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Disneyland Westside

Posted on March 26th, 2021

Dave!A second entry for Friday? Lucky you!

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you undoubtedly are aware of my Disney theme park obsession. Heck, I even designed my own parody theme park DaveLand because my Disney love goes pretty deep...

The Daveland logo... shamelessly rendered in the style of the Disneyland logo.

I collect the map pamphlets from the Disney parks. I have the wall maps. I bought the map book. And every time Disney announces anything new or any kind of expansion, I am compelled to figure out what they're going to do and how they're going to do it.

The lastest news is more announcements for the Disneyland Resort "Westside Expansion" which will turn a bunch of parking lots into an expanded hotel/shopping/dining/entertainment experience...

An illustration showing the Disneyland Westside Expansion.

Now, this concept illustration is not in any way final (indeed, it looks like the previous plans for the "Mickey Mouse Hotel" have been drastically altered or scrapped... and does anybody remember the plans for "Westcot?"). And it's a bit deceptive, which we'll get to in a minute. But you can see that the idea is to add more stuff to snag tourist dollars than they already do. Looks like there's a lazy river tube ride to the left there. The above-mentioned "Mickey Hotel" in the middle. Three entirely new hotels to the far right. A live stage venue just in front of them. And of course more shopping and dining. Disney quite clearly doesn't want you sleeping, shopping, or dining at anything except Disney-owned properties.

As I was saying, the illustration is a bit deceptive though because about 1/3 is already developed with The Disneyland Hotel and Disney Paradise Pier Hotel, which will be surrounded by new construction (which I've shaded in magenta)...

Me drawing on top of a Google Map screen capture to show where the new construction will be.
© Google Maps... Click to Embiggen

Yellow shading is over Disneyland and California Adventure so you can compare sizing. Suffice to say, this is not a small endeavor... nor will it be cheap. I'm not sure where all that parking will go. Could be it will be constructed underground. Could be they will expand the Pumba lot that's wayyyy off to the East or the Toy Story lot that's wayyyy off to the Southwest (see below) to be a multi-story garages like they did for the Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals parking structures that are in the upper-left corner of the map.

It's interesting to note that Disneyland is pretty much at its limit here. To the South is the Anaheim Convention Center. To the North and West is suburban sprawl with hundreds of homes that Disney would have to purchase.

But then there's the land to the East.

And here's where my speculation takes a bit of a sinister turn.

Right now, most of the land to the east is occupied by a bunch of hotels, with the exception of the afore-mentioned Pumba Parking lot (outlined in cyan) which I'm guessing is owned by Disney. The red outline is the land I'm talking about...

Me drawing on top of a Google Map screen capture to show where the Eastern land is located.
© Google Maps... Click to Embiggen

Unfortunately for Disney, there's a shopping Mall to the South of the Eastern region that's likely there to stay unless Disney acquires it (if they haven't already) in which case they could rebrand it as yet another Disney shopping experience.

But let's think about this for a second.

The Disneyland Resort Westside Expansion has at least four high-capacity hotels planned. That's going to take business away from the hotels which popped up to the East of Disneyland. Which means the price to buy them out may cheapen. After enough lost business, they may consider selling to Disney... something that's inconceivable as things currently stand because their occupancy must (normally) be pretty darn high and very profitable. And once that first hotel domino falls... and Disney re-themes it as a Disney hotel... and people flock to it because Disney dangles enough perks... and more hotels lose more business... well, it's not difficult to see how it might be "bye bye Candy Cane Inn"... followed by the rest of them one-by-one.

This, of course, is all conjecture. It could be that Disney has zero interest in the budget hotel business, or that the existing hotels will continue to be so popular that the selling price would be insane. Or maybe the chain-owned hotels don't care about lost business and just want a Disney-adjacent property in their portfolio. It's hard to say. All I know is that both parks are overcrowded year' round now, so maybe it's worth it to Disney to buy everything up... and simply not provide budget lodging. At least not as it looks right now. A Disney "Budget Hotel" will be cheaper when compared to their other hotels, but still Disney-pricey. Because if there's one thing that Disney knows how to do... it's make money. Lots of it.

And they could, of course, use the land to build a third theme park. Or relocate the structures that are currently to the North of Disneyland so they can expand the park there. Or just shift the Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals parking to the East so another big chunk of land opens up for entertainment and hotels on the Westside.

However...

That's not the end to Disney's (estimated) land holdings. They either own or lease a rather large piece of land to the Southeast which is currently the Toy Story parking lot. Not sure if the parking for the hotels/businesses to the North is Disney-owned (that's outlined in green)... but if Disney does own this, they could build a massivley huge parking structure which could replace all the lost parking for Westside... and absorb parking for any hotels they buy, which could then be expanded or rebuilt... or replaced with more theme park to attract more customers (or maybe spread the crowds out a bit)...

