Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
I said I would talk more about the new Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, so here goes. First a bit of general background, and then some spoilers - I will put in a warning before the spoilers!
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy was initially done for Hong Kong Disneyland two years ago, and fortunately for us they decided to bring it to California this year! I found that quite a surprise - since it's not like Space Mountain is an overlooked attraction that people are no longer interested in riding. :-)
The signs outside the attraction warn that it may be too intense for some children (and even some adults!). I'd recommend heeding those warnings - there are some aspects that could be quite scary, but I'll go into more specifics later. For the most part I don't think the visuals are any worse than what you see on the signs, but seeing them pop up unexpectedly can still be surprising. The music is also pretty eerie.
One thing that we thought was very cool is the way the outside of Space Mountain "comes alive" at night, with sound and lighting effects. It's definitely worth spending some time standing around Tomorrowland (we found the view pretty good from the area just behind the water ball) just watching and listening. If there's a band playing at the Tomorrowland Terrace it's a little harder to hear the sound effects, though - and for some of the effects you really need the audio cues to get the full impact.
The new attraction has been VERY popular - on weekends Fastpasses for the entire day are long gone by noon and the standby line is over an hour.
Here's a video from disneylandnews that shows a little bit of the outside and the inside - not too many spoilers in this.
ARE YOU SURE?
Ok. On the first night while we were watching the show on Space Mountain's exterior there was a man behind us who was also watching and taking pictures. We started chatting and discovered that he was one of the Imagineers who had worked on the Ghost Galaxy overlay! So we asked him about something that had puzzled us, which was why there really wasn't any "story" in the attraction to explain what was going on. He told us there's a script for the background chatter that would offer some more information to those who listen to it, but it hasn't gotten into the attraction - maybe next year.
But here's the idea (to the best of our recollection): Space Station 77 has been pushing deeper and deeper into space, and has gotten into a new area which, unbeknownst to them, is inhabited by a "space ghost", who doesn't take kindly to these "space invaders." Strange things start happening, like mysterious energy fluctuations. If you watch the big screen in the launch bay you can see that that it reports a power surge or a loss of signal from time to time and goes to a blue screen - and we all know that seeing a blue screen is never a Good Thing. :-)
Apparently unmanned probes have also gone missing. So they are seeking volunteers to go on a manned mission to explore this area of space and find out what's out there, and that's where all those of us in line come in. At this point we are woefully uninformed volunteers! :-)
He also told us that the images came from the Hubble Space Telescope, though they have been edited, and elements of them combined to form the ghost - his face might be a nebula, while his eye is a completely different galaxy.
There are a couple of effects they were able to do here that they did not do in Hong Kong, like having the ghost appear just before the drop, and adding a couple of sections where the ghost appears to move alongside and chase your rocket.
There were 5 different exterior sequences when the attraction first opened, but he told us there were plans for several more - and sure enough, there were three more this past weekend. They go off about every three minutes.
Here's a new video that Lee put together of the exterior show, which includes a couple of the new effects as well as better quality footage of some of the ones we saw before. My favorite starts at 3:44 and ends about 20 seconds later as Space Mountain appears to collapse!
Our experience was that the best place to ride was in rows 4-6 rather than row 1 - the timing on some of the effects didn't work as well for row 1 - we were past most of them before we could really see them. And you also want to sit on the left side of the rocket - you don't really see some of the images very well from the right side.
We think it's a great ride - I wouldn't want it to be this way all the time, but it's a very different and interesting variation.