Monthly Archives: December 2011

Classic MYWTM: Innoventions Part 1

Once upon a time, there was an attraction called the Carousel of Progress. The CoP was built by Walt and featured at the 1964 World’s Fair, and then moved to Disneyland. It was a big, round building. It was also discontinued at Disneyland the year I was born (1973). Apparently Walt liked the CoP.

Replacing the CoP was America Sings. As I recall, this exhibition had a great deal of animatronic animals singing songs about America. It was lame, and it closed and many of the animals moved to Splash Mountain where they now sing songs from a movie that has never been released on home video (and I mean video, like VHS, or Beta if you unfortunately chose the wrong format) because it’s completely racist. Yet despite this racism, Disney used Song of the South to create Splash Mountain and invited some of America Sings’s animals to the party. Go figure.

Anyway, replacing America Sings was Innoventions. Let me just make something clear first. The best part of Innoventions is the fact that it’s air-conditioned. The worst part is, like, everything else. Innoventions has two floors. Originally you entered on the first floor, but they have recently switched it and you now enter in what used to be the exit.

Doesn't this look like an exit? That's because it was.

Innoventions is supposed to be a huge display introducing us to the wonders of the future. This has become problematic, since the wonders it is introducing have already come to pass, and in some cases, have been surpassed by more modern technology.

Oops.

Since you’re entering through the former exit, you have to climb a lot to get to the top. However, the climb does lead to some nice park views.

It's the Matterhorn. How beautiful.

It also gives you a fantastic view of something that is long obsolete, yet still very visible in an un-Disney-like fashion. I’m talking about the Peoplemover tracks.

The Astro Orbiter rocket ship ride used to be on top of this building, and it was totally awesome. Now it's on the ground, which is not awesome.

Innoventions welcomes you to the second floor, formerly known as the second part of Innoventions.

Come on in! No, really, please come in.

Once inside, you are immediately assaulted by the Wall O’Corporate Sponsorship. Now a lot of the attractions in the park are sponsored by corporations, but I can’t think of any more shameless than Innoventions. I mean, it’s like when a company buys a sports arena and changes its name. I’m looking at you Arrowhead Pond Honda Center and Compaq Center HP Pavilion. Anyway, Innoventions is very heavily sponsored.

The future belongs to Microsoft, et al.

Now that you’re really inside, you get to your first exhibit–the jet pack.

This just does not look safe

Which would be all cool and stuff, except that now our emphasis is on green energy and I’m having a hard time coming up with something less green than individual jet packs. Hybrid jet packs? I’m not feeling the love here.

Next is Honda’s robot, Asimo. It’s Asimov without the V. I know, you didn’t notice that until I pointed it out. You’re welcome.

This is like a theater or something. I don't know. I didn't go inside. I don't go to Disneyland to watch Honda's presentation about robots, no matter how much I loved my 1987 Honda CRX. And I SERIOUSLY loved that car.

Outside of the theater are these wall decorations of carved robots, except instead of looking all futuristically cool and stuff, they actually look quite terrifying–like Skeletor meets C3-PO and instead of dying an agonizing death in private, its final fatal moments are recorded for all time on a wall in Innoventions. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have nightmares about these things. Again.

Screw you and your creepy robot skeletons, Honda. I drive a Mazda now.

After that you can see the tree house thing that’s supposed to be, well, I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.  For some reason it reminds me of Avatar, but like Avatar in purgatory.

Sorry James Cameron, but your movie kind of sucked. Although a setup like this might have made it better.

On the other side of Honda’s Asimo theater, people come out and they look all blue. This is Disney’s way of letting you know that you’re in the future.

I have seen the future, and it's blue.

Then comes the world of interactive games. You can made a body using the Body Builder, which is not a workout supplement, but rather is a 3D game where you build a body.

What's with the Asian writing at the bottom? Are Asians supposed to have their fingers on the pulse of the future? Because that's kind of racist too.

There is a part that actually looks really cool. It’s a projected image on the floor and there are these puck things that you use your stick to move around. I mean, it looks like a fun-ish game but the stick things don’t always work and people often look like they’re curling or something. Also, there’s always a line to participate. Pass.

