morris from Disney, and Bill Rosemann and David Gabriel from Marvel.
Next up was "It's Game Time: Disney Interactive Takes the Stage."
Jimmy Pitaro, Co-Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media and President of Disney Interactive, started off the presentation with "Kingdom Hearts III."
Square Enix's Shinji Hashimoto (Kingdom Hearts Executive Producer) took the stage to make some special announcements, the first of which was that "Kingdom Hearts III" will have a world based on "Big Hero 6."
Projected plotline involves the Powers of Darkness taking control of the original Baymax left in the portal.
The presentation ended, with the appearance onstage of Baymax!
Mobile gaming was up next, with the announcement of a new game, "Disney Magic Kingdoms."
Disney Interactive's Scott Humphries and Executive Creative Director for Walt Disney Imagineering Tom Morris introduced the game, which will allow players to create their own version of Disneyland, complete with castle and iconic attractions, while overcoming evil plots carried out by Disney's classic villains.
The "Playmation" system was presented by Afsoun Yazdian, director of product management for Playmation.
Billed as "physical play for a digital generation," the system includes wearable gear that can interact with a toy base, other player's gear, and a mobile app to send you on missions with the Avengers as Iron Man or the Hulk.
Bandai's Denny Chiu showed off "Star Wars Battle Pod," a new arcade game with a 180 degree dome screen that puts you into some of the most iconic battles of the Star Wars films.
[I was actually able to play this at the Disney Interactive booth--it was an impressive action simulator, and the wrap around experience looked and sounded great. I'm pretty sure I failed the mission however, so the Force may actually be not that strong with me.]
Special limited edition PS4 bundles inspired by Darth Vader will be available for both "Battlefront" and "Disney Infinity" November 17.
To finish off the panel, John Blackburn, SVP/GM for Disney Infinity, and John Vignocchi, VP of Production, took the stage to present "Disney Infinity 3.0."
Among other things, they debuted the new trailer for the "Twilight of the Republic" playset that comes with the 3.0 Starter Pack.
The next in the Star Wars trilogy of playsets will be "Rise Against the Empire," featuring the cast of Episodes IV-VI, which will release September 29, 2015 (PS3 and PS4 owners can get it now.)
The new Marvel playset in the works is "Marvel Battlegrounds," and will be the first to have four-person simultaneous play. Any Marvel characters will be playable with it, including the newly-introduced Hulkbuster and Ultron, and it will have an original story and unique gameplay.
New characters to "Disney Infinity" are Peter Pan, Olaf, Mulan, Mickey, Minnie, Sam and Quorra from "Tron Legacy," Spot from "The Good Dinosaur," and Judy and Nick from "Zootopia."
Sora's keyblade will be the Ultimate Unlock for 3.0, joining Luke's lightsaber and landspeeder as a playable object earned when the player owns and levels up every Disney Infinity character. Everyone in the audience also received an Expo-exclusive power disc that gave Mickey the King Mickey outfit from Kingdom Hearts.
Finally, to end the panel, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega took the stage to introduce their figurines (which they voiced) for the third of the Star Wars playsets, "The Force Awakens."
...And that was just the morning! Next time we'll revisit the last afternoon, and sum up.
2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend - Expo and 10K
The events of our Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend have begun! We are running the Dumbo Double Dare for the third time, which means running the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.
As always, we started at the Health and Fitness Expo, held in the Convention Center of the Disneyland Hotel. It opened on Thursday morning. We arrived on Friday around noon and went down the ramp to the bib pick-up area. We had pre-printed our race waivers at home (always highly recommended as it can save you a lot of time if there's a line for the computers at the Expo). Very short lines for bib pick up. In addition to the bib, race program, and bag tag, we received a 10th anniversary luggage tag, also.
The volunteer made sure to tell us that, as Dumbo Double Dare participants, we needed to have our photo taken with our bib number - our "runDisney mug shot", as I call it. :-) They will use that to ID us after we finish on Sunday.
We went upstairs to the Expo itself. They had the entrance nicely decorated.
Shirt and bag pick-up was also very easy. I really love the design of the 10K shirt! But the inside of the shirt feels very thick and rubbery and sticky behind the design. I'm hoping that will go away when it's washed. I am disappointed in the color of the half marathon shirt - they have this beautiful blue that they have been using for a lot of the Diamond Anniversary merchandise: why couldn't they use that for the shirt color? And the Dumbo shirt, well, let's just say that you'll see us coming... :-)
We went over to the Official Merchandise area, and I was very surprised that there was a line to get in! I've never seen that on Friday afternoon before.
Friends had already picked up for me the one item that I really wanted, but we got in line anyway, and it moved pretty fast. Once inside it really wasn't crowded at all. There still seemed to be a good variety of merchandise - I saw everything that I expected to see, so nothing was noticeably missing. And the cast members were doing a very good job of restocking.
