December 10, 2013

Create Your Own Ultimate Disney Christmas Playlist

Disney Christmas music iTunes Amazon download playlist
Disney didn't release a new character Christmas album this year, but 2012's Jingle Bell Fun was so entertaining, it deserves another winter in the spotlight. Plus, this is a great year to revisit Disney Christmas albums from the past and add some gems to your music player.

Looking over what's available to purchase digitally from iTunes and Amazon MP3, it's easy to create a fantastic Disney Christmas playlist. Here are Mouse Troop's picks for the best of the best, but we encourage you to sample all the available tracks and make your own personal Disney Musical Winter Holiday Extravaganza!

December 3, 2013

Netflix Graced By Two More Disney Classics

Disney Netflix Sword Stone Robin Hood animated classics
As the wonderful Frozen sets box office records in theaters, Netflix has added more Disney magic to the home viewing world with the arrivals of The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood. I was asleep at the switch when these two classics appeared last week: Many thanks to Josie Becker for alerting me to these welcome additions to the Netflix streaming lineup!

Both these films feature great character animation, and The Sword in the Stone is one of my very favorite Disney movies. What a great pair to watch beside a crackling fireplace this winter!

December 2, 2013

Could Dumbo Drones Deliver Disney Doodads?

Disney Dumbo Drone Amazon Delivery What-If Future Online
Amazon's recently-announced push to offer drone-delivered packages within the next several years had me grinning. If they can pull it off, we'll be one step closer to The Jetsons...and Tomorrowland...and hopefully not an Orwellian nightmare.

What if Disney follows their example and adapts drone technology? Can you imagine ordering your vacation package or latest Disney Store collectible online...and thirty minutes later a little Dumbo drone lands in your driveway with your Magic Bands...or Sven Reindeer mini plush?

Trumpeting "When You Wish Upon a Star"?

Seize the future, Disney! Make it so!

November 30, 2013

Frozen Review: A Home Run for Disney Animation

Full of surprises, intense emotions, dazzling art and terrific music, Frozen is Disney's best non-Pixar animated film in ages. The studio publicists have been advertising it as their best movie since The Lion King, and I agree; Disney hasn't produced such a powerful, crowd-pleasing and memorable film since that 1994 hit.

November 15, 2013

Netflix Invaded by Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney Netflix Pirates Caribbean Black Pearl instant streaming
Rejoice, all ye fans of swashbuckling, dark comedy and undead scallawags. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (the one truly great Pirates of the Caribbean movie) has landed on the shores of Netflix for instant streaming.

If I'm not mistaken, this actually marks a return of the film to Netflix, following a lengthy absence that began when the Netflix/Stars agreement ended. This new appearance falls under the terms of the more recent Netflix/Disney arrangement.

One way or the other, it's great to see this film available once again. Even if you feel a bit burned out by all the sequels, over-exposure and classic ride makeovers, Black Pearl remains a fresh, imaginative and (thanks to outstanding performances by all four leads) tremendously likable film.

November 12, 2013

New Disney Collection Arrives With Great Park Tracks

Disney Classics Music Collection iTunes New Park Soundtrack
That enormous 4-album Disney Music set we previewed earlier is now available for purchase and download on iTunes. The best news for park fans is the happy confirmation that all but one of Disneyland/Walt Disney World Tracks on disc 4 are available for individual purchase (Disneyland's Splash Mountain is the only album-only park track). Collectors can now pick out any tracks they need without having to pay $39.99 for a massive set of tunes they probably already own.

I'm very happy to finally have a great recording of "The Best Time of Your Life." Happy music browsing!

November 5, 2013

Netflix Delivers a Holiday Mouse-Fest

Netflix Disney Three Musketeers Christmas House Mouse
I wasn't planning on another Netflix post so soon, but the service has just added a quartet of Mouse Flix, all direct-to-video productions, to their instant streaming service.

