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January 5, 2016

Walt Disney World - Animal Kingdom Changes

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos.

In early December I wrapped up my 2015 Disney Parks World Tour back where it all began for me: at Walt Disney World. During 2015 I was able to visit all 11 Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and Orlando.

It had been a year since my last trip to WDW and as I walked around I looked for changes as I always tend to do. I have put together a series of posts for AllEars.net of some of the changes that stuck out to me as I roamed the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. As always if you want to see my full picture & video sets and read my thoughts & observations visit my site disneygeek.com. This first set of photos covers Animal Kingdom.


Let us start off as you enter Discovery Island. The entrance area has been renovated to be more open with the removal of the wait time area, kiosks, and planters. Ongoing pavement replacement was still happening while I was there.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


At the Tree of Life many of the trails are still closed but the roots have been extended with some new animals.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


To the right as you enter Discovery Island is a new store, the Riverside Depot.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A look inside the Riverside Depot


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


As with most Disney Stores Star Wars has taken over. Same is true here in Animal Kingdom.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A new animal experience called Winged Encounter takes place several times a day. It features a flock of parrots flying in as cast members talk about them - and then they fly away.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015



Elsewhere on Discovery Island a new stage across from Flame Tree BBQ.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Pizzafari now serves a new type of pizza and has reduced seating due to construction of the new Tiffins restaurant on the back side of the location.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Behind this wall featuring Avatar artwork you can see the restaurant construction behind Pizzafari.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


There seemed to be more Christmas decorations in Harambe this year. Here is a wreath as you cross the bridge.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Harambe has grown since last December with the addition of the Harambe Market


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


On the Kilimanjaro Safari some new animals. First up a young giraffe


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


And white rhino


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


African Painted Dogs have been added too.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015



In Asia a new food location has opened, the Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snacks, in the former Expedition Everest FastPass distribution space.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The location features two sets of counters.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The bar half


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


And snack half


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Work continues on the Rivers of Light viewing area and show installation. The show is scheduled to debut in Spring 2016.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Some fountain testing was going on during my visit.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015



The biggest project is Pandora - The World of Avatar that is being constructed in the former Camp Minnie Mickey area. No official opening date has been announced yet but a 2017 date is expected. Here is one of the large show buildings seen from a bus entering the park.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


As you enter the park you can see the floating mountains and other rock work taking shape.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


One last picture of a sign featuring the 2016 marketing slogan...Unforgettable Happens Here...


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of some of the changes I noticed at Disney's Animal Kingdom since my last trip in 2014. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full picture sets I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.






January 6, 2016

Walt Disney World - Disney Springs Changes

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos. In early December I wrapped up my 2015 Disney Parks World Tour back where it all began for me: Walt Disney World. During 2015 I was able to visit all 11 Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and Orlando. It had been a year since my last trip to WDW and as I walked around I looked for changes as I always tend to do. I have put together a series of posts for AllEars.net of some of the changes that stuck out to me as I roamed the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. As always if you want to see my full picture & video sets and read my thoughts & observations visit my site disneygeek.com.

In this post we take a look around Disney Springs, formerly Downtown Disney. The area is still very much under construction with almost all the remaining projects slated to be completed and open in in 2016.


The entrance sign by the Disney bus stop features a map of what is currently open.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A closer look at the map. The footprint is more or less the same as Downtown Disney with the addition of a new causeway to cut across the lake. The major growth will come when the rest of the Landing and Town Center open in 2016.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Not all the signage appears to be done. The entrance arch is MIA.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The causeway is open this year. Last December when I was here it wasn't quite finished. It does make the Landing and West side an easier walk.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Behind the Lego store you can see the Town Center rising.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A closer look at one of the buildings.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The Muppet topiary from Epcot was near the Lego Store.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The Landing is mostly open now featuring new shops and dining choices. This replaces most of Pleasure Island.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Chapel Hats


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The Boathouse is a restaurant, bar, and mini boat museum.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Christmas decorations out front of the Boathouse


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Amphicar rides are available for a price.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Behind the restaurant is a bar and several seating areas to relax and enjoy your drink and look at the boats.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


They have boats of varying sizes and types on display.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


We ate dinner at the Boathouse and had a great meal. This is the Florida Sunshine Cake - Yellow cake, orange cream cheese icing, toasted almonds. They say this slice serves four. We had 5 and took two large containers with us. The price is $40. The cake is 30lbs and yields 5 slices so this was a 6 pound slice of cake.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A Candle tree set up for the season next door.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A different angle look at the Town Center construction from near the entrance to Morimoto Asia


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Morimoto Asia


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


More of the landing. Nice to walk around with no walls in this area.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The Ganachery opened soon after we left.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Apex Sunglass Hut


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Art of Shaving


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


When you reach the top of the hill you run into the walls which look just like last year.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A restroom. Even though there is a lot of construction still going on in the area the Landing was decorated for Christmas.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Looking toward the West Side


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


D-Street was still around, it was renamed a few days after we left.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Christmas decorations on the West Side


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The Super Hero Headquarters recently opened on the West Side


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A look inside.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Also new since last year the United World Soccer store.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The Orange Garage is fully operational (it was only partially open last year).


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A reindeer out front of the garage.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Looking back toward the Landing. The STK Steakhouse is on the right and the Edison on the left of the bridge.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The new bus stops near Planet Hollywood are taking shape.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A new pedestrian bridge spans Buena Vista Drive (there are two more of these on the Hotel Blvd corner now too).


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The state of the Edison (on the side of the former Adventurers Club)


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A wider shot of the bus stop and Town Center work.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


The Town Center building moving toward completion in 2016.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A second parking garage is being constructed.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


New structures in front of Planet Hollywood (which is slated to close for renovation and renaming in early 2016).


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Buena Vista Drive looking toward the hotels (east)


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Looking toward Epcot, west more or less. The ramp and overpass are for the parking structure which is on the right in this shot.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Looking back at the parking structure.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


As you enter the parking structure a sign tells you how many spaces are open on each floor.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Each space in the garage has a sensor indicating if it is occupied or available (see the overhead light that is green in this shot).


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A three kings sign in Disney Springs


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Since last year the World of Disney has been expanded and reorganized.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Displays seem more spread out now. This is the queue for one of the checkout areas.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


A new entrance has also been added, this one features Dumbo and Chip & Dale.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs


Twenty Eight & Main has replaced the sports store in the Co-op.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Disney Springs

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of some of the changes I noticed at Diseny Springs since my last trip in 2014. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full picture sets I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







January 7, 2016

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom Area Changes

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos. In early December I wrapped up my 2015 Disney Parks World Tour back where it all began for me at Walt Disney World. During 2015 I was able to visit all 11 Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and Orlando. It had been a year since my last trip to WDW and as I walked around I looked for changes as I always tend to do. I have put together a series of posts for AllEars.net of some of the changes that stuck out to me as I roamed the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. As always if you want to see my full picture & video sets and read my thoughts & observations visit my site disneygeek.com.

This post takes a look around the Magic Kingdom and some of the Magic Kingdom Resort projects.


The big change at the Magic Kingdom since last December is the completion of the hub expansion. Here is a view through one of the viewing areas toward the Castle.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The viewing areas a used as FastPass+ for Wishes each evening. During the day they are open to sit in.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


One of the new walkways looking toward Main Street from Adventureland. Notice anything missing? There are no benches or places to sit, nor is there any shade really.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Another view of the Castle from the walkway leading to Adventureland.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


On the Tomorrowland (east) side the rose walk and old swan boat dock have been removed and a forest put in their place. It does make for a nice picture of the Castle in the woods but I miss the walkway.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Four new turrets have been added too. Here you can see them lit up for the evening. They house equipment for the Castle stage.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Up closer to the Castle work continues on the walkways. The west (left) ramp was open but temporary railings. The other side was walled off still.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


In Adventureland the Skipper Canteen opened during my trip. I did not eat there but did take a quick look around.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The outside waiting area.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The inside waiting area.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The first dining room, viewed from the waiting area.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Across the Seven Seas lagoon the lobby of the Polynesian Village Resort has been completed (it was behind curtains last December).


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Work is underway at the Oasis Pool (the quiet pool near the DVC section of the resort)


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The Disney Vacation Club Bungalows are available now too.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


At the Wilderness Lodge there is construction going on for Disney Vacation Club expansion. Here is a look along Bay Lake at the blocked off area.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The other side of the hotel between the existing DVC rooms and Bay Lake is being cleared.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


From the Monorail you can see the path cleared along the lake to the lodge.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Last note there are some new buses in the fleet now. They feature larger text.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


As well as a destination on the back of the bus.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of some of the changes I noticed in the Magic Kingdom area since my last trip in 2014. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full picture sets I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







Star Wars: The Force Awakens Playset for Disney Infinity 3.0

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Concomitant to the release of the wildly successful blockbuster of the same name, Disney Infinity launched their third Star Wars playset: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

The playset ships with characters Rey and Finn, with Kylo Ren and Poe available separately.