Lee found a shirt and magnet that he liked, but I didn't get anything else. There was a good variety of merchandise, just nothing that appealed to me. I have SO many running shirts and race-related shirts!
We took a quick wander around the Expo floor - stopped by the runDisney booth to take a look at the medals on display. The one that we were hoping to see is the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge medal for the upcoming Avengers Half Marathon weekend, but they haven't unveiled that one yet.
We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with running friends, most of whom we only see at Disney races. I was happy to have the opportunity to take my friend Joe into Cars Land for his very first time - I love doing that! We went in from the Pacific Wharf side, which I think is the very best place for your first look. He was suitably impressed.
Since we were in the area we stopped by the new Diamond Anniversary photo spot in "a bug's land". This one is a lot of fun - they even have a magnifying glass and a net to use as props. The forced perspective works really well!
Later we had our usual pre-race dinner at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta. It was a lot busier than usual, with a very long line of people waiting for the four-cheese ravioli.
And then back to our room to prepare for the 10K, and our 3:45 wakeup call, the next morning.
3:45 is early, but since we're in our own time zone it's a lot easier for us to get up for the Disneyland races than for the Disney World races. And, since we can walk to the starting line rather than catching a bus, we are getting up about an hour and a half later than we would for a WDW race. So much easier.
I love how they have changed the theme of the Disneyland 10K each year. This year the theme was villains - and I think just about everyone was thrilled with that choice. (Wouldn't an entire villains-themed race series be great?) During the pre-race show a number of the villains were out on stage.
There are about 10,000 runners in the 10K as opposed to about 18,000 in the half marathon, and the difference is noticeable in the pre-race area. A lot more room to move around and not nearly the lines for the porta-potties!
It was a great morning for running. So much nicer than it's been the last several years. Still on the humid side, but the temperature at the start was about 66.
Lee and I were going to run with our friend Stan and around 5:15 we headed to Corral B. Our race announcers were already on stage getting everyone ready to go. In keeping with the villains theme there was a very interesting version of the national anthem - a rock version played on a screaming electric guitar. I liked it in this setting, but it's not something I'd want to hear all of the time.
The Evil Queen usurped the race start privileges for herself, and did the "Ready, set, go" honors, much to race announcer Rudy's chagrin. :-) But she only did it for the first wave, and Rudy got to send everyone else off - including those of us in Corral B.
The 10K course goes south on West Street to the convention center. We were about halfway back in Corral B, and we found the first 3/4 of a mile to be a little congested, but not too bad. We just didn't quite have the running space we would've liked. After that I thought it was fine. But we had a friend who started in Corral C, who was going for a sub-1 hour finish, and he missed it because he was in a lot of traffic for over a mile.
After going past the convention center we went north on Harbor, then back behind DCA. That was just before the two-mile mark. And after that we were on Disney property the rest of the time. That's one of the aspects of this course that I really enjoy - lots of park time!
We ran into Radiator Springs and down route 66. Love doing this when the neon lights are on!
This race apparently encouraged the villains to emerge from their lairs, and we saw quite a few of them on the course. The first of the villains character stops was Dr. Facilier, near Ariel's Undersea Adventure. In hindsight I wish we'd stopped there because it ended up being the shortest line that we saw. He was miked, and we could hear his comments to runners - he was totally in character. Really fun.
Lotso was in front of Toy Story Mania. Not your traditional villain, but quite appropriate for that area. He had a pretty long line and we didn't stop. We finished our lap of Paradise Bay and ran towards Grizzly Rapids and Soarin' Over California, where the mile 3 sign was placed.
Hades was near Off the Page in Hollywood with a huge line, but Lady Tremaine (Cinderella's stepmother) was in front of the animation building with a fairly short line so we stopped. It was the only character photo that we ended up getting. She was suitably disdainful. :-)
We went backstage near the Tower of Terror and went through the tunnel that goes under the tram/bus area and backstage to Disneyland. There was really great villainous music playing in there. Actually, the music was great all over the parks - it really set the right tone. I think the entertainment people had a whole lot of fun with the theme of this race! Throughout the parks there were various cast members dressed in purple who were cheering (or jeering) us on - we stopped for a photo with a couple of them on Main Street.
I think there was a character on Main Street that we didn't stop for. I was surprised not to see Darth Vader and/or the Storm Troopers in Tomorrowland. I guess now that they have a Star Wars race he's exclusive to that. The mile 4 sign was near Innoventions, and since it had Frollo on it, and the guys were wearing shirts that brought to mind the "Hellfire" song, we had to stop for that. :-)
Governor Ratcliffe and Shan Yu were together near "small world". That was a very long line. We ran around backstage for a while, then ran back into Toontown and into Fantasyland. Another character (Captain Hook?) with a long line - so we took a photo of the Mile 5 sign instead.