The highlight of the bunch is the wonderful, hilarious and very under-appreciated  Three Musketeers, which places the Disney Fab Five in a fast-paced, fan-pleasing feature-length send-up of the classic tale. In-jokes, great animation and unique character moments abound, plus Pete gets his peg leg back! If you haven't caught this beauty, you're in for a treat. This could have (and should have) been a theatrical release.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas is a trio of well-done tales. In the first, Huey, Dewey and Louie wish every day was Christmas and soon realize not all wishes should be granted. The second finds Goofy trying to give young Max a perfect Christmas in spite of a belief crisis. In the finale, Mickey and Minnie play out their own version of Gift of the Magi. Watch for Mortimer Mouse and an animated version of Firehouse Five Plus Two!

I'd love to see the entire run of the wonderful House of Mouse series show up on Netflix someday. In the meantime, the two compilation specials, Snowed In at the House of Mouse and Mickey's House of Villains will do. Both combine new animation with classic clips to create entertaining hour-long Disney mash-ups.

Gather the family, cook up some Mickey pasta and settle back for a good time. What a great way to start the Holiday video season!

October 30, 2013

A Classic and a Clunker hit Netflix

The much-loved compilation film, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, has arrived on Netflix for digital streaming. Fans will be pleased to find it's the good version, not the awful cable TV edition from years back that substituted Tigger Too with the cheaply-made Day for Eeyore.

This happy arrival completely makes up for the other new addition: Hunchback of Notre Dame II, one of the awful video sequels that boggles the mind and shames the studio name with its very existence. The best thing I can say about HoND2 is that its production gave employment to animators. Hooray for that, at least.

October 22, 2013

Huge Disney Music Collection on the Horizon

Disney Classics new soundtrack music album four disc theme park
Disney Classics, a four-disc overview of the company's vast, eclectic musical landscape arrives on iTunes and CD November 12th.

Each disc features a different theme:

Disney Timeless Classics
Disney Modern Classics
Disney Television Classics
Disney Theme Park Classics

The set boasts an interesting lineup of tracks, ranging from "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" to the theme from "Wizards of Waverly Place". Some picks are obvious standards while some are surprisingly (in a good way) out of left field. In many ways, this set seems to be the spiritual successor to the Randy Thornton-produced collection, The Music of Disney: A Legacy In Song from 1992, as it aims at covering the entire spectrum of Disney's music catalog while picking no more than one song from any particular film or show...with a couple of exceptions this time around.

For die-hard Disney fans, quite a few tracks will evoke smiles. Whether never-before-released or haven't-been-available-in-ages, here are a few of the tracks for the Disneymaniacs:

The Triple R Song
Darkwing Duck Theme
Minnie's Yoo Hoo (The Mouse Factory version)
Aloha, E Komo Mai (the only good thing about the Lilo and Stitch TV series)

For readers of this site, here's what you're really interested in: The theme park tracks on Disc 4

The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room
Yo Ho
Splash Mountain Medley (Disneyland version)
Bear Band Serenade
Grim Grinning Ghosts
It's a Small World
There's a Great, Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Rex Allen)
The Great Outdoors
Space Mountain (Dick Dale)
It's Tough To Be a Bug
California Screamin'
The Best Time of Your Life
Space Mountain (Michael Giacchino)
Universe of Energy
Kitchen Kabaret Medley
One Little Spark (the original)
Golden Dream
Finale (Fantasmic exit music)

I'm mainly pleased to see Dick Dale's 1996 surfer-guitar "Space Mountain" score and "The Best Time of Your Life" landing on iTunes for the first time.

Check out this link for the complete track list. Overall, it looks like a solid collection. There are too many current-era Disney Channel tunes for my tastes, but many younger fans will feel as nostalgic for those tracks as I am for "Scarecrow" and The Mouse Factory. It truly does seem to be a set aimed at the entire fan base.

There's one fly in the ointment: In preview mode, the set is listed as being an album-only collection, meaning single track purchases (except for a single new pop medley) are not offered. I certainly hope that changes by November 12th, as--like many fans--I've already bought 95% of these.

October 15, 2013

Towering Tinkertoys

As we've mentioned before, the Pixar Play Parade at DCA is one of the most charming day parades Disney's ever produced. Today we've got a look at the Tinkertoys man, strutting happily with the assistance of two very courageous cast members stuck in the goofiest costumes on Earth.
Talk about team players; Give these guys a raise!

