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October 18, 2007

A Message From Beyond...

I received this message from a reader of my "Happiest Haunts Tour" blog, and I wanted to share it with the rest of you (though since I didn't want to get stuck with even more lines, I obtained her permission first!).

"Laura,

Well, I must say that I am quite happy to hear that you paid attention during the tour. I may cut down your detention time and the number of sentences you have to write. And yes, I still have your name written in my book.

And I must say that you are lucky that I didn't see you taking a picture of me at the end...that was in the rules you know...no taking pictures of the dead, undead, goblins, trolls..and so on. If I would have seen that I would have taken the camera and you would have had to have a parent or guardian come and pick it up. :)

And just for the record...what was the name of the man who told Walt Disney 'more mice'?

Hope to see you real soon,
Your ghost hostess."

Let me tell you, it was quite a surprise to me - who knew the Haunted Mansion had internet connectivity? :-)

The "more mice" question relates to one of the stories Rachel told us - one of Walt Disney's early "Silly Symphonies" was The Skeleton Dance (Rachel's favorite, as it turns out. :-) ). Walt's distributor at the time, a man named Pat Powers, saw it, didn't like it, and immediately sent Walt a two-word telegram: "MORE MICE." Walt Disney was undeterred, and was able to get it shown at the Carthay Circle Theater, where it was very successful.

(If you missed it, you can read the Happiest Haunts blog entry HERE.)

October 4, 2007

Disney's Happiest Haunts Tour

Lee and I took the new Disney's Happiest Haunts tour at Disneyland/DCA last Friday. There hasn't been much information on this tour so we weren't sure exactly what to expect.

We met our group (there were 13 of us!) at 6:00 p.m. in front of the Tower of Terror, where a representative from Guest Relations (Christina) checked us in. Spoilers later, so this will just be a basic description. We went through the Fastpass line at the Tower of Terror, and eventually they put us on our own elevator, though we rode it without our guide. After we got off the ride Christina gave us all these really cool green glow-tube "necklaces" - with an old-fashioned key at the end. The necklaces turn on and off and have three settings - fast blink, slow blink, and solid. (We got lots of envious looks from other guests the rest of the evening!) Then we met our *real* guide, who took us over to Disneyland. We stopped along the way so she could point out the jack-o-lanterns on Main Street and tell us the legend of the jack-o-lantern, and near the castle we heard the *real* story of Sleeping Beauty, and in Fantasyland we got the *real* story of the Abominable Snowman.

In Frontierland she told us about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, and then we learned about the runaway trains of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and then went in through the exit and rode it. I must say we looked pretty cool on the ride with all of our green necklaces! In front of Pirates of the Caribbean we heard about the cursed pirates of the Black Pearl, and then she took us into New Orleans Square where we could hear the voodoo priestess chanting.

Our last stop was the Haunted Mansion, where we rode Haunted Mansion Holiday. After we got off and exited there was one last surprise...

Our tour actually started about 6:15 and was over at 8:00, so it was a little less than two hours. It was ok, but not a great tour - most of the stories we heard that were related to Disneyland attractions were made up for the occasion and had nothing to do with the *real* backstory of the attraction, so we didn't get any interesting insider information. Though I found some of the stories much more entertaining than the "real" ones. :-) I was expecting it to be a little spookier, but there were two kids (~6-8) in our group, so maybe the guide toned it down a little. To get the most out of it you have to get into the "spirit" of the thing with the guide...I think each tour is going to be a little different depending on which guide you get - different guides assume different characters.

For additional information on the tour, including cost, restrictions, when it's offered, how to book, etc. please see the page on AllEars.Net: Disney's Happiest Haunts Tour

**** SPOILERS AHEAD ****

Before the tour started, Christina told us that there were four rules:

1) No consorting or interacting with ghosts or spirits at any time.
2) Absolutely no seances.
3) Stay out of sacred burial grounds.
4) Do not enter any alternate dimensions.

Since we knew what rides we were doing (Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain, and Haunted Mansion) we knew we were doomed. :-)

Our guide, Rachel, was clearly a no-nonsense schoolteacher-type - with her hair in a tight bun, wearing half glasses and a prim outfit, and she was carrying a ruler and a notebook. She immediately told us to ignore the rules, since we were going to break all of them. (And at that point we'd already broken rule #4.) Though we were following behind her and couldn't see it, she clearly had a rather forbidding expression when leading us through crowds - because people would look at her and get out of her way. :-) She warned us about all of the small "goblins" that infested Disneyland, and to watch out for them because they like to attach themselves to adults and they become a tremendous waste of time and money. Ahhh...a woman after my own heart. :-) (When we entered Fantasyland she warned us that the goblin infestation was especially bad there.)

Lee and I got into trouble - Rachel was holding her ruler up like a flag as she led us along, and at one point she said "Follow me", and Lee and I put our arms up in the air and she turned around and saw us. :-) She wrote our names in her notebook and told us to report for detention after the tour, where we'd have to write "I will not mock the teacher" 100 times. (Lee was only assigned 50 lines, though!) And one of the other men on the tour was chastised because Rachel asked a question and he answered it without raising his hand first and waiting to be called on.

Did you know that Maleficent was actually a very kind and generous woman? And the CEO of her own company: E.V.I.L (which stands for Enchanted Villages I[something] Limited.) She offered Princess Aurora an internship when she turned 16, but her father would hear nothing of it, and didn't want his daughter working in the textile industry. Instead he wanted to marry her off to someone she had never met. Well, spoiled brat that she was, Aurora pitched a fit and pretended to be asleep for years and years. But it was Malficent who got the blame for the whole thing.