We actually were able to run through the castle - sometimes people really slow down there because of the photographers, but they had people who were talking to the runners and trying to keep them moving. We went into Frontierland and around the Rivers of America. Brer Fox and Brer Bear were out for photos in Critter Country.
Eventually we went backstage and around the perimeter of the park and back out near the tram stop, then ran through Downtown Disney. And there was the mile 6 sign. "Mirror, mirror on the wall...who's the fastest of them all?"
Maleficent was standing near the finish line, but I couldn't really stop to get a photo of her. Our official time was 1:12:34, including photo stops, so that wasn't too bad.
I really like the medal!
The sun was not quite all the way up when we finished, but it came up while we were waiting in the finish area and it started to warm up quickly. So it gave us an idea of what to expect the next day for the half marathon.
The thing that is difficult about this race is leaving the finish area to get back to the hotels or theme parks because the course runs through Downtown Disney and you end up having to cross the course several times. A very slow process when there are lots of people. This time when we left the finish area cast members were telling runners who wanted to go to those areas that they should walk over to the Mickey and Friends parking area and take the tram to Disneyland. Then there was only one place where you needed to cross the course. But as it turned out we had waited long enough in the finish area that the race was over by the time we got to Downtown Disney. The race started at 5:30 and it was over just a few minutes before 8:00.
Say what you will about the villains - they really know how to throw a party. This was a terrific 10K, maybe my favorite Disney 10K so far - though the Star Wars 10K earlier this year was wonderful, also. The runners seemed to enjoy this one, and I saw lots of clever villain-inspired costumes.
D23 Expo 2015: "Frozen," Mouseketeers, and Expo's End
So when we last spoke, the Disney Interactive panel had just finished, and we had battled our way to receive our Expo exclusive power disc that smarter minds than mine sold on ebay for around $200 before we were even out of the room.
[Photos and video not otherwise attributed were provided by Disney.]
The next presentation I saw was "'An Animator's Gallery': Presented by Dave A. Bossert and Eric Goldberg." A film director and long-time Disney animator, Goldberg has done work on a number of animated classics such as "Aladdin," "Fantasia/2000," and most recently, the short "Get a Horse!"
As part of the decor for a projected "Sardi's"-esque restaurant for Shanghai Disneyland, Goldberg drew over 200 caricatures of Disney characters in a style inspired by Al Hirschfeld. The collection of images were on display at the Roy E. Disney Animation building in Burbank, and are now viewable in his new book, "An Animator's Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters."
The book was available for purchase at Expo, in advance of general release, and Goldberg did several signings of both the book and some special images he drew particularly for Expo, including one of his characters, Aladdin's Genie, to celebrate the late Robin Williams.
Next up was one of the big concerts for the weekend, "Frozen FANdemonium: A Musical Celebration!"
Hosted by Chris Montan, President of Walt Disney Music, the hit songwriting team/couple Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez took us through their journey in creating the music and songs from the blockbuster "Frozen."
Not only singing the familiar songs from the movie, they also performed some songs that did not make the cut such as "Take Off All Your Clothes and Rub Yourself With Snow," and "Someone Else's Shoes" (featuring such masterful lyrics as "his feet smell like reindeer poop/your feet smell like tomato soup.")
[Fun Fact: All the male trolls are sung by cast members of "Book of Mormon," and all the female ones are sung by cast members of "Kinky Boots."]
Then the original cast of "Do You Want To Build A Snowman" assembled, with Agatha Lee Monn and Katie Lopez joined by Kristen Bell!
After Bell sang a couple of numbers, including the cut song "More Than Just the Spare," our second surprise guest, Josh Gad, took the stage for "In Summer."
At this point, Montan noted that there was one other song to the score, and as they all feigned pondering what it was, Lopez played a few bars of "Frozen Heart," which Anderson-Lopez termed "everyone's favorite song about ice cutting."
A rousing singalong to "Let It Go" ensued, as the panel's entire cast was joined onstage by "Frozen" filmmakers Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Executive Producer Peter Del Vecho, and John Lasseter.
As all good Disney finales do, it ended with a burst of confetti and thunderous applause from the audience, which also included "Once Upon A Time" stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, and Lana Parilla.
Finally, we come to my very last presentation for D23 Expo 2015: "Celebrating Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club - 60 Magical yEARS."
Author Lorraine Santoli moderated a panel of some of the original Mousketeers: Sherry Alberoni, Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Tommy Cole, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O'Brien, and Doreen Tracey. Together they reminisced about the process of filming the classic series, and the people involved with it.
Prior to the start, I think I was unsure whether I was really going to connect with the presentation, given that (as old as I am,) I wasn't around to see the original series when it first aired. Ultimately, however, it was utterly charming. All the cast members were so full of enthusiasm for being together and going over old times, and so ready to perform at the drop of a hat, as they must have been back in the day, and had such fond memories of their time on the show, that it was impossible not to see how they mesmerized people with their good-hearted joie de vivre on the 1955 show.