Like many elements in this parade, this scene makes the crowd smile with its clever, unpretentious way of focusing on the pure fun of childhood toys. It's one of DCA's most pleasant surprises--Just watch out for the water spray from his fingers!

Photos by Lana Whitham

October 5, 2013

More Tricks Than Treats as Netflix Adds Four Video Sequels

Netflix Disney Video sequels Kronk Groove Stitch Leroy Bad
As October rolls in, let's all remember Netflix currently hosts a terrific collection of Disney films. It's also helpful to recall they recently added the excellent Lilo and Stitch and The Emperor's New Groove to the lineup...because they've just ushered in a big pile of mediocre video sequels. These pale follow-ups serve as a reminder of the bad old days when Disney was shoving Stitch in the public's face over and over again and running a once-fresh concept like New Groove into the ground.

No, you weren't dreaming, Disney really did release a sequel called Leroy and Stitch.

It's a crummy pill to swallow, especially considering Netflix recently dropped The Muppet Movie from its streaming lineup. Despite that loss and this influx of ickiness, the majority of the Netflix Disney library remains very impressive.

If you're in the mood for a good laugh, I highly recommend streaming the original Lilo and Stitch and The Emperor's New Groove. Let the low-budget video sequels gather virtual dust.

September 28, 2013

Timon and Pumbaa Bring Park Safety to iPhone

Disneyland safety signs Disney World Timon Pumbaa app
Here's a nice little freebie that popped up recently: Disney's taken those funny little Timon and Pumbaa safety signs from the park security stations and turned them into an iPhone app.
Disneyland safety signs Disney World Timon Pumbaa app
Wild About Safety presents the signage as a light-hearted little safety course. It takes you through about 16 tips--some animated, some not--with voice overs.
Disneyland safety signs Disney World Timon Pumbaa app
The art's unfortunately rather low-res, but it still looks great on a phone screen. No word on the home site about an Android version, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one turn up soon.

September 24, 2013

LImited Time Magic We'd Really Like to See

Limited-Time Magic is the oddest campaign Disney's ever rolled out. It's something few people can take advantage of, and its here-today-gone-tomorrow events leave virtually no impression. While it's a sweet concept, I'm sure most fans would rather have gotten a simple C-Ticket dark ride. Rides, Disney, please don't forget: The rides pull guests in.

That said, there are certainly some concepts that could make this strange promotion a headline grabber. Mouse Troop presents a list of Limited-Time Magic ideas we'd go nuts for:

Jungle Cruise Disneyland Innertubes Limted Time Magic elephants
Maybe turn off the piranha attack for this one.

Disneyland Autopia limited time magic fast MPH governor
Apparently these little cars can get up to 45 or 50 M.P.H. without the installed speed governors. Around the Autopia track in one minute!
Disneyland characters robin hood parade flights fantasy guards
I've heard stories that, once, long ago, every new Disneyland Exec had to work a brief stint as a character to get a sense of how important the "magic" element of Disney really is. Time to bring that idea back, retroactively, for every Disney Executive on Earth for just one day.

And how about:

NO FASTPASS DAY (let everyone see how much quicker the lines move)

and finally...

ALL FOOD FREE DAY (There's as much a chance of this last one happening as a horror film being filmed in Walt Disney World without the company's knowledge...oh, wait...)

Those are a few Limited Time Magic events we'd actually hop on a plane to experience. How abut you? What special day at the parks would really pull you in?

September 18, 2013

Haunted Mansion Holiday Materializes on iTunes

Haunted Mansion Holiday Disneyland soundtrack iTunes Skellington
What's this? What's this? There's good news for all fans!

The park music digital download scene continues to flourish; The soundtrack to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion Holiday has creeped delightfully onto iTunes and Amazon MP3. For $7.99, you can add the world's most astonishing once-a-year ride metamorphosis to your playlist.

The album's stretched out with nine cute/creepy Halloween-themed parodies of Christmas carols, but--of course--the reason anyone would buy this is saved for the final track: a terrific and energetic 16 minute ride-through mix of the entire Nightmare Before Christmas-themed attraction. Even if you've never actually visited Haunted Mansion Holiday, this soundtrack completely captures the spirit of the experience. The wonderful music and voice work make it an audio celebration you'll want to listen to again and again.

