Monthly Archives: May 2011

Disney’s Let The Memories Begin Tour (can’t come to Disney? Let Disney come to you!)

Exciting news, mouse fans! As a part of their year-long celebration of magic, celebrations, and memories that last a lifetime, Disney is touring the country helping you make some new memories of your own.

That’s right! Disney is bringing the magic to you! And you can also enter to win a trip to Disneyland courtesy of Southwest Airlines, which means that you can visit me AND eat a churro!

Be sure to visit the official Let The Memories Begin Tour site, where you can enter the contest and create your own magical memory photo.

First stop on the tour: Chicago

Time to Make Memories! Chicagoans are invited to come to Water Tower Place to participate in an interactive Disney photo experience. Consumers will have the opportunity to take virtual in-park photos and share them with others.

Windy City mouse fans can find the tour here:

Water Tower Place   835 N. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Monday, May 30 from Noon-8:00pm

Tuesday, May 31 from Noon-8:00pm

Local Disney fans can also keep an eye out for the “Let the Memories Begin” team as they spread some PhotoPass “pixie dust” in Downtown Chicago on May 27 and 30.

Memories last a lifetime, so whether it’s your child’s first visit to Disneyland…

Theo at 6 weeks

…or his 50th+

Theo at 2 and 1/2

let Disney help you make magical moments with your family.

Tour Schedule:

Botson, MA 6/5–6/6

New York, NY 6/10–6/12

Washington DC 6/18–6/19

Atlanta, GA 6/24–6/25

Dallas, TX 7/8–7/9

Houston, TX 7/12–7/13

Phoenix, AZ 7/19–7/20

Denver, CO 7/26–7/27

Salt Lake City, UT 7/30–7/31

San Francisco, CA 8/5–8/6

Portland, OR 8/16–8/17

Seattle, WA 8/20–8/21

Calgary, Canada 8/26–8/27

Toronto, Canada 9/2–9/3

Puerto Rico 9/23–9/24

I only have details for the Chicago tour stop, but I will update as soon as I know more. In the meantime, keep an eye on the Let The Memories Begin site and prepare for an unforgettable experience.

Star Tours: The Adventure Continues

Okay, so today was my annual pass preview of Star Tours and to put it succinctly–totally effin’ awesome! Disneyland ran a sweepstakes for annual passholders to be assigned a window of time on a given day to ride Star Tours. I was lucky enough to get selected for today from 9-1.

Which was awesome. Be warned, I’m going to use the word awesome a lot.

Particularly because Theo was in preschool (it’s the only day of the week that he goes to preschool) so both Kevin and I were able to go. I added my friend Renee to the list, and then was also able to add an internet friend, Chris. The funny thing is that Renee, who is a professional (and amazing) photographer (she does destination photos too–watch this site!) had originally scheduled a photo shoot at 10am, but at the last minute her client had to cancel, which freed her up to come to Disneyland. Was that meant to be or what?

Anyway, I had my “winning” email which gave the time we were supposed to come, the number in our party, and my annual passport number, since the preview was for annual passholders only. When we arrived we had to wait until the whole party was there (both Renee and Chris got stuck in some insane parking lot traffic and ran a bit late), but then we headed to the Star Tours Fast Pass (FP) booth (formerly known as the Buzz Lightyear Fast Pass). I showed the email and we all produced our annual passes, and then got Fast Passes for immediate boarding.

Kevin, Chris, and Renee show off our first passes of the day

The cool thing was that you could go get another FP 30 minutes after the last one. This allowed us to ride four times, and we could have squeezed one more in. If we’d shown up right at 9:00 we could have done it a total of probably seven times, but four was just around right. In fact, four was insanely awesome. We entered into the FP entrance, and the queue inside and the ride itself turned out to be almost exactly 30 minutes, so we were able to just cycle through four times.

Unfortunately Kevin only got to ride it twice, since he had to go back to work and also pick up Theo from preschool.

Thanks for taking one for the team, honey!

I could barely contain my excitement approaching the ride. The cast members were vigilant about restricting access to the ride only to annual passholder sweepstakes winners, so that was kind of cool. Cool for us, I mean. Not really cool for all of the other annual passholders and guests who tried squeezing past the cast members to get in line anyway.

It's all space-agey and stuff

I think first I should let you know that I almost never went on the old Star Tours. I have an extremely sensitive stomach and while the original Star Tours wasn’t insta-hurl, it was an I-gotta-sit-down-after-this thing. I mean, even the carrousel makes me a bit woozy if I’m not specifically paying attention to what I’m watching. Since Star Tours: The Adventure Continues  is in 3D, I was particularly concerned about that, but I had to go on it anyway just because I didn’t want to let my blog followers down.