Each of them in turn got up and did a number with their old selves on screen which was simply swell. I encourage everyone to watch the full video of the panel because it's amazing that 60 years later they can match the energy, if not always the movements, of their original performance.
Afterwards, they spoke a bit on some of the various serials that were introduced on the show; they eventually got to the popular "Spin and Marty," at which time Tim Considine and David Stollery took the stage to share their memories.
As part of a tribute to some of the old cast no longer with us, Tommy Cole sang Jimmy Dodd's song "Annette."
After the traditional ending of the Mickey Mouse Club, Director of the Walt Disney Archives Becky Cline surprised all the original Mouseketeers with a special presentation by Leonard Maltin. Original "Mousecars" that Walt had made up for special intra-company awards and never given away had been found and were presented to each person on the panel.
In return, the Mouseketeers surprised Leonard Maltin for all his work in keeping alive the memory of The Mickey Mouse Club by making him an Honorary Mouseketeer.
In a time where every child star seems to have about three good years before they burn out in some horrific and publicly reprehensible fashion, it is such a relief to feel that this group was exactly as they seemed on camera or off--happy kids working hard and having a blast in an environment that had been tailored to keep them that way, who continue to have nothing but fond memories of one of the greatest periods of their lives.
"Till we're old and grey, we won't forget the day of the Mouseketeer Matinée!"
Thoughts on the Expo: The Good:
--I felt like this year's Expo had more programming and more interesting booths than the last one. Although none of the individual booths matched the breadth and scope of the 2013 Imagineering/Parks and Resorts booth, the addition of Pixar to the Studios/Animation area really punched them up as far as talks/demos/signings.
--The Archives Exhibit benefited greatly by being on the floor this year, instead of relegated to upstairs in one of the ballrooms. Not only did it make it stand out a lot more, but the openness of it made it possible for people to get at least a look at the contents if they weren't able to stand the hours-long line that it typically had.
--The Charter Lounge which, in the past, has been pretty anemic, had much improved offerings this year, including complementary coffee and popcorn. It may not seem like much, but when you haven't had time to break for food all day, free popcorn that you don't have to line up for can make all the mood difference in the world.
--The mobile app was terrific. If you go to a bunch of conventions, you've noticed a growing trend towards using mobile apps for schedules and maps, etc. versus having to cart around a large, heavy booklet that is often outdated by the time the convention actually takes place. Previously, most of the apps were pretty unhelpful, with a non-intuitive interface, but this year everyone seems to have finally figured them out--both SDCC and Expo's apps were incredibly effective, to the point that I never needed a physical schedule for either one at all. Listings were updated when StagePasses were out for a given panel, and alerts were sounded when something timely was happening, like trading card releases. It was a huge asset.
--The cosplay was really impressive this time around. Out of all the conventions I've attended this year, the Expo cosplay in general looked way more detailed and elaborate than any of the others.
--Lines still are and probably always will be the bane of convention-going. While I think everyone realizes and accepts that there will be some line-waiting, I dislike the growing movement towards making it impossible to see popular panels if you're not either willing to pony up a huge amount of dough, or wait out on the sidewalks with the roaches and the hobos the whole night before.
--In the Blair Witch-esque basement housing the big Hall D23 lines, there were a lot of monitors showing promotional videos for people waiting down there for hours. Why couldn't they simulcast the Hall panels in there, for the people in overflow who couldn't make it in?
--Similarly, everyone also understands that there is so much programming no one person can see it all...but it was disappointing that so much of the major content was programmed against each other (likely to make people choose and cut down on lines.) It often seemed as though there would be around three or four different panels that sounded fantastic at the same time, and then a couple of hours where there was relatively little happening--in particular, Friday and Saturday seemed overflowing with presentations, and in comparison, Sunday seemed kind of lean.
--Time also feels particularly crunched since Expo cut back from four days to three days. Adding back that fourth day would really help on spacing out talks so people could see more of them. Alternately, Disneyana structures their convention so that talks happen on the first few days, and then the last day is solely for the sales floor. If they can't extend the panel schedule to a fourth day, maybe they could run an extra day just for the floor, so that people could have more time to see the offerings down there without worrying about leaving to go stand in lines elsewhere.
--There's still a lot of miscommunication on things like where and when lines are supposed to form, passes are to be given out, etc. On the first day, it's fairly understandable, but after that there really should be a structure of how volunteers and convention workers can find out the answers to questions in place.
--Lack of evening content. The first Expo, they ran movies with filmmaker intros way into the night. The second one, they had the big Richard Sherman/Alan Menken concert in the evening. This year there really wasn't anything past about 7pm. That, and the lack of a big finale event, gave it a little bit of an unfinished feeling which might have been ameliorated by putting either the "FANdemonium" or "The Originals" in the Saturday night slot.
