January 31, 2013

A Hive That's Wired For Sound

Winnie Pooh Beehive speaker Disneyland Critter Country queue
You won't have much luck swiping honey from this hive, but it sure can play some catchy background music. Hanging out near Disneyland's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, it's about as much fun as an outdoor speaker can get.

I enjoy the Pooh dark ride, but the little details of the woodsy outdoor loading area are the best part of the attraction. The ride, due to its way-back-yonder location in the park, is often a walk-on with little to no wait (the Country Bears, the location's previous tenants, faced similar challenges in drawing crowds to that spot). Sometimes I almost wish there were more folks in line so that I could enjoy the scenery a bit longer. Almost.

January 30, 2013

Flying Saucers, Tires, Fish Heads & Crumbs

 Luigi's Flying Tires hat souvenir Cars Land Carsland DCA DIsney
Yes, I am the proud owner of a Luigi's Flying Tire hat, one of the most delightfully goofball souvenirs in Cars Land. I don't wear it to work (very often), but it's definitely a cheery item to keep around.

As many readers know, the Luigi's Flying Tires ride (which I love) owes its existence to a legendary ride from Disneyland's early years, the Flying Saucers. As someone who rode the Saucers twice as a small child, I can honestly say that I remember very little of the experience.

Aston Walrus, on the other hand, remembers quite a bit...or so he claims...
Flyings Saucers Tires Luigi's Disneyland comic walrus hat Cars
Flyings Saucers Tires Luigi's Disneyland comic walrus hat Cars

January 29, 2013

Golden Horseshoe Lives On Through iTunes

Golden Horseshoe Review Disneyland album iTunes soundtrack
The recent "Limited-Time Magic" Tribute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue stage show is heading into its final days at Disneyland. While it's a shame the tribute isn't a permanent fixture at the park, the magic of the original long-running Disneyland classic can still be enjoyed, for Slue-Foot Sue's Golden Horseshoe Review is on iTunes (and Amazon MP3)!

Recorded Live at Disneyland in 1957, the album (misspelled title and all) captures the light-hearted joy and energy of the original show. The original amazing cast is in great form and this special presentation includes a guest appearance by the Disney's favorite barbershop quartet, the Mellomen.

Another classic park album joins our growing list of iTunes Disney Park albums. The digital scene keeps getting better and better!

January 28, 2013

A DCA Gem: Carthay Circle Fountain

Carthay Circle Fountain Disney California Adventure DCA night
Drawing its design inspiration from Golden Era Los Angeles architecture, DCA's Carthay Circle Fountain marks the far end of Buena Vista Street and the branching-off points for Hollywood Land, Condor Flats, and the road to Cars Land and Paradise Pier.

At night, it's a welcoming, glowing beacon. In daylight, its cool waters look incredibly inviting; I'm sure I'm not the only guest who's had the urge to jump in and splash around.

The fountain--and just about everything else on Buena Vista Street--gives DCA's entry land a heart and a welcoming atmosphere that the area lacked before the park's 2012 "rebirth."

January 27, 2013

The Toontown Fireworks Factory

Toontown Disneyland Fireworks Mickey's downtown Roger Factory
Good help seems hard to find at the disaster-prone Fireworks Factory in Toontown. A TNT plunger on the sidewalk outside its front door beckons human guests to set off another round (with appropriate smoke and sound effects).

Toontown is cleverly designed with the calmness of Mickey's Neighborhood on one end and the chaos of Downtown on the other, with the City Hall area smoothing the transition. The closer you get to the Roger Rabbit dark ride, the more unhinged and rambunctious the surroundings become, with the indoor queue for the ride taking you all the way into the seediest and most villain-infested alleys of the cartoon world.

January 26, 2013

The Founder of Radiator Springs

Stanley statue Cars Land Carsland Radiator Springs Disney DCA
This familiar town landmark, the Stanley statue, guards the Radiator Springs Courthouse (which also houses the Fire Station and Sheriff's Office) in Cars Land.