Me drawing on top of a Google Map screen capture to show where the Eastern land is located.
© Google Maps

I dunno.

All I do know is that Disney gobbling up that Eastern parcel... along with the area above the Toy Story parking lot... creates a nicely contiguous chunk of land which would nearly double what they have now.

Not that contiguous land is essential. Just look at Walt Disney World. Build another monorail or an air-tram... or expand the bus system... and that third theme park could end up in the Southwest section. Or anywhere, really. I remember reading how Disney wanted to expand to a beachfront property in L.A. or something. Heaven only knows how much land in the greater L.A. area they own either directly or via shell companies.

What I wouldn't give to work for the team at Disney which gets to plan all this stuff. That's my dream job right there. But since I don't, all I can do is have fun speculating and be excited for what's coming next.

Until then, there's always Daveland.

UPDATE: Well looky what we have here... a site that Disney created to shame Anaheim into rezoning their property for multi-use purposes called Disneyland Forward. It doesn't do anything to curb speculation because it's just Disney tossing out ideas, but it does clarify a few things. First of all is their plans for expanding into the Westside property and Northward...

Disney Forward Expansion Map.

Note that Disneyland gets an addition to the West, so those weren't hotels, they were attraction buildings. The only hotel expansion looks to be another tower for Paradise Pier?

Disney Forward Expansion Map.

Which is not to say that Disney couldn't change their mind and drop a bunch of hotels once they get their way so that they can still buy out everything to the East and raze it for a third theme park. And idea which still makes a lot of sense. Though remember that land to the Southeast? Hotel and shopping have been dropped there as an example of what could happen...

Disney Forward Expansion Map.

Disney Forward Expansion Map.

   
Interesting stuff! You can see everything for yourself at Disneyland Forward.

   

Bullet Sunday 662

Posted on May 17th, 2020

Dave!The weather is finally warming up, but the hottest place to be is right here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• More Brothers! One of my favorite films to pop up in my foreign film binges is Kardeşim Benim, a really charming and funny Turkish film about two estranged brothers on a road trip after their father dies. A subtitled version is available on Amazon Prime streaming and for sale on iTunes...

I loved it and was happy to see that they made a sequel. Alas, Kardeşim Benim 2 was not available anywhere... even without subtitles... and all I could find was a trailer, which looked every bit as good as the first movie...

Fast forward to this past week and I saw that Amazon Prime Streaming finally had the sequel available to watch... with subtitles! It was darn good, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first film. It was a bit confusing, however, because the female lead from the first one has mysteriously disappeared. I was left scratching my head while thining "Wait... what happened to Zeynep?!? Who is Didem and where did she come from? Hakan is marrying her? Did I miss Kardesim Benim 1-1/2?!?" Still, well worth a look, especially if you saw the first one.

   
• Mow Your Tuna! I love languages and have studied more than a few of them. The only language I ever felt fluent enough to hold a conversation in was Japanese, which has long-since escaped my memory. Languages I studied just enough to blunder my way through when traveling have been Swedish, Thai, Portuguese, and Italian. The first language I studied was German and I studied Spanish in high school. Neither stuck. I did attempt learning French before my second trip to the country. It did not go well. Which is why I had a good laugh over this...

Now, I am the first to admit that English is no better. There are loads of homophones that make zero sense and can easily confuse anybody attempting to learn the language. But when it's the language you grow up with, it just makes sense.

   
• Casting! QUEEN LATIFAH AS THE EQUALIZER?!?!? SIGN ME UP, PLEASE! I am absolutely fascinated at how a show like that might work. I am so happy to have some really different television to look forward to and this fits the bill nicely.

   
• Electoral Math! "Democrats and losing elections is like Princess Peach and getting kidnapped by a lizard. At a certain point it starts to seem like y'all like this shit." — Oh... here we go... a total breakdown of how politics work where I live and how Democrats are 100% fucking it up. AGAIN...

He's not wrong. About any of it.

   
• Mo Betty! NEWSFLASH: Betty White to star in new Lifetime holiday film at 98 years old. — Squeeeeee!

   
• Magic! As we remain locked down in quarantine, I've been incredibly impressed with how much Disney has been doing to distract us from it all. On their blogs they've been releasing a slew of amazing recipes for some of their most popular dishes and desserts at their parks. As if that wasn't enough, theyve been posting videos to their YouTube channel of all kinds of things... from fireworks displays to attraction ride-throughs, like their latest and greatest: Rise of the Resistance...

So cool. Really hope I can ride it in person next year. The Disney Parks Blog is here. The Disney YouTube Channel is here. Enjoy!