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An associated power disc pack contains Poe’s Resistance Jacket, Resistance Tactical Strike, Quad Jumper, and Finn’s Stormtrooper Costume.

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*POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR "STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS"*

As far as the gameplay is concerned, there aren't a whole lot of surprises for players who have already run through the previous two Star Wars playsets. Ironically, just as the movie is thought to be closely related to "A New Hope," the structure of "The Force Awakens" playset runs very similar to that of "Rise Against the Empire." It starts off with a pretty fast and succinct retelling of the first half-hour or so of the film, and then passes from a tutorial mission to an open-ended quest to raise money by doing odd jobs for denizens of Jakku. Once off Jakku you meet up with Han (who appears to have aged a little more in the game than he did IRL) who takes you to Takodana.

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From the looks of it, Han's taking us to eat at Rainforest Cafe.

After finding Maz Kanata, and doing a series of missions for her benefit, you engage in a fairly large-scale space battle. You then infiltrate a ship and eventually meet up with Kylo Ren in a final series of increasingly difficult boss battles.

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I talked a little bit about the specifics of playset gameplay when Disney Infinity came out with their first two Star Wars sets here. Most of it is still true here, with a few tweaks.

Some random thoughts:
--Another layer is added to the never-ending accumulation of wealth by giving the characters the capacity to scavenge random debris around the various areas, as Rey starts off doing in the movie.
--I'm not sure whether it's just that I'm now more familiar with the controls, but I felt this playset did a better job of explicitly demonstrating the basic commands than the other ones during the initial demo.
--I am a pretty poor shot as a starship gunner.
--Like Henry Jones Sr. bad.
--Another level of complexity is that not every character seems to have the same equivalent capabilities, causing some missions to stall out temporarily if, say, you just killed off all your characters with the hacking ability.
--Like all the other games, the auto-targeting is a little fickle. You can shoot a guy nine times, and then all of a sudden your character may decide they'd rather aim at a wall or a hapless bystander.
--Interesting to see how with time, the game has morphed from a fairly basic platformer to a straightforward RPG.
--Once again, it's a Good Thing to have as many figures as possible to interchange. Some of the battles are huge and long and there's no way to save, so if you kill off all your characters, you'll be put back at the last checkpoint...which is a pain if you were almost at the end of the fight.
--Being able to use as many of the Star Wars characters as you can find Champion Coins enables you to stage some pretty bizarre match-ups. Towards the end, I found one battle where I couldn't put a dent in Kylo Ren using Rey, Darth Vader, or Kylo Ren.

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All in all, it's a fun game that anyone who enjoyed the movie should appreciate. It carefully skirts some of the larger dramatic points and mysteries of the film (example: After your big missions with Han, he simply isn't seen after a certain point. We can only assume he's living comfortably in a farm, out in the country) in favor of yielding an arguably more satisfying conclusion, which is probably appropriate for a video game.

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The Star Wars: The Force Awakens Play Set will be available at a suggested retail price of $34.99. Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren character figures (MSRP: $13.99 each) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens themed Power Disc Pack (MSRP: $9.99) will be sold separately.

January 10, 2016

Walt Disney World - Epcot Changes

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos. In early December I wrapped up my 2015 Disney Parks World Tour back where it all began for me at Walt Disney World. During 2015 I was able to visit all 11 Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and Orlando. It had been a year since my last trip to WDW and as I walked around I looked for changes as I always tend to do. I have put together a series of posts for AllEars.net of some of the changes that stuck out to me as I roamed the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. As always if you want to see my full picture & video sets and read my thoughts & observations visit my site disneygeek.com.

This posting takes a look at Epcot.


Starting off in Future World. The American Music Machine performed on the Fountain Stage during the Christmas season alternating sets with Joyful.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Colortopia opened inside Innoventions, while much of Innoventions West and a portion of the East is behind walls now.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A new seating area between Innoventions west and Imagination.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


In World Showcase a new sign on the Mexico Pyramid stating what should be obvious.. no climbing.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A closer look.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The Gran Fiesta tour has a new sign out front.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Inside the Three Caballeros have been added. These are the original figures from the Mickey Mouse Revue at the Magic Kingdom. They replaced the animated versions during the finale of the attraction.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Next door in Norway construction continues on the Frozen Meet and Greet


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


And on the Frozen attraction.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Inside the American Adventure lobby the Capitol gingerbread was joined this year by the Washington Monument.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A new effect to kick off the Holiday tag on Illuminations: Reflections of Earth


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Here is a video clip of the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth finale and Holiday tag this year.



Monorail Black features an overlay for Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Video of Monorail Black pulling into the TTC



Epcot Center Drive has construction going between Buena Vista Drive and the edge of the property.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of some of the changes I noticed at Epcot since my last trip in 2014. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full picture sets I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







January 11, 2016

Disneyland Resort - 1/8/16

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 8, 2016.

For this picture set I will focus on some "last visits". The full picture set is on my site as always. On January 10th quite a few attractions around the Disneyland Resort will be closing. Some forever, some for annual renovation, some seasonal transformations and others for modifications. At Disneyland preparations for the new Star Wars area are kicking off. The Big Thunder Ranch & BBQ area will close forever. The Rivers of America area attractions and entertainment will be closed for over the next year as the river is modified. This means the Columbia, Mark Twain, Canoes, Tom Sawyer Island, Fantasmic! & Disneyland Railroad. The Jungle Cruise is closing for several months for dock modifications. Haunted Mansion Holiday and Small World Holiday will be closed for a few weeks each to convert back to the classic attractions. Autopia is going down for some work as a new sponsor is taking over. Over at Disney California Adventure Aladdin is ending its run to make way for a new Frozen show. Soarin' is closed for some work. Grizzly River Run is closing for off-season renovation. Also World of Color goes dark for some work. There are other projects too. All work is subject to change and if you are planning a visit check the refurbishment lists for the latest information.


I start off my tour of soon-to-be-closed attractions with a cruise on the Columbia.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Some video clips from my trip aboard the Columbia.


The Island was also popular today, look at the line going off to the left in this picture.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


If all is to be believed this view will change substantially the next time I am able to see it from a boat.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


The canoes were operating and busy too.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Heading below decks on the Columbia.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Next up a cruise on the Mark Twain. I opted to stay on the lower deck to get some eye level pictures of the show scenes.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


The Ernest S. Marsh chugging along the banks of the River.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


A large crowd waiting to board.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Next up the Disneyland Railroad.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


I am really going to miss this view. Curious what they have in store for the new route.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Primeval World.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016

My understanding is this will be changing too thanks to Star Wars.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


A last visit to the ranch.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


There was a good size crowd for the "Running of the Goats" event.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Farley the Fiddler provided music and Woody and Jessie joined him after the running.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Here are some clips of the running of the goats and after.


Here is a second camera (cell phone) of the full event.


A last look at the cabin before exiting the ranch.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


The old rock formations from the Mine Train attraction.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


At Disney California Adventure Aladdin is ending its long run this weekend too. FastPasses were gone earlier in the day and the standby line was incredibly long. This mass of guests houses the line. It stretches from the theater, wraps around a little there then comes down Sunset to the House of Cards area and wraps around by the bar and food truck. The end of the line was near the air hockey tables when I was there. Cast Members were saying this was standby for the 6:20pm show (I was there as they were closing the doors for the 4:45pm show).

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


I took one more final cruise on the Mark Twain. The last one of the evening at 5:45pm which meant it was a rare after dark cruise.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Going to miss this view for the next year or so.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Fantasmic! will be dark for the year too because of the River work. So I took in the 9pm showing from a standby location.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 8, 2016


A couple of cell phone video clips from Fantasmic!

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.






January 13, 2016

Walt Disney World - Disney's Hollywood Studios Changes

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos.

In early December I wrapped up my 2015 Disney Parks World Tour back where it all began for me at Walt Disney World. During 2015 I was able to visit all 11 Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and Orlando. It had been a year since my last trip to WDW and as I walked around I looked for changes as I always tend to do. I have put together a series of posts for AllEars.net of some of the changes that stuck out to me as I roamed the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. As always if you want to see my full picture & video sets and read my thoughts & observations visit my site disneygeek.com.

This post takes a look at Disney's Hollywood Studios which can best be described as a park in transition. Over the past year quite a few attractions have closed around the park as it prepares for a new Toy Story Playland and Star Wars area to be built.