This has been a great year for park music fans! Please Click here for a complete list of all the Disney park albums currently available on iTunes and Amazon MP3.

September 14, 2013

Infinity's Soundtrack Includes Peter Pan's Flight, Toontown and Condorman

Disney Infinity Boombox Mike Abu Elephant Luigi Castle game
Abu, Mike and Luigi enjoy some classic Danny Elfman
The creators of Disney Infinity recognized the importance of having their game sound like a Disney universe as well as look the part. Players encounter an eclectic and colorful soundscape ranging from the light-hearted jazz of Monsters University to the pulsing electronic beats of Tron. One particular game item enables the option to select the background music.

The Radio Disney Boombox is a vault item every player should try to unlock as soon as possible for use in the world-building Toybox mode. Thankfully, what you hear is not taken from today's real-life Radio Disney, but from the company's films, theme parks and one certain show with a platypus. The selections include:

"Steamboat Willie" - The track fom Mickey's Toontown (listed simply as "Mickey Mouse")
"Peter Pan's Flight" - The queue medley from Disneyland
"Cinderella's Castle" - Music from Cinderella's movie score.
"Alice in Wonderland"- Loops the trial, chase, final scene and closing credits song.
"Nightmare Before Christmas" - The film's closing credit music.
"The Incredibles" - Features "Saving Metroville" from the film score.
"Jessie" - The Toy Story character's western theme.
"Condorman" - Henry Mancini's theme song for Disney's campy, legendary flop.
"Phineas and Ferb" - A remix of "Gitchee Gitchee Goo" plus an instrumental of "Ain't Got Rhythm."
"Finding Nemo" -Plays the "Wow" opening score from the film.
"Tangled" -  A pop instrumental of "Something that I Want."
"Emperor Zurg" - From Toy Story 2
"Sugar Rush" and "Suger Rush Showdown" from Wreck-It Ralph.
"Recognizer" and "Derezzed" from Tron: Legacy.
"Wall-E"- Music from the score. 
"Frankenweenie" - The "Re-Animation" track.

The boombox doesn't include all the game's music: Other tracks are triggered when a particular item is activated, and many are exclusive to the character adventures. Overall, it adds up to a soundtrack as diverse and entertaining as Infinity's anything-goes gameplay.

September 10, 2013

Lilo and Kuzco Arrive on Netflix

Disney Netflix Lilo Stitch Emperor's New Groove animated
The Netflix library of Disney classics just got a great dose of later-era comedy. Lilo and Stitch and The Emperor's New Groove have arrived for instant streaming.

Two of the best-received films of Disney's post-Lion King hand-drawn lineup, they certainly seem to belong together in one release. Both are extremely funny, sharply directed, and much-loved by fans of all ages. The Emperor's New Groove is one of the most-quotable films Disney's ever released. Lilo and Stitch, despite the company's later over-exposure of the little alien, remains an incredibly original and imaginative story (its directors would go on to create the best Dreamworks film ever: How to Train Your Dragon).

It's good to see these two added to the streaming mix, they're the perfect films to watch on a brisk nearly-autumn evening!

September 9, 2013

Which Line Didn't Make it to Wonderland?

Alice Wonderland Disney Cheshire Cat classic lyrics deleted line
Disney's animated Alice in Wonderland isn't perfect, but its unique and unforgettable style makes it my favorite Disney film (or, at least tied for first place with Peter Pan).

The movie's sharp, off-the-wall lyrics and dialogue are quite unlike anything in any other Disney feature. Here's a list of some gems, but can you spot the line that didn't make it into the final film? The answer sits under the next pic.

1) What it is, it wouldn't be--and what it wouldn't be, it would.

2) Not aquamarine!

3) I never, never ever do a thing about the weather, 'cause the weather never, ever does a thing for me.

4) Doh something, Doo-doo!

Started it tomorrow, but we'll finish yesterday.

6)  How cheerfully he seems to grin, how neatly spreads his claws--and welcomes little fishes in with gently smiling jaws.

7) Follow the directions and directly you'll be directed in the right direction.

8) We don't want weeds in our bed!

9) If you'll believe that I believe that you believe in me, then I'll believe that you believe that I believe in you.

10) Start at the beginning, and when you get to the end...stop!

