Sunday, October 15, 2017

Disneyland ~ Main Street Vehicles

Just can't take another step but really want to head down Main Street to the Plaza Inn or come back from the Castle to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln? Or maybe you just want to experience Main Street from a different perspective and not stumble over the streetcar tracks.
Disneyland has you covered with not one, two or even three choices, but four.
All of these vehicles are designed as accurately as possible to what you would find in any small American town during the turn of the century.
The most popular of these vehicles is the classic Horse-drawn Streetcar. Take a leisurely clip clopping ride and be sure and note your steed's name.
Next up is the Fire Engine. Imagine you're riding along with Walt and any number of celebrities, as this transport is often used to transport famous folk at the start of a parade.
Be thoroughly modern in an early version of the Horseless Carriage. You might get the Jitney version with its open air design. Dashing fellows would show off their speed and honk the horn, just because they could.
Want to see Main Street from higher up? Board the 2 story Omnibus and choose a sit on the upper level.
These modes of transport certainly won't get you 'there' quicker, but are part of the unique experience of a Disney park.. Undergo a mini challenge and ride all 4 in one day!







Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Five Reasons to Visit Chef Mickey's Character Meal at Walt Disney World

Sometimes it seems as if there are a zillion choices for dining at Walt Disney World. This is all well and good, but can also be overwhelming.
Read along to see why I think Chef Mickey's Fun Time Buffet is a top choice for families with children.
  • Flexible. Some dining locales have limited hours. Not Chef Mickey's! You can choose to eat beginning early in the morning to late in the evening, with a small gap between Brunch and Dinner. I'd suggest Breakfast or Brunch (which ends at 2:30PM) for the Mickey waffles if nothing else. What's a visit to Walt Disney World without a Mickey waffle or ten?
  • Food Variety. It's a buffet! Big eater or small, picky eater or easily pleased, you're covered. No surprise when the check comes at the end of the meal and you see the juice your child ordered and didn't drink cost more than the meal. It's all included and yes, there's dessert as well.
  • Location. Chef Mickey's is located at the beautiful Contemporary resort. Even better, it's an easy walk from the Magic Kingdom. Make your life easy and combine a Magic Kingdom Day with a Chef Mickey reservation so you don't have to deal with busses to make your reservation time. As an added bonus, the atmosphere at the Contemporary is a welcome respite from the crowds and the hub bub of the parks. Explore a just might want to stay there on your next visit.
  • Enjoyed by all. Do you have one of those wanting to be jaded Tweens or Teens? They won't get away with that here. There's no coaxing to get in a line, the characters just appear and are careful to include all. The sulking Teen who is 'too old for this' will soon be hamming it up with an old friend.
  • Characters. I should say this again...CHARACTERS! Clearly I've saved the best of last. No Fast Passes or lines needed. As said before, they characters come to YOU, with plenty of time to interact, take photos and get autographs. Here's a tip...take a photo mat with you, have all the characters sign that, and go home with a great frame for a favorite vacation memory. In general, you will get to spend time with the Fab Five of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald.
As with most dining at Walt Disney World, reservations may be made 180 days in advance, and take 1 credit on Dining Plans that include Table Service Meals. Paying out of pocket? Try breakfast for a more economical experience.







Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Disneyland ~ Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough

The very first of Walt Disney's castles, and the only one he ever actually walked through remains the icon of Disneyland. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is sometimes scoffed at for its size, being much, much smaller than Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World. But in Walt's original park, it is quaint and homey and fit for it's esteemed title as the first.

But did you know it also has a unique attraction inside? Yes, you can actually go inside Sleeping Beauty's castle. Like most things in Disneyland, much history surrounds the attraction.
The entrance is tucked away by the tunnel to Frontierland. There are stairs involved, going up and going down and twisty and sometimes tight walkways. It doesn't take many folks inside to make the space feel crowded. Luckily, it's usually fairly empty. If you have mobility issues or are just hesitant about the trek, never fear, there is a high definition video of the attraction on the bottom floor.
Think about this. Disneyland opened in 1955 with Sleeping Beauty's Castle as its showpiece. The movie Sleeping Beauty must have been a big hit during that time, right? Nope! The movie didn't open until 1959, so visitors weren't even familiar with what Disney's take on the classic tale would be.
The walkthrough wasn't open until 1957. It is said that Walt didn't like wasted space, and the movie was still 2 years out, so how about a big commercial for the film in that space? Using a clever design of the open gilded storybook matched with dioramas of the story, guests could see a preview of the upcoming film.
Using the colorful graphic style designs of Disney artist Eyvind Earle, the story was brought richly to life.
Over the years the walkthrough has been closed and opened, upgraded in technology and changed. In 1977 the scenes were portrayed as miniatures, using doll like figures and styled after windows on Main Street.

