July 31, 2012

Maleficent on the Castle

Maleifcent Dragon Painting Disneyland
As you pass through Sleeping Beauty Castle into the main Fantasyland courtyard, it's natural to immediately focus your attention on the great rides ahead. If, however, you slow down a moment and look to the left, you'll spot this wonderful painting on the castle wall depicting one of the best moments in Disney animation: Prince Phillip's confrontation with the dragon Maleficent. Look at that great use of color, pulling your eyes to the flame's impact on the shield.
Maleficent dragon painting Disneyland
No doubt about it, that dragon is one of the best film monsters of all time. When I finally took the time to really get a good look at this painting, however, one element made me smile most. Let's zoom in on the real star of Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty.
Samson horse Disneyland painting
Yes, Samson the horse is one of Disney's great unsung heroes. Sleeping Beauty's happy ending couldn't happen without this stalwart, long-suffering trooper -- and all he gets is a carrot. I think the artist in charge of this great painting felt the same way; he took the time to capture the humor and determination in the character. I mean, compare the horse's face to Prince Phillip's; who got the most flattering portrait?

Disneyland contains a bazillion great little details. This painting, quietly tucked to the side, is just one of them.

July 30, 2012

Monstro the Frequent Snacker

People often use the word "charming" to describe Disneyland, but what we need is a word that means, "charming in often weird and unexpected ways." Fantasyland's Monstro fits that description perfectly. This behemoth, after nearly bringing a tragic end to the story of Pinocchio, found a new career swallowing boatloads of happy park-goers.
Monstro Whale Disneyland Storybookland
No matter how hard the big lug tries to look fierce, however, he just can't escape the fact that he's surrounded by beautiful, serene landscaping. As the "gateway to enchantment" for the Storybook Land Canal Boats, Monstro adds another fun, quirky puzzle piece to the one-of-a-kind atmosphere of Disneyland's Fantasyland. He looks surreal and yet so perfectly at home.
Monstro Whale Disneyland Storybookland Eye
I can tell you, when I rode the Canal Boats as a small child, I always held my breath 'till we'd motored safely past the teeth.
Monstro Whale teeth Disneyland

July 28, 2012

El Materdor

El Materdor Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
We've previously looked at Mater's mementos from Unidentified Flying Mater and Private Eye Mater, and now here's another gem from the queue for Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.

From El Materdor, we see Mater's got significant proof that this "Tall Tale" actually happened; he's kept the embellished hood (complete with fancy mustache) he lost in a nasty scrap with a bulldozer. Hubcabs and the event poster (set up to re-create the tombstone gag) complete the tableau.

This stroll through Mater's colorful hidden world is, of course, just a warm-up for the the surreal event ahead; you've got a date with a herd of square-dancing tractors!

July 27, 2012

The Cutest Little Place in Carburetor County

Cars Land Carsland Radiator Springs
It's a typically busy-but-easygoing morning in Radiator Springs. The rides are great, the food's fantastic and the mood is sunny. It's amazing how well Cars Land handles the crowds; I can think of few theme park lands that can absorb such large numbers of guests so easily. Of course, it just appears easy; hats off to the many hard-working Disney Cast Members and technicians who make Cars Land function so well.

July 26, 2012

Mater Private Eye at Junkyard Jamboree

Continuing yesterday's look at the Tall Tale props in the Mater's Junkyard Jamboree queue, we pass by the window from the Private Eye short film.

Below the window, notice the intentional misspelling of "Lightyear Tires." I'd originally thought it represented the way Mater would misspell it in his imagination, but mwh1980 reminded me in the comments that these are the counterfeit tires Mater was investigating.

It's a fantasy world (Mater's recollections) within a fantasy world (Radiator Springs) within a fantasy world (DCA)!

July 25, 2012

Parking Area 51

Parking Area 51 Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
The sheltered, fan-cooled queue for Mater's Junkyard Jamboree leads you past the tow truck's collection of memorabilia from all his Tall Tale adventures.

Mater's quite a yarn-spinner, and the short Tall Tale films play with the boundaries between what "really" happened in the truck's past and what lives only in his boundless imagination. The existence of these life-sized props in Radiator Springs further blurs that line -- probably much to the exasperation of Lightning McQueen.

This collection comes from "Unidentified Flying Mater." In the foreground shadows, we see the end result of UFO Ma-Tor's request to "Take me to your liter."

July 24, 2012

Paradise in the City

Paradise Pier seen from hotel
This photo of early-morning Paradise Pier, taken from an upper corridor window at the Paradise Pier Hotel, shows how the city of Anaheim brushes right up to the borders of Disney California Adventure. Inside the park, the illusion of strolling along an early-20th century waterfront boardwalk works brilliantly; the outside world seems miles away.
Paradise Pier from hotel window
Zooming in a bit. On the left, we see the green rooftops of Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, the California Screamin' launch track along the edge of Paradise Bay, and the Pier-facing cliffside of Cars Land's Ornament Valley mountains.

In a couple of hours, this tranquil scene will come (literally) roaring to life with thousands of excited visitors.

July 23, 2012

Sarge's Night Vision Goggles

Sarge's Night Vision Goggles Sarge Cars Land
Cars Land bursts at the seams with details; everywhere you look, you'll find exactly the sorts of mementos, tools and stored belongings the town's citizens would keep on hand.

