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July 4, 2016

Dining Review: River Belle Terrace

River Belle Terrace

Earlier this year the River Belle Terrace restaurant in Frontierland was converted from a counter service restaurant to a table service restaurant. As a counter service restaurant breakfast service was offered in addition to a lunch/dinner menu, while the table service restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner.

Many of us have enjoyed eating breakfast at the River Belle Terrace over the years - the outdoor patio offered a lovely overlook of the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island in the morning. And it was the only place around to get a Mickey Mouse pancake!

Mickey Mouse Pancake

Fortunately, the Mickey Mouse pancake and most of the other breakfast items live on at Rancho del Zocalo, which has now picked up the morning breakfast service. Unfortunately my personal favorite, the Cinnamon Roll French Toast, did not make the move, and is no longer available.

Cinnamon Roll French Toast

Recently we had the opportunity to try dinner at River Belle Terrace. We arrived at the podium about 5 minutes before our priority seating time. Our party of three was seated about 10 minutes later. We chose "first available" and were seated inside, though I was hoping for an outdoor table. It's a pleasant dining room, though very simply decorated.

River Belle Terrace Table

The menu is Southern inspired. It is the same for lunch and dinner and features sandwiches (fried chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket), pork ribs, fish and several entree salads.

River Belle Terrace Menu

We shared one of the appetizers: Creamy Pimento Cheese Dip, served with toasted bread and crispy celery for $10.00. This was actually quite tasty, and there was quite a bit of it. We quickly ran out of bread, but our server brought us more.

Creamy Pimento Cheese Dip

I tried the Grilled and Chilled Shrimp with house-made BBQ cocktail sauce and lemon. At $12.00 I thought this was a little pricey. Still, I enjoyed the shrimp and the sauce.

River Belle Terrace Grilled Shrimp

Lee ordered the House Salad with arugula, apple, Gorgonzola, dried cranberries, candied pecans, and apple vinaigrette for $6.00. Much more modestly priced, and a nice serving.

River Belle Terrace House Salad

As an entree I ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich - BBQ sauce and tangy coleslaw served on toasted ciabatta. The pork was not fatty and had a good flavor, though it could have used some more BBQ sauce. I was happy that they stuck with a traditional coleslaw and did not put peppers in it.

River Belle Terrace Pulled Pork Sandwich

All of the entrees come with their Signature baked beans and choice of an additional side: coleslaw, potato salad, seasoned tater tots, or seasonal vegetables. I ordered the tater tots and they were the clear winner here - we all really enjoyed those. They tasted really good dipped in the leftover pimento dip.

Lee tried the Beef Brisket Sandwich with smoked Provolone and fried onions served on toasted onion hoagie roll with steak sauce-mayo. He was very pleased with that.

River Belle Terrace Beef Brisket Sandwich

Our friend Michelle ordered River Belle's Chopped Salad with Romaine lettuce, black beans, garbanzo beans, pickles, roasted corn, red bell pepper, and tomatoes topped with fried onions and served with BBQ ranch dressing. It's served with choice of chicken, grilled shrimp, brisket or BBQ tofu. She had the tofu. I tried a bite of the tofu and I enjoyed it - it had a good flavor and a nice texture.

River Belle Terrace Chopped Salad w/Tofu

Other entrees include Fried Chicken Sandwich, Pork Spareribs, Oven-roasted Sausage Link Combo Sustainable Catch of the Day, BBQ Tofu, and Roasted Half Chicken.

For dessert Lee and I split the Maple, Apple, and Bacon Bundt Cake, because that sounded really interesting. It was an apple bundt cake with a hint of maple flavoring and some candied bacon. The bacon mostly just tasted sweet and added a crunchy element - I didn't really taste any bacon flavor. The other two desserts available were a Butterscotch Pudding Parfait and Fried Cheesecake.

Maple, Apple, Bacon Bundt Cake

Our server was good but not exceptional. Our meal was nicely paced, she kept our drinks refilled and brought us extra bread for the dip.

For what you get I thought it was overpriced, especially compared to options like Cafe Orleans and Carnation Cafe. The menu seems to be a combination of the (closed) Big Thunder Ranch BBQ and River Belle's former counter service menus. I'm glad we tried it, but I'm in no hurry to go back. My favorite Disneyland table service restaurant is still Cafe Orleans.

July 11, 2016

Disneyland Resort Updates - 7/8/16


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

An overview of the Star Wars site from the Parking Structure.

A wall is taking shape on the far side of the site, near Fantasyland.