--Shopping was probably the number one least pleasant experience I had at Expo. The lines were amazingly long--often hours long--and I personally did not find the StorePass useful at all. In the first place, you had to be in line for StorePass right around 9am, because the line was usually cut before 9:30am (making it virtually unobtainable for general admission ticket holders, who couldn't enter until 10am.) The one time I did get in line around 9am, we were marched over to the pass desk and then...nothing. I finally asked when they were going to hand out the passes, and they said they weren't going to start until 10am, which meant that you were looking at an hour's wait for the pass on top of whatever wait you were going to find when you returned.
--[Side Note: This was the first Expo I attended with a Media pass, and while there's no denying it allowed me to see more than I would have seen without it, the shopping restrictions were pretty impressive. We were initially told we (holders of "non-revenue passes") could not enter the stores during convention hours, but could come in for an hour after the floor closed. When I returned to Mickey's of Glendale, they said they had changed their minds and were only letting cast members purchase things then, but I could come back during the next day. When I came back the next day, they said again, that we could only enter that evening. When I pointed out that I had and was denied, they replied that they had seen media inside the store. When I said that could very well be true, but it wasn't me, they shrugged and started to leave. When I asked if there was someone I could ask who might know definitively, they said "no. Sorry, we're busy."
To their credit, they were always very polite, and a different store worker did let me in at the very end of the Expo, but they clearly neither needed nor were particularly concerned about getting your money if you did not have a paid ticket.]
--Trading Cards. I didn't really participate in this, but I understand a lot of people enjoyed collecting them, which is great. On occasion, however, they would issue alerts through the app that a special card was being handed out at a certain time, and then you saw a mob scene like people were trying to get on the last copter out of 'Nam. I guess it's to their credit that they developed something that people embraced with such enthusiasm, but wow, they maybe need to put some more people out there regulating it because it was just luck it didn't all end in bloodshed.
--Size of Archive Stage. While I thought they did a much better job this year getting larger capacity rooms for the popular panels, the Archive Stage, in my eyes, was way too small. Expo is a celebration of the Disney Company in all its myriad facets, and one of the most important is its history. To relegate some of the fantastic presentations they had to such a tiny area is to really limit their exposure in a completely unnecessary manner. I saw almost none of them, partially because it didn't seem worth the time investment to go all the way over there for such a small chance of getting in. For a club with a fanbase so interested in every aspect of Walt Disney and his company, D23 probably should be able to have faith that they can execute this level of historical programming and have a good sized crowd show up.
All in all, however, it was a grand Expo--probably the best since the first one. Although some might find the emphasis on Disney's recent acquisitions Star Wars and Marvel a dilution of the Disney content, I think there's no denying the increase in energy and star power the two properties bring to occasions like this. They haven't formally announced the next one, which I find a little worrisome, given that they usually say something about it at the end of the current one, but here's hoping we all reconvene in two years time, to continue celebrating the fantastical company Walt built, along with all its wondrous creations.
"Fun and wonder are the important elements, in addition to quality in production and performance, which are most responsible for the success of Disney productions.” -Walt Disney
Sunday morning at 3:45... time to get up for the 10th Disneyland Half Marathon!
We'd gotten almost everything set aside and ready to go the night before, but we still had some final preparations. Everyone has their own pre-race routines - it's a very individual thing. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for Lee and vice versa. We both get up and have something to eat - I eat yogurt, and he usually has a bagel/toast with peanut butter. And he has to have his coffee. The coffee spots in the Disney hotels open early on race mornings, as do several places in Downtown Disney, such as Starbucks. Lots of runners AND spectators take advantage of that.
Have I mentioned yet how much easier race mornings are at Disneyland because we don't have to take a bus and can walk to the starting line? I did? :-)
The number of participants in the half marathon is not quite double that of the 10K, and it's noticeable, especially in the pre-race area. It's not horribly crowded, but there are longer lines for the porta-potties and more people trying to get to the starting corrals. Just another reason to love 10Ks. :-)
There's not the "show" at the start line for the half marathon like there is for the 5K and 10K races. This one was pretty understated. The race announcers recognized the 436 "Legacy" runners who have finished all of the previous Disneyland half marathons. Jessica
Bernard, one of the current Disneyland Ambassadors, sang the national anthem - it was a beautiful performance. And there were some fireworks, too.
Weather-wise it was another nice morning for running. About the same temperature as the day before, though I think the humidity was a little higher and it felt slightly warmer to me. As the morning went on the humidity dropped - but the temperature went up. Still, for me the drop in humidity compensated for the slightly higher temperature, and I was pretty comfortable. Not that I wasn't a sweaty mess, but I wasn't miserable like I have been for some of these Disneyland Half Marathon races! (2013. Ugh.)