The next time you visit Sarge's Surplus Hut to shop for souvenirs and collectibles, look upward and you'll find the retired officer's old night vision goggles sitting on a shelf. Of course, they're exactly the right size to fit a Jeep's windshield.

A closer look at that box...
Sarge's Surplus Hut Crate Uncrating

July 22, 2012

Sunday Signage: King Triton's Carousel

King Triton's Carousel Triton Paradise Pier
King Triton's Carousel may not be the most thrilling ride at Disney California Adventure, but it sure has a first-rate sign welcoming guests aboard. Have you ever seen Ol' Triton so overjoyed to see humans?

Maybe it would have been more in-character to have him scowling down at anyone entering...and then, during the ride, a life-size audioanimatronic of the Sea King could lunge up from behind a boulder and fire thunderbolts over riders' heads while bellowing, "GET OFF MY CAROUSEL, HUMANS!!!" That would have been awesome.

Getting back to reality, King Triton's Carousel is a fun feature of Paradise Pier, and was actually one of the few opening-day DCA attractions suitable for small children. Its location -- tucked off to the side between California Screamin' and Toy Story Midway Mania -- keeps the waiting lines short, and that's good news for guests!

July 21, 2012

The Best Drink at the Cozy Cone Motel

Doc's Wild Grape Tonic Cozy Cone Motel Cones
Every drink at the Cozy Cone Motel is colorful and delicious, from Ramone's "Pear"-of-Dice Soda to Filmore's Pomegranate Limeade. If pressed to pick favorites, our top two contenders would be Red's Apple Freeze and Doc's Wild Grape Tonic -- two of the most refreshing hot-day remedies we've ever enjoyed!

As much as we love the icy goodness of the Apple Freeze, however, our pick for Best Drink at the Cozy Cone goes to Doc's Wild Grape Tonic. We don't know if it's the cool color or the fun little kick the wild berry foam topping gives it, but if the Grape Tonic came in gallon buckets, we'd buy two of 'em; it's the perfect summer drink!

Alice In Wonderland - Before the Safety Fence

Alice in Wonderland ride Disneyland
Alice in Wonderland is a Disneyland treasure, and my favorite black-light dark ride.

This photo was taken a couple of years ago, before the safety fencing was added to the upper outdoor section of track. The meandering downhill vine-path used to provide a visual thrill, as the caterpillar cars would seem to be heading right off the edge of the track before turning in another direction. It was like a gentle wild-mouse ride.

The dark ride portions are still great, but the safety fence has muted the visual fun of the outdoor descent. The good news: the outdoor track's about to get a major overhaul including a new, permanent re-work of the fencing. Hopefully, the new look will blend the fence more naturally into the whimsical setting and bring more fun back to the outdoor track.

One more pre-fence view, this one from 1994:
Alice in Wonderland ride Disneyland leaves

July 20, 2012

Radiator Springs Racers Review

Radiator Springs Racers Review Cars Land
The hype's settled down, we've ridden Radiator Springs Racers many times, and it's time to take a clear-eyed look at Disneyland Resort's new headliner attraction.

As an E-Ticket, does Radiator Springs Racers compare well to other Disneyland Resort classics? Does the initial excitement hold up through repeat visits? In short, is it really all that great?
Yes. Radiator Springs Racers is amazing. It's become our all-time favorite ride, and the more trips we take around its winding track, the more it  astonishes us.
How and why does this newcomer deserve the "King of Disney Rides" crown? Let's take a closer look at the specific reasons this adventure works so well.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Radiator Spings Racers is unique; it combines setting, story, motion, characters, humor, sound,  special effects and thrills smoothly into one great, perfectly-paced and emotionally uplifting adventure. Its mix of attraction styles keeps guests engaged, wondering what's going to happen next.
Radiator Springs Racers Loading station Cars Land

The Perfect Ride Story

The story works brilliantly and flows naturally with the speed and motion of the ride vehicles. You start with a scenic road trip through the wonders of Ornament Valley, but soon take a wrong turn into a tunnel.
 After a few near-disasters, you stumble onto Route 66, where Sheriff slows you down, assumes you've come for the Big Race, and asks Mater to lead you to town to get ready. Mater takes you on a tractor-tipping detour, which naturally leads to a frantic run to escape Frank the harvester.
Red Radiator Springs Racers Cars Land
Safely reaching Radiator Springs, your arrival's noted by Sarge, Filmore, Lizzie and Red. At the town's main intersection, Lightning McQueen and Sally -- also assuming you've come for "Race Day" -- welcome you and send you to either Luigi's or Ramone's to get spiffed up. Afterward, Doc Hudson knocks you down a peg for your vanity and introduces himself as your new Crew Chief while ushering you toward the Starting Line. You line up with a second car as Guido cheers you on and Luigi counts down to the start. With a screech of tires, the race begins. As you hurtle along the outdoor course, Doc gives you advice over the radio. You roar across the finish line and Doc congratulates you on your win (or -- if you've lost -- your outstanding performance). Entering spectacular Tailight Caverns, you find Lightning and Mater waiting with some parting words.
Their dialogue, along with Sheriff's closing safety advisory, are written to remind you that there's still much to see and discover out in Radiator Springs, and so the good nature of the ride follows you out the exit.
Tail Light Caverns Sign Racers Cars

Continuing the Experience Beyond the Ride

That last bit matters a lot, and helps explain what makes Radiator Springs Racers so effective. On most rides, the adventure ends as you step back out into the park. Here, however, when you exit the ride, you're still in Radiator Springs. You're still immersed in the Cars World, the races continue and the whole town is bustling with excitement and activity. The entirety of Cars Land extends the ride experience.