   
• Hugs! And because I want to end today on a happy note, here's a video of people hugging animals hugging people...

Doesn't get much sweeter than that.

   
And that's all the bullets we have for today.

   

Bullet Sunday 623

Posted on August 4th, 2019

Dave!You may think there's nothing good, just, and true in the world, and you could be right... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Free 2-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime. We have a white supremacist domestic terrorist problem which reached a crisis point years ago. And if the solution is always going to be to throw thoughts and prayers at it... or blame it on video games... or write it off as mental illness which cannot be solved... it will never, ever go away. And as we approach the age of affordable 3-D printing where space-age polymers will allow people to print assault rifles at home, it's only going to get much, much worse. And that day is coming far faster than anybody seems to recognize. So it's probably past time you ask yourself... do you want to continue to elect political leaders who encourage, escalate, and foster an environment where white nationalism can continue to thrive? Or do you want leaders who will foster a more inclusive society where white nationalism has no place? Because make no mistake, Amazon will be shipping those 3-D printers everywhere... including your state, your neighborhood, and your school district.

   
• And Then...

   
• Walt! "In 1955, Disneyland opened. In early 1956, Sherman W. Carter, Jr. took his family to the park and shot this home movie. The video was just uploaded to YouTube on July 1 by a family friend."

I've been a huge Disneyland fan for forever. Seeing it in its earliest, rawest form is mesmerizing.

   
• Superflat! One of my favorite artists, Takashi Murakami, has written an editorial about his influences over at CNN Style. His work has certainly been an influence on me!

Murakami Dave!

It's a really good read, especially if you have any interest in how art gets to be art.

   
• Best Life! Washington State may soon allow non-binary persons to use an "X" on their drivers license if an "M" or "F" isn't how they identify. Of course people are 100% losing their shit over it, which is mind-boggling to me. Why do you care what SOMEBODY ELSE has on their driver's license? How does it affect you AT ALL? Nobody is forcing you to do a damn thing on YOUR license. Which is why this Facebook post encapsulates the issue so well...

Be free indeed.

   
• More Chlorine! No idea how I missed this gem of a story, but it made my day... The Saga of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Bizarre Relationship With a Miami Beach Pool Boy, Explained. This hypocritical bigot deserves to have people crawling up his ass with a microscope and examining every last detail of his life. Especially if articles like this are the result. After all the pain his words and actions have brought to others, it's about time it's returned in kind.

   
• Club Life! Speaking of hypocritical bigots, this may be my favorite headline of this decade... Mike Pence Fails to Pay $24K Tab at Gay-Owned Club.

   
Looking forward to another week filled with horrors? Me neither. But see you next Sunday.

   

Bullet Sunday 542

Posted on November 12th, 2017

Dave!Put on that winter jacket, because winter is here along with an all new Bullet Sunday, which starts... now...

   
• Save It! I hate, hate, HATE the messing with the clocks twice a year. Daylight Saving Time ended a week ago, but my cats still haven't fully adjusted. Hell, I haven't fully adjusted yet either. At some point somebody has to end this madness.

   
• Canes! Back when I was traveling to L.A. twice a year, I decided to take an early run to Disneyland to get a handmade candy cane at Christmastime. It was insanity. The line to get one was crazy-long (now I guess they just hand out wristbands or something?) and they are really expensive ($10 when I bought one... probably $15 now!). And yet... a freshly made candy cane during the holiday season? Magic! Worth every penny! I'd buy one again... though the standing in line to get a wrist band is kinda a waste of Disney-Time! And speaking of raising canes at Disneyland, I just found this cool video...

I wonder how tough it is to make your own candy canes at home?

   
• Reveal! After watching a show on the beautiful restoration of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, I became more than a little obsessed with the art of restoring art. And why I've been captivated with art dealer Philip Mould's Twitter feed where he's been sharing some restoration photos like this one...

Philip Mould Art Restoration Photo

Amazing. I need to see if I can track down a blog where they keep track of stuff like this.

   
• No Wonder! This is incredibly fucked up.

   
• It's a Wonder! This, on the other hand, is incredible.

   
• Dance! This is the best thing I've seen on the internet this week, even though it's four years old...

Except bats eating grapes. It doesn't get cuter than bats eating grapes...

There. I can face another week now.

   
Time for a hot chocolate, I think. See you next week... I'll be the one bringing the bullets.

   

Bullet Sunday 540

Posted on October 29th, 2017

Dave!Don't fear the reaper, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Benson! Robert Guillaume passed away this last week and it got me to thinking about the various roles he's played in his long acting career. Primary of which, was "Benson" on Soap (and the subsequent spin-off), where his sarcastic wit was showcased to hilarious effect. My personal favorite role was Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night, a role which is surprisingly relevant today...