We were again in Corral B, though running with a larger group this time. There were seven of us. We tried to be considerate of our fellow runners, running in single- or double-file where the course was crowded, and moving to the side when we were walking.
I was surprised that the start of the race didn't feel nearly as slow/crowded as it did for the 10K. I think that's because the new proof-of-time system does a much better job of group like-paced runners together, so everyone was going a similar pace right off the start line, and we didn't have to try to get around slower runners/walkers.
Another surprise: the race course was modified slightly this year. Instead of going south and turning left on Katella we turned left and ran backstage behind Disney California Adventure. This was a little challenging because it bunched us together more and there were cones placed at intervals in the center that we had to watch out for. They were hard to see in the dark.
This tweak to the course meant we had a little more on property time and it seemed like we were in the parks a bit more. Some of the way we ran seemed like we ran in the opposite direction of the way it's been for this race in the past. That's not a complaint, just an observation. We find it interesting to see how runDisney manages to do all of these race courses just a little bit differently, which has to be a challenge given the limited space. We appreciate that they do make them different instead of just re-using the same course over and over. (Cough...Walt Disney World...cough.)
Anyway...running through Radiator Spring in the dark with the neon lights glowing is always a thrill. We were running with a couple of people for whom this was their first Disneyland half marathon. It's always fun to see it through someone else's eyes. We also ran around part of Paradise Bay where the World of Color fountains and the Fun Wheel were going.
Jafar is the only character I remember seeing in DCA, and the line was pretty long.
We ran down Buena Vista Street and out of DCA across the Esplanade to Disneyland. We stopped at the floral Mickey - I wanted to get a similar picture to the one I have from the first Disneyland Half Marathon.
We passed the two mile mark just inside Disneyland, and then we really wound around and backstage and in and out. I was getting dizzy. :-) But I think we were in all of the lands except Adventureland. I made a new friend, too. :-) I was surprised they let me touch him, but the handler said to go ahead.
Sometime after mile 3 we passed near the start line, and could still hear the announcers sending runners off. The race had been going for about 45 minutes at that point. It takes a long time to start 16,000+ people.
There were a number of character stops in Disneyland, though I think that overall there were fewer than there were in the 10K. And most of the lines were pretty long. But I found a couple of shorter lines.
The Captain is always such a gentleman - for a pirate. :-)
This summer the PhotoPass photographers have had sign boards of various designs - I was glad to see one for Half Marathon Weekend.
As usual, at the mile 4 mark we were outside the parks and on Disneyland Drive. The rest of the course was the same as it's been for quite a while now.
Fun to see these two cheering out on the course!
The sun was just starting to come up as we turned east on Ball Rd. There was a nice sunrise.
Our favorite multi-generational mariachi group was performing just after mile 5. It's always wonderful to see them.
There's no particular theme for the Disneyland Half Marathon, so runners come up with all kinds of costume ideas. This one was pretty clever. (She carried it rather than running in it, but still, that would be a lot to carry for 13.1 miles.)
Past mile 7 the Polynesian dance group was on the course to entertain us. It's wonderful to see how the city of Anaheim comes out to support the runners.
The classic cars are a relatively new addition to the race - we started seeing them in 2012. This year there were even more of them, and they occupied another ~1/4-mile more of the course. They arrange them mostly by date, with the older cars first.
We found one that matched our shirts.
This Star Wars-inspired van was beautiful.
We even found the Batmobile!
After we ran past the Honda Center we dropped down to the Santa Ana River Trail. Most of it is paved now, but the first part was dirt. I know a lot of runners don't like it, but I do - it's a relief to run on a different surface. This is one of the Legacy runners, in the pretty blue powder blue shirt that they all received. (Why couldn't they have given the rest of us a blue shirt instead of gray?)
At mile 9 we'd reached Angel Stadium.
Running inside the stadium is always energizing. They get hundreds of Boy and Girl Scouts to cheer on the runners, and they do a great job of passing some of that energy to us.
Mile 10 - only 3.1 to go! As you can see, it was a beautiful sunny day. Which is not great for running. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the sun had burned off some of the humidity. And we were running into a little bit of a breeze so it was relatively comfortable for us. Those who started later and were on the course longer might not agree with me, though. But at least it was significantly cooler than the last two years.
In addition to the groups I've previously mentioned, there were lots of cheerleading squads and high school bands out on the course. They were enthusiastic and loud and very encouraging. We especially appreciate them in that mile 10-12 stretch when we're starting to get mentally fatigued, too. RunDisney seems to know this, because that's where a lot of them are placed. Lee does his best to give back to them and let them know they are appreciated. :-)
We had two friends, Jan and Molly, who were out cheering on our extended group of friends as well as other runners.
They got a lot of sweaty hugs that day! Thanks, ladies - you ROCK!