Cruise ships all over the world are replacing their shuffleboard fields with these things.

Then there are video games, pretty much all of which you can play at home. And at first I thought “now who comes to Disneyland to play video games you can play at home?” but then I thought about how there used to be an awesome two-story arcade outside of Space Mountain with things like air hockey that I spent a lot of time playing with, but then again, very few people have air hockey tables at home. I’m so conflicted. It makes me long for the days of 25 cents Ms. Pac Man. Life was so simple when all we had to play with was a rock.

Please tell me this is not what our future will look like.

OMG, the blue is EVERYWHERE!!!

And then, for some inexplicable reason, we leave the world of blue and video games and enter what seriously reminds me of the Health section of the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles, circa 1980’s, where they told you to do some revolutionary things like brush your teeth.

Strangely enough, this section is sponsored by St. Joseph’s hospital. Which really is the hospital you want to go to if you are sick or injured at Disneyland. If you ever find yourself in an ambulance leaving the Disneyland resort, which I have because I’m all weird like that, ask them to take you to St. Joseph’s.

Don't forget to brush your teeth, kiddies!

There are also some strange things in that part, like apparently in the future we’re going to have some wacky thing called “journalism.”

This ridiculous idea will never catch on.

I think the point of that exhibit is to show the “newspapers” at the bottom that actually have little screens where you can watch the news. Unfortunately, this has already been invented. It’s called television.

Despite the fact that this is all about the future, there are some decidedly non-futuristic elements like these retro designs.

But I thought the future was blue?

I AM AN AWESOME PHOTOGRAPHER!!!

This machine thing asks “How will you look at your reunion?” and I think it’s supposed to take your picture and time warp you or something.

Dear Alumni Association--stop sending me mail!!!

The thing is, for many of us we just have to look in the mirror to know how we will look at our reunion. I mean, take a look at this:

Me in 1985

Me in 2011

You know, a lot of people are concerned about how they will look at their reunions (older, fatter, balder), but quite frankly, I had nowhere to go but up, so I’m pretty happy.

But back to Innoventions, there’s one more thing on the second floor

Is this awesome or what?

There used to be a section here with Segways that you could ride on. I always meant to do that, but never got around to it and now its gone. I guess I’ll have to wait for my personal jet pack.

Classic MYWTM: Main Street Magic Shop

Out of all of the stores at Disneyland, of which there are many, my favorite is the Magic Shop. In fact, I can remember even as a small child loving the Magic Shop best of all. There are real magicians (REAL!!!) who do magic demonstrations all the time, and of course you can buy the tricks yourself.

Or to quote Arrested Development, “They’re illusions, Michael…” If you can finish that quote in your head, I know you’re laughing now. If not, then either watch the show or send me an email because the last part is a little off-color.

The first thing you should know about the Magic Shop is that Steve Martin used to work there. Yep, that Steve Martin–the guy who went on to make significantly more money than a Magic Shop cast member makes–was once an Magic Shop cast member. (Steve Martin also used to play the banjo at the Bird Cage Theater in Knott’s Berry Farm as well, but this is a Disneyland blog, not a Knott’s blog).

But anyway, into the Magic Shop it is. The Magic Shop is easily identified on the right-hand side (East) of Main Street. The entrance looks something like this:

Actually, the entrance looks exactly like this, because this is the entrance

Which brings me to the second thing you should know–the Magic Shop is actually owned by Houdini’s Magic Shop, which is a chain of magic shops primarily in Las Vegas. According to my vast internet searches (once again, about 3 minutes on Google), the shop now carries a wider variety of  tricks illusions for all skill levels.