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

The mound is where the Skyway building once stood.

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

Another wall is taking shape along the former Big Thunder Trail.

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

A closer look at the far wall. a crew is working on the rebar that will be in the wall.

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

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

Here you can see the conduit coming in from the left into the junction/access box.

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

A new fence along Disneyland Drive is taking shape right behind the existing one.

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

Pipes are onsite waiting to be installed. Assuming there is a trench along the fence line where the new road will be going and these will be buried there. But you cannot really see from this angle.

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

A lot of conduit and piping is run to this area near the center of the site.

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

A small structure taking shape. Guessing it is one of the two utility buildings that there are permits for.

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

Stopped by Oswalds. Ortensia is now on several pieces of merchandise.

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

There is some new Oswald merchandise too.

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

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

The fountains were on this afternoon. Seems like it has been a long time since I saw them in action.

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

Ghirardelli was back to handing out minis as the freebie today..

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

A preview for Pete's Dragon has moved into the Sunset Showcase (formerly Muppets) Theater. It runs every 20 minutes (top of the hour, 20 and 40). Nice to know there is a schedule, but it is not published. The cast members out front were telling guests this.

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

At the Studio Store a couple pieces of merchandise for the film.

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

Elliot is $19.99

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

The seating in the Animation Building has changed to six hard benches in the center of the room.

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

Nick was out when I walked back by. They seemed to be looking for Judy.

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

Headed into the preview next. The preshow room appeared untouched. The theater was open to go and sit down and wait for the next show. I had about 5 minutes to wait. Inside they were projecting a forest on the screens above the doors and had a 3D placeholder on the screen for the film until it started.

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

Next stop Disneyland.

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

Out on Tom Sawyer Island most structures are now surrounded by scaffolding. This is the pirate ship.

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

Making my way to the end of the Big Thunder Trail. You can see the new wall taking shape through the trees.

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

A look through the fence. You can see the walls going up right along the walkway. Assuming these will be rock work along the Big Thunder trail.

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

Dance the Magic was at the parks this weekend for their summer program. Before Soundsational they filled the parade route with dancers. This year their music was from the Jungle Book.

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

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

It was about a 5 minute stream of dancers. Here are a couple video clips of Dance the Magic passing by.

Scaffolding up around the cabin.

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

Interesting to see scaffolding up around the tree house. I saw rumors it may be removed. But seems it is staying in some form.

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

Looking through the fence by the Canoes.

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

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

The far seating area of the Hungry Bear was closed off again this week.

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

No scaffolding on the fort though.

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

Several Disneyland security cast members showed up for the flag retreat today.

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

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

Walking by Autopia, the new green car really stands out.

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

It looks like most if not all of the cars sport the new colors now.

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

Walked through the Star Wars Launch Bay to see what was going on. It was really quiet. Only a 5 minute wait for one of the meet and greets. The upstairs is still closed with no signs of any work going on.

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

Sleeping Beauty Castle

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

Sleeping Beauty Castle

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

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

A small crowd along the Rivers of America enjoying the Jambalaya Jazz. They now perform four sets on the river (6:20, 7:45, 8:55 and 10:25 on Friday).

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

The light tower does look bare right now with a majority of the equipment removed. This is the center Fantasmic tower.

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

A couple video clips of the All-American College Band performing Let it Go.

In the Paint the Night parade Jessie was MIA...her cowgirls were all there, though.

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

Disneyland Forever Finale

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, July 8, 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, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

July 15, 2016

2016 Mickey's Halloween Party Information and Updates

Mickey's Halloween Party

Disneyland (finally) announced details for this year's Mickey's Halloween Party events...and there are a number of changes.

There will be seventeen different parties this year: September 23, 26, 28, 30 and October 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, 29, 31.

The most interesting to me is the announcement that The Headless Horseman will appear on Main Street prior to the "character cavalcade." That's the first time that I know of that we've seen the Horseman on the left coast. He'll ride a black stallion and carry his jack-o-lantern head. From the parade route posted on the Halloween Party page it appears that he will enter Main Street next to the fire station, go around Town Square, up Main Street, around the hub, and then back down Main Street and exit next to the fire station. I may have to go to the party this year just to see that!

But there's a hefty price increase this year. The cheapest ticket is $72 for Annual Passholders for advance purchase of tickets to seven different week night parties. It's not clear if there is a discount for DVC members or Visa card holders. The advance purchase price for the general public for those parties is $79, and the same day price is $89. There is no discount at all for the other ten parties, and in fact the parties on October 29 and 31 are $99! Last year an AP ticket was $63, advance purchase was $69, and the same day price was $77. The October 29 and 31 parties were priced at $84 - so they received a $15 increase this year. That's almost 18% higher.