As usual the course went backstage at DCA at mile 12. There were lots of cheerleaders to encourage us as we went around the Paradise Pier Hotel and then the last .2 miles to the finish line.
Here's our excellent little running group - we had a great time together. Running Disney races with friends is a lot of fun. You won't get a best time, but you'll HAVE the best time. :-)
We went to the tent to collect our Dumbo Double Dare medals - the volunteers looked up our numbers and said we were good, and then we received our medals. While I still question the need for this process, it is efficient. And I'm happy not to have to wear a wristband after finishing the 10K.
I was hoping that maybe for the 10th Disneyland 1/2 marathon we'd get real food, but no. Just the runDisney MRE boxes. Sigh. Though just after finishing we received some really nice cool towels. Those felt very good. The sun was out and it was warming up. There was a light breeze that provided some cooling, though.
As we were leaving the finish area I noticed the sign with the names of all 436 Legacy runners on it.
The 10th anniversary medal is pretty nice. It's a spinner with a running Mickey on one side and the castle on the other.
For the most part it was an excellent race experience for us. A few comments: The slight change in the course was interesting except that it made it a little narrow for us early in the race. It seemed like there were fewer characters than in the past, especially as compared to the 10K the day before. We heard that some of the water stations ran out of PowerAde for those that were at the back of the pack, but that was not an issue for us.
But the community on-course entertainment was excellent. We are grateful to the citizens of Anaheim and surrounding communities for their continued support of this race over the years. In addition to the entertainment there are the hundreds of volunteers who work the Expo, the water stations, the medals, prepare the shirt bags, and a lot more things that I haven't thought of. I also must mention the wonderful Disney cast members who lend their support in so many ways. Thank you to all of you for everything that you do!
We had a great time during this race weekend. The races were fun, but even more than that we enjoyed spending time with a lot of our Disney running friends, both while running and in the parks. And we came home with some pretty nice bling, too.
Our next race will be the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November. We're hoping for better weather than last year, when it was the "Wet and Drenched Half Marathon." :-)
Disneyland Patriot Day Flag Retreat & Challenge Coin Presentation
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, September 11, 2015, with a look at the Patriot Day Flag Retreat Ceremony.
Disneyland and Walt Disney World have a nightly flag retreat ceremony as the Town Square flag is lowered for the evening. At Disneyland this show varies, but most nights features the Disneyland Band, Dapper Dans, and a security honor guard. They honor those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. Throughout the year the ceremony is used to mark other occasions too such as Veterans Day or, in this case, Patriot Day.
Signage for the nightly Flag Retreat which will honor Patriot Day today, notice the America Sings characters on the sign.
Before the Ceremony, Ernie, a Disneyland Security Cast Member, presented a challenge coin to a veteran. Here he is showing the coin.
Disneyland security and first responder cast members were part of the procession for the flag retreat to mark Patriot Day.
The honor guard arriving.
Cast members and guests watching the Flag Retreat
The group that marched in was positioned on the steps of the train station.
The flags were at half staff to commemorate 9/11
A video of the flags being lowered.
After being lowered and folded the flags are marched backstage.
Hope you enjoyed this highlight from my visit to 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.
Disneyland Photo Update - Halloween Time from 9/11
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, September 11, 2015 with a first look at Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort. For more pictures from this trip be sure to check out my full picture set on disneygeek.com
Halloween Time has arrived from now through November 1st. Here are the Mickey and Friends tram stop billboards.
The same characters/decorations are along the tramway as recent years.
The large character pumpkins have returned over the park entrance/exits.
The floral Mickey has been switched for the season.
A lot of the blue for the Diamond Celebration is gone and Halloween orange has replaced it.
Goofy was out in his Halloween Costume greeting guests.
Mickey was also out greeting guests in his Halloween Costume this afternoon (by evening they were back to their 60th outfits).
A look around Town Square.
Halloween meets Diamond Days on Main Street USA
Stopped to listen to the Dapper Dans of Disneyland perform a Halloween set.
A look back toward Town Square
The pumpkins have returned to the hub as usual.
Pioneer Mercantile has some fall/Halloween props out.
The Halloween Tree has returned in Frontierland.
Zocalo Park is celebrating Dia De Los Muertos.
The Zero popcorn buckets are back this year.
Jack and Sally walking through New Orleans Square
A posted 30 minute wait. Turned out to be just over 20 but thanks to the 95 degree weather it felt much longer.
Today was the first day for Haunted Mansion Holiday.
The gingerbread house this year is a house of cards.
I missed the Monkey bride this first trip through...it is in a cage to the right before you leave the attic.
The Hatbox Ghost is there and there are a few holiday props around him.
Here is a full video of my second ride through.
Crossed paths with the Bootstrappers in New Orleans Square.