In Cars lore, Stanley founded the town of Radiator Springs as an expansion of his thriving tourist rest stop, Stanley's Oasis. The Oasis, now a ghost town, can be toured in the standby line for Radiator Springs Racers.

Stanley's not only a town legend, but also the departed husband of Lizzie, the absent-minded Model T who runs the Curio shop. Their wedding photo can be found somewhere in Cars Land, but most folks have to "wait" a bit to discover it...

January 25, 2013

A List of iTunes Disney Park Albums

 Disneyland 20th Century Music Company Main Street Shop
Main Street's 20th Century Music Company is one of my top-priority shop visits on every trip to Disneyland. No visit's complete without a look at its selection of Park CDs.

The recent release of several Disney Park albums onto iTunes and Amazon MP3 brings a little bit of that shop's magic to the online music market. Unlike Main Street's music store, however, iTunes doesn't make it particularly easy to find all their park-related selections.

To help Disney music fans zero in on the digital albums, I've put together a page dedicated to keeping track of what's available. I certainly look forward to adding more titles as they're released!

Happy listening!

Photo by Lana Whitham

January 24, 2013

More Park Music on iTunes: Pirates, Mansion & Wishes

Disney iTunes park music Pirates Haunted Mansion Wishes
I don't know which person to thank at Disney for being smart enough to flip the switch, open the vault, turn the valve or whatever happened...but three more great park albums have recently become available on iTunes and Amazon MP3: Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion and Wishes.

If you haven't picked these albums up yet, now's a great time. They each cost $7.99. What you get for that money varies greatly between the three soundtracks. Here's a run-down:

January 23, 2013

Bobsleds & Abominables (with Fish Heads & Crumbs)

Disneyland Matterhorn Bobsleds loading station new seats
Bobsledders prepare for their wild coaster trip through the Matterhorn. Since this is the Tomorrowland side, they're getting the track with craziest turns, the bridge drop and the best splash.

If you've visited Mouse Troop before, you know I like to keep a positive attitude around here. So I'm not going to say how I really feel about these new bobsleds.  Let me just nod toward those guys in the second sled and remark that the new seating arrangement is every bit as comfortable as it looks.

Fortunately, the ride itself is as awesome as ever, and the Abominable Snowman (unofficially known as "Harold") has never been louder or more startling. And speaking of loud things, here's our weekly walrus..
Matterhorn Abominable snowman comic DIsneyland Fish Heads

January 22, 2013

The Grand Californian Lobby: The Resort's Hidden Oasis

Grand Californian lobby Disneyland Resort DCA Downtown
When it comes to picking a favorite "quiet spot" at Disneyland Resort, the huge, spectacular lobby of the Grand Californian easily wins top honors. Whether or not you're staying at the beautiful-but-pricey hotel, you can easily drop by for a visit without ever leaving the parks area (this is where the resort's compact nature truly becomes an advantage).
Grand Californian lobby Disneyland Resort DCA Downtown
Tucked right between Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney, this calming, quiet paradise defines the term "Hidden in Plain Sight." Although it's easily accessed from both DCA and Downtown Disney, the entry points don't call attention to themselves. As a result, most resort guests never think to drop in for a mid-day break (which is a good thing for the lobby's peaceful atmosphere).

January 21, 2013

The Five Best Moments in Adventureland

Disneyland Adventureland entry entrance arch sign
Just a few paces from Main Street U.S.A, you can find yourself suddenly surrounded by unfamiliar gods, skulls on posts and snakes in barrels. Welcome to Adventureland, home of a fearless archeologist, a man raised by gorillas, an infamous jungle tour company, and one very enchanted roomful of tikis.

If you count the Jungle and all of the Indiana Jones attraction, Adventureland is enormous -- but you'd never guess from the one small, crowded avenue that handles all the foot traffic.

It'd be easy to make a short list of the best attractions in Adventureland, but I'd like to focus on the best moments the land has to offer. Here's a quick list of my five favorite Adventureland moments, starting with #5:
Disneyland Jungle Cruise Piranha attack Adventureland bubbles
Here they come...
5) The Jungle Cruise piranha attack. I love the whole Jungle Cruise, but the piranha attack near the end is very clever and actually makes people scream...in a good way.

