August 31, 2012

The Elephant Bathing Pool

Elephant Bathing Pool Disneyland elephants Jungle Cruise
One moment, you're cursing at traffic on I-5. An hour later, you could be gazing at this. See, this is why the world needs Disneyland.

No matter how many times people ride the Jungle Cruise, I think -- as they listen to the guide's jokes -- they always forget the Elephant Bathing Pool's coming. Then the boat emerges into the clearing, and you hear that collective gasp of wonderment from everyone, adults and children alike.

I'll bet the guides love that moment.

August 30, 2012

The Full Splash Mountain Drop

Splash Mountain Mtn Disneyland drop
Many Disneyland guests have no idea just how far down that final Splash Mountain drop goes, since all they see from the walkway is the top half.

From Tom Sawyer Island, the Davey Crockett Explorer Canoes, or the lower deck of the Mark Twain, you can get a clear view of the full fall. That is one lulu of a log flume drop.

August 29, 2012

Inside and Out of the Matterhorn

How about a brisk Matterhorn Bobsled run to wake you up first thing in the morning? On-ride Matterhorn photos always make me want to shout, "Woooooooooo"...or something like that.
Hello, teacups! These shots were taken just before the recent refurb, so we're in the older bobsleds. One of the many things I love about the ride is how little of the track support structure is visible. You see the two rails, and that's all, makinge the zippy descent all the more thrilling.

August 28, 2012

They See You

Huey Dewey Louie eye telescope Downtown Disney Disneyland
The folks in charge of designing the World of Disney store at Disneyland Resort could have picked anything to go over the shop's park-side entrance -- and they went with this. I love it.

It would be so cool if this turned out to be an actual working security camera.

If you're over forty and reading this, I'll bet you're thinking of Adventure Through Inner Space right now. Yeah, I miss it, too.

August 27, 2012

Fish Heads and Crumbs

We've got a new Monday feature beginning today. This is what happens when you hire a walrus as your food critic and fail to notice the "weekly comic" clause in his contract.
Fish Heads Crumbs A.W. Astonished Walrus Comic Mouse Troop
Click to enlarge

Tractor Crossing

Tractor Crossing sign Cars Land Radiator Springs
It seems Sheriff has made guest -- and livestock -- safety a top priority, as he's placed the world's most cheerful warning sign near Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Petting Zoo.

We hope someday Radiator Springs might actually feature an occasional wayward tractor moseying its way along Route 66 -- radio-controlled, perhaps? With all the fun we've seen in Cars Land this summer, we'd say anything is possible.

August 26, 2012

The Bronze White Rabbit

White Rabbit Disneyland hub bronze statue
While relaxing on this summer Sunday, let's look at one Disney character who never, ever relaxes: the harried and perpetually stressed-out White Rabbit. For this statue in Disneyland's Central Plaza hub, the sculptor really captured W.R.'s spirit perfectly; he looks like he could bolt away at any second -- if he weren't already bolted down.

There are four other White Rabbit figures in Disneyland: a life-size statue at the Alice dark ride's loading zone, and three inside the ride itself, including the one who gets an exploding Unbirthday cake in the face.

What a great and under-appreciated character!

August 25, 2012

A Bug's Land at Night

Bug's Land clover Flik's Disney California Adventure night
There's one area of Disney California Adventure I visit least: Flik's Fun Fair in A Bug's Land. Originally created to solve the early DCA's lack of attractions suitable for small children, it contains a handful of nicely-themed kiddy rides.

Most DCA visitors use Flik's Fun Fair for one purpose: it's a shortcut between Tower of Terror and Cars Land. Speaking of Cars Land, I often wonder if Flik's Fun Fair should be leveled to make room for more Cars adventures...perhaps a Finn McMissile coaster?

But then...I walk through the insect world at night...

Have you tried this? Stroll slowly through Fliks' Fun Fair after dark, when the place is more quiet. Listen to the sound of chirping crickets and stare up at the beautifully lit giant clovers and  grass blades towering overhead. It's amazing, beautiful and relaxing.

Then I think of Disneyland's Storybook Land, another beautiful area many adults ignore -- and one I love dearly. I'd hate to see its two wonderful rides (Casey Jr. and the Canal Boats) replaced.

A Bug's Land does contain some true Disney magic. Just remember, as you're hurrying between Radiator Springs and Hollywood Land, to stop for a moment as you enter the clover forest. Look up and enjoy.