And also factor in that this year parking is NOT included with the ticket - essentially raising the price another $18 for many guests. At least they did not take away the early entry feature, and as in previous years party guests will be allowed to enter Disneyland three hours before the party starts.

Ticket sales open on July 21 for Annual Passholders, DVC members, and Disney Visa cardholders, and for July 28 to the general public.

A significant change this year: While in the past all guests have been "welcome to dress in costume" - this year there's not the same level of encouragement for adult guests. There are many more costume guidelines this time - and they will be very familiar to those of you who have participated in recent runDisney events.

From Disneyland's web site:

While we encourage creativity, we also value safety and good judgement. Please take a moment to read over our latest rules and regulations:
-- Costumes must be family-friendly and may not be obstructive, offensive, objectionable or violent.
-- Guests who dress like characters may not pose for pictures or sign autographs for other Guests.
-- Costumes may not contain any weapons that resemble or could easily be mistaken for an actual weapon.
-- Costumes may not contain sharp objects, pointed objects or materials that may accidentally strike another Guest.
-- Layered costumes or costume props that surround the entire body are strongly discouraged and may be subject to additional security screening.
-- Costumes may not reach or drag on the ground. (e.g. full-length Princess dresses).

For Guests Ages 13 and Under: Costumes and some masks may be worn, as long the mask does not cover the entire face and eyes are visible.

For Guests Ages 14 and Older
-- Capes may be worn if the length does not go below the waist.

-- Themed T-shirts, blouses, sweatshirts and hats are acceptable.

-- Acceptable accessories include: transparent wings, plastic light sabers, toy swords and tutus. Headwear may be worn as long as it does not cover the face.

-- Masks of any kind may not be worn.

Guests who do not adhere to these guidelines may be refused entry into, and/or removed from, unless his or her costume can be modified to meet the above standards.

Takes a lot of the fun away for the adults, I think. I get it, but it's still disappointing.

But back to the positives:

New this year is Villains Square - Town Square will become the Disney villains meet and greet location. According to the web site, the villain appearance times will be available on the Disneyland app.

The Cadaver Dans will be back, and will perform their sepulchral hits and melancholy melodies in Frontierland.

As in past years, attending a Halloween Party is the only way to see the spooktacular Halloween Screams fireworks show. I still think it's one of the best firework shows ever at Disneyland.

The usual trick-or-treat stops and meet-and-greets with Disney characters in costume will return, as well as a dance party at the Tomorrowland Terrace.

The Character Cavalcade will also be back this year (last year the Paint the Night parade ran instead). I keep hoping that Disney will make this more of a real parade, but I'm not very optimistic.

I was a little surprised to read that the resort-wide Halloween Time celebration has been moved forward another week, and starts on September 9. Just barely after Labor Day! But it is very popular - in fact I have a friend who says she enjoys it more than the holiday season.

This year will mark the fifteenth anniversary of the incredibly popular Haunted Mansion Holiday. Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy is also returning, so I guess that means we will say goodbye to Hyperspace Mountain later this summer. No official word yet on whether that means we'll see a turning of the Season of the Force. (Just how long ARE the seasons in that galaxy far, far away?)

What do you think of the changes to Mickey's Halloween Party? Does any of it affect your decision on whether (or not) to attend this year?

Lee and I haven't been to the party since 2010, I think, but I'm interested in going back this year - I'd really like to see the Headless Horseman. And I really enjoy the Halloween Screams fireworks.

More information:

Mickey's Halloween Party

Halloween Time Returns to the Disneyland Resort

July 23, 2016

A Trip to Disneyland in Summerrrrrrr

Frozen - In Summer

Lee and I, along with our friends Matt and Kristin, spent a summer Saturday at Disneyland. Lee and I, of course, are frequent visitors, but Matt and Kristin are not, so we wanted to get in as many of the newer/favorite attractions as possible.

I was the only one who had seen the new Frozen - Live at the Hyperion show, and none of us had seen the new Soarin' Around the World, so those were both high on our list.

We arrived at the Mickey and Friends parking garage just a couple of minutes after 8:00 - I was surprised at how long the line was to get in. It took probably 15 minutes before we were finally parked. And then we had to wait for a parking lot tram. Usually they are one right after the other, but this time, even though they were loading two at a time, there was a 1-2 minute gap between when one left and another arrived to fill its place.