After being closed in 2001, fans wondered if it would ever reopen.
But reopen it did, in 2008, with the original Eyvind Earle style intact and 2st century technology added in.
I was fortunate enough to attend a history of the attraction presented by Imagineers. What stories! And what amazing things they found each time the attraction was re-done. Knowing the history behind everything that is done in the parks makes the experience all the richer.

The next time you find yourself in Disneyland, take a break from the mountains and the thrills and take time to explore this little gem.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pre Broadway Frozen Stage Show ~ Denver ~ Review

And the Frozen fever continues. A new short with a holiday theme will be released with the upcoming film "Coco", and "Frozen 2" is in the works. Is it too late to add a Broadway show to the mix? Read on but be aware there are spoilers.

The Broadway production of  "Frozen" opens in New York on February 22, 2018. Prior to that is a 7 week Denver engagement, and I was fortunate to be able to attend.
This is not simply a remake of the film..or the Disney California Adventure stage show...or the Disney Cruise Line Wonder stage show.

The preview shows the tale much fleshed out, with a deeper storyline and character development, as well as having a bunch of new songs.
A smart move is having Pappi act as narrator, weaving the story together. No longer trolls, Kristoff's family is  more creature like, and are called the Hidden Folk. There's a new song in the beginning explaining Olaf's creation, called "A Little Bit of You". Hans has a deeper development, and Elsa  has her own ballad, prior to "Let It Go".

Sven is wonderfully done! And the puppet/person mix of Olaf works very well.
Olaf's hit, "In Summer" remains, but I'd hoped for a much splashier production number, as seen in the Disney California Adventure version. This segment seemed under staged to me. So much of the show is really emotional and rather deep, and I feel they lost an opportunity to add lightness by not making "In Summer" a joyous spectacle.

To me, the oddest bit of flow in the show is the shuffling around of scenes to allow Elsa's big number, "Let it Go" to end Act 1. Instead of the song happening right after the big scene at the Coronation, we go through meeting Kristoff, seeing he and Anna interact, and even getting to know Olaf, all before Elsa lets it go. I'd always thought the original freezing of the town was when Elsa fled the Coronation, and the  everlasting winter was when she flung about snow and ice and built the ice castle. But here is Anna, cold and shivering and in deep winter when she meets Kristoff. He then provides her with a warn outfit, since we haven't come across Oaken yet.
 Oaken doesn't appear until Act II, but that is done well. It is also the 'raciest' Disney production number you'll see. Loads of family come out of the famous sauna in flesh colored bodysuits, and there is a production number that cleverly uses leaves a'la Adam and Eve to cover all the parts that need to be covered in a family show.

Everything else goes as expected, with more new and beautiful music and songs added, until love thaws a broken heart.
Casting is excellent. Each character nails it, and all have fabulous voices and plenty of chemistry with each other. The children who play young Anna and Elsa do well, but I found there was some sound issues at times that made hearing their spoken words a little muddled.

Much of the staging is rather dark, so that the effects of the ice shine all the brighter.  Effects were fine and the brilliant costume change of Elsa is gasp inducing as it is in the other stage productions.
Effects are well done, but not quite 'wow'. I hope they can plus the effects when the show makes it to Broadway.
There was a strictly enforced no camera rule so I didn't feel I could even take a picture of the stage before the show opened. In Denver, they had very little merchandise. No glossy programs, and the cast recording not available, although it could be pre-ordered. I will definitely be getting the album, as the music is stunning and the new songs wonderful. There are a couple or parts where the really young, say under age eight, might get fidgety.

I hope I'm able to see this show in its final state. It should have a good long New York run and tour the country later on.







Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Disneyland Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience

Always searching for ways to enrich the Disneyland guest experience (and charge a bit extra) a new dessert party is available in Tomorrowland at the Disneyland Park.