The Big Thunder Ranch has the Halloween Round-up starting today.
This will be the last Halloween for the ranch.
The Scare-Dy-Crow Shack is back.
The Jamboree is not in use this year. So no carnival, pumpkin carving or characters.
The BBQ area has switched to the Halloween Time event too.
Poison Apple Mugs are available in several locations around the parks.
Halloween popcorn buckets
Tomorrowland Terrace has a burger combo for the holiday.
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy has returned.
Halloween caramel apples
Halloween treats at Trolley Treats
on Buena Vista Street
Some Halloween chocolate at Ghirardelli.
The Diamond Mad T Party was going on...no Halloween this year or at least not yet).
Back to Disneyland.
Found a spot for Paint the Night.
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.
One of the classic jewels of the Disney Animation Renaissance Era, John Musker and Ron Clements' "Aladdin" returns to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for a limited engagement from September 17 to October 7, 2015.
As part of a special opening night presentation, the first 50 applicants that showed up for auditions at the El Capitan earlier that day were winnowed down to five who each got to sing parts of "A Whole New World" with Aladdin's singing voice Brad Kane, American Idol style. The audience then selected one lucky winner who then sang the whole thing with him over the animated sequence on stage.
As part of every showing, audiences will be treated to a song and dance by the Genie, as well.
Along with previews for "Zootopia" and "The Good Dinosaur," the new Pixar short "Sanjay's Super Team" is showing with "Aladdin." Giving an insightful (based on the director's own experiences) and non-pandering glimpse at the difficulties of reconciling different beliefs and traditions with American pop culture, it is a thoughtful and touching piece that I think is the best short Pixar has done in awhile.
As a film, Aladdin still holds up to repeat viewing. The art direction and character design is great, and the whole project is given added poignancy when you remember it was the last film Howard Ashman worked on before passing. Still and all, it's hard to think that it would still remain in our collective consciousness as vividly as it does, without the genius mix of Robin Williams and Eric Goldberg. Perhaps never before or since has a voice and caricature so seamlessly blended together to realize the potential of the animated character.
Not all frenetic standup (unlike some of his live action performances,) Williams does some impressive acting as well. On rewatching, it is the Genie's need for freedom that becomes the more compelling storyline, versus a young boy's struggle for self-validation.
Daily showtimes are 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. Tickets are on sale now, and available
at the El Capitan Theatre (6838 Hollywood Blvd.), online at www.elcapitantickets.com, or by
calling 1-800-DISNEY6. Tiny Tot Tuesday showings are at 10am each Tuesday, and a special breakfast with Genie can be reserved in advance--call for details.
"Emperor's New Groove:" 15th Anniversary Celebration at the El Capitan
Recently, as part of Oh My Disney's annual Throwback Week at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, they celebrated the 15th Anniversary of the classic animated film "Emperor's New Groove."
Theatergoers were treated to a night of Kuzcotainment including a Mickey Ear headband decorating station, trivia contest, spinach puffs (non-poisoned,) and costume contest.
The heart of the evening was a hilarious panel with the film's creators, including Executive Producer Don Hahn, Director Mark Dindal, Producer Randy Fullmer, Screenwriter David Reynolds, Head of Story Steve Anderson, and Story Writer Chris Williams.
Some panel highlights:
--The Peruvian-influenced art direction was the only constant during the switch over from the originally planned/boarded "Kingdom of the Sun," to the existing "Emperor's New Groove."
--"We learned very quickly that the best way to make a movie is to use up most of the money and most of the time, and then get some really wacky people and put them in a room and a good movie comes out." --Randy Fullmer
--Steve Anderson had actually wanted to work on a different movie, called "Sweating Bullets," which ended up as "Home on the Range."
--"Sting had written a song or two for her (Eartha Kitt) in the first version, that was incredible, that we had to explain to Sting that we would no longer be using. And that was a bad moment, but we had a lot of bad moments." --Randy Fullmer
--"This is actually like group therapy, fifteen years later." --Don Hahn
--David Spade had grown a little tired by the time he was recording the second script. "We had embraced that we were incompetent, but it was new to him." --Randy Fullmer
--"I remember I boarded that scene where the angel and devil Kronk were talking to each other, doing the one-armed pushups and all that, and it went over and it seemed like 'this is actually going to be in the movie!...This movie can contain this!' But then I remember another day, I pitched a scene that involved live-action footage of the space shuttle...and I could tell by their faces that it was not going to be in the movie. So I figured out one of the boundaries." --Chris Williams
--They showed some clips from the documentary "The Sweatbox," which recorded the struggle the film went through, from initial development to its eventual metamorphosis. As far as I know, it has never been released in its entirety, although it does pop up online from time to time.
--Adam West recorded a deleted character for the film.
--"It was a terror ride." --Randy Fullmer
--"Physicians are standing by for Randy." --Don Hahn