January 20, 2013

DCA's Extinct Dino

Dinosaur Jack's Sunglass Shack DCA Disney California Adventure
The doomed Apatosaurus of Dinosaur Jack's Sunglass Shack peers down at us in a shot from 2008. The ominous sky and the background construction crane are a coincidence; Dinosaur Jack would survive one more year of operation before getting demolished.

A sunglass shop shaped like a prehistoric beast, Dinosaur Jack's was designed as a tribute to some of the wacky roadside architecture of California's past. Long before the much better Route 66 appeared in Cars Land, Paradise Pier had it's own micro Route 66 area -- a version few noticed or admired.

Dino Jack's area companions -- Corn Dog Castle and the Mulholland Madness wild mouse coaster -- were spared the wrecking ball. People still line up for the incredibly delicious corn dogs and the coaster's Goofy re-theme...but no one seems to miss old Dinosaur Jack's goofball sunglass hut.

I'm wondering if that giant pair of shades still exists somewhere...

January 19, 2013

The Lone Traffic Light of Radiator Springs

Cars Land Traffic Light Signal Third Blink Radiator Disney
Cars Land may be mobbed with odd creatures called "humans," these days, but Radiator Springs remains true to its roots as a one-traffic-light town. The light hangs right where it belongs, at the intersection of Route 66 and Cross Street, leisurely blinking its yellow caution signal.

It's also a detection device for revealing the true fans in the crowd. They're the ones, when seeing Cars Land for the first time, who notice the signal and stop in their tracks to count the blinks. And then they smile, for just as hippy van Filmore observes in Cars, "every third blink is slower."

It's such a small detail, but one that simply could not be left out. Without that extra hold on the third blink, it would just be an ordinary traffic signal. With the quirk, it becomes a modest little beacon letting you know that, yes, you really have arrived in Radiator Springs.

January 18, 2013

Reviewing the Netflix Disney Films: Alice in Wonderland

Alice Wonderland Disney animated Cheshire cat grin
With several great Disney classics readily available to stream on Netflix, there's no better time to take another look at these amazing films. Today Mouse Troop turns its attention to one of the most problematic and interesting films ever to come out of Walt Disney Studios. It has a castle, but no princess, no love story, no battles, no time, no way (except the Queen's way), no mustard in the watch, no oysters for the Carpenter and no tea (ever) for Alice.

Few would deny that Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland fails on a few levels. It lacks emotion, it’s episodic, the story has no goal…

And yet…
Alice Wonderland Disney animated courtroom cards
It’s my favorite Disney film. I first saw it on Wonderful World of Color way back during my 1960's childhood (when a chance to see Disney animation was a rare treat), and it haunted my dreams. I think small children can relate to Alice’s fear of being lost, and if you experience this film at a young age, the movie retains a deep-rooted sense of peril that’s lost on those who initially view it as an adult.

January 17, 2013

Mad "T" Party's House of Cards Bar

Mad T Party House Cards Bar Disney California Adventure DCA
While I'm not the target audience for DCA's loud and bizarre Mad "T" Party, I do admire the clever design and overall high quality of the nighttime event. As mentioned before, I tend to treat it more as a walk-through attraction than a place to hang out.

The bar at the House of Cards stage offers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Like everything else at the Burton-esque festival, it's a pleasure to look at, even when just passing through.

January 16, 2013

What if....Disney Infinity Extended Into the Parks?

Disney Infinity Sleeping Beauty Castle video game next gen
Yesterday, Disney announced its big plunge into the collectible-toys-come-to-life-in-a-video-game genre (which the smash hit Skylanders had all to itself up until now). Starting this June, Disney Infinity hits store shelves, offering an expandable video game world which players enter via collectible Disney character figures.
That's real.

This next bit is pure speculation: What if the Infinity Experience extended out into the parks as part of the upcoming Next Gen additions?

January 15, 2013

Skylanders Meets Vinylmation in Disney Infinity. Oh, My Aching Wallet.