One removal was greeted with applause from most Disney geeks, myself included. The giant blue sorcerer's hat that has been obstructing the Chinese Theater for over the last decade was removed. There was a stage for a dance party set up in December in the area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015

Speaking of the party here are a few pictures at night.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The Genie was one of several characters that rotated through the crowd.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has taken over sponsorship of the Great Movie Ride.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


As you journey through the movies there is a new pre-recorded track that goes along with the cast member spiel. At the finale a new introduction and the film clips were updated and arranged differently.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A photo op as you exit the attraction.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Nearby the American Idol Experience is gone and the theater is now called the Hyperion and features the Frozen Sing-Along.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Inside the Brown Derby a gingerbread creation this year for Christmas.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


In the far corner of the park, accessed through a gate by Rock n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith is the new Sunset Showcase. While I was there it featured Club Disney. Max was greeting guests.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Inside a dance floor dominates the room with seating around it. A DJ plays music and hosts the club. Projection and lighting effects occur around the room.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


There were several interactive kiosks to color too.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Daisy on the dance floor.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A brief video of the scene inside Club Disney.


There were also two snack carts selling drinks and food.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The Star Wars Launch Bay has taken over the former Animation Building.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Storm Troopers on patrol.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Video of the Storm Troopers.


Inside the Launch Bay you can opt to watch a film featuring interviews with many involved in making the upcoming films. And see props and models from the films.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


As you head down the hallway a crawl to introduce you to the Launch Bay.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


More props on display in the queues for characters. You can choose the light side to meet Chewbacca or the Dark side and Darth Vader.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


We choose Chewbacca.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


There is a section featuring Star Wars video games.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


And other random characters roaming around a Cantina area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


You close out your visit with merchandise in the Launch Bay Cargo area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The ABC Sound Studio features a Star Wars film now too.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The former AFI Showcase building & former Wandering Oaken Trading Post now houses Watto's Grotto

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Inside more Star Wars merchandise.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The Jedi Training is now the Trials of the Temple.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The Backlot Express features Star Wars food. Here is some of the menu.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Last but not least this year was the last for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Disney announced their retirement to make way for the new Star Wars project.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of some of the changes I noticed at Disney's Hollywood Studios since my last trip in 2014. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full picture sets I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.






January 18, 2016

Disneyland Resort - 1/15/16

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, January 15, 2016.

What appears to be utility work going on along the tram load/unload area for the Mickey and Friends garage.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016

Out in the Pinocchio lot work continues on the support facility.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The billboards at the tram stop feature the cars characters. no slogans.. really surprised no Cars Land logo on it.. just characters.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


At the Disneyland Hotel the swimming pools are closed and being renovated. They were jack hammering this afternoon.

The Monorail slide and pool area is open but the other two are closed.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016



The closure list is substantial.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016
With the railroad closed for the next year+ they have trains pulled into Main Street and New Orleans Stations. The EP Ripley with the Lilly Belle were on Main Street.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016
You could get up close to the train for pictures. There were cast members around to answer questions about the trains.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


One car available for pictures.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The Lilly Belle. It was closed but cast members were opening the door to get a look in from time to time.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The area in front of the castle was roped off as they were preparing for a taping this evening for the upcoming Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60 special on ABC.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The Royal Theatre has reopened. Frozen is now performed only in the morning then Tangled in the afternoon.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016

Crossed paths with the Evil Queen in Fantasyland
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016
The Big Thunder Trail is open through the weekend then slated to close for Star Wars work.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The park maps show it closed now. Also note they photo spot is moved down the trail.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016
No signs of work on the Ranch Area yet.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Some repainting of the Fantasmic light tower housing covers.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The Columbia was in port and open to walk through and take pictures. No visible progress on the River this week.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The Mark Twain is in the dry dock at Fowler's Harbor

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016
Continuing up river.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016

No visible changes here yet either.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Walls and mesh are up at the Hungry Bear. It is open for business.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The lower level has a brand new custom made wall.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Upstairs the mesh has a forest print on it. Not too bad.. but I would have rather watched the construction :)

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The side facing away from the River features bears.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016

The rail and ties have been removed from the visible area after the trestle assuming they removed them all the way around toward Toontown.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The Haunted Mansion is closed for removal of the holiday overlay.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The New Orleans Square station is open with the Ernest S Marsh parked there.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The Jungle Cruise is closed for removal of the Holiday overlay as well as some dock work for the next several months.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Thought this was really cool. An attraction poster saying it is closed.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


The wall features concept art.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Next door they now sell Paint the Night meals since Fantasmic is dark for the next year+.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Approaching the hub they were rehearsing for this evening.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


This taped off and roped off area was for dinner package guests. I believe the grab and go guests were in the Small World Mall.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016

A couple of clips from Paint the Night.


Several of the units were short performers today. For example, only four yo-yo cowgirls with Jessie tonight instead of six.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016

Around 8pm Elton John took the stage and performed Circle of Life a couple of times and his new song Wonderful Crazy Night.



I had to shoot through a sea of cameras, arms, and people... so the pics are not the best..

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Here are a couple video clips from the performances of Circle of Life (he sang it several times).


Next up his new song which was accompanied by Fireworks and will be the finale for the TV show.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


Some clips of Elton John performing his new song with fireworks.


Over at Disney California Adventure Aladdin is gone and the Hyperion is advertising the upcoming Frozen show.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016


In Cars Land a new sign for Luigis.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, January 15, 2016



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.







January 20, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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January 2016 - time for the second annual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. I thought last year's inaugural event was an unqualified success so I was interested in seeing what changes they might make this year. I'm happy to report that it was still a great event, and has firmly solidified its position as my favorite runDisney race weekend.

Star Wars Half Marathonr

There weren't any huge changes this year. A few more runners (14,000 in the half vs. 12,000 last year), since they decided the courses could handle it, and I thought there was a better variety of merchandise - and more of it. The biggest changes were to the race courses for the 10K and half marathon, but I'll get to those later.

For the first time since 2012 we did not participate in Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World and then return to the west coast and run a half marathon at Disneyland a week later (two weeks later in 2012). It felt strange not to be at Marathon Weekend, but we were certainly a lot more rested going into this race weekend than we usually are. :-) Though we weren't as well trained, since we hadn't trained to run a marathon this last season.

We did not participate in the 5K on Friday morning, though we had a number of friends who did. It was very exciting when all of the photos from the on-course character stops started coming in on Facebook and Twitter, and I saw that BB-8 was one of this year's characters! Squeee!!! That was a must-do as far as I was concerned. The other characters were Chewbacca, Ezra and Sabine (Star Wars Rebels), and R2D2 and 3-PO.

Although we weren't there, we heard from friends about the official merchandise lines at the Expo, which was held at the Convention Center in the Disneyland Hotel. Thursday was opening day, which has historically been very busy, since many people want first chance at the merchandise before some of the limited items sell out. Disney has learned from past experience and had things under control and well-organized again this year. Shoppers were queued upstairs in one of the large convention center ballrooms and then escorted downstairs to another queue then admitted to the merchandise area in groups. In the ballroom one of the Star Wars movies was playing, so at least there was some entertainment. Our friends waited for over an hour on Thursday morning, but they were able to purchase everything they wanted.

Star Wars Half Marathon Expo entrance

We arrived at the Expo about 4:15 on Friday afternoon. As usual, packet pickup was a breeze - no lines. Lee was signed up for the Rebel Challenge; I had signed up individually for the 10K and half marathon. (We were traveling when registration opened, and it was logistically challenging to get both of us registered - and the Rebel Challenge was more important to Lee than to me.) But that was before I knew they were going to change up the Rebel Challenge medal - it was different this year. Still, Lee was getting one so there would be one in the family.

Speaking of the medals, they displayed them differently in the Expo this time. Instead of hanging in the runDisney booth where we could handle them, they were on display in cases.

This was my first opportunity to see the Kessel Run challenge medal in person (the one we will receive for completing both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Star Wars half marathons) - it's fabulous.

Kessel Run Challenge Medal

All of the Star Wars Dark Side medals look great.

Star Wars Dark Side medals

As usual, they had done up the actual entrance to the Expo nicely with different banners.

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Once inside we picked up our race shirts. Really nice designs this year, though some of us joked that the 10K shirts were recycled from unused 2014 Wine and Dine half marathon shirts, since they are the same color.

Star Wars Half Marathon shirts

I was very disappointed that I wasn't registered for the Rebel Challenge since the shirt has R2D2 on it!!! Sigh. I won't make that mistake next year.

Star Wars Rebel Challenge shirt

We went over to the official merchandise area. At almost 5:00 there was still a line to get in, though it wasn't too bad - we waited 10 minutes or so. Inside there still seemed to be a good variety of merchandise remaining.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

There were lots of Rebel Challenge items.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

I thought this one was clever - 13.0999. :-)

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Some items were down to limited sizes, though - Lee would've purchased the men's version of this shirt but it was only available in a medium.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

One wall had only runDisney branded merchandise, so it was obvious that some items had sold out.

runDisney merchandise

All of the "I Did It" shirts were still available, most in both men's and women's cut.