Who am I kidding? I would have ridden this thing with my own airline barf bag if that’s what it took.

The interior of the queue looked almost identical to the original queue. You can watch a big-screen publicity movie about all of the places you could go.

I wanna go there! For realz.

You also meet up with our intrepid friend, C3P0

C3P0 is seriously high-strung

You think you’re almost there when you get to this sign:

Passengers only. No terrorists.

But then you’re not.

Couple more zig-zags. Sorry.

Also in the queue is a robot working on a heat sensor thingie. It actually took me two rides to realize that the figures in screen are you as you walk by.

Kind of trippy

There are quite a few nods to the old ride. In this ride you are piloted by C3P0 and R2D2, but in the old ride you were piloted by this guy, who now hangs out next to the queue.

Pee Wee Herman was the original voice of this guy. No joke.

The 3D glasses are all kinds of cool. Instead of just the generic yellow ones they use at Toy Story Midway Mania, these actually look like nerdy glasses in an endearing way. And for some reason, the glasses completely up your cool factor by a good 300%

Mr. Cool has got it covered.

It’s the perfect opportunity for you to show off how hipster you are.

Renee and Chris in da house, yo.

Or just a fun friends photo opportunity.

I do NOT look like a guy!

Perhaps I should take a moment to explain Star Tours 1.0 before I go into how Star Tours 2.0 is different.

Star Tours is a simulator ride, so you all strap into a seat and there’s a movie screen in front, and then as the movie shows, your car (I mean space cruiser, like the whole room) moves along with you, creating the sensation of actually flying or whatever. As far as I know, Star Tours was the first to utilize this technology for an amusement park. I remember when the ride originally opened in 1987. Disneyland stayed open all day and night for 60 hours to accomodate guests.

Now with the advent of Fast Pass, there won’t be anything like that, and guests will actually have a fighting chance to get on the ride instead of wait in line 4+ hours. For non-Disneyphiles, Fast Pass is a system where on the popular rides, you insert your park ticket into a machine and it gives you a little ticket with a time window. You can then go do other stuff in the park and then return to the ride at your designated time and will get into the line via the Fast Pass entrance, which skips a good portion of the line. There’s only a limited number of Fast Passes available per ride, so if you want to go on Star Tours, then you should run to the Fast Pass distribution as quickly as possible once you get into the park.

Anyway, you board your flight simulator

Move across your designated row to the very end. Don't just pick a seat. This isn't Southwest Airlines.

You’re restrained by a simple seatbelt, and above you there are warning lights to fasten your seatbelt just like an actual plane. A metal screen blocks the movie screen in front of you until the ride starts.

You're almost ready to go!

The biggest and best difference between Star Tours 1.0 and Star Tours 2.0, aside from the 3D glasses, are the opportunities for different rides. There are four different segments of the ride: the opening, the first planet, the transition, and the ending. There are multiple versions of each of these elements, and the placement is more or less randomly determined, so you have 4 chances to get a different ride than the one before. Apparently there are something like 54 possible combinations.

The opening sequence is when your spacecraft leaves its hangar. There are two openings and we were lucky enough to get to see both of them. In one you’re kind of a doofus and blunder out of the flight deck, and in the other you meet Darth Vader who tries to stop you. Darth is my favorite.

You shoot through your first adventure scene, and then blast off into a warp or whatever it’s called, which is like a wormhole and is totally awesome because the stars are all whizzing past you and stuff. Then you come out on the other side to a planet where you will have your first chase/shooting scene. We landed on the ice planet of Hoth where you’re chasing bad guys and trying to avoid the AT-AT walkers, which if you aren’t up on your Star Wars movies are the things that look like giant badass metal elephants with blasters in their tusks. We also landed on a Wookiee planet, which according to my Standard Research Methodology is called Kashyyyk. Chewbacca is a wookiee and looks like all kind of cute and cuddly except that he packs as much firepower as Rambo. On the Kashyyyk, the wookiees are not cute and cuddly. They still pack the same amount of firepower and they want to kill you. You speed through Kashyyyk on what looks like a flying snowmobile–well you’re in your space cruiser, but the storm troopers are on flying snowmobiles. At first I thought we were on Endor, but it became very clear that we were dealing with wookiees and not ewoks very early in the scene.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, take a short break to watch the movies. The originals. Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Just those.

Okay really, I’m kidding. You honestly don’t have to have seen a single Star Wars movie or know who any of the characters are in order to enjoy the ride. If you’re familiar with the franchise it does add a small recognition element, but you’re not going to be lost or confused if you haven’t seen the movies. It’s pretty straightforward–the bad guys are the ones shooting at you, and our intrepid pilots are not really all that skilled.