Disney Infinity Mr. Incredible Sulley Jack Sparrow video game
Disney just announced an upcoming product likely to drain Disney fan bank accounts around the globe. Get ready for Disney Infinity, a cross-platform game world that combines the figurines-beaming-down-into-a-video-game concept of the mega-hit Skylanders with the collectible Disney hook of Vinylmation.

Omnibus and Company

Disneyland Main Street Vehicles Cinema Ominbus Horse Drawn
The World's Best Bus cruises by the Cinema as a Horse-Drawn Street Car clops past...in a shot taken aboard the Fire Engine. It's rush hour, Disneyland style, which is about as laid back and charming as any rush hour could possibly be.

Disneyland just wouldn't be Disneyland without this leisurely, ongoing transportation ballet (using beeps, honks and horse hoof clops in place of Tchaikovsky). It's every bit as important to the park's character as Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Matterhorn, and the Steam Trains pulling into the station.

I love all of the park's "lands," but I think Main Street makes me smile the most. It may not contain a spectacular blockbuster ride, but the whole area itself forms one big E Ticket experience.

January 14, 2013

The Haunted Mansion Wannabe (with Fish Heads & Crumbs)

Haunted Mansion Disneyland exterior queue lawn house ride
Just a few more days until the Haunted Mansion reopens following the seasonal departure of Jack Skellington and crew (this photo was taken before the holiday switch).

Last week, we met the unfortunate Shoebox Ghost, who just can't get accepted into the Haunted Mansion's exclusive community. As it turns out, once you meet a ghost, they're hard to shake. They tend to, y'know...follow you home...
Fish Heads Crumbs hatbox shoebox ghost Disneyland comic

January 13, 2013

The Poppy Fountain in Downtown Disney

Poppy Fountain Downtown Disney Disneyland Resort California
I have a confession: I walked past this crazy, wonderful fountain dozens of times over the past several years before I realized it was a California Poppy. In my defense, the petals do look more abstract up close. Ah, well.

Situated in Downtown Disney near the Parking Lot Tram station (we can see a tram in the background), this large fountain launches its water column skyward in varied bursts, creating a playful atmosphere as the stream rises and falls back on itself, up and down, loudly splashing all over the giant State Flower.

As park Early Birds know, this fountain sometimes makes the weirdest noises when it starts up in the morning. It sounds like a giant cartoon whale with indigestion. People tend to back away a few steps. Then the water starts flowing and Downtown Disney moves one step closer to fully opening for the day.

January 12, 2013

Green Army Men in 2008

Green Army Men Toy Story Midway Mania show Disney DCA
Our recent post on Toy Story Midway Mania has got me thinking back on the attraction's first summer at the resort. It's hard to believe the ride will soon reach its fifth anniversary!

Midway Mania was the first major step in "fixing" the old DCA, and the loyal Green Army Men were sent outside the park's borders to spread the word via a clever little show in the Esplanade. The performers did a great job, drawing crowds as they drummed up excitement for the new ride/game.

You don't often see Disney characters performing outside the turnstyles; this was actually a free little show that anyone could enjoy -- even if they'd just come to the resort to stroll through Downtown Disney.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt a bit sorry for these guys on that particular summer afternoon; they were performing in nearly hundred degree heat.

January 11, 2013

DCA Early Birds

DCA Disney California Adventure Entrance Gate Line Early
Passholders and resort hotel guests wait patiently (sort of) about fifteen minutes before the DCA gates open for Extra Magic Hour -- an hour before the general public is allowed in.

You can bet about 95% of these folks are heading straight for Radiator Springs Racers or the RSR Fastpass machines.

I'm a park early bird, and always arrive at the gates well before opening to secure a spot in line for the rest of my group. I often wonder, while hiking through Downtown Disney at dawn, if I might be a bit too early--doomed to appear awkward standing alone at the gate. In all my years of visiting Disneyland Resort, however, I've never been the first to arrive. There's always somebody--usually many somebodies--ahead of me. We all stand waiting, chatting and watching the sun creep above the horizon as the crowd quickly grows bigger and louder.

That anticipation of waiting for the gates to open has actually become one of my favorite vacation traditions. I wouldn't dream of missing it!