Cars Land Radiator Springs Racers Review
Imagine how cool Pirates of the Caribbean would be if you were the main character in the ride story and, after the ride's conclusion, you stepped out into a huge, live-size pirate seaport full of more pirate rides, activities and sights connected with the main ride. Imagine if Space Mountain dropped you off in a life-size, believable spaceport where you could dine and shop at your leisure without ever breaking the space station illusion.

That's what happens with the one-two combination of Radiator Springs Racers and Cars Land. The two are intertwined and enhance each other to a degree never before achieved in a theme park. It even goes beyond what Universal's done with Harry Potter in Florida, as the outdoor portion of Radiator Springs Racers -- with full-size cars zooming past spectators -- forms a living, kinetic part of the whole picture.

The illusion of life

Radiator Springs Racers represents the most successful instance of bringing beloved animated characters to life in a theme park. The audio-animatronic characters on this ride are absolutely phenomenal, and the way they're gradually introduced to riders works brilliantly. After a beautiful drive that feels like a life-size version of Autopia, guests follow a cave into the show building. For the first frantic moments of swerves and near-collisions in the dark, it feels like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride on steroids. Then, however, you hear Sheriff's siren and you slow down.
Sheriff Radiator Springs Racers
Then comes the big "Wow" moment as Sheriff -- the first full animatronic character you encounter -- pulls into view to speak to you, and...everyone's jaws drop open. At that instant, you really feel like you've crossed into another world; a full-size automobile is speaking to you and giving you directions...and he looks completely alive.
The surreal fun of this moment only increases as Tow Mater -- full size and fully in character -- rushes up to your vehicle and chats at you with all the expression and enthusiasm you've seen in the films. Riders find themselves speechless with amazement -- it's one of the greatest moments Imagineering's ever created. By the time the hapless field tractors start mooing and tipping over backwards, the effect is complete; riders are completely immersed in the Cars world, and the experience is fun beyond belief.

The thrill of the race

The race section of Radiator Springs Racers blends thrills, voice acting, music and the amazing surrounding rockwork into a perfectly-designed finale. The steeply banked turns, dips and rises make the cars seem to be going much faster than their 40 MPH cruising speed, and you get a nice sense of weightlessness as you top the camel back hills. The overall effect of racing another car through the rocky landscape is fantastic, and the final swoop/banked turn/tunnel dive/finish line combination always elicits shouts of joy from riders.
Radiator Springs Racers hill

Sportsmanship

The final scene in Tail Light Caverns, where Lightning and Mater share some parting words with your group, ties the whole experience together beautifully, putting riders in a happy, mellow mood. Any thoughts about who won or lost the race are instantly forgotten, as everyone's had a great time. In keeping with the tone of the films, the race isn't about winning or losing, it's about taking part.

Radiator Springs Racers Cars Land review

Unpredictability

Of course, racing to the finish line does provide a great goal for the ride's high-speed finale, and adds a sense of spontaneity to the adventure. When you board the ride, there's no way to know ahead of time if you'll win or lose. In the same manner, you don't know if the ride will send you to Lugi's Casa Della Tires or Ramone's House of Body Art. Combined with varying lines of character dialogue and the live interactions of waving to the folks in the opposing car, Radiator Springs Racers is a bit different each time you ride. Throw in the beautiful outdoor lighting after dark and the hundreds of details you won't catch on the first several trips, and you've got one of the most evergreen attractions in theme park history.
Radiator Springs Racers Butte mountains
Technically amazing, thrilling and full of heart, Radiator Springs Racers is a masterpiece. It tells its story with clarity and humor, and the experience carries over as guests disembark into the bustling town of Radiator Springs. Everyone involved in the creation of this attraction should be very proud; it's going to delight and inspire guests from all over the world for decades to come.
Radiator Springs Racers mountains sunset

July 19, 2012

A DL First-Timer's Guide For Walt Disney World Pros

Disneyland Guide for WDW Pros
It's friendly, it's honest and it's 100% free! Mouse Troop presents a quick and easy guide to Disneyland Resort specifically aimed at Walt Disney World regulars making their first West Coast trip to check out Cars Land and Buena Vista Street!

Disneyland and Walt Disney World -- Have there ever been two resort destinations sharing so many attractions, yet offering such vastly different vacation experiences? We're here to help WDW experts hone in on Disneyland's best qualities in a short stretch of vacation time!

So, if you're a Walt Disney World fan -- or a Disneyland regular wondering why on earth we'd recommend Mr. Toad's Wild Ride over Splash Mountain -- your guide is one click away!

July 18, 2012

Cars Land Song List *Updated*

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree Sign Magnet
The internet's a great place to find out others share your Disney hobbies -- for instance, creating playlists of songs you enjoy at the Disney Resorts. At Mouse Troop, we're thoroughly enjoying the sounds of Cars Land, and we're compiling a list of music we've heard there. The official Music of Cars Land CD got us off to a great start, but there's much, much more to the soundscape of DCA's newest territory.