Don't tell the Queen what you have seen, nor say that's what we said.

12) This watch is full of wheels!

September 2, 2013

Disney Infinity: A Park Fan's Review

Disney Infinity Review
Disney Infinity will delight you, inspire you, challenge you and cheerfully empty your wallet. Its methods for coaxing you to buy more and more of its world could be considered ruthless, except for one important factor: Like a Disney park, it gives you more than your money's worth.
Disney Infinity Review Dumbo Davy Jones
In that respect, you could easily think of Infinity, the company's toys-come-to-life-in-a-video-game juggernaut, as Disney Parks: The Home Edition. If you laid it out in theme park terms, the experience would look something like this:
Disney Infinity Review game map
The game is stuffed with elements geared specifically toward park fans, from actual park music and vintage sound effects to an impressive Matterhorn complete with a working bobsled rail slide. Epcot fans will love the inclusion of Spaceship Earth, plus the game's introductory sequence that casts you in the role of One Little Spark of inspiration.
Disney Infinity Review Alice Tulgey Cheshire Incredible Tron
Mrs. Incredible parks her Tron Recognizer in Tulgey Wood.
The clever design sends you into a vast, anything-goes "toybox" world where you can combine themes and characters in any way you wish, selecting from hundreds and hundreds of parts to build your own games with your own rules--anything from racetracks and shootouts to pinball machines, obstacle courses and soccer fields. You don't have many parts available at the start, however. To get them, you have to venture from the toybox "hub" into the Playset worlds, which are large, scripted film-specific adventures (Infinity's version of E-Ticket attractions).

August 28, 2013

Mickey Rides the Red Car

Mickey Mouse DCA Disney California Adventure Red Car Trolley
Mickey, newly arrived in Southern California, takes in the sights and sounds of Hollywood Boulevard on his way to Buena Vista Street. At least, that's his backstory in the Red Car Newsboys show at DCA.

It's refreshing to see The Mouse portrayed as an average Joe instead of a global superstar, and it's one of the many charming elements that's begun forming DCA's unique atmosphere. After the park's original 2001 grating attempts to distiniguish itself by being "edgy" and banning Disney characters from the grounds, it turned out that presenting the characters in unexpected, period-appropriate roles was a much better way to go.

Photo by Lana Whitham

August 25, 2013

Snapshots and Impressions of Disney Infinity

NOTE: All the pictures in today's post were snapped with an iPhone pointed at my (very cheap) little television screen. This game looks much, much better in person.
Disney Infinity Screenshot Barbosa Alice Wonderland Tea Party
Barbosa finds the Hatter's tea party...and doesn't know quite what to make of it.
Disney Infinity is a huge, sprawling game, so full of possibilities and options that no two people will play it in quite the same way. We'll have a complete review later this week, but here are our impressions after several hours inside Infinity's strange, astonishing world.
Disney Infinity Screenshot  Autopia Incredible Horse Kahn Mulan
Mr. Incredible borrows Mulan's horse. And yes, that's an Autopia Car
The game is brilliant, beautifully animated, and an absolute blast to play with. And that's the key to Infinity: you don't simply play through it like a normal video game. You play with it, tweaking it, experimenting and changing it around as you go.

August 22, 2013

Early Morning in the Junkyard

Summer mornings at Disneyland Resort during Extra Magic Hour often come equipped with overcast skies and cool temperatures. Mater's Junkyard takes on a calm, relaxed atmosphere during these moments despite the swirling tractors and Mater's loud, tongue-in-cheek serenades.
Disney Cars Land DCA Mater's house Junkyard Jamboree
The Junkyard Jukebox Stands Outside of Mater's House
It's a perfect time to check out the hundreds of details in the junkyard queue while taking multiple spins on the funniest tractor pull that ever square-danced through Radiator Springs.

Disney DCA Mater's Junkyard Jamboree tractors Cars Land
Even at 7:00 A.M., these tractors have their dancin' tires on!
As we've mentioned before, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is one of the most enjoyable family thrill rides in any Disney park, and much wilder than it looks from outside the fence. Don't miss this one on your next pass through Carburetor County.