Though I wondered if that was intentional to keep the security lines down - they were relatively short. Only 10-12 people in each line. The bag checkers were being a lot more thorough, though, and that took extra time. And now everyone goes through the metal detectors - it's no longer random like it used to be. But that went pretty quickly.

With everything that's been going on in the United States and around the world recently, I was not surprised to see much more of a security presence this time. There were significantly more uniformed security personnel in the parks, Downtown Disney, and the Esplanade. And that doesn't count the plainclothes security that I know is also around.

We got Fastpasses for Frozen and Radiator Springs Racers, and then rode a number of other attractions standby. Midway Mania was about 20 minutes, but California Screamin' and Mater's Junkyard Jamboree were less than 10, and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters was under 15 minutes. Matt and Kristin had been fans of the former Luigi's Flying Tires attraction, so were somewhat disappointed at the change, but thought the new ride was cute.

We went over to Disneyland to get a Fastpass for Hyperspace Mountain. It sounds like that will be going away soon, since Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy is returning for the Halloween season.

It was not a particularly busy day at Disneyland. I waited at Space Mountain for about 15 minutes while the others went to get coffee, because (surprisingly!) the Fastpass return time was still too early and overlapped with our Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass. The standby line for Hyperspace Mountain was only 45 minutes.

Weather-wise it was a very nice day - it might have gotten into the low 80s, but not warmer than that. For a July day it was really very pleasant, and cooler than usual.

We went back to DCA and got a Fastpass for Soarin' Around the World - the return time was only 50 minutes away! That surprised me.

It was not a very busy day in either park - certainly not what I would normally expect on a Saturday in the middle of summer. But maybe the new seasonal pricing scheme, where this day was a "Peak" day for one-day tickets, is starting to have an affect. It was also a blockout day for most annual passes - everything except Signature/Signature Plus and Premier. While things seemed busier than usual first thing in the morning, the crowds did not pick up appreciably throughout the morning like they usually do. Maybe if you're going to pay that much for a one-day ticket, you're going to be sure you arrive at park opening? The seasonal pricing does not apply to multi-day tickets (yet), and I saw lots of people using those.

We returned to use our Soarin' Around the World Fastpasses. I find it frustrating that Fastpasses for Soarin' never have worked as efficiently as they do for most other attractions. Even with a Fastpass we waited about 15 minutes.

I was wondering if the interior would be different, but it's not - you still walk through the California Aviators Wings of Fameexhibit. It seems odd that there's not a more international focus now.

Soarin' Around the World

The logo is slightly different.

Soarin' Around the World

I had already heard this, but I was happy to see that Patrick was still our flight attendant. :-)

Soarin' - Patrick your flight attendant

This was my first time to see the new movie in person (I had seen it on-line). I was disappointed. The scenery is beautiful, but I found the gratuitous use of CGI to be very distracting. Most of the scenes had added elements that obviously weren't really there. And we won't even talk about the Taj Mahal scene, which was entirely computer-generated. The locations they chose were beautiful, and could stand on their own - they didn't need any effects added to them.

Though speaking of effects...the "speed-up" effect that we experienced a couple of times was really well-done. I felt like I was moving a lot faster.

While I was underwhelmed, I will say that Lee really liked it, and says I spoiled it for him by pointing out all of the things that weren't real. Kristin said she preferred the original California version.

I liked the grass scent - though I'm not convinced that's really what the plains of Tanzania really smell like. :-) The ocean scent was similar to what we smelled in the original attraction. I did not detect the rosewater fragrance that was supposed to accompany the Taj Mahal scene. But I may have been too focused on how fake it looked. I really loved the Iguazu Falls scene - I think that was my favorite.

It was time to use our Radiator Springs Racers Fastpasses. Now this is how Fastpass SHOULD work - we were on the ride about 5 minutes after entering the queue. Afterwards I used a feature of my AP that I hadn't tried before - I took a cell phone photo of our attraction photo, then put that number into my AP Photopass account after we returned home, and was able to download our photo for free. Nice. (The free Photopass download is available with Signature, Signature Plus, and Premier APs.)

Radiator Springs Racers Photo

Apparently regular guests can purchase a single day Memory Maker package for $39, which includes all attraction photos as well as any other Photopass photos. That almost seems reasonable.

On Buena Vista Street, a number of the "Citizens of Buena Vista Street" were out and about. This was the first time that I'd seen both of the messengers, Molly and Millie, out at the same time. They are twins, and they squabble over which one gets to ride the bike. :-) Molly is on the left in the photo below.

