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!