You, sir, will be sorely missed.

   
• Think! Cost to renew my nine Nest security camera "Nest Aware" subscriptions annually? $500. Cost to renew Amazon's new Cloud Cam security camera subscription plan annually for triple the storage time and up to ten cameras? $200. This means I could essentially buy three new Amazon cameras every year PLUS get a superior subscription service for the cost of my Nest subscription alone. Gee... let me think real hard about what I should do. What to do? What to do? It's a quandary, that's for sure...

   
• Balls! I made falafel for the first time!

Falafel!

Falafel!

My balls were totally delicious.

   
• Mickey Hotel! Disney just announced that Disneyland will be getting a brand new 700-room hotel which will open in 2021...

New Disney Hotel!

New Disney Hotel!

Compared to the amazing Grand Californian hotel across the way, it's kind of boring-looking. Not very "Disney-Special" to me.

The most interesting bit of information in the press release is not the hotel itself, but its location. In order to build the thing, Disney will be ripping out the West end of Downtown Disney. Which is currently occupied by ESPN Sports Zone, the AMC 12 theater, a Starbucks, The Rainforest Cafe and, ZOMFG... EARL OF SANDWICH! The LEGO Store is spared though...

New Disney Hotel!

The money that a hotel generates is probably huge compared to the royalties from everything it's replacing. With this in mind, I don't know why A) They are only putting in 700 rooms when there looks like there's room for more, and B) they haven't expanded The Grand Californian (the "Redwood Creek Challenge Trail," cool as it may be, is hardly a critical part of California Adventure, so it seems a natural to rip it out and put in another 150 rooms).

   
• Payola! HEALDINE: Senate votes to kill new rule allowing class-action lawsuits against banks; Pence casts deciding vote. — FUCKING PIECES OF SHIT!!! No recourse now... NONE... when big banks fuck you over. You are forced to accept binding arbitration or small court settlements instead of having your day in court. And, of course, data breaches due to shitty bank security are now basically a crime without meaningful punishment. All because the fucking Trump Administration and their Republican lackeys have their mouths so deep on Big Finance cock for cash that they don't give a shit who it hurts... so long as the big paychecks keep coming their way. And OF COURSE they are re-framing this act of utter submission to bank payola as a "good move" for consumers because "frivolous lawsuit costs get passed on to consumers." All 100% bullshit of course. We STILL end up paying... just in a different way. Meanwhile, any and all protections are now ALL THEIRS. Looks like we've got ourselves a government by the wealthy, for the wealthy.

   
• Harrassment! Everywhere you look, it's the same damn thing. I do not know Robert Scoble personally. All I know is that he worked at Microsoft then got famous for conducting crappy "WHO ARE YOU?!?" videos with happening tech industry people. I also know that he went into rehab a couple years ago because he was accused of shitty and harassing behavior towards women when he was drunk and high.

I also know one of these women.

Now it's coming out that he didn't stop with his shitty harassment of women AFTER he was supposedly "cured" of the things he blamed his behavior on. Typical of these types of situations, people are defending him because he's married and supposedly a "good guy." Meanwhile... there's the women whom he's sexually harassed who are having to deal with the fallout of HIS crap.

I believe them. Scoble may be married with kids and be known as a "good guy" in certain circles, but obviously that does NOT exclude him from being a habitual sexual harasser.

On his Facebook profile, Scoble has the douchey description of himself as "Authority on what is next," even though he just talks about what OTHER PEOPLE are doing. I hope "what is next" for him is somebody pressing charges. The more times that shit like this results in public shaming and even more public punishment, the more these reprehensible fuckers will think twice before being assholes to their fellow human beings.

   
All our times have come, see you for more bullets next Sunday!

   

Disney Bonanza!

Posted on July 20th, 2017

Dave!I generally fast-forward through commercials because most of them are total shit and not worth watching. This is easy to do because I watch almost all television from my DVR. The only time I let commercials play is when I'm watching TV live... or if I'm working (or otherwise distracted) and can't be bothered.

Like tonight.

There I was, working away with the television playing in the background when...

... a sound plays.

A familiar sound.

The sound of the announcement tone for Disney's Star Tours!

What the heck?

Turns out it's a commercial advertising the Main Street Electrical Parade, where a Disney cast member is walking through a giant warehouse filled with relics of Disneyland past. I must have freeze-framed a dozen times on my DVR trying to figure out what everything I was seeing could be. Reviewing it all was a nostalgia-laden walk down memory lane.

The commercial has been around for months, but this was my first time seeing it.

When I was Googling to see if Disney had posted it to YouTube, I found that there were a couple of videos calling out all the "Easter Eggs." Like these...