January 10, 2013

Toy Story Midway Mania

Toy Story Midway Mania Disney California Adventure Loading
The lively atmosphere of this loading station sets the mood for a terrific ride; Toy Story Midway Mania provides one of the most intensely entertaining sensory-overload experiences in all of Disneyland Resort.

It's also one of the trickiest rides to board without a hefty wait in line. Unlike its sister attraction in Florida, the DCA Toy Story ride has no Fastpass option. The good news: without Fastpass, the line moves fairly quickly, and an average afternoon wait hovers around the 45 minute mark.
Toy Story Midway Mania Disney California Adventure vehicles ride
The bad news: that  line remains consistent throughout most of the day. The only way to board quickly is to hurry over to Toy Story first thing in the morning (while everyone else is in Cars Land).

Or, there's Plan B...

January 9, 2013

Cars Land Winter Traffic Cone Cups

Cars Land Snow Cone Cup Traffic Cozy drink mug Christmas
My great nephew (thanks, Rick!) braved the New Year's crowds at Disneyland Resort and returned with the best seasonal souvenir yet: the Cars Land Winter Traffic Cone Cup (Snow Cone). This whimsical alternate take on the mega-popular orange Traffic Cone Cups is the perfect way to enjoy a cool drink on a warm winter afternoon in Radiator Springs.

The best feature of this jolly mug is the revelation of what snowflakes look like in the Cars universe:

January 8, 2013

Dreaming of the Hatbox Ghost (with Fish Heads & Crumbs)

Haunted Mansion Disneyland Hatbox Ghost New Orleans Square
The Haunted Mansion will be closed through January 17th in order to switch back from Holiday mode to HM classic. Each year as this happens, all Mansion fans wonder if any surprise changes or additions will take place during the closure.

Everyone wants the Hatbox Ghost to return someday. That legendary attic dweller (whose head disappeared from his shoulders and reappeared in the hatbox he held) was evicted from the ride soon after its debut, as the lighting-dependent effect didn't work as well as hoped. With all of today's technological advances, there seems to be no reason the Hatbox Ghost couldn't make a triumphant return.

But if they can't get ol' Hatbox back, well...they could always hold auditions for an equally awesome replacement...
Hatbox Shoebox Ghost Disneyland comic  walrus Haunted Mansion

January 7, 2013

Toad's Newfangled Motorcar

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride car motorcar auto Disneyland Fantasyland
Outside of Toad Hall in Fantasyland, one bright red motorcar beckons guests toward the madcap, out-of-control adventures of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

The charming little auto provides a great photo opportunity and adds another touch of storytelling to the setting. One can almost imagine J. Thaddeus Toad bursting out through his mansion's front door and scrambling to take a spin in his beloved new contraption.

The Toad cars get my vote for second-best vehicle design in the parks, second only to the awesome Alice Caterpillars. They're simple, yet completely believable. Inside the attraction, the false front wheels never touch the floor, allowing for the amazingly tight turns that give Mr. Toad's Wild Ride its unique flavor of recklessness as the cars swerve and zig-zag their way toward disaster.

The cars are all named after characters from the film: Mr. Toad, Toady, MacBadger, Ratty, Moley, Cyril, Weasel and Winky. Everyone waiting to board, of course, hopes to ride one of the two Toad cars. Why do I always get Winky?

NOTE: This week's Fish Heads & Crumbs will be posted Tuesday...if the drawing software behaves itself...

January 6, 2013

Toontown: Horace Horsecollar's Gym

Mickey's Toontown Disneyland Horace Horsecollar's Gym bag
The thoroughly-pummeled punching bag signage for the Horace Horsecollar Gym dangles above the heads of Toontown guests. On clear days like this, the town's design -- with no real foliage visible behind the rooftops -- creates a neat illusion: the sky looks like a painted backdrop.

Estelle over at This Happy Place Blog posted a great 2007 shot of a rare Horace (and Clarabelle) appearance during a Walt Disney World parade. Terrific costumes -- I hope we get to see them in the parks more often. In the meantime, it's nice to see the good Mr. Horsecollar officially acknowledged as a Toontown business owner.