Citizens of Buena Vista Street Molly and Millie

We'd ended up with several Fastpasses in a row, so we went back to Disneyland to ride Hyperspace Mountain. Unfortunately it was down. But the good news was that our Fastpasses would be valid any time for the rest of the day - assuming it came back up.

On our way to Hyperspace Mountain we'd stopped to get Fastpasses for Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. The return time was only 35 minutes away. So we went and got Dole Whips (Matt's request) while waiting. Even the Dole Whip line was not particularly long, and it moved quickly.

Dole Pineapple Juice sign

We defeated the Evil Emperor Zurg, and although we didn't quite make it to Galactic Hero status we had fun.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

We had Fastpasses for the 4:00 performance of Frozen, but wanted to be in line about 3:15, so we went back to DCA to do what we like to call the Wine and Beer Ride. :-) Normally we would've gone to the Al Fresco Tasting Terrace but we really didn't have enough time for that, so we went to the Sonoma Terrace instead. They have a good selection of craft beers (though they are all in bottles - none on tap), and a few wines by the glass. The guys each had a beer, and Kristin and I both had glasses of the St. Hilaire sparkling wine. The cast member who poured the latter filled the glasses ALL the way to the top - we had to take a sip before we could carry it to a table! We also got one of the cheese plates to share.

Sonoma Terrace wine and cheese plate

The Sonoma Terrace is next to the Wine Country Trattoria on the Paradise Pier side. There's a nice large seating area there, and most of it is shaded. It's usually pretty quiet and it's a great place to sit and relax.

We enjoyed the opportunity to sit down for a while before we had to deal with all of the Frozen Frenzy. On our way to the Hyperion Theater we stopped at the 60th anniversary photo stop in "a bug's land". This one is a lot of fun, though the photographer didn't have the butterfly net prop for Matt to use. My AP is also my Photopass card, and again, free downloads!

Disneyland 60th Ant-iversary

But back to Frozen - Live at the Hyperion Theater. This was my first time experiencing it as a regular guest - I'd only see the media preview. The show started at 4:00. Our Fastpasses said to arrive between 3:00 and 3:40. (The Fastpass line closes 20 minutes before the show and those in the Standby line are allowed to fill any available seats.) We arrived at the Hyperion about 3:20. Each Fastpass specifies which section of the theater it is for: Orchestra, Mezzanine, or Balcony. We had Fastpasses for the Mezzanine. Those who had Fastpasses for the Orchestra section were already packed in like sardines (which used to be an export of Norway's - we toured an old cannery in Stavanger last year), and there were still people arriving. The Mezzanine section was filling up quickly, also. There was a huge line of people trying for standby in any section they could get into. I should mention that the 11:00 show had gotten canceled that day, so my guess is that many people who had Fastpasses for that show were now trying for standby.

We were admitted to the theater closer to 3:45 than 3:40. We were able to get seats in the third row center of the Mezzanine. The Mezzanine was always my favorite section for Aladdin, so I wanted to see how it was for this show. (I saw Frozen from Orchestra the first time, at the Media preview. I was in about the 6th row, which seemed like a fine choice at the time, but ended up being too close.)

Frozen Hyperion from Mezzanine

There's what I assume is a safety bar about 15" above the railing of the Mezzanine, and if you were in the first two rows it obscured your view of the stage somewhat. Even in row three it was in our view when the actors were towards the front of the stage.

Frozen - In Summer

There still seem to be some issues with this show. As I mentioned, the first show of the day was canceled, and our show had a technical issue of some kind less than 10 minutes from the end. Fortunately after a few minutes they were able to continue. I know it's a very complex show, but since it's been running for over six weeks I was surprised that there still seem to be so many problems.

Frozen Finale

I still really enjoyed the show. The viewing was much better overall from the Mezzanine than it was when I'd seen it from row 6'ish of Orchestra. There was a good view of Elsa on her ice staircase. Though I think the best seats might be the first couple of rows in the second tier of Orchestra (Loge?).

Frozen - Elsa on ice staircase

I thought the "Aurora Curtain" effect was much more pronounced from this seat location and I felt more immersed in Arendelle. There's one scene where Elsa is walking forward and a zoom effect on the projections at the back of the stage and on the curtains makes it look like she's really moving towards us much more quickly.

The acting and singing were still excellent. The Kristoff, Hans, and "Weaseltown" characters were played by the same actors that I saw before, but Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and the King and Queen were different. I thought this Anna/Elsa pair was better. The Olaf was just as good as the first - both of the actors I've seen were outstanding, and really captured the character.