Next you meet your transition character. We saw Admiral Ackbar, Yoda, and Princess Leia. They give a little spiel that I really was too excited to actually listen to (yes, all four times–except the last time when everyone was cheering so loudly you couldn’t hear what Princess Leia was saying anyway). Then you space warp again and enter into a final scene, which again is a chase scene and you reach your conclusion. We landed on Jar-Jar Binks’ planet, Naboo, twice. Now I know what you’re saying becuase I said it too–I DID NOT PAY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS AND HOURS OF MY TIME TO SEE JAR-JAR-FREAKIN’-BINKS! But there’s good news, my friends! Jar-Jar’s part is actually very small. He only pollutes your experience for a short time and has a couple of lines, and they really dialed back his idiotic tone from the deranged adolescent chimp voice to a mostly unnoticeable, more subtle voice. The other planet we visited was Coruscant, the Imperial city planet. This is urban warfare at its best, if your urban area included a lot of flying vehicles, bad people, and fire. Coruscant included an in-cabin effect we didn’t encounter in any of the other planets, so it was very cool that not only did they switch up the destinations, they also switch up the effects.

Finally you make what is best described as a rough landing (rougher in some scenes than others) and your adventure is over. It’s a good, long ride, and very satisfying. They are supposed to randomize each of the four elements, but the our first and third rides were exactly the same. The second and forth switched it up a little, which was fun. It’s definitely a ride to ride over and over again. Even when we got the same scenes, I found myself noticing different elements. Disney doesn’t half-ass anything, and they spared no expense on making this incredible ride.

I didn’t take pictures while the ride was moving. Sorry. For one, no flash photography, but two, I just wanted to enjoy the ride which is hard to do when you’re trying to take pictures of it. So there.

Following the ride you have a photo op in which a cast member may or may not insert himself.

Hey Jason!

The ride was very cool every time, but it was really intensely awesome on our fourth ride. It was later in the window–nearly the end of our riding, and every single person on the ride had ridden it earlier. It made the ride a total communal experience. Everyone went crazy when we saw Darth Vader and again at Princess Leia. People were cracking jokes and cheering for the good guys the whole way. It’s hard to describe, except to say that I’ve never had a better group riding experience than our last ride. It was like when you watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show with a big group of people who know every line and know where to laugh and cheer. Except on a family-friendly ride at Disneyland. Awesome.

After four rides we were definitely tapped out. We grabbed an extra set of Fast Passes for souvenirs.

I took this picture at night with artificial lighting, okay?

The exit gift store was selling some cool stuff, particularly the commemorative coins. They are coins that were specially minted for the annual passholder preview. Only 2011 coins were made, so of course I had to pay my $30 and buy one. Mine is numbered 906, but I think Chris’s is numbered in the 300s. Still, I wouldn’t expect these to last very long.

It's a reflection of me taking the picture!

It looks better in real light. Really.

Anyway, I give Star Tours a three thumbs up, borrowing someone else’s thumb to do it. Oh, and as far as motion sickness goes, I was convinced that it was going to be even worse than the old Star Tours because it was in 3D, but it really wasn’t! I was barely even queasy, particularly considering that we rode the ride four consecutive times in two hours.

It was really awesome. Don’t miss it on your next trip here.

Bengal Barbecue

I don’t eat at Disneyland all that often, but one place I love is the Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland. Back when I was younger I used to go to  the Renaissance Fair and one of the food boths was called “Steak on a Stake.” That is, a piece of beef on a stick. I loved it not only because it tasted good, but because it had such an awesome name. Maybe Ren Faires do still sell Steak on a Stake. I dunno. Anyway, Disneyland has their own version of steak on a stake and you will find it at the Bengal Barbecue.

I love foods that come on a stick. Corndogs, ice cream bars, s’mores, etc. But it’s weird because I don’t like the stick itself. I mean, the feel of wood against my tongue is really unpleasant. It is not unpleasant to Digory the beagle, however. He once grabbed a corndog off of a plate and ate the entire thing including the stick. The vet said not to worry about it. He said the same thing after Digory ate 6 cupcakes including the paper wrappers. Some of us had to do without on Theo’s birthday because of that.

But anyway, over in Adventureland you’ll find the Bengal Barbecue.

RAWR!!

It’s in a roundish hut wearing a cute little pointed hat.

You’ll find the Bengal Barbecue across from the Jungle Cruise, but it’s also in what has to be the biggest traffic jam of the park. The path that leads from the Tiki Room to Pirates of the Caribbean is really narrow and always crowded. Every once in a while you will see a cast member trying to convince people to walk to the right of whichever direction you’re going, but often it’s a free-for-all. And lots of people take the opportunity in the most crowded walkway of the park to check their maps or call Aunt Tilly on their cellphone and stop in the middle to have a conversation. I hate that.