   

Now THIS is a cool commercial that is actually worth your time to watch!

Assuming you're as big a Disney geek as I am, that is.

   

Bullet Sunday 507

Posted on March 5th, 2017

Dave!Pull out your Mickey Mouse ears, because a Very Special Disney-centric Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• I'm Going to Disneyland. Now that Disneyland has no "off-season" and is hellishly busy all-year-long, there's really only one piece of advice I can offer: Don't make your Disney vacation all about standing in lines. Stay multiple days... divide up the attractions you want to see so you're only standing in line for them part of every day... then get the hell out of the parks to have an actual vacation. Go see what else L.A. has to offer (which is a lot)... or just hang around the pool at your hotel. Spending the whole day in a massive crowd at Disneyland is just guaranteeing that you'll need a vacation from your vacation.

   
• Princess Vader. I honestly can't decide whether this is the coolest thing ever, or just pain wrong...

Darth Vader Dress

All I know is that Disney's marketing of Star Wars is way off the charts.

   
• Reimagineering. Earlier this week I brought up the new Star Wars Land additions coming to both Disney parks. This is on top of Disney World getting a Pandora: The World of AVATAR "land" in Animal Kingdom. New stuff at the Disney parks is always great... but I can't help but wonder when rides like Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion will get an upgrade. Surely there's a way of remaining true to the original concept while enhancing the attractions with today's technology? Otherwise I have to wonder how much longer they can last. The parks (particularly at Disneyland) do not have infinite space to expand, so the worry is that even "E-Ticket" attractions will eventually be eliminated in favor of something fresh to keep the crowds coming.

   
• Grey Stuff. Yesterday I mentioned that I checked-off one of my life goals at Disneyland... eating Grey Stuff Gâteau (which they spell "Gateâu") and Gaston's Brew. Nobody seems to know what that meant. Well... "Grey Stuff" is something served to Belle in Beauty and the Beast...

Grey Stuff from Disneyland

This is what the real-life version looks like from The Red Rose Taverne in Disneyland's Fantasyland (a temporary restaurant re-dress in celebration of the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie coming in March...

Grey Stuff from Disneyland

It's a white chocolate mousse that's been tinted grey then heaped on a small red velvet cake that has raspberry in it...

Grey Stuff from Disneyland

It comes piled on a shortbread cookie that seems to have a rose drawn on it?

Grey Stuff from Disneyland

It's not too bad. The cookie is dense and bland rather than buttery and flakey... and the whole ordeal is too sweet for me... but it's totally edible. Gaston's Brew, on the other hand, is excellent. It's apple-mango juice that's topped with a passion fruit foam "head." Something I'm going to have to try and make at home.

   
• Magical Morning. One of the benefits of buying your ticket to Disneyland online is that you get a free "Magic Morning" on tickets for three days or more. "Magic Morning" means that you get into the park an hour before opening. In my case, that meant 9:00am instead of 10:00am. This used to be available only to registered hotel guests at one of the Disney hotel properties... but now anybody can get it. The problem being that now anybody can get it. Which means the park gets just as crowded just as quickly as it would without magic morning. Sure you might get one or two rides in at a reduced wait time, but it's hardly the deal it used to be. I got to ride Space Mountain in 20 minutes instead of 60... but after that the lines were right back to normal. Bummer. I'd be pretty pissed if I were a hotel guest counting on this perk.

   
• The Sign. I could spend hours just wandering around Disneyland looking at the beautiful signage that's displayed everywhere. It's not as fun as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it certainly beats standing in lines all day. My favorite signs are in Adventureland. So many beautifully-carved pieces...

Signage from Disneyland

Signage from Disneyland

But it's not just the extravagant larger signs that are given such detail. Even small signs... like numbers on a door... are beautifully themed for the area they occupy...

Signage from Disneyland

Even throw-away signs from an exit queue are painstakingly designed...

Signage from Disneyland

And every exterior sign is beautifully-crafted, of course...

Signage from Disneyland

So... next time you're at one of the Disney theme parks, stop for a minute and look for the signs. They're an attraction all on their own.

   
And now? Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work I go...

   

Those Darn Cats and a Farewell to Disney

Posted on March 3rd, 2017

Dave!Last night at a wonderful early birthday dinner with friends, I had told them how proud I was that I finally managed to get Jake and Jenny trained to not jump on the kitchen counters. Yes, Jake still wanders into the kitchen from time to time but, thanks to sticky mats, his days of climbing over my kitchen counters was over.

And then... less than an hour after getting back to the hotel... I get a motion alert on my iPhone that there's movement in the kitchen. A quick check of the security cameras and, sure enough...

Darn Cats!

Darn Cats!