So here's our ongoing project to list as many Cars Land tracks as we can, and indicate if they're available on CD or iTunes. Any input you can give us to complete this list would be greatly appreciated! *Update* There are a lot of terrific and dedicated Disney music fans out there, and this list could not be as robust as it is without information gathered by Anonymous friends as well as monorail91, pixilated and RocketRodsXPR. UPDATE 12/10/12  A thanks to reader Jesse, who just identified three Ramblin' Lou songs from the RSR queue. UPDATE 3/5/2013 We weren't simply eating at Flo's on our most recent DCA trip -- we were taking notes! We've added over a dozen tracks to our Flo's V8 Cafe list and added La Bamba to Ramone's. UPDATE 7/7/13 A big thanks to Heather D., who just identified nearly a dozen additional songs for the RSR queue list!

So, as Mater sings at his Junkyard Jamboree, "Scatter n' scoot n' away we go!"


FROM RADIATOR SPRINGS RACERS:

Radiator Springs Racers Full Attraction (Available on The Music of Cars Land and iTunes)
Behind the Clouds - Brad Paisley (Available on Cars soundtrack)
Low Rider (Espanol Fantasmo Mix) - War (Available on The Music of Cars Land)

FROM THE RADIATOR SPRINGS RACERS QUEUE:

Riding in My Car (Car Car Song) - Woody Guthrie (Available on The Music of Cars Land)
Auto-Conga - Xavier Cugat (iTunes)
Hot Rod Blues - Ramblin' Lou (iTunes)
In My Merry Oldsmobile - Bix Beiderbeck (iTunes)
Listen to the Rhythm of the Range - Gene Autry (iTunes)
Roly Poly - Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys (iTunes)
Henry's Made a Lady Out of Lizzie - Beth Challis (iTunes)
No Parking Here - Jimmy Littlejohn (iTunes)
The Little Ford Rambled Right Along - Billy Murray (iTunes)
The Automobile Song - Ramblin' Lou (iTunes)
Model T Baby - Ramblin' Lou (iTunes)
My Ford Sedan - Fiddlin' John Carson (iTunes)
Crazy 'Cause I Love You - Tex Williams (iTunes)
The Automobile Song - Luke McDaniel (iTunes)
I'm a Truck Driving Man - Red Simpson (iTunes)
Dig That Hot Rod = Paul Westmoreland (iTunes)
The Chevrolet Six - Frank Hutchison (iTunes)
Hot Rod Baby - Dick Reinhart (iTunes)
Hello, I'm a Truck - Red Simpson (iTunes)
Truck Driver Blues - Red Simpson (iTunes)
Runaway Truck - Red Simpson
Wildwood Flower - The Carter Family (iTunes)
I'm Wild About Horns On Automobiles, That Go Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta - Billy Hays & his Orchestra with vocal by Pete Moore (CD: Four-Four Rhythm: Victor Territory Bands 1928-1931: Volume 1: Available through Amazon)


FROM ROUTE 66:

Route 66 - Chuck Berry (iTunes)
V-8 Ford Blues - Mose Allison (iTunes)
Hot Rod Man - Tex Rubinowitz (Hot Rods & Custom Classics)
Little Forty Ford - Leon Smith (iTunes)
Road Runner - Bo Diddley (iTunes)
409 - The Quads (Amazon mp3)
Let's Go for a Ride - The Collegians (iTunes)
Welcome to Radiator Springs - Joe Louis Walker (The Music of Cars Land)
Ride on Josephine - George Thorogood & the Destroyers (iTunes)
Big Green Car - Jimmy Carroll (iTunes)
Hot Rod Is Her Name - Tom Tall & Ginny Wright (iTunes)
Automobiles - The Spaniels (iTunes)
Ford V-8 - Honey Boy Allen (Hot Rods & Custom Classics)
Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett (iTunes)
Maybellene - Chuck Berry (iTunes)
Coupe de Ville Baby - Vernon Green & The Medallions (iTunes)
Hot Rod - The Collins Kids (iTunes)
Led Sled - Denny Freeman (Hot Rods & Custom Classics)
Cruisin' - Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps (Hot Rods & Custom Classics)
No Particular Place to Go - Chuck Berry (iTunes)
Bring My Cadillac Back - Baker Knight & The Knightmares (iTunes)
Key to the Highway - Little Walter (iTunes)
Hot Rod Queen - Deke Dickerson & The Ecco-Fonics (iTunes)
Rocket 88 - Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (iTunes)
Draggin' - Curtis Gordon (Hot Rods & Custom Classics)
One Piece at a Time - Johnny Cash (iTunes)
Stand on It - Mel McDaniel (iTunes)
Built for Speed - Stray Cats (iTunes)
Fastest Short in Town - Robert A. Irvine & The Kentucky Colonels (iTunes)
Rocking Little Roadster - Fred Mollin & The Blue Sea Band, featuring Gunnar Nelson (iTunes)
Hot Rod Lincoln - Johnny Bond (iTunes)
Twin Pipes and Pin Stripes - Sammy Masters (iTunes)
You Can't Catch Me - Chuck Berry (iTunes)
Spinout - Elvis Presley (iTunes)
My Mustang Ford - Chuck Berry (iTunes)
The Phantom Dragster - The Bobby Fuller Four (iTunes)
Flat Tire - The Del Vikings (iTunes)
Black and White Thunderbird - Fred Mollin & The Blue Sea Band (iTunes)
My Old Car - Fred Mollin & The Blue Sea Band, featuring Johnny Neel - (iTunes)
Pink Cadillac - Sammy Masters & His Rocking Rhythms (iTunes)
My White Convertible - The Hall Brothers (iTunes)
Loud Mufflers - Robert Williams and The Groovers (iTunes)
Six Days on the Road - Dave Dudley (iTunes)
Hotrod Gang - Stray Cats (Hot Rods & Custom Classics)
Pontiac Blues - Sonny Boy Williamson (iTunes)
Green Onions - Booker T. & The MG's (iTunes)
Freeway of Love - Aretha Franklin (iTunes)
Radiator Rock - Joe Louis Walker (The Music of Cars Land)
Ride on Josephine - Bo Diddley (iTunes)
Wheels - The Flying Burrito Brothers (iTunes)
V-8 Ford Boogie - Eleven Hundred Springs (iTunes)
Go Champs Go - The Champs (iTunes)
Dear Dad - Chuck Berry (iTunes)
Hot Rod Susie - The Manin Brothers (iTunes)
I Want to Be Your Driver - Chuck Berry (iTunes)
Mustang Sally & GTO - John Lee Hooker (iTunes)
From a Buick 6 - Bob Dylan (iTunes)
Cadillac - Bo Diddley (iTunes)
Hot Rodder's Lament - Deke Dickerson & The Ecco-Fonics (iTunes)
Hardtop Race - George Stogner (iTunes)
Slow Down "GTO" - Joe Louis Walker (iTunes)
King of the Road - Roger Miller (iTunes)
Peroxide Blonde and a Hopped Up Model Ford - Jumpin' Gene Simmons (iTunes)
I've Been Everywhere - Hank Snow (iTunes)
Push Button Automobile - Vernon Green & The Medallions (iTunes)
Motor Head Baby - Johnny "Guitar" Watson (iTunes)
Look at That Cadillac - Stray Cats (iTunes)
Sh-Boom - The Chords (iTunes) *Special event song played only once a night