Star Wars Half Marathon I Did It

There was still a good selection of magnets - I purchased the race weekend magnet.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

The only mini medal pins were the half marathon, Rebel Challenge, and Coast-to-Coast pins. I would've bought a 10K medal pin, though I'm not sure that one was available at all. There seemed to be plenty of race pins available.

Star Wars Half Marathon pins

There's a new Coast-to-Coast shirt this year.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Most of the race shirts featuring Inside Out and other characters were still available.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

There were also mugs and water bottles, headbands, pins, and a very nice messenger-style bag. I was happy to see that there weren't racks of generic Star Wars merchandise like we saw last year when they had run out of so much of the race merchandise.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

The rest of the expo seemed to have the usual merchants. Champion had some new shirts that were mashups of Star Wars and (mostly California) universities.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

New Balance has new Disney shoe styles. These were much more appealing than last year's black and white shoes and there lots of people purchasing them. We continue to resist the temptation. (One of the few runDisney temptations that we have successfully resisted, if truth be told. ;-) )

2016 New Balance Disney shoes

In the lobby outside the Expo there was a photo op. No line, so we had the CM there take our photo.

Star Wars Half Marathon photo op

Expo done, we checked into the Grand Californian (thank goodness for DVC points) and unpacked, had dinner, etc.. We made it an early night, since 3:30 a.m. was going to come early for the 10K wake-up call the next morning.

To Be Continued...







"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 3

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So as you might recall from our last installment, we took a visit to the Walt Disney Animation Studios Tujunga Campus to get some exciting details on their upcoming 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."

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[Photos provided by Disney]

Different departments took turns revealing some of the process involved in creating a big animation project like Zootopia. The first subject was "Characters: Creating the Citizens of Zootopia," with Character Design Supervisor Cory Loftis, Character Look Supervisor Michelle Robinson, Character CG Supervisor Dave Komorowski and Simulation Supervisor Claudia Chung Sanii.

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"Early on in the film, we partnered with Cory and Cory has drawn us this lineup of the kinds of characters we wanted to place in Zootopia...we quickly found that scale was going to be a big issue because our smallest critter is our mouse, over there, and our largest character is our giraffe and actually the discrepancy is such that it would be...you'd have to stack 97 of those mice head to toe in order to reach the top of the giraffe's head."

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Other considerations:
--Shots had to be framed so that Judy Hopps, the protagonist, is visible and on the same level with animals both much larger and smaller than she is.
--Each habitat had to have representation, so animals from all ecosystems needed to be developed in both male and female varieties, using color and shape.
--Clothing specific and appropriate to each animal and environment had to designed.
--Quadruped animals required adaptation to bipedal movement, without losing their distinctive animalness.

"One of the things we discussed were all the classic Disney animal movies...we ultimately decided that it was the personalities that were so memorable about them. We wanted to make sure those personalities came across in the characters of Zootopia, and that's not necessarily through the design, but you have to give the animators all those dials to push so that they can get the performance to get that character across."

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--Pants proved a specific problem, as animal and human anatomy had to be blended to make them look like they fit right.
--Some animals couldn't wear pants because their legs were too short, so they were kept in shorts.
--The hardest part was getting the cloth of the clothes to move believably, given the different anatomy and movement of each species.
--Designs for both Nick and Judy evolved throughout development to accommodate the changes made in their characters.
--Research started at Animal Kingdom Lodge and San Diego Wild Animal Park.
--A small team went on a two-week safari to Kenya.
--The differences in fur became apparent after many trips to the Natural History Museum: Texture, light refraction/reflection/transmission, etc.
--At the time, there were around 400 unique species and costumes that dress the world of Zootopia.

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Afterwards, Loftis gave AllEars a few minutes to talk about differences he noted working on video game-related animation ("Wreck-it Ralph") versus actual video games ("Wildstar.")

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"The work itself is actually very similar...what we spend our time focusing on is very different...When you're running around in a game, you're always thinking about the player, right? And they're doing all the action, they're making their own story, so you're trying to put as much cool stuff in front of them as possible. Give them the coolest armor and the coolest creatures to kill and the coolest environments to be in and the coolest stuff to ride--you're always doing that. But when you go to film, you're trying to create the same things, except all those things are in service to the story. So if that cool thing is distracting from the performance happening on the screen--it's no good, right? Everything is in service to that acting, that performance, that scene, and that's the biggest thing it took to get used to, is trying to make stuff not too cool and not too distracting in the background and have it add to the story instead of distract from it."

The next panel was "Production Design/Environments: Building a Magnificent Mammal Metropolis," with Art Director of Environments Matthias Lechner and Environment Look Supervisor Lance Summers.

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"When we designed the city of Zootopia, we wanted to make it feel like a real city. Not just some typical future city, but with dirt...buildings from different eras, some better kept up, some falling down...all the stuff that you find in a real city."

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--On arranging the various habitats of Tundratown, the Rainforest District, etc., around the downtown of Zootopia where all the animals mix, the layout ended up slightly resembling that of a Disney park with a central hub and surrounding lands.
--Sahara Square is the first part of the city Judy Hopps encounters--a ritzy area with beaches and lots of nightlife, given that most of the animals are nocturnal.

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--A surrounding wall radiates heat from one side for Sahara Square, and cold from the other, to create Tundratown: An city covered with ice and snow, and influenced heavily by Russian architecture.

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--The Rainforest District is marked by constant rainfall and moist vegetation. With a preponderance of vertical structures, aerial forms of transportation are necessary.

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--Little Rodentia is designed to be a perfect tiny town that's set off so it won't get trampled by larger animals.
--Of course it gets trampled by larger animals in a madcap chase.
--Elements of the city appear to be repurposed elements from larger structures. Vegetation is strategically placed to reinforce scale.

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On whether the hub-and-spoke transportation system of Zootopia was influenced by the Progress City models: "Well, it's Zootopia with utopia in it, so yes, that's part of what you were supposed to see when you look at that city. It's also a very green city...it's a nice environment. You get a chance to make a city, you might as well make a nice one."

Next time with "Zootopia:" We hear from the Animation and Story departments.

January 21, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K and Kids Races

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January 16, 2016 - Star Wars 10K

3:30 came much too early, though I didn't sleep much and was awake before 3:00. Doesn't matter how many races I've done, I always get pre-race jitters.

I wore the same Queen Amidala costume I made for last year's 10K - I'm into recycling. The white makeup is the most time-consuming part of this. Lee had a new X-wing fighter costume. He'd wanted to wear this one for the half marathon, but since it was a new costume that he'd never run in before he opted to wear it for the shorter distance instead. (It turned out to be just fine for running.)

As you might have heard, runDisney announced new costume guidelines in early January. Basically no weapons, no masks, no long dresses or anything that might conceal a weapon. Interesting that Jedi robes were specifically called out as prohibited. Items that were expressly allowed were plastic swords and plastic light sabers, tutus, and transparent wings. Fortunately neither of our costumes required any last-minute modifications.

With all of the new costume regulations and security screening measures we allowed a little bit of extra time to get to the start area, though it turned out that we didn't need it. The screening was fast and efficient. (If you're new to Disneyland races - one of the best things about them is that if you're staying in any of the Disney hotels or any of the nearby hotels, it's a short walk to the start line. No bus transportation required.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The pre-race area is so much less crowded for the 10K than for the half marathon - but 10,000 runners as opposed to 14,000 will do that. :-) We met up with friends and made the obligatory porta-pottie stops before heading to our corrals.

The weather was GREAT!!!! It was 50 degrees at the start, with very little (if any) wind. The humidity was pretty high - probably 90%. Still, it made for excellent running conditions and even waiting around before the race wasn't too bad for everyone dressed in skimpy running clothes (or even skimpier Slave Leia outfits).

Lee and I were in Corral A. I still find it interesting that my current proof of time gets me Corral A in California but only Corral D in Florida. Who knew east coast runners were so much faster! I really like being in Corral A - it's so nice to be where we can actually SEE the start line, instead of looking at a screen from a corral far far away. While we were waiting we watched scenes from Star Wars Rebels and one of the trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I think everyone had seen the movie at least once - it should've been a requirement for participation. :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

A Disneyland Cast Member sang the National Anthem, and it was time for Rudy Novotny's famous "Runners....set...GOOOOOOOOOO!" Accompanied by hyperspace graphics on the big screen.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

As I mentioned earlier, it was a new 10K course this year. We've asked for more time on property, and they gave us more time on property. :-) But be careful what you wish for - an awful lot of it was backstage in some pretty uninteresting areas. We were almost to mile 2 before we finally entered a "real" part of a park. And it was not a fast course: narrow in places, and there were some very sharp turns where the course doubled back on itself. You couldn't take those very fast.