Frozen - Anna and Elsa

Kristin and Lee both thought the show was very good. Matt had never see the movie, but still enjoyed the show. Though parts of it were a little confusing since there's a few plot points that were in the movie that are skipped in the show. If you haven't seen the movie, the climactic Elsa-Hans-Anna-Kristoff-on-the-ice scene is a "where are they and what's going on?" kind of thing.

Frozen Anna and Elsa

Disney is currently scheduling four shows a day - and that doesn't even come close to meeting the demand. Even with Fastpasses people are lining up as soon as possible to try to get good seats. That makes for a long wait even before the show starts. The $49 that Disney is charging for the pre-show experience and priority seats is looking more appealing to me all the time.

I was concerned about big crowds getting out of the theater but it wasn't too bad. We had a 5:30 priority seating for Cafe Orleans in Disneyland that I'd made in advance before I knew what Frozen show we'd be seeing. Once we had the Fastpasses I knew it would be a little tight, but I thought we'd be ok - but then we had the delay in the show. It was 5:15 before the show ended. We made it, but just barely. As it turned out the restaurant was still accepting walk-ups, so it wasn't really a problem. I'll have a separate blog with a review of our meal.

After dinner the Disneyland app showed us that Hyperspace Mountain was running again so we went over to use our Fastpasses. No problem, and we were on the attraction quickly. I was again able to use my AP Photopass feature to download our ride photos. Though unfortunately the CM seated us in two different cars, so we aren't all in the same picture.

Hyperspace Mountain

We had planned to head home after that, but the Disneyland All-American College Band was performing a set at the train station so we stopped to hear the rest of it. This is the first time we'd seen them this summer. They are always so talented, and a lot of fun to watch.

Disneyland All American College Band

We really had a very nice day! We were able to do all the attractions we really wanted to and we had a few opportunities to relax, also. I was pleasantly surprised that the parks were relatively uncrowded - that wasn't what I had expected that day.

I enjoyed the Frozen show as much the second time - I predict it's going to be around for a long, long time...it might even beat Aladdin's 13 year run at the Hyperion Theater.

Though I'm hoping the new Soarin' film is NOT around for 13 years...I was really disappointed in that.

July 25, 2016

Dining Review: Cafe Orleans

Cafe Orleans

I mentioned in a previous blog that my favorite Disneyland table service restaurant is Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square. I hadn't actually eaten there in several years, though, so I wanted to try it again to see if it was as good as I remembered.

I made a reservation just a few days in advance, and was able to get the time I wanted. As it turned out the restaurant wasn't that busy, and walk-ups were being told it was only about a 15 minute wait.

We waited 5-10 minutes after I checked in. While I was waiting I looked around the nearby Mlle. Antoinette's Parfumerie shop. I'd read a little bit on-line about this shop recently. Supposedly Lillian Disney chose the name and the crystal chandelier inside was a gift to her from Walt. The mirrors were painted with a technique called "reverse painting".

Mlle Antoinette's Parfumerie

The shop carries five perfume brands: Guerlain, Givenchy, Christian Dior, Acqua di Parma and Fendi. There are selections for men and woman, and exclusive fragrances that can only be found at Disneyland.

Mlle Antoinette's Parfumerie

It's really quite a lovely space.

Cafe Orleans has seating both inside and outside. I said we'd take first available, but I was really hoping for outside, and that's what we got. It was a very nice evening, and the dining area was mostly shaded. Though as the sun went down it descended below the level of the awning and both Lee and I had sun in our eyes for a while at the end of the meal.

Cafe Orleans Seating

The menu is the same for lunch and dinner, and offers New Orleans-inspired dishes such as gumbo, a muffuletta sandwich, and savory crepes. The famous Monte Cristo Sandwich is also available. There are two versions: the classic with ham and cheese, and a vegetarian three-cheese sandwich. I personally find these to be belly bombs, and haven't had one for years.

Cafe Orleans Lunch/Dinner Menu

Our server was on a break, and it took a few extra minutes before the server filling in for her arrived to take care of us. In addition to soft drinks we wanted to start off by sharing an order of Pomme Frites. These are garlic French fries with Parmesan cheese, served with a Cajun-spiced remoulade. I'd forgotten how large the serving was - it was plenty for four of us to share. They were just as good as I remembered, and were a big hit.