FROM MATER'S JUNKYARD JAMBOREE:

Junkyard Jamboree - Larry the Cable Guy  (The Music of Cars Land)
Big Bull Dozer - Larry the Cable Guy (The Music of Cars Land)
Tow Mater (The One You Want To Call) - Larry the Cable Guy (The Music of Cars Land)
Mater's Square Dance - Larry the Cable Guy (The Music of Cars Land)
Let's Go Drivin' - Larry the Cable Guy (The Music of Cars Land)
Welcome to Radiator Springs - Larry the Cable Guy (iTunes)
Radiator Rock - Larry the Cable Guy
Welcome to Radiator Springs (blooper version) - Larry the Cable Guy

FROM FLO'S V8 CAFE:

Stop in the Name of Love - The Supremes  (Available on The Music of Cars Land)
I Hear a Symphony - The Supremes (iTunes)
Jimmy Mack - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (iTunes)
Dancing in the Street - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (iTunes)
Tell Him - The Exciters (iTunes)
He's So Fine - The Chiffons (iTunes)
Da Doo Ron Ron - The Crystals (iTunes)
Take Me in Your Arms - Kim Weston - (iTunes)
Chapel of Love -  The Dixie Cups (iTunes)
Nowhere to Run - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (iTunes)
Mama Said - The Shirelles (iTunes)
Please Mr. Postman - The Marvelettes (iTunes)
Sweet Talking Guy - The Chiffons (iTunes)
And Then He Kissed Me - The Crystals (iTunes)
One Fine Day - The Chiffons (iTunes)
Baby Love - Diana Ross and the Supremes (iTunes)
He Was Really Saying Something - The Velvelettes (iTunes)
Don't Let Him Shop Around - Debbie Dean (iTunes)
Come See About Me - Dianna Ross and the Supremes (iTunes)
Back in My Arms Again - Diana Ross and the Supremes (iTunes)
Sailor Boy - The Chiffons (iTunes)
Respect - Aretha Franklin (iTunes)
The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss) - Betty Everett (iTunes)
Rescue Me - Fontella Bass (iTunes)



FROM RAMONE'S HOUSE OF BODY ART:

Low Rider (Espanol Fantasmo Mix) - War (iTunes)
Wooly Bully - Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (iTunes)
Why Can't We Be Friends - War (iTunes)
La Bamba - Ritchie Valens - (iTunes)

FROM LUIGI'S FLYING TIRES:

Eh Cumpari - Julius La Rosa (iTunes)
Luigi - Louis Prima (iTunes)
La Strada Del Bosco - Claudio Villa
Che Cosse` L'amor - Vinicio Capossela (iTunes)
Funiculi Funicula - Various - From the album "24 Exitos - 10 Grandes Artistas Paris - Italia" (iTunes)
Arrivederci, Roma - Mario Lanza (iTunes)
Tie, Ti, Tie Ta - Claudio Villa
Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu) - Domenico Modugno (iTunes)
Carina - Nicola Arigliano (iTunes)
Mambo Italiano - Rosemary Clooney (The Music of Cars Land)
La Donna รจ Mobile (Rigoletto) - Orchestra Italiana
That's Amore (That's Love) - Dean Martin (iTunes)
Papa Loves Mambo – Perry Como (iTunes)
Forget Domani - Perry Como
O Sole Mio - Various - From the album "24 Exitos - 10 Grandes Artistas Paris - Italia" (iTunes)
Soldi, Soldi, Soldi - Sophia Loren (iTunes)
Juke Box - Fred Buscaglione (iTunes)

The Cozy Cone Fountain

Cozy Cone Motel Cones Fountain
The Cozy Cone Motel is the most playfully crazy place in Cars Land. As guests head over there to eat Chili Cone Queso or to meet Lightning and Mater in front of Sally's office, sooner or later they laugh as they realize how insanely, wonderfully far the concept's been taken. There are, literally, cones everywhere. The more you look, the more you see.

