March 31, 2013

The Roger Rabbit Fountain

Roger Rabbit fountain Toontown Disneyland Car Toon Spin
Toontown's Roger Rabbit fountain sits just a few yards from the entrance to the character's popular dark ride, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.

Robert Zemeckis, Richard Williams, and the other creators of Who Framed Roger Rabbit found an original niche for their title character -- a personality that didn't simple copy any previous major cartoon star. Roger's a good-hearted, enthusiastic, can-do optimist...who also happens to be a hyperactive disaster magnet.
Roger Rabbit fountain Toontown Disneyland Car Toon Spin
The fountain sculpture sums him up perfectly, having him strike a happy show-biz pose seconds after a major automotive mishap--completely unaware he's got fire hydrant water spouting from his ears.

March 30, 2013

DJ's Dance N' Drive is Starting to Grow on Me

DJ Cars Land Carsland Dance Drive DCA Radiator Disney
There are a lot of characters I'd like to see making life-size outdoor appearances in Radiator Springs along with Lightning McQueen, Mater and Red. Any of the other citizens -- Doc, Sheriff, Sally, Flo, Ramone, Sarge, Filmore or Lizzie -- would be great.

DJ, the obnoxious boom box on wheels, would have been my last choice. He was a jerk in the film, although he got his comeuppance in the closing credits after Sheriff caught him.

He begins his ten minute show by insulting the little town, which prompts several waitresses and service station attendants to confront him and -- through song and dance -- prove that Radiator Springs really can party. In the end, DJ admits he was wrong. Everybody dance!

At first, I hated the way the show disrupts Cars Land's mellow atmosphere. Over repeat visits, however, I must admit that the talented, lively cast and the fun choice of music (including Dancing in the Streets, Car Wash, Life is a Highway, and Rock This Town) really do bring extra smiles and energy to the crowd.

Actually, maybe it's appropriate that DJ appears in Cars Land; In the film, his cruel and dangerous prank was the plot device that sent McQueen into Radiator Springs in the first place.

I guess one could say that, in Cars history, DJ unwittingly saved Radiator Springs from oblivion. But don't tell him that; He's quite full of himself enough as it is.

March 29, 2013

The Original Star Tours: Best Backstory Ever

Star Tours Disneyland Tomorrowland Disney flight simulator
The current, reworked version of Star Tours is a remarkable upgrade. The ride's been improved in nearly every way, but I still prefer the original 1987 storyline, which revolved around the Star Tours company itself. The way their shady business practices slowly unfolded during your wait in the queue was absolutely ingenious.

On the surface, Star Tours presented itself as a professional, well-run, safety-conscious travel company which had set up shop in Tomorrowland to offer scenic vacations on Hoth, Tattooine and Endor. As you entered the departure lobby, everything shined, glistened, blinked and flashed with the excitement of adventure and the latest technology. The promo music, the company jingle, the friendly film clip announcer -- it all seemed so inviting and warm.

But, as you proceeded through the line, you began to notice that Star Tours was not quite the company it pretended to be.

March 28, 2013

A Bug's Lamp

Bug's Land Firefly lamp lantern Disney California Adventure DCA
If you're an adult passing through the giant clover forest of DCA's A Bug's Land, you're probably taking the shortcut between Tower of Terror and Radiator Springs. At some point, however, be sure to slow down and enjoy the wonderful details of the insect world.
Bug's Land Firefly lamp lantern Disney California Adventure DCA
This firefly lamp gives you a cheerful send-off as you head out toward Cars Land. As the first step in "fixing" DCA back in 2002, A Bugs Land marked an important shift toward bringing some much-needed whimsy into the new park.

March 27, 2013

The Pinocchio That Never Was (with Fish Heads & Crumbs)

Pinocchio Disneyland Pinocchio's Daring Journey dark ride
The entry for Pinocchio's Daring Journey, featuring the cheerful title character, misleads some first-time riders into thinking it's a happy trip through a puppet show. If you've seen the film, you know how that scenario plays out, and the ride is every bit as dark and full of villainy.