August 24, 2012

Luigi's Office

Luigi's Office Flying Tires Cars Land Carsland queue line
Luigi's Flying Tires isn't just a fun, one-of-a-kind ride; this attraction boasts one of the most enjoyable queues in Disneyland Resort. After touring the showroom and memorabilia-crammed fitting room of Casa della Tires, guests encounter one final room before heading out to the gardens: Luigi's office.

It looks completely believable as a functioning workspace. In fact, you could mistake it for the office of a car-parts dealer in the human world...until you notice details like the push-panels that open the file drawers and the shape of the bottle on the desk.

I'd love to get a closer look at the items on display in there. If Disney ever offers a Cars Land behind-the-scenes and on-the-set tour, I'll be one of the first in line.

August 23, 2012

The Mad Tea Leaves

Mad Tea Party leaves teacups Alice Disneyland
The Mad Tea Party and the Alice in Wonderland leaves -- can you get any more "Disney" than this?

In the park's early years, the teacups sat by the carousel, far from the whimsical fantasy foliage of the Alice in Wonderland dark ride. As part of the 1980's Fantasyland renovation, the Mad Tea Party found a new home directly in front of Alice.
Alice Wonderland leaves Mad Tea Party Teacups Disneyland
The two rides, combined with the White Rabbit's house (home to the Mad Hatter shop) and the March Hare's house (part of the Tea Party) formed a terrific Alice mini-land within Fantasyland. The gigantic, swirling leaves of the dark ride's exterior now extended over to the teacups, tying everything together.

August 22, 2012

Cacti 'Round the Racers

Radiator Springs Racers cactus cacti queue line
We always recommend the Single Rider Line as the easiest, quickest way to board Radiator Springs Racers. We must admit, however, there's one good reason everyone should go through the full standby queue at least once: that's the only way you'll see all of Stanley's Oasis and the amazing cactus grove seen above.

As a plus, you get a glimpse of the ride's first act, as the cars head up the winding road toward the waterfall. The standby line for RS Racers might be long, but it certainly treats your eyes to some terrific sights.

August 21, 2012

Columbia's Voyage Begins

Columbia Sailing Ship Disneyland River
The Sailing Ship Columbia sets off around the Rivers of America, its rigging looking fantastic against the summer morning sky.

Although the ship is open as an attraction far less frequently than the Mark Twain riverboat, it works many hard hours doubling as Captain Hook's pirate ship in every performance of Fantasmic!

The next time you're at Disneyland, hop aboard if this beauty of a vessel is taking on passengers; you never know when you'll get another chance.

August 20, 2012

Hidden Treasures: Cars Land's Doc Hudson Museum

Cars Land Doc Hudson Museum Clinic
In Cars Land, most guests walk straight past the white exterior of the Ornament Vally Mechanical Clinic, never guessing there's anything to see inside.
Cars Land Museum Doc Hudson Flo's
This unassuming structure holds a delightful and low-key attraction: The Doc Hudson Museum. It serves double-duty as extra seating for Flo's V8 Cafe; we don't think Doc would mind.
Cars Land Doc Hudson Museum
I'd like a subscription to the Daily Exhaust
The museum's divided into two sections: one celebrating Doc's glorious and all-too-brief racing career, and one devoted to his medical practice, which provides lots of smiles to the eagle-eyed.

Cars Land Hudson props cafe museum
For instance, here's a first aid kit with bumper splints, a jar of screws and the world's largest tongue depressors.
Cars Land Doc eye chart Hudson museum
Here's a car eye chart. It's enormous. I particularly like lines 6 and 7.
Cars Land Doc props cafe museum
All of these tools of the Doc's trade are positioned over the dining tables, so I do suggest checking out the museum between the meal rushes. There's much more to see than can fit in one post, but I'll end with one of my favorites. It's Doc's business license.
Cars Land Doc Hudson license
There's been some debate among fans about exactly which state Radiator Springs is in. I think we just got our answer!

To enter the Doc Hudson Museum at Cars Land, enter through Flo's V8 Cafe and head for the right-hand corridor to the adjacent dining area.

August 19, 2012

Time Machine Day: Alice in Wonderland 1967

Alice in Wonderland original Disneyland polaroid swinger
Caterpillars twist their way down the outdoor finale of Disneyland's Alice in Wonderland ride, circa 1967, as seen through the lens my childhood Polaroid Swinger Camera!

This is the original version of Alice before the remodel -- the version with the Upside Down Room, Oversized Room and hallway of Screaming Doors. In this version, the track did not re-enter the castle at the end; it twisted back and forth all the way to ground level, then simply did a U-turn to the unload zone.