This charming fountain features a fully functioning cone water wheel, set in a cone-shaped pool. Cone ground lights encircle the little lawn as cones on lamp posts tower overhead.

Impertinently breaking the theme are a few clumps of tail light flowers. Those things grow like weeds in Radiator Springs!

July 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

Disneyland 57th Birthday 57
What a great 57th year Disneyland's having! The place looks more beautiful than ever, with a spiffed-up Matterhorn in Fantasyland and the new Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street. All the rides are running -- none down for refurbishing -- and the whole place is firing on all cylinders.

Best of all, next-door Disney California Adventure has finally stepped up to the plate with enough great attractions to take on its share of the summer crowds, helping to keep Disneyland waiting lines at busy-but-sane levels. The "resort" part of the Disneyland Resort is really starting to kick into gear, and there are a lot of very, very happy customers this year.

So, Happy Birthday to the Happiest Place on Earth -- and to all of you out there celebrating your own birthday today!

July 16, 2012

The Cars Land Luigi Vs. Ramone Mystery

Luigi Ramone Radiator Springs Racers
A logic-defying mystery's forming around Radiator Springs Racers. I'm sure there's a simple explanation, but -- to some repeat visitors -- this Cars Land ride seems to bend the rules of time and space.

How so?

At one point in the adventure, the track splits and your car heads to either Luigi's Casa Della Tires or Ramone's House of Body Art. This is necessary to line up two cars on parallel tracks for the finale race. Logically, then, half the riders go to Luigi's, and half go to Ramone's. Simple.

But...if you've ridden it, which side did you visit? An informal poll among family, friends and fellow fans brought a weird result: nearly everyone went through Luigi's Tire Shop. On a recent Podcast, Lou Mongello's WDW Radio team indicated they rode several times and never saw Ramone's. I've ridden eight times and seen Ramone's once. Check out YouTube, where Luigi's shop appears in about 90% of the posted ride-throughs.

What the heck's going on? Clearly, half the riders must encounter Ramone, or the races would be physically impossible! Are Ramone witnesses sworn to secrecy as they exit? Are their memories and videos altered? Or is the phenomenon just coincidence and illusion (yeah, I know...of course it is).

Maybe a Cast Member could shed some light on this; are Single Riders -- who probably repeat-ride more than folks going through the full queue -- more likely to be placed in a Luigi-destined car due to the boarding zone setup? And are Disney Fans who discuss this sort of thing more likely to get in the Single Rider Line to save time? That seems the most logical answer to me.

Yes, this is probably the silliest post you'll read all day. But, really, it's a puzzle!


Paradise Pier at Night

Mickey's Fun Wheel night Paradise Pier
I love standing under a summer night sky, watching the spectacular lights of Paradise Pier while waiting for World of Color to begin. In those moments, I realize how well this section of Disney California Adventure works. Paradise Pier had some theming problems back when it first opened, but now it's a triumph; it's everybody's dream of the perfect old-fashioned waterfront amusement park brought to spectacular life.

There's just one change I'd love to see: as great as World of Color is, I think it's a shame they need to halt the operation of the roller coaster while the show's in progress. Imagine the thrill of rocketing around California Screamin's track while huge columns of water and fire erupt on the nearby lagoon!

My solution: I'd love to see the next World of Color show designed to incorporate  the ride's roaring trains -- and the screams of its riders -- into a bold, upbeat music-scape celebrating the never-ending-summer theme of Paradise Pier. Coaster fans would get an incredible new experience and World of Color fans would get an energetic new show. Everyone wins!

July 15, 2012

Disneyland Details: The Swirly Light

Every Time I visit Disneyland, I notice something I never saw before. I'll bet many die-hard fans know where this pink, swirly light is located. I'll reveal the location after the break! GEBQ96XECN6F

A look at Red From Radiator Springs Racers

Red the fire engine in Radiator Springs Racers
It's a calm, relaxing Sunday evening here at Mouse Troop, so we're taking this moment to pay tribute to brave, gentle old Red the fire engine. Amongst the wild, careening craziness, tractor-tipping and fleeing from rampaging harvesters inside the dark ride portion of Radiator Springs Racers, Red provides a moment of serenity as he waters the tail light flowers. The special effect of the water spraying out is terrific.


The Best Rides at Disney California Adventure

Luigi's Flying Tires Queue Sign
It's amazing what a multi-year expansion can do for a park; back in 2001 when DCA first opened, I couldn't have listed ten great rides there if my life depended on it. Things are certainly different now; Disneyland's next-door neighbor finally boasts a solid roster of great attractions. Here are Mouse Troop's picks for the ten best rides at Disney California Adventure.

