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.
The logo is slightly different.
I had already heard this, but I was happy to see that Patrick was still our 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.)
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.
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.
We defeated the Evil Emperor Zurg, and although we didn't quite make it to Galactic Hero status we had fun.
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.
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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?).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.