January 5, 2013

Pooh Corner: One Wonderfully Strange Candy Shop

Pooh candy Shop Corner Disneyland Critter Country Heffalump
If your New Year's resolutions include cutting back on chocolate and sugar, Pooh's not going to be much help in that department, especially inside the doors of the Pooh Corner candy shop. Located diabolica -- I mean, conveniently adjacent to the exit to Pooh's dark ride in Critter Country, it carries the surreal theme of the ride's Heffalumps and Woozles nightmare over into a much sunnier interpretation. Here, the bear and some mischievous heffa-bees turn treat shopping into one big, giddy avalanche of Hunny Pot Krispy Treats, Marshmallow Tigger Tails, season-themed fudge and more cookies and candy choices than you can shake a thistle at.

This spot used to be the Mile Long Bar. I miss seeing Max, Buff and Melvin on the wall, but I do love this shop's crazy decor.

January 4, 2013

Armor and Swords at the Heraldry Shoppe

Disneyland Armor suit Heraldry Shoppe Fantasyland swords
This terrific suit of armor guards the entry to Fantasyland's Castle Heraldry Shoppe at Disneyland -- your one-stop destination for family crests and really expensive Middle Earth swords. Although I miss the Disney Villains Shop that once occuppied this space, I do love the blend of history and fantasy found within the newer store.
Heraldry Disneyland Fanstasyland armor swords crests family
With one foot in the real past (your own past!) and one foot in the domain of legends, it's one of the park's most interesting shops, and a perfect, classy fit for the castle courtyard.

January 3, 2013

Waitin' at the Buzz Stop: More Fun With Ride Shutdowns

Buzz Lightyear Disneyland ride shutdown breakdown stuck
Ride shut-downs caused by technical issues don't happen frequently at Disneyland Resort, but when such a thing occurs (as it did during our recent ride on Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters), fans don't waste the opportunity; this is when the cameras come out.

The downside of a ride shut-down, of course, is that the story-telling and immersion are pretty much shattered. The fun, however, doesn't necessarily stop...
Buzz Lightyear Disneyland ride shutdown breakdown stuck
Because a situation like this provides a rare chance to look around at the ride system's workings, the prop construction and the many elements you're not normally supposed to see. For a theme park fan, this is actually a moment to be savored!

January 2, 2013

Man and Mouse: The Storytellers Statue

Storytellers Walt Disney Statue Mickey Mouse DCA Adventure
The Storytellers statue, portraying a young Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse arriving in California, has turned out to be one of DCA's real treasures. Its placement -- right on the sidewalk among the guests -- was an inspired decision that couldn't have worked out any better.

Guests love seeing Walt portrayed as "one of us," and there are often crowds around the statue as guests take turns standing alongside the duo for a photo.

While the famous Partners statue over in Disneyland is a tribute, Storytellers is a celebration of opportunity and possibilities. It adds a subtle but important touch of energy and optimism to the reborn California Adventure.

January 1, 2013

Netflix Adds The Rescuers & Treasure Planet

Netflix Treasure Planet Rescuers added addtions Disney stream
A quick update: Netflix, as part of their ongoing Disney agreement, has just added more two animated classics to their digital streaming lineup: The Rescuers and the very underrated Treasure Planet.

What a nice way to start the New Year! Check our Disney Netflix List for a full listing of the currently available classics.

Park Music on iTunes! A Review of The Circle Sessions

Circle Sessions Carthay restaurant soundtrack iTunes review
Happy New Year! If you're looking for some mellow music to unwind with after all last night's festivities, you're in luck; Disney has actually released an album of park music for digital download on iTunes and Amazon.

The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle has been available at Disney California Adventure since early November, but just hit iTunes and Amazon a week before Christmas.

Comprised of twelve tracks from Buena Vista Street's Carthay Circle Restaurant, this album glides through smooth jazz interpretations of classic Disney tunes old and new, including "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes", "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat", "Alice in Wonderland" "Be Our Guest" and "Married Life" from Up.