Let's start with the best:

#1 - RADIATOR SPRINGS RACERS
Radiator Springs Racers
Since it's possibly the greatest ride on Earth, it's no surprise that Radiator Springs Racers wins our award for Best Ride at Disney California Adventure. A perfect blend of indoor dark ride and outdoor thrills, it's got heart, humor, spectacle and surprises around every bend, including the most amazing audioanimatronics we've ever encountered. You become the main character in a quest to take part in Race Day at Radiator Springs and, from Sheriff's seat belt warning to Lightning and Mater's parting words to your group, every inch of the trip is pure fun. Riders whoop and holler with joy at the race's finale, whether they've won or not; it's an exhilarating, spirit-lifting rush. Absolutely awesome.

#2 - CALIFORNIA SCREAMIN' 
California Screamin' at Disney California Adventure
It's the state's longest roller coaster, and the longest looping coaster on Earth. An opening-day original, it's always been one of the best reasons to visit DCA. California Screamin' is a fantastic thrill ride packed with great coaster elements, including a catapult launch, an intense loop, huge, stomach-flipping drops, high-speed banked turns, air-time on several hills and a wild helix finale. It's a darn pretty coaster too, forming a perfect backdrop for the old-time boardwalk setting of Paradise Pier.

#3 - TOY STORY MIDWAY MANIA
A hit at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, this ride/game combination makes everyone laugh and shout as they frantically compete for the best score in the ride vehicle. The games are simple, yet full of surprises to discover. The 3D is amazing. Favorite characters, jolly music, great art direction, and startling physical effects keep the pace intense but never overwhelming. It's a real winner, still drawing crowds four years after its debut.

#4 - TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR

This ride scares me every single time I ride -- and I love it. The drops are terrifying and hilarious at the same time, evoking both screams and laughter from each elevator load of guests. I love the way this ride plays mind games with its passengers, catching them off-guard over and over again. It's definitely the scariest ride at Disneyland Resort, and one of DCA's very best.

#5 -  SOARIN'

The best flight simulation ride ever, Soarin' is an experience no one should miss. It captures not just the sensation and thrill of flight over California's beautiful landscapes and seashores, but the emotion and grandeur as well. It's a perfect combination of music, imagery and motion -- a work of  genius.

#6 - MATER'S JUNKYARD JAMBOREE

"Whippin', whirlin', twistin' twirlin'," sings Mater in one of this attraction's soundtrack songs, and that pretty much sums up the crazy atmosphere of this awesomely fun ride. Folks who pass it by (thinking it's a kiddy ride) don't know what they're missing; this thing packs a surprising thrill as the tractor-pulled trailers whip wildly around the course. Combined with a fantastically detailed setting right out of the Cars films, Junkyard Jamboree is a winner.

#7 - GRIZZLY RIVER RUN

Splashing through the caves and mine shafts of Grizzly peak and plummeting down two steep drops, this ride gets my vote for best whitewater rapids attraction on the planet. The setting's beautiful, the river layout is imaginative, and a unique mechanism actually spins your raft as you hurtle down the big final drop. The only problem with Grizzly River Run is that -- like all whitewater rides -- it can completely soak you. We recommend riding it on your way back to your hotel room; you might have to change into some dry clothes.

#8 - LUIGI'S FLYING TIRES

Yes, all three of Cars Land's rides made the list! Luigi's Flying Tires is a wonderful and unique ride. These gentle round giants hover and scoot about like enormous air hockey pucks. Steering's easy (lean in the direction you want to go) and the party-like atmosphere is great fun. Our advice: don't waste time trying to bump into other riders; head for open space and simply have fun piloting your tire around the arena.

#9 - THE LITTLE MERMAID - ARIEL'S UNDERSEA ADVENTURE

A fun, relaxing journey through the musical highlights of a modern classic, Little Mermaid contains great audioanimatronics and convincing sets. Although we wish there were a bit more "adventure" in Ariel's Undersea Adventure (where's the shark? The Storm? The Battle with Ursula?), this is a great one for families with small children, and a good-humored journey for all ages.

#10 - MONSTERS INC. - MIKE AND SULLEY TO THE RESCUE

This dark ride through the world of Monstropolis is packed with funny gags and imaginative surprises, leading to a suitably eye-popping finale in the famous "door warehouse." It's worth riding just to hear Boo squeak, "Mike Wazowski!" This one's both fun and endearing. When Roz talks to you near the ride's ending, be sure to actually respond; she'll react to your answer!


One thing's for certain, taking a spin on every one of these rides adds up to one great day at DCA! Did we overlook a favorite? Do you think Goofy's Sky School or the Silly Symphony Swings deserve a spot? If so, post your thoughts!

July 14, 2012

Temporary Ride Shut-Downs Can Be Fun

Radiator Springs Racers temporary shut down at Disney California Adventure
Like most complex new rides, Radiator Springs Racers experiences occasional temporary shut-downs due to technical issues. When this happens, the cast members help riders step safely out of the vehicles and escort them to the nearest exit, issuing Fastpasses to each guest who did not receive a complete ride. The park's operators and technicians work swiftly to get the ride up and running again as quickly as possible, usually in less than half an hour.

My family experienced a ride shut-down only once in our eight trips on Radiator Springs Racers during a recent visit to Cars Land. And it was awesome. Why? Because we experienced the best of all possible scenarios: the ride stopped after our vehicle had completed 99% of the adventure; we were literally just a couple of car lengths from the unloading zone. After the friendly cast members helped us step from our vehicles and walk to the exit area, we received Fastpasses good for any DCA Fastpass ride (these special passes admit up to six people in a group).