I rewound the footage to see what made Jake suddenly revolt, and was surprised to see that it was actually Jenny who was the instigator. You can see her beady little eyes reflecting in the dark on the refrigerator return before she makes a spectacular leap across to the kitchen counter...

Darn Cats!

Darn Cats!

Jake hopped up a minute later...

Darn Cats!

Darn Cats!

I thought Jenny had hopped back down, but nope... she was over digging in the sink...

Darn Cats!

Darn Cats!

Eventually I started talking to them from the speaker on the security camera, which was all kinds of confusing for them as they started looking around trying to find out where I was. Jake seemed to think I was on the ceiling, but Jenny seemed to figure it out eventually...

Darn Cats!

Darn Cats!

What's weird is that A) The motion alarm did go off, which usually scares them away, so apparently they are immune to that now, and B) My yelling at them to get off the counters through the camera speaker was equally ineffective. Eventually I rang the doorbell, which finally did the trick.

Guess I need to figure out how to tie the motion detectors to the doorbell when I get home.

It also looks like I will be disinfecting my kitchen counters when I get home.

Blargh.

   
I was pretty much Disney-ed out half-way through yesterday. But the hotel kicks me out in an hour... my ride to the airport isn't here until 3:30... and I have another day left on my park ticket... so I guess I'm going back to Disneyland again today. Oh well. There are certainly worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Still... vacation goals achieved...

  • Ate lunch at Earl of Sandwich daily.
  • Ate a Dole Whip Float from the Tiki Juice Bar in Adventureland.
  • Ate "The Grey Stuff" and Gaston's Brew at The Red Rose Taverne restaurant.
  • Ate beignets at Jazz Kitchen Express in Downtown Disney.
  • Didn't kill anybody.
  • Rode all my favorite attractions (except Pirates and Tower, which were closed).

Until next time, Disneyland.

   

Disney Top Twenty Attractions

Posted on March 2nd, 2017

Dave!My favorite theme park attraction of all time was Universal Studio's Back to the Future: The Ride. It was absolutely flawless in execution and felt like an essential part of the Back to the Future movie trilogy in a way that other movie tie-ins can only dream of. Alas, it was gutted so as to install a ride for The Simpsons which is only half as good... so if you never got to ride it, you're out of luck.

Many people find it surprising that my favorite didn't come out of Disney, since they are the company that popularized the entire concept of a theme park. No, they weren't first, but they came along and did it bigger and better than anybody else ever had... partly in thanks to having such an established brand with a multitude of characters and properties that translated perfectly into attractions.

That being said, I decided to rank my favorites from both Disneyland and Walt Disney World into a single list. Partly because I want to make sure I don't miss an attraction for my time here... but mostly because I don't feel like working tonight...