You can also enter the Magic Shop from the store next door:

I don't remember what this store is called but it's the one on the corner and I'm sure I'll blog about it eventually

As I mentioned before, the fun thing about the Magic Shop (other than the fact that you can buy magic tricks) are the magicians-in-residence. Meet Andy:

I kind of expected Andy to smile when I asked to take his picture, but I think this pose looks more magician-y myself

Andy was already into his patter and  trick illusion when I walked in. I was impressed, but I’m pretty gullible on the whole. This trick had to do with a deck of blank cards. They were blank on both sides but then suddenly would have faces or backs or whatever. Here’s a really vague and indistinct picture:

Andy is shuffling blank cards

It should come as no surprise that the tricks the magicians demonstrate are all available to purchase in the store. However, if you’re me, that comes as a surprise. I always kind of assumed that the magicians did real magic and the store sold, like, whoopee cushions or something.

Then again, I haven’t been into the store since I was approximately 10 years old, so it’s been a while.

And incidentally, when I asked Andy what his favorite trick in the store was, he said it was the blank cards.

That didn’t stop him from ruthlessly stabbing a dollar bill with a pen

What did George Washington ever do to deserve this?

Andy then showed us that George was well and truly dead

George Washington died on Dec. 14, 1799, and also on March 15, 2011, when Andy the magician stabbed him with a pen

Fortunately for both George and the guest who volunteered his dollar bill, it was an illusion and there were no stab marks left in the bill.

I was impressed. Really.

Then Andy took my annual pass (because I was the first person to whip one out) and proceeded to spin it around in midair with no strings or whatever. I thought this one was really cool too.

Look Ma, no hands!

I asked Andy if he was a magician in real life, and he said that he was. He has worked at the Magic Shop for 2 years now, and he said that he auditioned specifically for the shop when applying to be a cast member.

You can buy all kinds of stuff (because hey, it’s Disneyland, and there’s never a shortage of places to spend your money). According to Andy, the “good” tricks are in the $30-$40 range. I was tempted, but that’s kind of a lot of money. Maybe next time.

Rather boring picture of things they sell #1

Rather boring picture of things they sell #2

This man's arm is not for sale

Classic MYWTM: Theo’s First Haircut

Back in February we traveled to Walt Disney World (aka the “Mouse-in-Law”) with basically one purpose–to get Theo’s first haircut. At the MIL, they have a working barbershop, which Dland does not, therefore, the choice was obvious. It’s also funny to see how much Theo has changed almost a year later…

Yes Mouse Fans, it’s the post all of you have been waiting for (and by “all of you” I mean my mother): Theo’s First Haircut! Which was, as you may recall, our raison d’être for Disney World in the first place.

So let’s get on with the show. While the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street does take walk-ins, there are only three chairs and I was advised to make an appointment. FYI: you make a haircut appointment through the WDW dining reservation number.

Theo’s hair was getting pretty shaggy, so we snapped a picture outside of the shop for posterity.

All dressed up and ready to go

Our barber was ready to get started. She set up the booster seat on the chair and we hefted him up. She pulled out a long strip of Mickey stickers and stuck them all over Theo’s tummy, shorts, and legs. He was immediately enchanted.

Will someone cut that kid’s hair already? It’s getting embarrassing.

So enchanted, in fact, that he didn’t even realize his hair was being cut.

First he moved all of the stickers to his right leg

He didn’t even notice when she wet his whole head down with the spray bottle. Those must have been some magical stickers because seriously, who doesn’t notice their head getting wet?

Moving beyond mere clothing, the stickers now belong directly on skin

She was nearly finished by the time he showed an inkling of interest.

Wait, is something happening? Like, to my head?

The haircut made him look like an entirely different kid.

Almost done! What a big boy!

And once it was all done, he received his First Haircut mouse ears and a Certificate of Bravery!

Ridiculously cute
Also ridiculously cute

It was worth the entire trip.

Classic MYWTM: My Awkward Social Situation

Okay, so I’m new to this whole MYWTM blog and I haven’t actually worked out the best strategy for approaching social situations at the park. Do I tell people about the blog? Will they think I’m weird? Do I just try to act inconspicuous? What’s the proper way to handle direct questions when I’m doing something strange?

Well, I discovered the improper way of dealing with this the other day, in what I now call My Awkward Social Situation.

So here’s the setup. I went into the Emporium, the biggest shop on Main Street, to blog about (wait for it, wait for it) the Emporium. The plan was to take several pictures in the store and then a couple outside. All went well until I decided to get a little fancy-schmancy and take a picture of the shot glasses.