During the film's production, Walt Disney and co. made a wise decision when they scrapped their original concepts for the character -- which stuck fairly close to the book version -- in favor of a more likable, naive personality an audience could actually care about. Carlo Collodi's book is an amazing work of fantasy, but his Pinocchio is one of the most obnoxious, self-centered and irritating characters in children's literature.

Thank goodness you don't have to worry about running into that version of Pinocchio on the Disneyland dark ride. Er....
Disneyland comic walrus Fish Heads Crumbs Pinocchio ride

March 26, 2013

The Perfect Cars Land Dinner

Flo's V8 Cafe Citrus Turkey Apple Freeze Cars Land Carsland
After trying nearly every menu item in Cars Land over the past few visits, I've definitely got a favorite recommendation: Flo's Citrus Turkey Breast with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Corn. To make it extra fantastic, add Red's Apple Feeze as the drink.

Yes, I know Red's Apple Freeze is only sold at the Cozy Cones, so this does involve going to the Cones first and then crossing Route 66 to Flo's V8 Cafe. But that Apple Freeze is mighty refreshing while you're waiting to order!

Flo's V8 Cafe gets our vote for the resort's best combination of great food, quick service  and reasonable prices. The place also features plenty of seating, great views of Radiator Springs Racers, and a non-stop playlist of 60's Motown Girl Group hits. Instant happiness!

March 25, 2013

Three Gulls With Big Ambitions

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage Seagulls mine Disneyland
One of the best elements of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage isn't seen or heard by its riders at all. Three Seagulls from the film, perched on a bouy, cry, "Mine! Mine!" every time a submarine passes by.

The birds, many yards from shore, are not immediately obvious to most guests walking by the lagoon. Fans of the film, however, immediately catch the familiar call drifting faintly on the breeze, and stop to investigate.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage Seagulls mine Disneyland
You've got to love a bird who dreams big.

March 24, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

Disneyland Alice Wonderland ride rabbit hole caterpillar dark
Disneyland has seven black-light dark rides (Alice, Snow White, Mr. Toad, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Roger Rabbit and Pooh), but only one of them turns its first moments into a kinetic bit of outdoor storytelling for non-riders to watch. The rabbit hole entrance to Alice in Wonderland has been swallowing up caterpillars ever since its debut in 1958.
Disneyland Alice Wonderland ride rabbit hole caterpillar dark
Originally, the winding, slow motion "fall" took place in complete darkness, and that's the version I grew up with. When the ride got a massive redesign, the downhill tunnel was lightened and decorated to resemble the film scene. In the newer rabbit hole, you can plainly see you're only descending a few feet, but back when it was dark and I was five, I thought we were going waaaay underground. Disneyland is incredibly awesome when you're small and you believe everything. And it's awsome in a different way when you're grown up and still love the magic of good storytelling.

If you'd like to take a quick trip to Wonderland, Rocketsummer23 has posted one of the best videos of the entire ride I've ever seen--and taken before the upper safety fences were added! See if you can spot the caterpillar's slippers on top of the giant outdoor mushroom toward the end.

March 23, 2013

A Slight Disruption in Theming

Disneyland crane Big Thunder Mountain Railroad refubishment
On our recent Disneyland trip, something seemed a Frontierland. I dunno, I can't quite put my finger on it...

Eeesh, look at that thing! Now we've got a better idea of what a complete track replacement at Big Thunder involves. It sure isn't just a couple of guys with screwdrivers.

Wouldn't it be awesome to get up there for some photos? Wouldn't this be a great concept for a new Mickey/Donald/Goofy cartoon?
Disney cartoon tribute Mickey Donald Goofy Crane Operators title

March 22, 2013

Indiana Jones and the Long...Long...Long Entry

Indiana Jones Adventure ride Disneyland temple entry sign
Today's post is rated PG-13, because we're heading into the wondrous, occasionally gruesome, amazing--and amazingly long--entry to Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
Indiana Jones Adventure ride Disneyland temple entry camp
The ride is a huge, sprawling, multi-level Adventureland attraction -- which Disneyland's Adventureland has absolutely no space for. The clever solution involved building the ride's entrance and exit (set in a ramshackle base camp) on a modest strip of Adventureland real estate, while locating the ride itself far, far away on the other side of the park's railroad tracks.
Indiana Jones Adventure ride Disneyland temple entry bamboo
The journey to the ride thus becomes an adventure in itself and an important part of the story. Darn good exercise, too.
Indiana Jones Adventure ride Disneyland temple entry entrance
The base camp setting and "recently discovered" temple entry immediately cast us as the main characters in this story. It's our decision to enter this temple.