  1. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (DL WDW)
    Proving that Disney was the right home for the Star Wars universe all along, this space flight simulation attraction in a moving theater got a serious upgrade when they randomized segments so it's practically never the same ride twice and made the whole thing in 3D. Epic in scope, it's a great Disney experience on either coast. Though the queue is far better at Disney World, the attraction itself is the same.
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean (DL WDW)
    If there's a ride that sets the tone for everything that a Disney attraction can be, it's this one. The Disneyland version is vast, with an abundance of signature moments that build a complete "world" for you to inhabit. Even with the Johnny Depp upgrades, the ride still feels a bit dated, but it's such a great experience that I just don't care.
  3. Soarin' (DL WDW)
    Originally called Soarin' Over California this immersive theater experience (complete with smells!) is so breathtakingly awesome that you never tire of it. The attraction was recently changed to Soarin' Around the World featuring world landmarks in a very cool way, but I kinda miss the California version.
  4. Expedition Everest (WDW)
    Disney's themed roller coasters are always fun, but reached its peak (so to speak) when Expedition Everest. The fact that they added a new level of thrills by having a portion of the ride run backwards is just the icing on the cake. The Tibetan theming throughout the ride is immersive and wonderful.
  5. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (DL WDW)
    The roller coaster itself is nothing groundbreaking... it's the way that it's themed that makes this ride so darn compelling. Old West elements tied together with a runaway train on a fun track go a long way towards creating a memorable attraction.
  6. Splash Mountain (DL WDW)
    A flume ride to end all flume rides, Splash Mountain integrates Br'er Rabbit and company into a terrific story that sweeps you up as it sweeps you along. The plunge at the end has real weight to it, making this a heavy hitter in the thrill ride department. The version at Disney World has side-by-side seating that's a lot more comfortable than the Disneyland version.
  7. Hyperspace Mountain (DL) — Space Mountain (WDW)
    Having a roller coaster dark ride was always a fantastic concept, making Space Mountain an immediate hit. But then they added a Star Wars overlay and re-christened it Hyperspace Mountain which elevated the ride to a whole new level. Unfortunately, that's something they don't offer at the Disney World version, which would probably drop that version down on my list a few notches.
  8. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (DL WDW)
    Leave it to Disney to make a tower-drop ride interesting. By building a creepy hotel around it and adding The Twilight Zone theming, Tower of Terror is one of those attractions that uses story to make the mundane something special. The Disneyland version has the drop-car leaving the elevator shaft and wandering out into the hotel, which makes it a much better ride than the static Disney World version. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how it turns out, the Disneyland version is dropping The Twilight Zone in favor of a Guardians of the Galaxy: Breakout ride. Could be a disaster. Could be just the ticket to rejuvenating an aging attraction.
  9. Haunted Mansion (DL WDW)
    This timeless attraction is low on thrills, but the painstaking attention to detail and creepy atmosphere makes it a far better "haunted house" than it has a right to be. The original at Disneyland is probably my favorite... even though the extended queue at Disney World adds more cleverness to an already clever ride.
  10. Mission: SPACE (WDW)
    Disney took NASA's High-G-Force Centrifuge and turned it into a nifty simulation of what astronaut training might be like for a mission to Mars. The result is surprisingly good, though not for everybody. If being accelerated to 2.5Gs is too intense for you, there is a "non-spinning" option that you can ride, though it kinda defeats the purpose of the attraction.
  11. Toy Story Midway Mania! (DL WDW)
    Probably the most refreshing concept for a Disney attraction in ages, you board a moving car that takes you from one 3D "shooting gallery" to another, where you hit targets by pulling on a string attached to a "blaster" at the front of your car. It's cute. It's fun. And it's themed flawlessly for the Paradise Pier midway at Disneyland's California Adventure. Since Disney World doesn't have a midway, they have you taking a trip into Andy's room (from Toy Story) which is almost as cool.
  12. Ellen's Energy Adventure (WDW)
    It's amazing to me how well this attraction holds up after 20 years. It's part comedy movie, part educational film, part ride, part diorama... and all entertaining. And, in addition to Ellen DeGeneres, you also get Bill Nye The Science Guy, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Alex Trebek with Jeopardy. Every time I ride it, I'm afraid that it will be replaced before I return to Epcot.
  13. Radiator Springs Racers (DL)Test Track (WDW)
    Disney took their Test Track technology (boarding a six-seater car to drive through automotive endurance tests, then a high-speed run on a test track) to a higher level when they built an entirely new addition to California Adventure around the concept of Pixar's Cars. In addition to a lot of huge animatronic characters from the film, you ultimately get to "race" against another car in a (relatively) high-speed drive through the Cadillac Mountain Range from the movie.
  14. California Screamin' (DL)Rock n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (WDW)
    Two really good rollercoasters. It's as simple as that.
  15. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye (DL)Dinosaur (WDW)
    While two very different concepts, both of these attractions feature a ride in "Enhanced Motion Vehicles" over a bunch of simulated hazards. You'd think that the Indiana Jones theming would make the Disneyland attraction a far better experience, but that's not really the case. In fact, before Dinosaur was re-themed to be a crappy movie tie-in, it was called Countdown to Extinction and actually a better ride. Now? Not so much, and I'd definitely put Temple of the Forbidden Eye first.
  16. Kilimanjaro Safaris (WDW)
    Until I actually went on an African safari, I thought that Kilimanjaro Safaris was undoubtedly a highly abstract idea of what a real safari might be like. I was wrong. It's shocking just how faithful Disney was in trying to recreate the experience. The massive potholes in the roads. The sounds. The smells. The animals (when they're out)... this is as close as you can get without stepping foot in Africa. Yes, it's been Disneyfied, but mostly in a good way. As an aside... if you plan in advance and have money to burn, I highly... highly... recommend booking the Wild Africa Trek excursion (which I talk about in detail here). It is a fantastic experience that's worth every penny, and one of the best Disney attractions you'll find.
  17. Grizzly River Run (DL)Kali River Rapids (WDW)
    While essentially the same concept (you board a giant circular raft and go whirling through a water track), Disney World's Kali Rive Rapids is a pretty lame experience, built around the story of illegal logging and forest conservation. It also seems like a tamer ride. Disneyland's Grizzly River Run, on the other hand, took the idea to a better, if not slightly wetter, more extreme level... trying to simulate whitewater rafting through a terrific forest setting.
  18. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (DL) — Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (WDW)
    Essentially a shooting gallery combined with a moving car dark ride, the Buzz Lightyear attractions in both parks were one-upped by Toy Story Midway Mania, and feels dated by comparison (despite being quite new). Even so, it's a fun ride that's worth your valuable time.
  19. Jungle Cruise (DL WDW)
    This badly-dated attraction is in desperate need of a major upgrade, but will probably never get one. The best they can do is have the boat captains add jokes and bad puns to their tour dialogue, which is fun the first time you hear it, but gets really old, really fast. Still, it's a pleasant diversion from the rest of the park, and still a great concept.
  20. Matterhorn Bobsleds (DL)
    It's not that I dislike The Matterhorn, it's just that it's been so massively eclipsed with Expedition Everest in every way that the original feels more like a toy than an attraction. Still, if you're visiting Disneyland and don't mind being crammed in tiny cars zipping around a track, this is still a pretty great ride. When it's open. Which it isn't a lot of the time.