Photos by Lana Whitham

August 20, 2013

Review: Disney's Official Park Albums Hit iTunes

Disney Park Soundtracks iTunes DIsneyland Walt World review
Today, for the first time ever, Disney's new Official Albums for Disneyland and Walt Disney World are available for digital download on iTunes, Amazon and Disney's own online music store.

The Good News: Most of the tracks are available for individual purchase, so great new selections from both coasts such as "Radiator Springs Racers," "Test Track," "A Suitcase and a Dream" and "Be Our Guest" can be added to fans' playlists without purchasing both entire albums ($19.99 each). This is a great plus for buyers who already own most of the tracks from previous editions of the park CDs.

The Bad News (but we knew this was coming): Longer tracks (and a couple of short ones, such as Pooh) are only available if the entire album is purchased. There's no way iTunes would offer the nearly 20-minute long Fantasyland Dark Ride Suite for $1.29, after all.

Whether you call Disneyland or Walt Disney World your "home" resort, both of these albums are terrific collections of some of the best music ever produced under the Disney banner. There's actually very little duplication between the two albums. Toy Story Midway Mania, for instance, is represented by two completely different tracks on each set.

What follows is a quick overview of the collections. I'm going to assume most of you already own most of the classic tracks. If not, you can't go wrong buying both albums in their entirety.

August 18, 2013

Resisting Infinity Collector Madness

Disney Infinity figures Mater Mike Davy Jones Barbosa toys
I love the design of these figures. I've just got to keep telling myself this is enough. This can be my entire Infinity collection. I don't need 'em all.

I don't need 'em all.


August 17, 2013

A Toast to the Pirates Infinity Left Behind

As Disney Infinity approaches its Sunday release date, here's a brief clip of its iPhone tie-in App in action. Here, Jack Sparrow's trying out for a spot on Don Karnage's team.
Unfortunately, none of the Tale Spin crew made it into Infinity (unless there's a power-up or tribute tucked away in the game somewhere).

Reviews of this project, Disney's biggest-yet bid to make a splash in the video game market, should start appearing tomorrow as the toys and software hit the shelves.

August 15, 2013

Characters Invade Real World in Disney's Free Infinity App

Disney Infinity Action Jack Sparrow iPhone App Free game
He turns the photo around to reveal a surprise mini-snapshot of the player's face.
In advance of the much-hyped Disney Infinity video game, the company has released Infinity Action, a free promotional app for iPhone (the Android version is coming soon). An impressive little bag of magic tricks, it's definitely worth checking out.
Disney Infinity Action iPhone App free game Jack Sparrow cat
A Sparrow Defends a Cat
The App features two main modes. In the first, you tap and swipe the screen to interact with an impressively animated trio of Disney characters: Sulley, Jack Sparrow and Mr. Incredible. Of the three, Jack Sparrow is, by far, the funniest. Be sure to try the toy props, which include a voice recorder and--even better--a cartoon camera which uses the actual phone lens to allow the character to take a shot of your face. The "goal" of this section is to earn coins for purchasing animated clips for the "Action" section.
Disney Infinity Action free App iPhone Jack Sparrow Cannon dog
He got a cookie for being a good sport (the dog, not Sparrow)
In this second mode, you bring the characters into your home through augmented reality as you stage brief videos combining animation with live footage. It's easy to do, and the results are amazingly smooth. Easily saved to the phone or posted to YouTube or Facebook, each clip is boldly tagged at the end as a Disney Infinity promotion...which, of course, is Disney's reason for creating this free App in the first place.

One warning: Extra coins can be purchased with real money, so make sure that feature's disabled on your phone before handing it over to children. Even without paying a cent, however, there's enough free fun here to make Action a clever little diversion for all Disney fans.

August 13, 2013

At Long Last, The Muppet Movie Soundtrack Hits iTunes

It's been a long, long wait for Muppet fans, but the wonderful, original 1979 soundtrack album that introduced "The Rainbow Connection" to the world has finally been released on iTunes and Amazon MP3.

Listening to this little masterpiece is like welcoming an old friend back home. The sound quality is terrific, the performances are incredible, and the Paul Williams tunes have gotten even better with time.