August 18, 2012

Into the Witch's Lair

Snow White's Scary Adventures ride white Disneyland
When the Imagineers remodeled Fantasyland in the early 1980's, they had a clear goal in mind for the new entry to Snow White's Scary Adventures: they made it quite clear to all guests that the ride was not about cheeping birdies and gooseberry pie.
Witch's dungeon Snow White Disneyland
The queue immediately plunges you into the dark depths of the Evil Queen's dungeon at the exact moment she's planning Snow's demise. Her words and evil laughter echo from just around a corner through that stone arch. One gets the creepy feeling she could lunge out at any second. Love that gargoyle; he looks like he's planning to clobber anyone who gets too close.
Witch dungeon lab Snow White Disneyland
Below, you can glimpse the book containing the spell for Sleeping Death. Judging by all the strollers parked outside, many parents still think this is a swell ride for toddlers. Go figure.

I was saddened when Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom recently closed its Snow White dark ride. I rode the terrific, original really scary version of that one (two solid minutes of the witch trying to kill riders) before it was remodeled. Florida fans are in for a real treat, however, when the Seven Dwarfs Mine Car roller coaster opens in 2014!

August 17, 2012

The Greatest Little Train on Earth

Casey Jr. Circus Train Disneyland Fantasyland
Here he comes, pulling into the station, the original Casey Jr. Circus Train, surely the most overlooked ride at Disneyland. Casey was my childhood favorite, and it warms my heart to see the old fellow still whisking guests off on his grand scenic tour of Storybook Land.

Note the great little effect achieved simply by setting Casey's eyeballs inside of metal cones: he seems to be staring straight at you no matter where you're standing on the platform!

The Storybook Land canal winds along by the opposite side of the tracks. Surely, no guest would be such a colossal knucklehead that they'd cross the tracks, jump a hedge and fall in, right?
Casey Jr. Life Preservers Disneyland Fantasyland
If those life preservers have ever actually been used, I don't want to know about it. I just don't

August 16, 2012

Radiator Springs Racers' First Summer: Joy, Beauty and Crowds

Radiator Springs Racers Cars Land
This has been a fantastic summer at DCA (and it's not over yet); the combination of Radiator Springs Racers and sunny days easing to beautiful evenings over Cars Land has added up to one of the best, happiest theme park environments we've ever experienced -- right up there with Disneyland's Mark Twain Riverboat at night.
Radiator Springs Racers Evening Lights
As we said in our review, this ride really pushes the right emotional buttons like no theme park adventure we've ever taken before with its amazing combination of great story, characters, thrills, sound, unpredictability and environment -- lots and lots of environment -- like a whole town, ghost town, valley and mountain range's worth.
Radiator Springs Racers Mountains
There's also something awe-inspiring about the summer crowds it's attracted.
Radiator Springs Racers Line Queue
As much as it amazes me how many people still don't realize they can avoid this situation simply by setting their morning alarms, it  bolsters my faith in humanity to know people can still wait patiently -- and stay in good humor -- in a queue like this.
Radiator Springs Racers line queue
I know some of these people are gonna kick themselves when they find out about the Single Rider Line.

August 15, 2012

The Castle's Flip-Side

Sleeping Beauty Castle Disneyland back courtyard reverse
The courtyard side of Sleeping Beauty Castle doesn't get photographed nearly as much as its famous front. This view's "cozy and protective" vibe doesn't inspire as many shutter clicks as the grand entry across the drawbridge, but I think it looks fantastic.

How can any one spot stay so busy and yet feel so relaxed? Even with that huge line for Peter Pan's Flight seen here on the left and the parked strollers nearby (why do so many people take their babies on Snow White's SCARY Adventures?), the inner court itself maintains a calm, relaxed atmosphere.

I can't forget the unsung heroes of this shot: the trees. Most guests seem to take them for granted, but Disneyland's trees are the living, breathing soul of the park. They're part of Disneyland's unique style, and make the place feel like home to its many, many fans.

August 14, 2012

Lightning McQueen on the Move

Lightning McQueen Cars Land
Watching the citizens of Radiator Springs drive through town is one of the most simple, straightforward charms of Cars Land. Human guests politely make way for the residents, and there's always an honor guard pit crew present to gently make sure the path is clear. These frequent character appearances seem amazingly casual, and happen often enough to feel like a normal part of a typical, easy-going day in Radiator Springs.
Lightning McQueen Cars Land
Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater both talk to the guests as they pass, and make comments about the various shops and attractions along the way to and from their meet-and-greet appearances at the Cozy Cone Motel. Combined with the engine noise, these frequent trips along Route 66 and Cross Street add even more energy and character to the bustling little town.