But we did get to see a lot of the parks - I think in Disneyland we were in every land except Toon Town, and we ran through most of DCA. So I have to say that the race organizers really found a way to design a course to maximize the amount of on-stage time that we had.

With the new course, this year instead of the first mile+ being outside the parks, we were only outside for about 1/2 mile, and then ducked backstage off Ball Rd. next to the Team Disney Anaheim building.

Boba Fett was out for photos in a backstage area even before the mile 1 marker. There was already a long line and we didn't stop. Our goal was BB-8, so we were running pretty hard, and only planned to stop if we saw a pretty short line.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

As I mentioned we spent a LOT of time backstage, some of it in areas I don't think I'd ever run in before. We ran next to the monorail track around much of the eastern perimeter of Disneyland. It was quite dark in places - they really needed some additional lights. Had the running surface been uneven it could have been a real problem, but fortunately it wasn't. Watching over us, Yoda was. :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We ran under the bus/tram lot (pretty much the only hill we had on the course), then made a hard right turn in a DCA backstage area, and eventually ended up out on the Esplanade and into Disneyland's main entrance. But we only ran past Town Square before going backstage again, coming back into the park between Redd Rockett's and Innoventions. Unlike last year we didn't run all around Tomorrowland: we headed straight for the hub past Star Tours. And then something different: we ran through the castle from the front side to the back - all of the other courses go the other way.

A quick tour through Fantasyland and then we ran up towards "it's a small world", which still has all of its holiday decorations. We ducked backstage again next to the Fantasyland Theater, ran through a tunnel, and emerged onto the Big Thunder Trail.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We ran along the perimeter of Frontierland, and saw Ezra and Sabine from Star Wars Rebels next to The Golden Horseshoe. The line was fairly short so we stopped.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Rebels

In front of the Haunted Mansion we made a 180 degree turn and ran back along the upper level of the walkway along the Rivers of America and entered Adventureland. The Mile 3 sign was in front of The Jungle Cruise.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Then we ran down Main Street. There were First Order Stormtroopers at the train station, but we ran past them and across the Esplanade into DCA.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We turned left at the Walt and Mickey statue and ran up Hollywood Blvd. And at the end of the street, finally, was BB-8! There were a lot of people waiting, but we didn't care - we knew the line was only going to get a lot longer! While zigzagging in the queue we at one point ended up next to another woman who was also dressed as Queen Amidala - in a much more elaborate costume than mine. In addition to a more authentic robe she had the full headdress! I don't know how she ran in that, but she looked great.

2016 Star Wars 10K Queen Amidala running costume

It took about 12 minutes until we got our chance to meet BB-8. The cast member who took my phone told us not to touch his head, and to look at the real photographer first, and then at her. It was all very efficient, and she got a nice photo of us. We heard later that the line for BB-8 eventually went down Hollywood Blvd all the way to Award Wieners, and was estimated to be 35 minutes long.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon BB-8

This seems like a good place to say that I thought that the race organizers did a much better job of handling the lines at the character stops this year. There were masking tape queues already marked on the ground and there were CMs managing the end of the line as well as multiple CMs handling runners' cameras and giving us instructions on how it was going to work. It really seemed to help keep the lines moving as quickly as possible.

After leaving BB-8 we went backstage again next to Tower of Terror. And then we did what was my least favorite part of the course: this weird loop out to the Toy Story tram area and back. Obviously just a means of adding some additional distance because there was nothing to see out there. But it's always rather frustrating to be running and then see runners that are ahead of you coming back towards you on the other side of the course.

2016 Star Wars 10K

We ran behind Cars Land, then back into the park at the Pacific Wharf, through Radiator Springs, behind the Tower of Terror, and then into Flik's Fun Faire and past Mile 5.

2016 Star Wars 10K

R2D2 and C-3PO were at the exit of "a bug's land". This line didn't look as long as BB-8, but we still waited 10 minutes. I was disappointed that all of the photos the CM took were out of focus - this was the best one.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon R2D2 Threepio

We ran all the way around Paradise Pier and then in front of Grizzly River Run. We were just about to exit DCA next to Soarin' when I spotted a photo stop with the speeder bikes. This didn't seem to have a long line, but it took longer for people to get set up with it, so we probably waited 8-10 minutes.

2016 Star Wars 10K

The last part of the race was through Downtown Disney. Lots of people to cheer us on to the finish line. I'd looked at my watch when we left the speeder bikes and realized we could finish in less than 1:30 if we booked it, so we did. Lee had more energy than I did and finished in 1:29:33, while I came in at 1:29:53. Not bad considering we had over 30 minutes of photo stops - our running time for the 10K was under an hour.

2016 Star Wars 10K finish

We got our lovely X-wing fighter medals! I'm really pleased that they changed up the 10K medal this year - hope that will continue for next year's race.

2016 Star Wars 10K medal

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

In the finish area was a nifty backdrop of the Wampa cave from The Empire Strikes Back. We had to wait for a while to do that, but we were still feeling good and we were warm enough, even though the temperature was only 52 degrees.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The finish area was not too crowded, and I liked the decor around the stage area.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We got the usual runDisney snack boxes, though the stuff inside was a little more interesting this time. The "puffed corn" one is surprisingly good.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon snack boxes

As we made our way back to the hotel we had to cross the race course near ESPN Club. Sometimes this takes a long time, but we got across with just a short wait. We've learned from past experience that on 10K days it's easier to return to the Grand Californian by walking past Earl of Sandwich down to the Paradise Pier and crossing Disneyland Drive there rather than trying to make our way through Downtown Disney along the race course.

I still love a good Disney 10K - and this is a good one. Though I still haven't decided what I thought about the new course. On one hand I like that it was almost all on property, but on the other hand I didn't like all the backstage areas, and especially all of the doubling back. I give them an "A" for effort, though. And while we didn't have any issues with course crowding I heard that it was a problem for those who started further back, and that there were places they just couldn't run because there were too many people.

One of my biggest complaints last year was character photo ops. I think there was one more this year than last year, and in addition to the characters, there were a couple of set pieces: the speeder bikes and the trash compactor (from episode IV) - though we didn't stop for that one during the 10K. Now that you can get photos with Chewbacca and Boba Fett in Disneyland, I didn't feel the need to stop for those photo ops. But I was very excited about BB-8 and R2D2 and Threepio - those were Must Dos for us. I'm still disappointed that there were no Disney characters in Star Wars costumes, though. We KNOW those outfits exist! Maybe if I keep mentioning it, someone will eventually take notice and it will happen.

Overall it was a good race experience, and we will plan to do it again next year.

After we'd showered and changed I actually did something that I've never done at a Disney race weekend before: I went to watch some of the Kids Races. We have friends whose 15-month-old son was participating in his first runDisney Kids race - the 100 meter run/walk/toddle.

There were four different events - the 100, 200, and 400 meter races, and the Diaper Dash. Distance is determined by age group: under 12 months for the Diaper Dash, and 1-3, 4-6, and 7-8 years for the others. The races used the Downtown Disney parking lot for staging, but the final 100 meters and the finish line were the same used for all of the other races. After finishing they continued into the same post-race refreshment/reunion area, also.

The 100 meter event was first, and the kids and their parents (all these kids had at least one parent with them) were already lined up in the holding area when I arrived. Wow...there were a lot more than I expected! I heard the announcers say 500 kids, though I don't know if that was over all events, or that was how many were in the 100-meter.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Kids Races

My little friend A and his mom were already lined up, so I went and found A's dad near the finish line. Carissa Bealert and Rudy Novotny were the race announcers for these races, also, and they were joined at the finish line by special guest Chewbacca.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Kids Races

They sent the kids off in groups of about 50. There were some pretty fast runners in that 100-meter group of 1-3-year-olds, but the majority of them were walking, most of them holding tightly to Mom or Dad's hand. And some of them just couldn't make it and were carried across the finish line. :-) There were a few tears, too. A lot of the kids and the parents were dressed in costume. Mostly Star Wars, but there were some Princesses and Mickeys and Minnies, too.

Some of them were thrilled by Chewbacca, but a lot of them weren't quite sure about him. There were lots of "Awwww" moments, as you can see if you look at the expressions of the women in the background of this photograph. :-)

2016 Star Wars Kids races

There were bananas and bottles of water available afterwards for the kids. And they all received a Yoda finisher medallion.

2016 Star Wars Kids races

I'm happy to say that A did just great in his first race, and walked the whole thing. He looked adorable in the Han Solo costume his mom made for him, and she was dressed as Chewbacca. And he seemed very proud of his rubber medal - though he gave it a test chew and did not seem impressed. :-)

I only saw the one race, but this was a fun event - I can understand why the Kid's Races sell out so quickly.


Next up: The Star Wars Half Marathon







January 22, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon

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January 17, 2016 - Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Another 3:30 a.m. wakeup call.