The Bengal Barbecue often has a big line.

Lots of people

Or not.

Few people

You’ll want to try to catch it when there’s no line. I mean, you’ll want to try to catch ANYTHING at Disneyland when there’s  no line, but the Bengal Barbecue does tend to take a really long time to get through. Behind the counter in the middle is a big fire cooktop thingie. Your Bengal choices are beef, chicken, and some vegetable thing. Both the beef and the chicken take a while to cook, so if the guy in front of you just ordered for the entire high school marching band, you can expect to stand there for a while.

I really like the steak on a stake.

Yum

My only beef (ha ha, get it? I’m so funny) with the Bengal Barbecue, aside from the sometimes long wait, is that you really don’t get very much for your money. The steak on a stake picture above is exactly one order of the beef. I can’t remember how much it costs off the top of my head, but it is, in my opinion, pretty pricey for what you get.

Unlike the corndog cart at the end of Main Street, which gives you the most food bang for your buck in Disneyland.

Tomorrow is my Star Tours preview day. Don’t move from this spot!

20th Century Music Company

Let’s get a little music going, shall we? *tap tap tap*

The 20th Century Music Company is one of the charming shops along Main Street.

The peaked roof kind of makes it look like it's squeezed in there

You might be asking, “Why did Shelby take a picture of half of a cigar store Indian?” and that is indeed a good question.

A better question, though, would be “Why is there a cigar store Indian in front of the music shop?”

And if you know your former Disneyland, the best question would be,  “Didn’t there used to be a tobacco store on Main Street?”

Yep, mouse fans, Disneyland replaced their original Tobacco Shop with the 20th Century Music Company. Which explains the cigar store Indian. Interesting, no? The 20th Century Music Shop arrived just in time for the 21st century–it opened in 1999.

Although what actually fascinates me the most is the fact that up until 1999, you could buy cigarettes at Disneyland.

The 20th Century Music Company has a very charming sign above the door.

It's a little Victrola. I think.

This sign is a big improvement over the Tobacco store sign.

Like many Main Street stores, the Music Company is adjacent to a false store front, which also claims to be part of the music store.

Given its opening in 1999, the "new music for a new century" works on both the level of the fact that Main Street is supposed to be in the 1800's and that this store indeed was new music for a new century on the latter end

Geez, that was a long caption.

Anyway, I’m going to ask this question seriously in the hope that someone has an answer. So Main Street, U.S.A. is supposed to be just like a main street of a town in the 19th century, right? With lots of little store fronts? Well, the 20th Century Music Company store building almost looks like a church with its peaked roof, and the one next to it is a completely different architectural design. So back in the 19th century, would there really have been such a thing as a single store with two completely different fronts? I mean, I think in reality they might have tried to do one store per building design and maybe Walt just crammed them in there because they’re miniature and cute and back in 1955 nobody was blogging and asking these kinds of questions, but I really would like to know.

Back to the store.

The false front side actually has some cool details.

Very neat door painting

I think this was supposed to be like a couple of brothers who repaired musical instruments or tuned pianos or something–I can’t read it now and I took the picture a while ago.

Also, don’t forget to look up!

More friends of Walt, or maybe employees, I dunno

Back at Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, the music store sold a compilation of different music from the park–parade songs, attraction songs, etc.–on a set that was like 56 CDs big. So when I walked into the music store for the first time since we purchased said compilation in 2005, I expected to find lots of nice music.

Here is the first thing you see walking into the door.

It's music! And by music, I mean cell phone cases!

Humph.

In fact, there is rather depressingly little music to be found in the music store. They do have one revolving stand of Disney sheet music, in case you want to reenact Disney Broadway shows in your living room.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to my production of Tarzan Lion King Mary Poppins! Prepare for a delightful evening of old favorites and---wait, they made a musical out of Tarzan? Seriously?

The sum total of your pre-recorded music options is this wall.

Because nothing says "Disneyland" like Hannah Frickin' Montana

Looking up also applies to inside the stores.

Extras, in case the marching band loses theirs

Yes, that is a learn to draw Pixar characters book in the lower right-hand corner. The music store is the very first place I’d look for an item like that.

However, the music store does redeem itself with a genuine antique.

Gen-you-wine antique!

You can’t actually play said music box, or you couldn’t when I was visiting there, but it’s still extremely cool.

New music for a new century!

And incidentally, I’m not going to run a contest on it, but there is one other cigar store Indian in the park. Anyone know where it is? Hint: I already blogged about it :).

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