August 13, 2012

A Beautiful Day For Park Hopping

Frequent Park Hopping -- switching from one park to the other multiple times in a single day -- has become a natural part of a Disneyland Resort vacation. In the shot above, we see the Monorail passing above guests as they cross the Esplanade from Disneyland Park to Disney California Adventure. The trek takes only a minute, for Park Hopping here is as easy as the stroll down Main Street U.S.A.

Since the opening of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, there seems to be an increasing tendency among visitors to tour Disneyland and Disney California Adventure as if they're two halves of one gigantic park. After all, to a guest standing at Disneyland's Main Street Railroad Station, It's a Small World and Cars Land are just about the same walking distance away!

August 12, 2012

Sunday Signage: The Mad "T" Party

Mad T Party sign California Adventure
I don't fit the target age group for loud techno dance clubs, but I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to DCA's Mad "T" Party. The experience begins with this amazing animated pocket watch -- one of the most mesmerizing entry signs I've ever seen. It serves as a vivid preview of the wild visuals and lighting effects awaiting down the neon rabbit hole.
Mad T Party Disney Adventure watch
What I found upon entering made me smile. Well done. For others like myself, who usually aren't into this sort of thing, I suggest treating "T" Party like a walk-through attraction, if you can handle the music volume. Enter down the rabbit hole and proceed on through, admiring the bizarre sights and sounds within. Then head on back to Cars Land for some great 60's Motown tunes and a milk shake at Flo's.

If you're looking for a loud, surreal dance club themed around a Blade-Runner twist on Alice in Wonderland, you couldn't ask for a more effective, colorful (and well-performed) realization of that very concept!

August 11, 2012

The Happiest Moose in Disneyland

This cheery fellow gives a hearty send-off to world travelers launching from the docks at It's A Small World. It's amazing enough that Disney's Topiary Engineers can create such great living sculptures, but they really go the extra mile; look at the personality in this guy, all suggested through stance and simple shapes.

How many moose are in Disneyland Park, anyway? Off hand, I can think of eight. How about you?

August 10, 2012

Where Lightning Got Sentenced

Cars Land sign Happy Place Radiator Springs
Near the courthouse, right where it should be, stands the famous "Happy Place" spot where Doc Hudson sentenced a horrified Lightning McQueen to hard labor community service while Mater requested $32,000 in legal fees. The courtyard has been "prettified" since Radiator Springs regained its rightful place on the map at the film's finale, and now boasts tail light flowers (love the tire planters) and a bench for human guests.
Radiator Springs sidewalk Cars Land
Here's a side shot to show the spot's placement in the town. It's 7:20 A.M. during Extra Magic Hour, and it seems 95% of the early visitors to Disney California Adventure are in line for Radiator Springs Racers, which leaves the rest of the town open to relaxed, crowd-free touring...until 8:00, when the general public enters en masse. The place is completely believable as a historic, once-forgotten stop along Route 66; it's hard to believe those telephone poles were just installed a few months ago.

August 9, 2012

The World's Biggest Slot Car Track

Radiator Springs Racers cap turn exit
Here's an early morning, sun-flare-blasted shot of Radiator Springs Racers. In a view from the ride's exit path, we see the competitors zipping around the Radiator Cap helix, their car radios crackling as Doc Hudson barks, "Hold tight around the turn!"

Like many other young slot car fans racing model cars in the 70's, I often daydreamed about how much fun a life-size slot car track would be. When Test Track opened in Epcot, I thought the only thing missing was side-by-side racing. Now that a genuine, full-sized, two-lane slot car track has opened in Cars Land, I've found the actual ride experience is even more fun than I ever imagined.

August 8, 2012

Best Splash Mountain: Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

Splash Mountain Disneyland 2012
Splash Mountain, by far one of Imagineering's most popular creations, has been thrilling U.S. guests ever since the ride opened at Disneyland in 1989 and Walt Disney World in 1992. The two versions offer similar experiences, but each has its own location-specific exterior, as well as different seating layouts and music arrangements. They're both great, but is either one better than the other?

I love the green, beautiful, nearly-Tolkien look of Disneyland's mountain. I enjoy both the jazzy style of Disneyland's music score and the country/bluegrass version at Walt Disney World. The hitchhiking alligator at DL is wonderful, but so is the animated silhouette chase at WDW. Disneyland's final drop is scarier.