Yes, that’s right, taking a picture of shot glasses got me into an Awkward Social Situation, and not because I was talking about alcohol or anything. You will find out the reason why the picture of the shot glasses was important later on my actual post about the Emporium. Suffice to say that I had already walked in and taken several pictures around the store before approaching the shot glasses.

The shot glasses are at the registers, so when I went to get a direct shot there were 3 cast members standing there who had seen me wandering around taking the other pictures.

When I got near the shot glasses, one of the cast members said, “Oh, this must be your first visit!”

Of course it wasn’t, but I couldn’t think of anything to say in the moment, and by the next sentence out of the cast member’s mouth, it was too late to disabuse him of the notion.

“Here’s a First Visit button!”

My split second hesitation at the first statement locked me into what would only devolve into a series of increasingly uncomfortable exchanges. Because at that point, he had already given the button to Theo in his stroller. What was I going to say? “No, actually I’ve been here quite often, so I don’t need the button. I was just taking pictures of the inside of this store because, having been here a hundred times, I feel the deep need to permanently memorialize a store full of t-shirts and things to drink out of.”

Of course not. But I couldn’t think of a reasonable-sounding explanation for why I was taking these pictures and in my brain freeze, it just didn’t occur to me to tell the truth. I said, “Oh yeah! Yeah!”

Yes, that’s right, I lied to a Disneyland cast member. And I know what you’re saying because I’m saying the same thing:

WHY ON EARTH DID YOU LIE TO A DISNEYLAND CAST MEMBER???

I don’t know. I truly don’t. But that was my first instinct. All you armchair psychologists–go to town with that one.

Anyway, so now I’m there feeling terrible, AND I still needed the picture of the shot glasses.

I sort of panicked a little. It felt like it was too late to tell the truth because I would be totally embarrassed, but I didn’t want to leave without my picture, yet I didn’t want the charade to continue any longer. What to do? What to do?

I couldn’t think of a way to say, “hey, could you step aside because I really want to get a picture of these shot glasses for no reason that I can think of to tell you right now” so instead I said, “Thank you! Hey, I’d like to get a picture of all of you!” so I could have the shot glasses in the background.

Thanks! Bye!

That worked and I was proud of myself for another split second, until the awkward situation turned into a VERY awkward situation. The cast member handed me a Happy Anniversary  button, saying “Here, have a Happy Anniversary button.” Which…what? I was clearly there BY MYSELF with my child in a stroller taking pictures of the inside of a store. Does that look like someone who is celebrating an anniversary???

No. No it does not.

The situation continued to spiral out of control when the cast members, who had nothing else to do in the mostly empty store but talk to me, started asking questions. And since I had already lied about it being my first visit, there was nothing I could do to prevent what happened next…

Cast Member: How are you liking the park so far?

Me: Uh, it’s great!

Cast Member: Where are you from?

Me: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Northern California? [note, I lived in Northern California from 1999-2004. Not that that makes it better.]

Cast Member: That’s great! How long are you here for?

Me: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, just the day?

The questions continued, as did my vague and increasingly dishonest answers, not to mention my sense of bewilderment (why am I lying???) and guilt. I knew I had to extricate myself from the situation ASAP, so I exaggeratedly looked at my watch and did the totally transparent, “Oh look at the time! I gotta go!” (and do what? Take more pictures of the insides of stores? Actually, yes.). Still, I walked out with a First Visit button (and another Happy Anniversary button). And I’m totally afraid of ever running into those cast members again and having them be like, “Oh, you’re vacationing here AGAIN? Just for the day?”

Yikes.

Theo summed it up perfectly:

Oh, there’s something on my stroller?
Hmmmm, this doesn’t look right
Lemme take a closer look
Mom, why does this say First Visit when this is TOTALLY not my first visit???

Good question, kid.

The worst part was that in my panic I was thrown off my game and missed taking a couple of pictures I wanted to take for my post, so y’all are just going to have to wait on that one. Sorry.

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