I had a new costume for this race - Rey, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I knew there would be a number of other people with the same idea, but since Rey does a lot of running in the movie at least I knew it would be functional. :-) And there was no makeup application required for this one!

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

I made the shirt, though I wasn't successful in getting it to look as dirty as I wanted despite smearing it with mud and rinsing it in muddy water. And at least the "distressed" look meant I didn't have to hem the bottom or sleeves. (I hate hemming.) I purchased a chiffon scarf and used a steam iron to create the pleats. I placed some strips of iron-on interfacing on the back of the scarf, and then sewed the interfacing to the shirt at the shoulder seams. That was Very Important. I saw a number of other Reys who had not done that, and their criss-cross wrap thing would not stay on their shoulders.

I wear a hydration belt for half marathons, and I made that look like Rey's belt by basting some sueded-type fabric over it. Then made another belt out of the same fabric to give me the hip/holster belt look.

For the arm wraps I used rolls of 2" gauze. I was able to make them look dirty by rinsing them in inky water. I wrapped them around a pair of white arm sleeves.

Since the shirt was long I'd planned to wear black shorts under it, but at the Expo I found a khaki-colored running skirt at Sparkle Skirts, so I wore that instead.

Lee wore the Jedi costume he wore for the 10K last year. With long pants and long shirt he was a little concerned it might be too warm, but it was OK.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

There were a few thousand more runners in the half marathon than the 10K, but we still didn't have any issues getting through the security check. The pre-race area was more crowded, and even though we went to Corral A at about the same time we did for the 10K, we were further back in the corral. Still, we were in A, so we were ahead of 10,000 other runners.

The temperature was a little warmer than it had been the day before (52), but it was even more humid (94%) and it felt chilly. I had one of the runDisney sheets (saved from a previous race) wrapped around me while we were waiting, and that kept me warm enough.

The race started a few minutes after 5:30 - a little bit late this time.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The first mile of the course was exactly like the 10K the day before. Most of the "on property" part of the half marathon course was an abbreviated version of the 10K course. Fortunately it kept most of the "inside the parks" parts, and left out a lot of the less-interesting backstage and doubling-back-on-itself stuff.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We still ran through Tomorrowland (Storm Troopers on the Launch Bay building!), the Castle (front-to-back again), Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Main Street, and Buena Vista Street, Paradise Pier, Cars Land, and Hollywood in DCA.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

I think I have not yet mentioned the great music and sound effects there were for both races. We heard lots of different Star Wars music throughout both parks. On Sunday, when we ran through a backstage tunnel between Fantasyland and Frontierland, we heard Darth Vader breathing, as well as his voice advising us to give in to the Dark Side. Really cool, but a little eerie! :-)

One issue: the pavement in the parks was very wet. Disney must have power washed during the night, and with the very high humidity it had not dried very much. It was slick in places, especially on wooden bridges and boardwalks. Lee saw a woman slip and fall on the Adventureland Bridge, though fortunately she was ok. And our friend Eddie, who was running fast, said that he slipped several times even though he was trying to be careful. I was mindful of the footing when we ran around Paradise Pier, since part of that has wooden boardwalk areas. Still, it's always lovely to run around Paradise Pier when it's dark.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The character and photo ops were the same as the day before. The lines looked to be about the same - 10+ minutes for the popular characters, and only getting longer. We only stopped for the trash compactor scene, which we had bypassed during the 10K. Unfortunately the photos the CM took were all out of focus. :-( (And I'm not spending $29.95 to download one photo image from Marathon Foto! Their prices are outrageous.)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We again ran through Cars Land - I think Ornament Valley looks like it could be on another planet.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We passed the mile 4 sign and not long after we were out of the park and running south on Harbor Blvd. And it suddenly felt very chilly. The fog had crept in and it was very damp. I'd been feeling a little warm, but the rest of the race I was happy that I had Rey's arm wraps.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We had a beautiful sunrise during last year's race as we ran down Harbor, but not this year. This part of the course was great for running because it was nice and wide, but it was not very interesting. Not too many people out, though there were several enthusiastic groups of high school cheerleaders in one area, and we were grateful for their encouragement. Overall it seemed like there were fewer spectators this year. And I didn't see very many in Star Wars costumes - there were quite a few last year.

For about 3/4 of a mile we were paralleling the return course, so we saw some of the leaders fly by on the other side. We didn't see the overall male winner (he had already passed by), but I think we saw the top female finisher, and she seemed to be running effortlessly at what was almost mile 12 for her.

Eventually we reached the city of Garden Grove and turned right. We were back into commercial areas again, and it was no longer a "quiet zone" so we finally heard a number of bands. Though I don't think I heard any Star Wars music. And there were more cheerleaders.

I still get a kick out of how this course goes by "Newhope Street". :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

With the new costume restrictions this year, I didn't really see any wildly creative costumes in the half marathon. Lots of X-wing pilots, Princess Leias, Han Solos, R2D2s, Darth Vaders, and yes, Reys. BB-8 was well-represented, also. As Jedi robes were expressly forbidden, the Jedi weren't quite as recognizable.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Just past mile 8 was what we'd really been waiting for - the first set of Star Wars cosplayers. Unfortunately I thought I was taking video and I wasn't, so I don't have any photos. But at the end of this section was a guy with his Star Wars-inspired car. His license plate was: RBLIALNC.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

After that the course took us down the block of Historic Main Street Garden Grove, and then we headed back north again.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

And then there was an even larger group of cosplayers! The cosplayers are the best part of this race. Their costumes are amazing, and there's a much wider variety of characters than we see in the Disney parks. They are so enthusiastic and supportive of the runners, also.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Rey and Finn are back together!

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

And we found our friend Caitlin.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

This time I made sure the video was running on my phone, so this video will give you an idea of the number of people and the variety of costumes. I didn't start taking video until we were about 1/3 of the way through the line of people, so there were even more than you see here.

The mile 9 sign was just after the cosplayers. We were back in another fairly quiet residential area. Still plenty of running room, but everyone was pretty quiet.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Mile 10. We were running east on Chapman. Still a little foggy and grey, and I was getting a little chilled. I won't lie - that last 5K was tough for me. I was still managing my 4:1 run/walk intervals, but my run pace was down.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

About mile 11 we turned onto Harbor Blvd again, so at least the end was (almost) in sight. This sign made me laugh.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The mile 12 sign was NOT at mile 12 - it was on Katella at about mile 12.25! Messed me up, because this made me think I had more than a mile to go, when really I had less than a mile. And I was very ready to be finished!

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

There were storm troopers at the finish line! My official time was 2:26:37.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

I was very happy that the volunteers were distributing mylar sheets - I needed that.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

It was strange not to be getting two additional medals (Rebel Challenge and Coast-to-Coast), but at least Lee upheld the family honor and received the Rebel Challenge medal. :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon medals

My costume worked very well and I was happy with it. As I mentioned before, one of the keys was sewing the wrap to the shoulders of the shirt so it wouldn't slip off. One of my arm wraps didn't stay in place very well, but the other one was fine. I will probably wear this costume for one of the Star Wars races at Walt Disney World in April, though I may not wear the arm wraps, depending on the weather.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The parks part of the half marathon course was changed from last year, though the rest of it was basically the same. I didn't think the park changes were as noticeable in the half as they were in the 10K, though there were still some narrow areas and sharp turns. Although we didn't experience it, we heard that in the parks the course was crowded for those who were further back. Once you're out of the parks this is a very fast and easy course: no hills and nothing narrow or technical.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

So it was another great Star Wars race weekend. This one is still my favorite Disney race weekend - I really enjoy the Star Wars theme. All of the signs and photo ops and characters and music and lighting make it a lot of fun - and then there's all of the cosplayers in the half marathon.

And now we're ready to complete the Kessel Run at Walt Disney World in April when we take on the Dark Side Challenge!







January 25, 2016

Afternoon Tea at Steakhouse 55

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I recently read in the Disney Parks blog that Disney was going to start serving afternoon tea at Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel. I love afternoon tea - and I fondly remember the "Practically Perfect Tea" they used to serve at the Paradise Pier Hotel, which included an appearance by Mary Poppins! (This photo is from 1997!)

Practically Perfect Tea

"Classic Afternoon Tea at the Disneyland Hotel" was scheduled to begin on Friday, January 22, so I made a reservation for that day and invited my friend Kristin to join me, so we could celebrate her upcoming birthday. Tea is served from 12:00-3:00 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Though no ending date has been announced, "through spring" is what Disney has stated.