Cafe Orleans Pomme Frites

Instead of ordering an entree here, I usually order the French Onion soup and the La Salade de Maison. And that's what I did. The soup is up to $10 now, but it's still very good, and pretty filling.

Cafe Orleans French Onion soup

The salad is always nice and fresh, with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and candied pecans, and a raspberry vinaigrette. I find it to be a good-sized serving for $6.

Cafe Orleans La Salade de Maison

Lee ordered a cup of the Chicken Gumbo. He said it was very good. $7 for a cup or $10 for a bowl.

Cafe Orleans Chicken Gumbo

For an entree, both Lee and Kristin ordered the Braised Beef Crepe - braised beef in a Bordelaise sauce with Cremini mushrooms and pearl onions. In the past the crepes were flat, but this time they were rolled. It was a very attractive presentation. They were served over a pea puree. I was surprised that the pea puree didn't have any additional flavors or spices - it really was just pureed peas. It needed something else. Lee was disappointed in the beef - it wasn't bad, but the flavor was different than what he expected - he thought there would be more spice.

Cafe Orleans Braised Beef Crepe

Matt ordered the Chicken Gumbo Crepe - chicken, Andouille sausage, tasso ham, and Creole gumbo sauce with sauteed Cremini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and asparagus. It was also served with pea puree. He said it was good, and I think he enjoyed it more than the others did the beef crepes. Both crepes were $20, and we all agreed that for that price the portion size was a little small.

Cafe Orleans Chicken Gumbo Crepe

For dessert we shared an order of Mickey Beignets ($9). There were five of them, and we all enjoyed them. They were warm and slightly crisp on the outside with plenty of powdered sugar and fried dough goodness! Matt and I both liked them with the raspberry sauce that came with them - Lee and Kristin tried the vanilla anglaise, also.

Cafe Orleans Mickey Beignets

I think I was the one most pleased with my meal - but I stuck to the menu items that I knew I liked. Still, I think everyone had a good experience. It's always very nice to be able to sit down for a meal after a busy day in the parks. We all especially liked the pommes frites and the beignets.

After this most recent dining experience Cafe Orleans still holds its position as my favorite table service restaurant in Disneyland. It's especially nice to be able to sit outside on a pleasant afternoon or evening and enjoy NOT being out in the crowds.

July 30, 2016

Recap: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet 2016



This last weekend, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet held its eighth annual gathering of Disney fans, vendors, and Imagineers. Located up in Lynnwood, Washington and spearheaded by Planning Committee Chairman Don Morin, it is a celebration of all aspects of the Disney experience.


Over at the Embassy Suites, the convention's official hotel, the festivities began the afternoon prior as D23 held their own mixer complete with nachos and special guest.


Afterwards, the entertainment continued with pin trading, PNWMM Bingo, and a trivia challenge. A door decorating contest also took place later on in the evening around the hotel.


The next morning, rope drop for the main event was held at 1000 over at the Lynnwood Convention Center. As is tradition, the corridors outside the main stage/vendor area were filled with photo-ops and displays of impressive collections of Disneyana.







Once inside, there was a number of stations set up with different attractions and activities. In one corner, this year's speakers sat patiently and cordially autographing whatever materials were brought to them.

Bob Gurr

Stacia Martin

On the other side of the room was the annual charity raffle, benefiting the Ryman Arts Foundation and the Seattle Children's Hospital.


A wide variety of different items and experiences were offered up, including exclusive merchandise from Mickey's of Glendale, Club 33, and one-of-a-kind pieces of art.



Besides that, different booths had other Disneyana for sale, from books to ephemera, to Dole Whip, to original art.


In the center of the room was the stage and seating area for the day's speakers.


As the programming commenced, Don Morin introduced Stacia Martin as the first speaker.


Martin gave a wonderful presentation on her career with Disney as a Disney Artist and Historian.


Some points:
--As a life-long Orange County resident, she has never lived out of earshot of the Disneyland fireworks.
--Her professional history with Disney started at the old Disneyana shop on Main Street.
--In 1986, she moved to New Orleans Square as the first regular cast member at the Disney Gallery.
--From there she was borrowed by different divisions within the company for a variety of promotional tours across the country, doing talks and drawing sketches.
--She trained the Japanese cast members for the Disney Gallery when it opened in Tokyo Disneyland.
--WED borrowed her to help reconstruct the soundtracks (audio archeology) for the attractions in New Fantasyland.
--Other audio projects she worked on included "Disneyland Forever," "The Lost Chords," and "Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair."
--Her favorite Disney musical is "Happiest Millionaire."