Of course, this album's been released to coincide with the film's debut on Blu-ray, Be sure to read Estelle's review of the movie at This Happy Place Blog and Melissa Sue's spotlight on the disc's bonus features at Mouse on the Mind.

The Muppet Movie is a charmer, and the music has always been one of its greatest strengths. The album stands on its own as a smoothly-flowing musical romp through Jim Henson's timeless world of optimism and wonder. If you've never heard this album, don't miss it--if for no other reason than to hear Miss Piggy try for that high note and fail so spectacularly--so jaw dropping-ly, mind-blowing-ly, glass-shattering-ly spectacularly. "Never Before" has a soundtrack been so funny and so touching at the same time.

August 12, 2013

Bengal Barbecue: Great Use of Tight Space

Sporting one of Disneyland's most whimsical bits of signage, Bengal Barbecue is one of the park's most unusual counter service food options. Tucked to one side of Adventureland's busy promenade, it features several varieties of skewers, including beef, chicken, vegetable, and the truly you-don't-see-that-everyday-at-a-theme-park Bacon-Wrapped-Asparagus. Mickey Pretzels and other snacks are also available, and the prices are reasonable.

August 8, 2013

Rolly Crump Returns, Making iPod Playlists a Lot Cuter

Rolly Crump More Cute Stories iTunes Imagineer Disneyland
Odds are good that some of your favorite Disneyland or Walt Disney World details--whether in the form of a talking tiki, the Tomorrowland bandstand rising from the ground, the little animated figures in the popcorn carts or the Haunted Mansion's wallpaper--were designed by Rolly Crump. His autobiographical It's Kind of a Cute Story, published last year, quickly became a must-read for Imagineering fans.

Fortunately for all, Mr. Crump has many more backstage secrets to reveal, and the just-released More Cute Stories serves as a colorful, wonderfully entertaining audio sequel to his book. Whether or not you've read It's Kind of a Cute Story (and you really shouldn't miss it--It's on Kindle), More Cute Stories is a blast; It's like having Rolly Crump sitting across the table from you at the world's most awesome dinner party as he genially recalls forty-five minutes worth of fun and eye-opening Disneyland moments the company never talks about, all in good humor with a great sense of perspective.

August 7, 2013

Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar Disneyland Hotel Disney alchohol
If you're exhausted from touring the parks and feel like relaxing at a bar, there's certainly no shortage of options at Disneyland Resort, from DCA's Carthay Circle Lounge to the Grand Californian's Hearthstone Lounge and the many offerings of Downtown Disney. For a full-blown, Disney-style themed mini-adventure, however, you'll find nothing else on property like Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar.

From the moment you step in, you'll find yourself wrapped up in a unique fantasy-world-within-a-fantasy-world full of surprises and staffed by great Cast Members. From trick sinking barstools to volcanic eruptions and living tikis, Trader Sam's is, by far, the most universally embraced result of the hotel's recent remodeling. It's about as lovable as a bar can get.

The colorful drink offerings sport names like "Hippopotomai-tai" and "Lost Safari." You can even order a classic WDW Adventurer's Club Kungaloosh. Non-alcholic drinks are also available, along with a selection of appetizers including Fish Tacos and Spicy Asian Wings.

The indoor seating area is quite small, so try to hit Trader Sam's in the afternoon if possible, or prepare to wait for a spot (it's worth it.) Children are allowed before 8:00 PM; After that, it's adults-only. Even if you're not staying at the Disneyland Hotel, it's worth the short, easy hike from Downtown Disney.

August 5, 2013

There's Nothing Like an Invisible Hearse Horse

Disneyland hearse horse invisible ghost Haunted Mansion
This post's title works better if you remember the 80's Genesis song "Invisible Touch." H'yuck.

Disneyland and Walt Disney World each host a unique ghostly horse outside their Haunted Mansions. In both locations, the spirit beast stands harnessed to a carriage hearse. Disneyland's hearse is painted white to match the New Orleans Square mansion's exterior, while WDW's hearse goes for the traditional Gothic black.

August 3, 2013

Park Soundtracks in the Digital Age

Disneyland Walt Disney World Park Resort Soundtrack CD music
As many of you already know, Disney recently announced an August 20th release date for new park soundtrack CDs. Disneyland and Walt Disney World will each have their own updated 2-disc collection, with several new tracks. Of course, this is terrific news, but--for me--the best thing about this announcement is....wait...okay, before we continue...