We checked in a little early at Steakhouse 55, but were seated after just a short wait. Only about 2/3 of the tables were occupied, and there were empty tables, almost like a buffer, between most of the tables. Of course those tables were nicely set with tea cups and china, also.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

There are three different tea services on the menu: two for adults, and one for kids. I'll warn you that it is fairly pricey. The Classic Tea Party ($50) and Premium Tea Party ($65) offerings for adults both include scones, tea sandwiches, desserts and as many different teas and herbals as you wish to sample. The Premium also includes salad, a glass of Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee, and a farewell gift of truffles. (If you're familiar with my blog, then one guess as to which one I chose. :-) )

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

The Kids Tea Party ($35) includes chocolate chip scones shaped like Mickey's head, tea sandwiches, and desserts. In addition to tea, kids can also choose juice, milk and hot chocolate.

A selection of aperitifs, wines, ports and sherrys is available by the glass (additional charge).

Classic Afternoon Tea at the Disneyland Hotel Menu

Our tea began with our glasses of the Fairy Tale Cuvee. Kristin hadn't tried it before, and really enjoyed it.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

Our server asked us what teas we might be interested in, and offered some recommendations. She explained that we could try as many as we liked, and we could each have our own teapot, or share one. We initially chose the "house" tea: Perfect Afternoon, a blend of Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon. The teapot was smaller than those you usually see in tea rooms - but that was fine, since we wanted to sample, and the smaller pot meant we wouldn't waste a lot.

The first course was the salad. Baby lettuce with mint leaves, orange segments, sliced grape tomatoes and radishes, with Green Goddess dressing. I found the mint leaves odd, and after the first bite I put them aside, but Kristin liked the taste.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea salad

To go along with our tea, we had a selection of sweeteners - including rock candy sticks - as well as lemon wedges and honey.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

The tea was fine - not the best black tea I've ever had. It didn't have a very strong flavor.

Once we were done with our salads, our server brought the tiered plate server with all sorts of beautiful goodies on it.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

There were two different kinds of scones: currant scones, and blueberry scones with an orange glaze on top.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea scones

We had Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and strawberry jam to go with them. Kristin preferred the currant scone, and I liked the blueberry, but they were both very good.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

For tea sandwiches, we had cucumber and water cress, deviled egg salad, salmon gravlax, and mozzarella, basil, and tomato. Cucumber is not my favorite, but this was sliced very thinly. The water cress leaves were large! The mozzarella tomato was my favorite, but the egg salad and salmon were also very good. All were served on a different type of bread.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea sandwiches

We ordered a second pot of tea - we went back and forth between the Chakra Silver Tips (a white tea) and the Redbush Caramel Velvet, and decided on the latter. It was a rooibos tea (no caffeine) with a dulce de leche flavor. Very nice - just needed a bit of sweetener to bring out the caramel flavor.

We were starting to feel a little full, but we still had a plate of desserts to go! There were two chocolate-covered strawberries: one white chocolate, one milk chocolate. Also two mini fruit tarts and a selection of macarons. There were two chocolate, a strawberry, and a pineapple. The pineapple one tasted like caramel and not pineapple. The chocolate ones were my favorites.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea desserts

We asked about coconut macarons and our server said they had some, and brought us an extra plate. I didn't taste coconut in them - they had a passion fruit filling.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea macarons

Our server told us that we could request that any of the teas be iced - and that we could get some to go. So we tried a third tea iced to go: Mountain Berry a caffeine-free herbel tea. It was very refreshing.

Last but not least we received a little packet with two chocolate truffles in it, to eat later. Because we were certainly too full to eat them at that time! It was a reasonable amount of food, plus it was on the rich side, and very satisfying. We saw a number of people taking "to-go" boxes out with them who obviously had not eaten everything.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea truffles

The tea was nicely paced, and we never felt rushed at all. It took about an hour and 15 minutes. The restaurant was quiet and it was a very relaxing and pleasant atmosphere. As I mentioned before, they did not seat all of the tables, which helped keep it quieter. I asked if there were two seatings, and was told it's about a seating and a half. So they'll turn the tables seated within the first hour or so, but not all of them. If you wanted to make it a special event such as a birthday party or bridal shower, there were some larger tables available.

Disneyland Hotel Afternoon Tea

Some people dressed up for the occasion, but I'd say that the majority were in park attire as we were. We certainly did not feel at all uncomfortable.

The service was excellent. The servers were excited about this new offering, and eager to answer any questions we might have. A manager came around and asked us about our experience.

As I mentioned it's rather expensive. Annual passholder discounts are available, but even so it was over $140 with tax and tip. My opinion: it's worth paying the additional $15 for the Premium Tea Party since it offers several additional items. It also includes salad, truffles and the glass of sparkling wine (the wine alone would be $17 if you purchased it separately).

I think Classic Afternoon Tea is an excellent special occasion type of experience, though at this price it's not something I would do very often.







January 27, 2016

Disneyland Paris - La Magie Disney en Parade! (Disney Magic on Parade!)

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com spent 10 days at the Disneyland Paris resort last fall as part of his 2015 "Disney World Tour". I will be sharing a series of posts from the trip here on AllEars.net and have a full set of pictures, videos, thoughts and observations linked to my 2015 Paris Trip Summary Page on disneygeek.com.

This posting takes a look La Magie Disney en Parade! (Disney Magic on Parade!) which was the daily parade during my visit. It occurred each afternoon at 5:30pm.


Sleeping Beauty Castle with a crowd gathered along the parade route.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Looking toward Main Street

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather lead the way with the Blue Fairy and the Fairy Godmother on the first float.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Cinderella and her Prince following along behind.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Elsa, Anna and Olaf from Frozen

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


The Alice in Wonderland characters were in the next grouping.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Characters from Pinocchio are on the back of the Alice float.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Toy Story gang

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


On the back of the Toy Story unit is Winnie the Pooh

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Lion King

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


On the back of the Lion King is the Jungle Book.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Peter Pan is next.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Mary Poppins is on the back of the Peter Pan float

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


The finale float features an assortment of characters.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Mickey and Minnie on the front

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Goofy, Donald, Chip and Dale were all onboard too.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Tinker Bell on the back of the last float.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Coming behind the parade to clean the streets.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


A video of the full parade.

Hope you enjoyed this look at the Disneyland Paris Disney Magic on Parade!. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full set of Disneyland Paris pictures/videos I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







January 28, 2016

Disneyland Paris - Ratatouille Area of Walt Disney Studios Park

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com spent 10 days at the Disneyland Paris resort. I will be sharing a series of posts from the trip here on AllEars.net and have a full set of pictures, videos, thoughts and observations linked to my 2015 Paris Trip Summary Page on disneygeek.com. This posting takes a look at the Ratatouille area of the Walt Disney Studios Park.

The Ratatouille: L' Aventure Totalement Toquee de Remy opened at the Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Paris Resort in the summer of 2014. The area consists of the attraction, FastPass Distribution, a gift shop, and Bistrot Chez Remy restaurant. The attraction features trackless ride vehicles that take you on a nearly 5-minute journey as you are shrunk down to Remy's size and experience a chase through a bistro with Remy utilizing 3D projections and larger than life sets & props. The ride system is similar to Tokyo's Winnie the Pooh attraction and Hong Kong's Mystic Manor.

Prior to going to Paris I had seen several videos of the attraction and done some reading on it. The pictures and video you see really do not do the attraction justice. The immersive feeling and movement of the vehicles are key components and just do not translate to the internet that well. I was impressed with the experience and it was by far the best attraction at the park and one of my favorites from the entire resort. Below are some pictures of the area. I will be sharing a follow-up post with a look at Chez Remy where I had lunch on day.

Approaching the Ratatouille area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

To the right as you approach is the gift shop.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

Next to the gift shop is the FastPass distribution area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

FastPass machines

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

The entrance to the attraction. It features FastPass, Single Rider and Standby.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

A good portion of the standby queue is outside.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

A couple of the posters along the queue area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

As you enter the building the cast chefs are highlighted.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

The interior queue takes you along the rooftops of Paris (well there is a set that you work your way around).

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

You work your way to one of two load areas each with several vehicles to board. Notice you are rat size at this point, see the wall in the background.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

You board a trackless ratmobile for the adventure.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

On your journey you go through a handful of projection rooms and a couple over-sized sets. My pictures did not do it any justice because of the 3D projections so I am only going to include this one of the finale.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

You exit near Remy's restaurant. I will have another post on dining there. Here is a look at the central courtyard.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

The Fountain in the middle of the area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

Through this tunnel is Toy Story Playland.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

A wide shot shows some of the Playland beyond.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

Some props nearby. Notice the poles.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

The manhole cover.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

One last look at the area on a rainy afternoon.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

Hope you enjoyed this look at the Ratatouille area of the Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full set of Disneyland Paris pictures/videos I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







January 29, 2016

Disneyland Update - 1/22/16

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For a change Jason didn't go to the parks, so you get a Disneyland update from me instead. :-) It won't be as thorough or have nearly as many photos, though. I didn't make it to DCA since I was with a friend who didn't have a park hopper ticket.