March 21, 2013

The Great Gonzo's Catapult of Doom

Great Gonzo's Catapult Doom Muppetvision 3D DCA California
If you're gonna fail, fail spectacularly. There's not much more I can say about my favorite wall in DCA, except Gonzo Rocks, Sam Eagle should do all of DCA's announcements and "Mah Na Mah Na" should become California's Official State Song.

And for a great weekly dose of Muppet goodness, be sure to check out Muppet Mondays over at This Happy Place Blog!

March 20, 2013

Ariel's Air-Conditioned Omnimover (with Fish Heads & Crumbs)

Little Mermaid adventure DCA Disneyland Omnimover loading
Disney's Omnimover ride system remains one of the most efficient and ingenious ways to carry large numbers of guests through an attraction. In DCA, it turns The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure into a great way to the quickly escape the afternoon heat for a few relaxing minutes of musical, air-conditioned entertainment. The wait to board is rarely more than a few minutes, and it's often a walk-on.

I must be honest; I wish the ride was more thrilling. The designers decided to leave out the battle with the Sea Witch, resulting in a ride with very little drama in its adventure. Still, it's pleasant, pretty, and a great way to get off your feet. Perhaps that final battle can be added to the ride at a future date; Many rides get "plussed" or reworked during their lifespan. Just don't ask a walrus for advice on this one...
Disneyland comic walus Fish Heads Crumbs Mermaid Omnimover

March 19, 2013

Roger Rabbit Details: Backstage at the Ink & Paint Club

Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin Disneyland Toontown Rabbit dark
In honor of the recent Blu-ray release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I'd like to highlight my very favorite detail hidden inside Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin at Disneyland. We can't use a Fastpass to find it, for it's tucked inside the amazing standby queue.
Roger Rabbit's Spin Disneyland Toontown Rabbit bouncer dark
The queue takes us into the town's shadowy back alleys. As you approach the Ink & Paint Club, don't be alarmed when the door panel bangs open and the bouncer tells you to get lost; we're almost to our goal.
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin Disneyland queue call board
Ah, there it is! We're backstage at the Ink & Paint Club, and this is the call board listing the order of the acts for the night's show. In the movie, this is the show private eye Eddie Valiant walked into part way through. If you've ever wondered what the entire night's lineup was, here it is, performed three times a night:

Warm-Up - Goofy
Dog Tricks - Mickey & Pluto
"Always" - Minnie
Ballet - Horace & Clarabelle
Card Tricks - Mickey
"Hungarian Rhapsody" - Donald
"Do Right" - Jessica
Finale - Company

Wouldn't you love to see this show from beginning to end? If you're a fan of the movie, you know "Hungarian Rhapsody" is actually a duet performed by Donald and Daffy. Either Daffy decided he could no longer work with the volatile Donald...or else Disney (understandably) didn't want to pay Warner Bros. for the rights to use his name in a queue gag.

March 18, 2013

The Evil Queen is Watching You

Snow White's Scary Adventures Evil Queen ride entry Disneyland
Fantasyland isn't all flying elephants and glass slippers. There's a layer of darkness and shadow lurking about, and thank goodness; without it, the heroes and heroines would have nothing to test themselves against!

Above the entry  to Snow White's Scary Adventures, a pair of red curtains opens every minute or so as the Evil Queen glares out in contempt at the happy crowd below, as she's been doing since the land's remodeling in 1983.
Snow White's Scary Adventures Evil Queen window Disneyland
She hates popcorn, mouse ears, California Girls and -- probably most of all -- the dozens of strollers parked on her property.