BUT...although both could use some TLC in the audioanimatronics department, this Disneyland native must admit that -- when both mountains are operating at their best -- Walt Disney World's Splash Mountain wins this one. Its story is easier to follow, it has more special effects, and the side-by-side seating is more comfortable than DL's single-file bench. The Florida ride also splashes guests without overdoing it; ever since the log makeover a few years ago, Disneyland's Splash Mountain soaks people.

California has the epic-length Pirates ride, and Florida has the more elaborate Splash Mtn. What do you think? If you've ridden both Splash Mountains, which do you prefer?

Goofy Vs. Fountains: Classic Humor at Paradise Pier

Goofy Instant Concert Paradise California
On the shores of Paradise Bay, Goofy has been delighting summer guests at Disney California Adventure with a series of quick, funny shows pairing him up with the World of Color fountains. Instant Concert!...Just Add Water is designed to delight all ages, but older fans who've grown up on the classic Goofy cartoons will most appreciate the familiar-sounding narrator who introduces "Maestro Goofy" at the start of each brief show.
True to form, things don't proceed quite as smoothly as the narrator would have us believe as Goofy finds his mechanical, water-spewing "orchestra" to be a bit temperamental.

It's great to see the impressive fountains put to daytime work in such a bright, breezy, light-hearted show, and even better to see Goofy featured so prominently in the day's entertainment. Slowly but surely, classic Disney cartoon references are bringing light-hearted old-time charm to Disney California Adventure. It began with the Silly Symphony Swings and Goofy's Sky School, and now continues through all of Buena Vista Street with nods to everyone from Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to Clarabelle Cow. Instant Concert!...Just Add Water is a welcome and high-spirited blast of classic Disney fun. I hope it's just the beginning of a continuing series with the Goof!

August 7, 2012

Do Not Feed the Tractor

Mater's Petting Zoo Tractor Cars Land
It's so easy to miss, but so fun to notice. This unheralded little Cars Land attraction sits quietly off to one side of Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. I hope the person who dreamed this up got a raise.

August 6, 2012

Cozy Cone Souvenir Cups

Cozy Cone Souvenir Cups Cars Land
They're crazy, they're wacky, they're very, very, orange and they keep selling out in Cars Land -- They're the Cozy Cone Souvenir Drink Cups!

We finally caught them in stock on a recent visit, and here they are in all their conical glory! They're available in two sizes; these are the large versions.

There's only one crack in this stupendous sipper's pavement: you cannot get them filled with one of the amazing "specialty" Cozy Cone drinks. You must choose a "standard" drink. Yes, when you get to the window, you must decide what's most important -- a delicious Doc's Grape Tonic in a normal cup or a Coke in Cone. Well, you can see which drink won out for this round, but I am not missing out on a Grape Tonic or Apple Freeze on my next trip!

The Amazing Alternate Entrance to Cars Land

It's officially called Lost Wheel Arch, and visitors often describe this scene with one word: "Wow." Photos don't do justice to this alternate Cars Land entrance; the view is an absolute jaw-dropper in person. You feel as if you're about to enter an amazing  painted illustration -- but it's all really there, full of life and sound. The racers keep roaring over the hill in the distance. Real birds are making nests in the cliff faces.

The funny thing is, a lot of  people miss this view because of the archway's out-of-the-way location.

There are three entries to Cars Land. Nearly everyone arrives for the first time via the main Route 66 entrance leading guests straight through the heart of Radiator Springs.
The other two entries sit at each end of Cross Street, the road that intersects Route 66 underneath the famous blinking yellow light (and Filmore was right; every third blink is slower).

The hike from Bugs Land will lead you past a funny billboard from the finale of Cars 2 (yes, he's now Sir Tow Mater), but the Pacific Wharf entry offers the incredible view.

In a leftover design problem from DCA's quirky original layout, this spectacular entry to Cars Land is hidden from most guests. To find it once you've reached the Pacific Wharf area, you have to wind your way through the forest of outdoor dining tables between the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill and the Lucky Fortune Cookery. Many folks, just yards away from discovering the stone archway, turn left and head back out to the Cars Land Main Entry, never knowing they're missing the greatest sight in all of Disney California Adventure.

If you arrive early in the morning to ride Radiator Springs Racers (highly recommended) you have to use the Main Entry, and that's a fantastic sight in itself. If, however, you arrive in DCA later in the day, I suggest heading down to the lesser-known Lost Wheel Arch path. Day or night, the view is one of the best thing's Disney's ever created.