We arrived at the Toy Story lot about 11:40. I was surprised that we were still able to park in the "Woody" section - though we were in the last row. While I would rather park in Mickey and Friends, I have found that when coming in from Ball Rd. I more often than not am diverted south on Disneyland Drive over to parking at either Garden Walk or Toy Story, so I just go straight to Toy Story now. I avoid a lot of traffic and aggravation that way.

I was pleasantly surprised that there was no line at the security checkpoint. We presented our bags and breezed through. We were not randomly selected to walk through the metal detector.

A number of Disneyland attractions were closed - the Rivers of America attractions will be closed for an extended period of time (at least into spring of 2017) because of Star Wars land construction:
Disneyland Railroad
Mark Twain Riverboat
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
Sailing Ship Columbia
Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
Fantasmic!
Jungle Cruise
Autopia

Tomorrowland was the most crowded area of the park - Season of the Force is still very popular. Still, we were able to get a Fastpass for Hyperspace Mountain with a return time of 3:15 - a little over three hours later.

Hyperspace Mountain

We walked into Path of the Jedi just a couple of minutes before the show started. Kristin was happy for the refresher, since she was planning to see "The Force Awakens" two days later. And she's told me since then that seeing Path of the Jedi helped her enjoy the movie more.

Star Tours had a standby wait of 50 minutes, but we were able to pop across the way and blast some astros at Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

Though it's not running, the Mark Twain was at the Frontierland dock and open to visitors, though apart from wandering around on board there wasn't anything to do. I heard later that there are sometimes characters on board for meet and greet opportunities, such as Princess Tiana and Louis. On other days the Sailing Ship Columbia is at the dock instead.

Mark Twain Riverboat

Big Thunder Trail is now closed. On the Frontierland side it's closed just beyond the exit of Big Thunder Mountain.

Frontierland closed


Frontierland closed

Outside the Jungle Cruise there are skippers who interact with guests and pose for photos. They also conduct Skipper School several times a day.

Jungle Cruise Skipper School

When Lee and I were there a couple of weeks ago we had more of an opportunity to talk to the skippers about this and what's going on with the attraction. Guests who participate get to tell a Jungle Cruise joke and receive a Skipper certificate. When the attraction reopens (April?) you can bring your certificate to the attraction exit and use it as a Fastpass.

And, again according to the skippers, among the changes being made are modifications to the load/unload process. Instead of using ropes and "skipper power" to hold the floating boats next to the docks, the boats will go into some kind of dock container that will compress and hold them in place for loading and unloading. This should be safer and hopefully speed up the process.

Part of the Adventureland bridge/walkway was closed though the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Dole Whip stand were still accessible from the Main Street side.

Adventureland construction wall

Here's a look at attraction wait times at 12:50.

Disneyland wait times

By this time we needed to head over to the Disneyland Hotel for our Classic Afternoon Tea (follow the link to read my review on that). It was a lovely experience.

Practically Perfect Tea

After tea we took the monorail back from Downtown Disney - I haven't done that in a long time.

You can see the train pulled up at the Main Street station - although the railroad is closed, Disneyland has a train available at the Main Street station where guests can talk to one of the engineers about them.

Disneyland train

First stop was to get Fastpasses for Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear. The Fastpass machines for those two attractions are co-located. Since the Buzz Fastpass machines are not linked to the rest of the system, you can get a Fastpass for Buzz even when you have a Fastpass for something else!

It wasn't quite time for our Hyperspace Mountain Fastpasses, so we went on Holiday "it's a small world". This was the final weekend before the short refurb period to remove the holiday overlay. I was surprised that it was a very short wait - 5 minutes, maybe.

small world holiday

After that it WAS time to ride Hyperspace Mountain! It was great - I really enjoy this attraction and all of the new visuals, and especially the music. I think you really want to be in rows 4-6 and not 1-3: there are a few effects that you don't see very well if you're in the front.

Hyperspace Mountain

We went from battling one evil empire to battling another, as we then used our Buzz Lightyear Fastpasses to defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg.

The Haunted Mansion had just reopened that day after the holiday overlay was removed. I always find it strange to ride this attraction when it's not in holiday mode. The Fastpass machines were in use, which is unusual, as they are typically only used during the holiday period. The Standby line was posted as 20 minutes, but I don't think it took that long.

Haunted Mansion

We wandered back to Critter Country. The Hungry Bear restaurant is surrounded by scrims and looks closed. But there's a cast member out in front with menus so that guests will know that it's open.

Hungry Bear construction walls

Splash Mountain was basically a walk-on - I haven't decided whether it's because no one wanted to get wet (it had been a sunny day, though by then the sun was behind clouds and the temp was around 66) or if people thought nothing back there was open because so much of the Rivers of America area is closed. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was a walk-on for us. We both love Tigger.

Tigger, Rabbit, and Pooh were outside Pooh's Corner greeting guests, and there were quite a few guests waiting in line. So at least there was something in the area that was drawing more of a crowd. Otherwise, Critter Country seems a little sad right now.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had been down earlier, and now had a long standby line, but we could get a Fastpass with a return time of less than an hour later. We still had an hour to go before our Star Tours Fastpass was valid, and we went to Redd Rockett's Pizza Port for dinner. I wanted to try one of the Season of the Force specials - the Dark Side Chicken Curry Pizza. It had curry chicken, roasted cauliflower, Gouda and mozzarella cheese, cumin, pickled vegetables and fried beans. The sauce was a little too spicy for me, which is unfortunate, because otherwise I enjoyed it. But because of the spice level I wouldn't get it again.

Dark Side Chicken Curry Pizza

There are a couple other Season of the Force specials: The Fields of Naboo salad and Forest of Endor pasta. There's also a Chewbacca Cheesecake. And this is one of the locations where the BB-8 beverage container is available for purchase.

Redd Rockett's Pizza Port Menu

Chewbacca cheesecake

I liked the Season of the Force posters in the dining area.

Season of the Force posters

Time to take a trip on Star Tours! During Season of the Force most of the random elements have been removed and the first planet visited is always Jakku, and BB-8 is the holographic character in the next scene. All three times I'd done it before I'd seen the security droid as the first scene, and Naboo as the final scene, so I was wondering if that was the only configuration. But this time Vader was the opening scene and Coruscant was the final scene, so I saw something a little different.

For our final attraction of the day we used our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Fastpasses. This ride is so much more fun at night!

We had a great day. Even though we didn't arrive until noon, and had a two-hour break, we still managed to get four Fastpasses and experience 10 different attractions before we left at 7:00. It's always fun for me to visit Disneyland with someone who isn't a frequent visitor and experience it through their eyes. Even with all of the construction and closures there's still a lot to do, and there were a number of other things we would've done if we'd had more time.







January 31, 2016

Disneyland Paris - Bistrot Chez Remy

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com spent 10 days at the Disneyland Paris resort. I will be sharing a series of posts from the trip here on AllEars.net and have a full set of pictures, videos, thoughts and observations linked to my 2015 Paris Trip Summary Page on disneygeek.com. This posting takes a look around Bistrot Chez Remy where I had lunch at the Walt Disney Studios Park.


The entrance to Remys. We had made a reservation earlier in the morning before leaving the hotel but it was really not needed as the walk-ups were getting seated about as quickly as we were.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

The waiting area has several awards he has won over the years.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

As you enter the dining area you are shrunk to rat size...notice the floor pattern enlarging as you shrink.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


A look around one of the front dining rooms, out those windows is the main square of the area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


One of the other dining rooms. The back of this room has windows to the attraction unload area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


The chairs are bottle caps and corks.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


The view from our booth.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


The napkin at my seat.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


We were on a meal plan which required us to order from the prix fixe menu, which included starter, entree, and dessert. For those not on the dining plan the price was 39,99 Euros. The starter was a mixed leaf salad with cheese, grated beetroot and chives, and a sesame & soy sauce vinaigrette. The Coke I had to drink was not included in the prix fixe menu, but was included in the meal plan. No refill, though.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


For my main course I had a grilled steak, ratatouille and French fries.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015


If you ask for ketchup this is what is brought to you.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Fall 2015

Thoughts: Since we were on a meal plan (the Plus plan) we were limited to the prix fixe menu and no changes. I ordered the beef which came with fries so I was good to go. The food was not bad...it was not great and was on the pricey side but it was lunch and filled me up. Compared to the other dining choices in the Studios park I thought this was a good meal and the environment was fun to see and eat in. I am not sure I would opt to go there and pay - for the same price there are other places with better meals. But if I were on a plan again and looking for variety I would probably go back.

Hope you enjoyed this look at Bistrot Chez Remy. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full set of Disneyland Paris pictures/videos I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.






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About January 2016

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in January 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2015 is the previous archive.

February 2016 is the next archive.

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