March 17, 2013

The Best Souvenirs Don't Last Long

What does Disneyland taste like? Pocorn, ice cream sundaes and the world's best corn dogs? French toast and fritters? Gumbo and lemonade? For me, fresh peanut brittle from Main Street is my current favorite taste-bud memory of the park, and a great souvenir for keeping that part of Disneyland alive at home long after the suitcases are unpacked and put away.
Disneyland candy Peanut Brittle Main Street bag chef Mickey
Disneyland's peanut brittle isn't just amazingly delicious , it's a souvenir bargain (by theme park pricing standards, anway) at just under five dollars for a decent-sized bag of jagged, old-fashioned candy wonderment.

One great thing about peanut brittle in general is that you can't eat it quickly (without risking minor injury), so one could potentially extend this bit of vacation magic for weeks -- ah, who am I kidding, I ate all the brittle in a day and a half.
Disneyland candy Peanut Brittle Main Street label chef Mickey
But how can I resist? Disneyland Peanut Brittle is made with magic! I don't know what the nutritional value of magic is, but I'll bet it's off the charts...

March 16, 2013

Big Thunder Scale Model at Disneyland Hotel

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Scale Model Disneyland Hotel
One of my very favorite features at the Disneyland Hotel is this incredible scale model of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Located in the lobby of the hotel's Frontier Tower, it's a replica of the Imagineers' original model, but being a re-creation doesn't diminish its awesomeness at all.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Scale Model Disneyland Hotel
Since the actual ride is currently closed until Fall for enhancements and track replacement, this is a great way to work a bit of the mountain's "spirit" into your visit! We'll take a look at all four sides, then zoom in for a few closeups.

March 15, 2013

Ride Breakdown Fun: Stuck in Doc Hudson's Garage

On a complex ride such as Radiator Springs Racers, occasional stalls and shut-downs are inevitable -- particularly during the first year of operation. In the two dozen rides we've taken on Racers, we've experienced two temporary shut-downs. This time it happened in a favorite location, Doc Hudson's garage, where the delay helped us discover something new about the ride...
Radiator Springs Racers Break Down Doc Cars Land DIsney
At this point of the adventure, the track has split into two lanes. We've just emerged from Ramone's House of Body Art while our opponents have come out of Luigi's Casa della Tires. We got our gruff pep talk from Doc, moved forward a few feet...and then we came to a halt for the unscheduled "intermission" alongside the town's respected judge/physician/retired racing champ.

Doc Hudson is one of the most amazing audioanimatronics on the ride. Until this moment, I'd never turned to look back from this angle.

Looking forward...
Radiator Springs Racers Break Down Doc Cars Land DIsney
...the starting line waits just a few yards away! Here, I'd like to point out a wonderful detail of this ride: During these situations, your car continues to make idling and engine-revving sounds as if it's just as impatient to get underway as you are!
Radiator Springs Racers Break Down Doc Cars Land DIsney
Looking back to the right, I noticed for the first time that the two halves of the garage are themed to whichever shop you've emerged from. We came from Ramone's, so this side is filled with paint samples, stencils and artwork. It's got the rough, hands-on look of someone who likes to create and experiment.
Radiator Springs Racers Break Down Doc Cars Land DIsney
Looking across to the other side, we can see it's themed to Luigi's tire shop and is neat as a pin, in keeping with Luigi's personality.

March 14, 2013

Welcomed by the Turnstyle Ducks

Disneyland ducks extra magic hour morning early turnstyle
Our Extra Magic Hour at Disneyland got a bonus touch of charm on our recent trip when a delightful pair of ducks (no relation to Donald) waddled up to inspect the crowd waiting to enter. I believe this smart feathered couple figured out how to get a jump on their comrades farther back in the park, and reasoned that early morning guests are often equipped with muffins and bagels.
Disneyland extra magic morning early hour crowd waiting February
Most of the waiting crowd had no idea of the cute antics happening up ahead. See, this is another reason to arrive early! Look at this crowd stretching back toward the entry to DCA. Keep in mind, these are just the Magic Morning/Extra Magic Hour ticket holders, an hour and fifteen minutes before the park's public opening on a Tuesday non-holiday in February!
Disneyland ducks extra magic hour morning early turnstyle
Meanwhile, everyone up front (including the family chosen to lead the opening countdown) continued be delighted by the tiny unofficial greeting committee/donut inspectors.