Rachel pointed out the Queen in her window above Snow White's Scary Adventures, calling her a "lovely woman" who was killed by a poisoned apple. I told her that I'd heard that a bunch of dwarves pushed her off a cliff - Rachel was shocked. :-)

As for the Abominable Snowman - he was accused of luring all of the children of the village away one night. The villagers chased him and drove him up the mountain, where he caused an avalanche that blocked the trail. In the end it turned out that it was the Ice Demon that had lured the children away to his ice palace, where he bound their feet to the floor and made them sing the same song over and over and over...

Big Thunder Mountain was actually the site of the US's largest gold strike (bigger than Sutter's Creek!). But it was the site of a sacred burial ground...and eventually strange things started happening, and the mine trains started moving all by themselves.

When we were listening to the voodoo priestess in New Orleans Square Rachel actually revealed the truth - that she was one of the 999 "happy haunts", who love this time of year because they get to come out and interact with the living.

Rachel said goodbye to us as we went into the Haunted Mansion...but we were to see her one last time. :-) After we came out the exit and our group met Christina under a tree near the souvenir stand, Christina told us to look behind us. From there we could see along the side of the Mansion to the hillside behind it, and there was Rachel, in a luminous white dress holding a parasol and waving her ruler at us - she even had green glowing eyes!

And I know this is a really horrible picture - but do you know how hard it is to take a picture of a ghost? :-)

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September 20, 2007

Quick weekend trip to Disneyland

I made a quick weekend trip to Disneyland and actually spent the night up there for a change - mainly because I was doing the Segway tour which started at 7:15 a.m., and would have meant getting up *really* early if I left from San Diego!

I met my friend Patty at my hotel on Saturday (Best Western Park Place Inn - more on that in a later blog), and she surprised me with a Disneyland birthday button! My birthday was the day before - I've never had a birthday button before. And it was fun - CMs at the turnstiles and in the park said "Happy Birthday, Laura!", and so did several guests, and I got singled out for some special attention by the Laughing Stock Company, and the Mariachi Divas over at DCA sang "Las Mañanitas" (the Mexican birthday song) to me and two other birthday people who were watching.

There were banners up at the parks (mostly where you saw them on your way out) advertising this year's Disney's HalloweenTime, which starts on September 21 - a week earlier this year. It was very festive last year, with great decorations! I hope to visit this weekend.

Now that summer is over the park is a lot quieter (even on Saturday it wasn't horribly busy, and it was a beautiful day - sunny and shorts weather, but a lot cooler than it had been in the last month!), and the Nemo line is down to something semi-reasonable - 45-60 minutes most of the time.


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I don't think I've mentioned this before - the "yellow submarine" monorail that they premiered at the Finding Nemo grand opening is still decorated and has been in use ever since the opening (though they removed the conning tower!) - it's really cute - we saw it zooming around a number of times.

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The construction of Toy Story Mania at DCA is beginning to take a more visible shape - as Patty pointed out to me the facade is taking on more of a Victorian look than the seaside amusement park look of the rest of the area. There's rumors that there are lots of changes coming to DCA (especially Paradise Pier) in the next few years, so maybe this is the start of it?

I saw the Remember fireworks at Disneyland that night from a spot near the castle where I could actually see the projections on the castle for a change. There's some really cool stuff - stars during the Main Street portion, flying spooks and hitchhiking ghosts during the Haunted Mansion section, skull and crossbones for Pirates, a moving duck target during the Frontierland Shooting Gallery bit (that's my favorite - it just quacks me up), crazy swirls for Toontown, "water ripples" for the Submarine Voyage, and a "light speed" pattern for Star Tours. I like that show more each time I see it.

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The next morning Patty and I did the Segway tour - but you can read all about that HERE. It was a lot of fun - I liked it even more than the Epcot Segway tour, I think.

While waiting for the tour to start I *finally* got a decent picture of the new cloud-patterned "CALIFORNIA" letters in front of the park - just in time for them to change to the Halloween candy corn, I'm sure!

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After the tour I wandered around the Disneyland Hotel taking pictures - and eventually found the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) sales office and models that are way on the far side of the Dreams (aka Bonita) Tower. I asked about the Grand Californian DVC, and they said they had no news on that...but it was finally announced earlier today. The press release is HERE.

Other news bits...

Ariel's Grotto at DCA will be starting a daily character breakfast on September 21, which runs through January 6. Breakfast will be served from 8:30 to 11:30 - $25.99 for adults and $13.99 for kids. Since the park doesn't open until 10:00, Cast Members will direct guests to the restaurant either from the main entrance or the Grand Californian entrance. Priority seating arrangements can be made up to 60 days in advance by calling Disneyland Dining: 714-781-DINE (3463).

And there's a new tour for the Halloween season - Disney's Happiest Haunts tour runs daily September 21-October 31. It starts at 6:00 at night and visits three attractions - Tower of Terror, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Haunted Mansion Holiday. From what one of the guides told us, each tour guide gets to assume the persona of a character of their choice - like a pirate, or a miner or a psychotic actress. The tour includes creepy stories, and it's not for young children or those who might be easily frightened. Lee and I are signed up for the tour on September 28, so we'll know more after that. In the meantime, what we know about the tour is HERE.

It was a short trip but a lot of fun!

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Tours category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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