Time will tell if this list changes after the new Pandora: The World of AVATAR and Star Wars Land projects debut. I would certainly hope so.

   

The Happiest Place on Earth

Posted on March 1st, 2017

Dave!I was supposed to fly home today since work is done, but I decided to stick around and hang with Mickey Mouse instead. The last time I was in Disneyland was four years ago. A lot has happened since then.

And I don't just mean that The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is closed for repairs... though that is irritating since it's my favorite theme park ride ever, and the Disneyland version is better than the Disney World version by a long shot.

No, what's happening is a shockingly large expansion of the park to include the new "Star Wars Land" that's being built just above Frontierland. You can catch glimpses of it from the top of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride and the Splash Mountain ride, but Nearmap has an aerial view that reveals the true scope of the project...

Star Wars Land Aerial View by NearMap
Image copyright NearMap... CLICK HERE FOR FULL RESOLUTION

To give you an idea of just how huge that is, I've draw it on a Google Map of the entire park...

Star Wars Land Overlay Map

It's a safe bet that eventually "Rivers of America" will be made back into a loop so that the river rides and Tom Sawyer Island will be running again... but they're probably having to make adjustments to keep Star Wars Land separated off from Frontierland so the illusion of being in a "world" won't be spoiled.

Even so, that's a massively huge addition to Disneyland. I figured that since Disney World has so much land available that theirs would be big... but Disneyland? Who knew? The end result is probably going to be double the size of Tomorrowland, and they've still got room for future expansion.

Here's some concept art from Disney showing what Star Wars Land will look like...

Star Wars Land Concept Art

Star Wars Land Concept Art

Yeah... definitely returning to take a look at that.

But I first need to get back to Disney World because they've got "Pandora: The World of AVATAR" opening up in May.

In other news... The Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade is back. As I was leaving the park last night, I heard the music start up. It's the same music they used for the parade when I first visited Disneyland in 1976. The minute I heard it, I was ten years old again. The floats look to be the same as well... but, hey, that was forty years ago, so I could be mistaken. Interestingly enough, the parade doesn't seem dated at all.

Given that this is February, the crowds at the park were surprisingly dense.

I usually stay at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel (one of my favorites, because it reminds me of the Wilderness Lodge at Disney World), but that was booked solid. The Disneyland Hotel was likewise unavailable. I thought I might finally get to stay at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, but that was a no-go as well. Why aren't all these kids running around in school?

Pirates of the Caribbean being closed wasn't the only disappointment. Tower of Terror is closed as well because it's being re-themed as a ride for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Prepare yourself for Joe Rohde and his absurdly stupid earring...

On one hand... it's upsetting that Tower of Terror will be no more. It was a great ride that perfectly integrated The Twilight Zone into the narrative. On the other hand, it will be nice to have something new... and it will feature movie characters I love.

Guess there's always Tower of Terror at Disney World... but that ride was never as good, because so many of the cool features of the Disneyland version were abandoned (such as the elevator car leaving the shaft to venture out into the hotel).

One transformation which has already been completed is "Space Mountain" becoming "Hyperspace Mountain" back in 2015. Decked out with all-new Star Wars theming, it is an even more awesome experience than before. I rode it last night and was surprised at just how well it works. They try to make it seem as though you're in a high-speed space battle, and you actually feel it. Sure, the glimpses of Star Wars elements are brief... you're on a roller coaster after all... but they've added laser blasts and other nifty things to really sell it. That alone was worth the price of admission.

And speaking of the price of admission...

Holy crap is Disneyland expensive. Usually I get free tickets from work, but that program ended back in January. I went to buy my own tickets and nearly fell into shock. I was going to get three days for $315, but four days was only $20 more so I thought "What the hell?" and did that. Even two days is a whopping $244 (Park Hopper), so you might as well go full boat. Especially if the park is busy, as you'll spend most of your time standing in line.

And now... time to go out and enjoy the lovely weather they're having here. Though it still gets cold at night, the days are ll sunshine and clear skies. A nice change of pace from the overcast skies and snow back home.

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