Disneyland's high-tech marvels are often enriched by the simplest, most basic pleasures in life. As a life-long fan of the children's classic Make Way For Ducklings, I love the thought that this web-footed pair have chosen the best place on Earth to safely raise their family.

March 13, 2013

Oz the Pretty Good (with Fish Heads & Crumbs)

Oz Great Powerful Disney film review comic Fish Heads Crumbs
I saw Oz the Great and Powerful yesterday, and enjoyed it a lot, particularly the first and final acts. I wish its structure wasn't so incredibly similar to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which was incredibly similar to Narnia (The prophesy's come true--free us from tyranny! But I don't wanna! But you must! Oh, okay...), but for a prequel tale that sets up the Wizard of Oz, the film works very well.

James Franco does a fine job as Oscar "Oz" Diggs. It's a tough role, since Oscar's a shallow, opportunistic jerk until the last act, but Franco manages to make his eventual change of heart believable. I love all the ties and nods to the 1939 film, starting with Oscar breaking up with Dorothy's future mom! Finley the Flying Monkey and the China Girl are two of the most likable CGI film characters I've ever seen, and the brilliant opening credits are worth the price of admission.

Overall, Oz The Great and Powerful is a spectacular and tremendously entertaining film. Seems I'm not the only one at Mouse Troop who saw it this week....
Oz Great Powerful Disney film review comic Fish Heads Crumbs

March 11, 2013

Inside Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Disneyland exterior statue rooftop
It's time for Mouse Troop's first Toad-related post of 2013, and today we're actually climbing aboard one of those awesome motorcars; get ready for a trip through Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Disneyland queue tapestry mural
The entry hall tapestry pays tribute to the mural on the 1955 version's exterior. It details your upcoming trip from beginning to end.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Disneyland chandeliers library queue
The short interior queue gives us a glimpse of Toad's lifestyle. He certainly loves chandeliers...and carvings of himself.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Disneyland statue Toad queue wooden
 He looks so innocent...
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Disneyland interior fireplace doors
We watch a few cars begin their journey by entering the library, knocking poor MacBadger off a ladder...
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Disneyland interior fireplace doors crash
...and crashing out through the fireplace, sending sizzling embers across the floor.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Disneyland interior car motorcar weasel
As we climb aboard our motorcar, I must apologize for the upcoming murky, grainy on-ride photos. Between my slow reflexes, my iPhone's limitations and the ride's many abrupt turns, the results of this photo safari leave a lot to be desired. On the plus side, I think the shots manage to convey the look and black-light atmosphere of the a murky sort of way...

And...we're off! We encounter MacBadger, crash through the fireplace, escape a falling suit of armor and (as the black-light effects take over), rush down down a weasel-infested hall, disrupt Mole's dinner, and crash out of the mansion through a glass wall...
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Disneyland interior cop bobby whistle
The local bobbies are not pleased to see us crashing through the countryside. We avoid a near head-on collision with another car (our own reflection) and pass Ratty's riverside home.

Grizzly River Run -- Empty and Full

Grizzly River Run drop falls dry empty tracks bare DCA
Our most recent trip to Disneyland Resort caught Grizzly River Run right at the tail end of its refurbishment, with the mountain's river flume empty one day and filled with thundering rapids the next.
Grizzly River Run falls drop rapids flume DCA Disney Adventure
I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the trackwork along the big drop, which keeps the speeding rafts on a straight, smooth course before releasing them back into the river to bob and bounce freely once more.
Grizzly River Run falls drop rapids flume DCA Disney Adventure
We didn't get a chance to brave the rapids on this trip, but it was great to see the river going full blast again. It certainly ties the Grizzly Peak area together and brings the whole environment to life.