Let's pause here a second to look at the covers. Raise your hand if you think the cost-cutting "One Disney" merchandising concept needs to stop.

Okay, moving forward to the best part of this news: These titles will be available on iTunes, Amazon MP3, and Disney's own online digital music shop!

July 31, 2013

A Portal to Wondrous, Dark Adventures

Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Fantasyland night lights
Sleeping Beauty Castle is more than a fanciful park icon; It beckons you into a land containing the best collection of classic-style dark rides on the planet. And, once upon a time (before the mid-eighties), those rides were darker and more mysterious. Today's guests experience the adventures of Snow White, Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Alice as journeys into film worlds they're well acquainted with. Mr. Toad's movie remains relatively obscure, but at least the film's available.

But the dark rides weren't always visits to familiar film worlds. Two factors originally combined to make each ride a stranger, more thrilling experience, particularly for children. Sure, there was the massive Fantasyland makeover in 1983, but most of it revolves around the fact that Disney animation was not always something you could view anytime you wanted.

Anyone who grew up in the 1950's, 60's or 70's might remember the particularly strong sense of otherworldliness Fantasyland held. Because...

In the pre-home-video days, more park guests knew the Disney versions of Alice, Snow White, Peter Pan, and Mr. Toad from their Fantasyland dark rides than from the films themselves.

July 29, 2013

Condor Flats Needs More Personality. Planes, Anyone?

Disney Planes toy die-cast figure Skipper animated toys
An unusual new Disney animated film is nearly upon us (the first non-Pixar feature film set in a Pixar world), and--no surprise--the Planes merchandise has landed ahead of the movie to begin the ballyhoo.

As usual for the Cars franchise, the little collectible die-cast characters are slickly packaged, and I love the backdrop for Skipper (shown above), as it looks like a ready-made Imagineering pitch for an upgrade to DCA's airstrip-themed Condor Flats.
Soarin' DCA Disney California Adventure Condor Flats hangar
This area, of course, holds the gigantic hangar-shaped show building for Soarin', the only real reason anyone ventures into Condor Flats. This land needs another ride and a big boost in the personality department.
DCA Disney California Adventure Condor Flats shop Fly Buy
It's got an appealing theme, and I love the ramshackle airstrip buildings on the Grizzly Peak side.
Soarin' DCA Disney California Adventure Condor Flats mister
Perhaps, however, it's time to get rid of the giant rocket jet mist-blaster (which is an eyesore even when it's working) and really add some more charm (and much more shade) to the whole zone. I know I'm not the first blogger to point out that this would be a fantastic photo-op location for meeting the cast of Planes.

Any chance of the film's mythical Propwash Junction coming to life here in any form depends, I'm sure, on the movie's box office take. With or without the Planes crew, however, DCA's Condor Flats needs to become a truly beautiful and memorable destination, and not just the place you hurry through on your way to Soarin'.

July 26, 2013

Main Street Details: Above the Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter Shop Disneyland Main Street store sign shopfront
Disneyland's Main Street tucks dozens of great details into its signage and shopfronts, and the modest little Mad Hatter shop is a great place to pause and soak in some of the visual fun.
Mad Hatter Shop Disneyland Main Street sign entry shopfront
The hat itself, of course, sits front and center. It's unusual to see such a faithful sculpting of a piece of classic animation on Main Street.

Just above the oversized topper, however, sits the real treasure of this particular address...
Atencio Window Disneyland Main Street lyricist writer Imagineer
As many of you know, Disney occasionally honors its major artists and contributors by awarding them their own window on Main Street. This one belongs to X. Atencio, the Imagineer responsible for adding a lot of wit and magic to two of Disney's most beloved attractions, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. In addition to writing the scripts and dialogue for both rides, he wrote the lyrics to the rides' theme songs, "Yo-Ho" and "Grim Grinning Ghosts." He voiced the talking skull guarding the first drop on Pirates, and he can be heard trying to break out of the coffin on Haunted Mansion (as well as advising us to stay in our "Doom Buggies" if the ride stops unexpectedly).

Photo by Lana Whitham