This extra priced event (currently $45 per person) is not billed as actually having a purpose other than having a dessert and hanging out at a great location.
And a great location it is. You report at the kiosk by the Innoventions building and up, up, up you go for one of the best views in the park.
 You are presented with a box of treats, both sweet and savory, and may help yourself to as many beverages as you like. Choices include soft drinks, hot beverages, Perrier and water.
You are seated in retro comfy chairs and couches..and hey, they light up. It is very cool to observe all the goings on in Tomorrowland from high above the crowds. When I was there a band was playing at Tomorrowland Terrace Stage, so added bonus.

There are light sabers to play with and some games. A character or two will visit. You can hang out from 8:00 -10:00 pm. Is that it? Pretty much. Unless there are fireworks scheduled for that evening (and they aren't cancelled due to wind or some other reason).
Then the event becomes a Fireworks Dessert party. It is not billed as such since the experience doesn't really include the's a happy happenstance if you get to see them.
So what's the view like of the Fireworks? Really interesting and totally different. You actually get to see Tinkerbell fly, and from a new perspective. Having the Matterhorn in the center of the action adds a nice feel to the experience, and you can see the Fireworks and added effects in a new way. You cannot see the castle, so that might be missed.

I found it a very nice way to spend an evening and a welcome escape from the crowds. Great snacks and fireworks from a different viewpoint added to the enjoyment. I give it 4 churros out of 5. Enjoy!












Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Disneyland Fantasmic Dining Package ~ River Belle Terrace ~ Premium Upgrade

After being closed eighteen long months due to construction of Star Wars Galaxy Edge, Fantasmic! has returned to Disneyland. Also returning are chances to pay extra for access to reserved viewing areas.

There are currently several options, including dining at Blue Bayou or River Belle Terrace, as well as a Grab N Go meal from Hungry Bear. The cost per person as of this writing at Blue Bayou is $65 for adults, $25 per child, for River Belle Terrace it runs $45 per adult and $25 per child, and for the Grab N Go you'll be shelling out $29.99 per adult and $19.99 per child. Prices are before taxes and, for the table service restaurants, gratuity.

There is also an opportunity to upgrade the River Belle Terrace meal for an additional $15 per person. This choice has you arrive at 8:00 PM to be seated for your evening meal, then be able to stay seated for the show. I'm always a big fan of chairs at the end of a long Disney day, so this option appealed enough for me to give it a try.

Apparently tables are pre-assigned, so no need to show up early to try and get the perfect location.
There's a nice and varied menu to choose from,  a table top decoration to get you in the mood and a lanyard to take home.
The food is fine and standard fare for the restaurant, but the real star here is the dessert. Even though the Strawberry Shortcake might be more to your liking, how can you go to a Fantasmic! themed dinner and not have the special Maleficent Dragon dessert!? Complete with 'fire'. An added bonus is it's yummy. There is a different dessert at Blue Bayou, so if you're a foodie purist you'll have to go there as well.
Servers are attentive and kept drinks filled and plates promptly cleared.

As night falls you notice your decoration lights up. Added coolness.
All good so far. Now for the not so good.

The patio for dining at River Belle Terrace is somewhat elevated, but frankly not enough. There is a pathway to keep folks moving directly in front of the fencing.  It was very distracting to have the constant flow of people walking in front of me during the show, as well as the bright lights of the cast members waving them along.
Although the projections on the screens are much brighter and clearer, it seemed I was perfectly positioned between two of them so could see neither very well. I was seated at the very furthest table to the right, in the front row of tables, so maybe this made it all worse than being more center.
As you can see in the pictures, folks at the back of the viewing area do tend to block the view, as do trees, poles, show lights, etc. In an odd way, being so far back, made the action on the island seem quite far away.
Of course, you get to stay seated for the fireworks. You could not have better planted a giant tree to block the entire fireworks show more effectively if you'd tried. I saw virtually no fireworks except for a few elements that take place away from the castle, and just a hint of color at the top of the tree.

So, if you are really desperate for a chair during your Fantasmic! viewing, this is a great choice,. For pure views of the show (and fireworks after) you might want to try the regular option at River Belle, or the meal at Blue Bayou or the Grab N Go.