So, we ended up with a basically complete ride-through, the novel experience of exiting the vehicle in an unusual spot, and a pass to re-ride the Racers again with very little wait once the attraction returned to normal operation (it was functioning perfectly within twenty minutes). As a bonus, the special pass allowed some of our group who hadn't yet ridden to join us.

Disneyland Resort fans tend to embrace the unexpected; sometimes ride shut-downs work to your advantage!

July 13, 2012

Chili "Cone" Queso at the Cozy Cone Motel!

Chili Cone Queso at Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land
In Cars Land, halfway along Route 66 through Radiator Springs, the Cozy Cone Motel serves up unusual and terrific food, all served in cones of one sort or another.

This is one of our favorites, the Chili "Cone" Queso. Yes, it's chili in a bread cone topped with Fritos and cheese. It's spicy, brilliant and delicious. No, you can't have it, this one's mine.

There are no burgers, fries or hot dogs in Cars Land. Everything about the place engages the imagination and pulls the rug out from under the commonplace, and that includes the dining. Now, what drink should we get to go along with this? How about Pear Soda? Apple Freeze? Wild Grape Tonic?

Strange but true; some of the best take-out food in California is being cooked up inside giant orange traffic cones. Long live Cars Land!

July 12, 2012

DCA's Makeover is Working. It's Really Working.

Those record-breaking crowds flocking to Cars Land this summer are discovering something extra as a bonus: Disney California Adventure -- as a whole -- is becoming an incredibly beautiful theme park. The potential's always been there; Grizzly Peak is stunning and California Screamin's classic coaster profile looks great against the Southern California sky. The rest of the park is finally catching up to the promise.

Disney's spent the money to truly turn DCA into a magical, full-day park and rework original 2001 elements that never quite met guests' expectations. We've seen the removal of bland, cheap shopfronts and jarring, out-of-place structures like the Maliboomer tower and the giant peeling orange. We've witnessed the arrival of classic architecture, shade trees, a healthy dose of great Disney-quality rides and detailed, story-driven theming. After exploring the amazing Cars Land in the morning, guests are wandering out to discover a renewed DCA that's blossoming like a butterfly spreading its wings. Corny, but true.

Some areas still have minor problems; the Wharfside end of Paradise Pier needs more shade. Goofy's Sky School isn't fooling anyone, but a lot of folks enjoy it (including me -- I love Wild Mouse coasters). When you take all the improvements, however, then add in the comforting joys of Buena Vista Street and the mind-blowing wonders of Cars Land, you've suddenly got an outstanding park that's unlike anything else in the Disney lineup.

Disney California Adventure finally has an identity to be proud of. Across the way, Disneyland finally has a worthy companion to share the crowds with.

July 11, 2012

Everything's Better With Dragons

Lego Maleficent Dragon Lego Store Downtown Disney
The humongous new Maleficent dragon atop the remodeled Lego store is the best thing that's ever landed in Downtown Disney...besides chocolate-covered marshmallows on a stick. The fact that it's made out of Lego just makes the creature more wonderful. Downtown Disney's a great place, but a few more jaw-dropping sights like this would add extra fun to the mix.

It's hard to believe the shop originally opened with nothing up there. I'd like to shake the hand of the person in charge of the remodel -- the visionary who gazed up at the plain rooftop and said, "Something's missing...Aha!"

Disney and Lego -- what a perfect pairing! It's nice to know that, even though the building-brick company operates a competing theme park a bit farther south, the two giants can cooperate to create something as cool as this.

July 10, 2012

The Only Things Missing are Bees (Car Bees)


Tail Light Flowers Cars Land
I've seen Cars (the movie) more times than I can count, yet somehow never noticed the flowers in Radiator Springs look like tail lights. Cars Land opened my eyes to that detail with its whimsical light-up flowerbeds, which look spectacular at night.

Watching the film after visiting Cars Land, I had to smile; the perfect match between the animated plantlife and the real-life counterparts at DCA is just one more example of the care that went into this amazing fantasy world.

July 9, 2012

Forget Bad Reviews: Flying Tires Rock!

Luigi's Flying Tires Cars Land
Luigi's Flying Tires (pictured above in pre-launch mode) turned out to be a pleasant surprise on our first Cars Land visit. Some early reviews had labeled the ride boring, difficult to control and unbearably slow loading.

Hogwash!

The ride is incredibly fun. You really do float on a cushion of air -- which is a great experience in itself -- and you can really get those things scootin' across the field at a nice clip!

The tires are incredibly easy to control: Lean. Don't lean too much. That's it. Not too difficult, right?

The ride isn't the fastest loader on property, but it swallows up large groups with each cycle, and the queue winds through Luigi's shop and gardens, presenting you with tons of fun details and backstory to enjoy. If the line is not reaching outside Luigi's front entry, your wait should be very reasonable.

My advice: don't concentrate too much on bumping into other riders, and simply have fun piloting your tire around the arena! A family member suggested the ride could be improved with two fewer tires on the field to give all pilots more maneuvering room, and I completely agree.

By all means, take Luigi's tires for a spin on your Cars Land visit. It's a unique, playful joyride.