The second speaker of the day was Disney Legend Bob Gurr.


Some interesting items in his illustrious history:
--He worked for Ford Motor Company right after Art Center College of Design, but found it was a dead-end job after two weeks, and quit.
--After quitting Ford, he formed his own company. WED Enterprises became a client.
--After two weeks, he became a WED employee.
--Published a book "How to Draw Cars of Tomorrow" at 20 years old.
--His first assignment for Disneyland was to design the body for the Autopia cars.
--Other projects for Disneyland included the parking lot trams, Mad Tea Party, Omnibus, Fire Engine, Viewliner, Submarine Voyage, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Monorail, PeopleMover, and the Motor Boat Cruise.
--At the 1964-65 World's Fair, his main focus was "Ford's Magic Skyway," however he consulted on most of the other Disney pavilions as well.
--He designed the Omnimover ride system as a means to direct the guest's attention to specific areas in a given attraction. It originated in Monsanto's "Adventure Thru Inner Space."
--The Florida monorail's shape resembles the front of a Lear Jet with a wrap-around windshield and flush rivet construction.
--He incorporated himself within two weeks of being let go from Disney.
--Subsequently, he worked on Universal Studio's King Kong, Spielberg's "Jurassic Park," the 1998 "Godzilla," the pirate ship battle at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino, the Michael Jackson tour, and a spaceship for the LA Olympics closing ceremony.
--He has a new video out through Ape Pen Publishing: "Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams Into Reality."


Last but not least, Disney Legend Marty Sklar.


Some highlights from his talk:
--Video of Richard Sherman singing to Sklar on the occasion of his retirement.
--His creation of the "Goof Award" for not-so-successful projects.
--"If you don't fail from time to time, you're probably not doing anything new."


--Video excerpt from the "Marty Sklar, Walt, and EPCOT" special feature with Leonard Maltin from the "Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland" DVD set.
--Three things that characterized Walt Disney: Inspiration, Trust, Optimism.
--On Jack Lindquist: "The greatest thing he did was the 30th anniversary of Disneyland when he did the Gift-Giver at the end, at Disneyland, they gave away 400+ cars that year."

In between speakers, there was no shortage of interesting activities, from mobile photo-ops...


...To the announcement of the winners for the annual Door Decorating Contest...


...to this year's installments of "Mousecenter."

But even after the dust settled for the day, the fun wasn't over for the weekend, as Sklar and Gurr were brought back on Sunday for yet another fun storytelling session.


--The two legends didn't work together until the Ford Pavilion at the 1964-65 World's Fair.
--Part of the effectiveness of Magic Skyway was placing the guests in the Ford cars for the ride.
--After the Fair opened, Disney flew people who worked on the attractions, and their families, to New York to enjoy the finished product.
--Both men are frequently asked why the Peoplemover was removed from Disneyland and when it will return.
--They reminisced about some of the shorter-lived Disneyland attractions, such as the industrial exhibits of Tomorrowland, and the Phantom Boat.
--The necessity of allowing people--kids and adults--to explore different things and take chances as part of their development was touched on by both.


--Gurr started at Disney October 5, 1954 at 23 years old.
--On the Autopia: "I won't go much further than the fact that we built 40 cars and near the end of the first week, there were two running."
--He reviewed Walt's way of working by involving and engaging his employees instead of invoking executive process.
--It's difficult for him to sort through his feelings about Disneyland, because the Disneyland of 1955 is so vivid in his mind.
--One of the few keepsakes he kept is one of the original Mr. Toad ride cars.


--Sklar started at Disney in Public Relations about a month before the opening of Disneyland, when he was 21 years old.
--He noted that any meeting with Walt ended with everyone knowing what decisions were made and what their assignments were, as opposed to modern day meetings that end in ambiguity.
--On advice to would-be Future Imagineers: "Read my book."
--"There's only one name on the door, and that's Walt Disney. You're never going to get your name in lights...but if you want to be part of something that's bigger than you are, that achieves what a team can do, working together towards the same goals and objectives--that's what we try to do in Imagineering."
--He feels Shanghai Disneyland is the best park because it has been informed from all the lessons Disney has learned from creating all the other parks.
--On why Disneyland is so special: "Number one, it's the only park that Walt ever walked in. Number two, it's the foundation of everything that came after."

In all, another great year for the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet. If you're interested in attending for next year, keep an eye on http://www.pnwmousemeet.com/Home.html for ticket sales announcements, because each year seems to sell out quicker than the last.

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About July 2016

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

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August 2016 is the next archive.

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