Category Archives: Tomorrowland

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.

Little Girl Turns to the Dark Side

I did not take this video, nor was I there when it occurred (although I would sacrifice a minor limb to have been!), but I would be seriously remiss to not include this on MYWTM.

This video went viral and has been viewed over 3 million times, but it never gets old for me. And as much as I love the Jedi (is that the plural? Jedis?), I think Sariah Gallego may be my personal hero. This one’s for you, Sariah!

The Jedi Training Academy is an interactive show where children ages 3-12 are chosen from the audience, given Jedi robes and light sabers, and then fight Darth Vader or Darth Maul.

I’m currently searching for a family with a child or children who want to participate in the Jedi Training Academy to be featured on My Year With The Mouse. If you are going to be at Disneyland sometime between May 2nd and June 14th send me an email at MyYearWithTheMouse@gmail.com. I cannot guarantee that your child will be chosen, but I’ve seen a few tricks to up your chances and we’ll do our best!

Don’t forget–it’s not too late to enter the GIVEAWAY. Who doesn’t want something for free?

Innoventions, Part the Second

Yesterday I covered the second floor of Innoventions (why the second floor? Because that’s where you go in now) and so today I’m going to cover the first floor.

But I do want to put in that Kristin, my friend who caused all the trouble at Soarin’ Over California, lambasted me for saying that I had no interest in seeing Asimo the robot, as he is her son’s favorite character after Mickey. And then Kelli, also of Mothers in the Mouseland fame, jumped on the dogpile to chastise me as well. SO, ladies, I will go in and see the Asimo show, okay? OKAY??? HAPPY NOW???

Good.

Anyway, as I was saying yesterday, Innoventions is supposed to introduce us to the wonders of the future, but the unfortunate thing is that the future has changed faster than Innoventions and now the only good thing about it is that it’s air-conditioned (and yes, Kristin and Kelli, Asimo the robot). I think this is the only attraction at Disneyland where it actually says on the sign “Strollers Welcomed.” I mean, strollers are generally tolerated just about everywhere, and also allowed on some attractions, but “welcomed” just seems a little desperate.

Wait Time 0 minutes! Strollers welcomed! Everyone welcomed! Just please, please, please come in!

Formerly you entered on the first level and waited until the magic doors opened–oh, did I mention that the building rotates? The building rotates. So you formerly waited for the building to rotate to you and joined a group at the magic door until it opened and you met your tour guide. You walked around with a group, which made a fast escape much more difficult.

Now that you start on the second level, the group tour sections are sad and lonely. Like you used to start your tour here:

The magic doors, now known as the exit

It's just an everyday neighborhood

And you were going to get a tour of the House of the Future, which had all kinds of cool things that we could totally expect to find in the distant future, the year 2000. For some reason, the tour guides wear soccer uniforms, like they’re supposed to be kids in this future family or Disney is all hip and into soccer, or maybe they’re trying to woo the non-Americans who call soccer “football.” I don’t know. Anyway, now that you wander to the first floor on your own, the days of the actual tour are gone and instead you just have tour guides who stand around saying things like, “I’m about to give a tour of the house of the future! Come join me!” and very few people do.

This cast member wasn't getting any takers for his tour of the living room, but he was so friendly and cool nonetheless

The cast members are all really nice too, but I’d consider putting in a transfer or something.

Back in the day, the rotating part had several different segments that your tour group visited. Each had a cast member to explain the segment. The one time I visited Innoventions prior to the entrance/exit switch, I thought the best segment was the music one.

This cast member was actually really awesome

I was the only one there, but she gave her whole spiel with enthusiasm anyway. And I gotta say, kudos to the Innoventions cast members who try really hard and with great attitudes even though the tours aren’t there anymore. You have to respect that, and I do. In all seriousness, I will be the first to praise Disneyland’s cast members. They work so hard and really make the magic–making the experience special enough for me to want to blog about it. Yay cast members! It wouldn’t be such a great park without you.

Anyway, the music section has electronic instruments that have all kinds of cool effects, and in the old tour different people (and by people I mean kids) were invited up to sample the instruments. This cast member actually let Theo play the guitar while he was still in the stroller. Talk about above and beyond!

Strollers were welcomed, so I wasn't about to take him out. If you own a toddler, you understand why.

And then there’s always the teenager who just wants to show off, so he says “can’t you program the drums to be exactly like a regular drum set?” and to her immense credit, the cast member does and gives the teen his 2 minutes of fame or whatever. We were still the only ones standing there–us and his two friends.

I can play the drums!

The other segments used to have a cast member explaining what they were all about, but now none of them do except for the futuristic kitchen.

This is supposed to be a tv studio or something, I guess. No cast member there.

Shiny car. Why is it here? No clue.

Apparently in the living room of the future, you're going to have a flat screen tv. NO WAY!!!

You will also have a television in your dining room. My mind, she is blown.

On the other side of the segments, you can play this awesome game on stage, where you can play either the drums or guitar, or you can sing. It’s like karaoke but there’s lights for instruments. If I were to invent this game for play at home on your Xbox or Wii, I’d call it “Rock Band.”

These three are singing a Queen song.

I mistakenly thought that this trio was a family–a dad with two of his kids. I was wrong. The adult was on his own and the kids had established themselves as permanent features. I mean, they could play the game and all, but they were on their third song by the time I left, and really? You come to Disneyland to play Rock Band? At least they aren’t High School Musical songs anymore, but if this were my child I’d be dragging them onto Autopia or something and ordering them to have a freakin’ good time because Rock Band is significantly cheaper than this annual pass I bought you, so you better make the best of it.

But maybe that’s just me.

Next, I moved to the house of the future. There was a piano (electric, of course), and on top of the piano were these totally cool picture frames that had digital pictures that changed.

C'mon, Disney. Nobody's ever going to make these things for 30 bucks.

There’s also this amazing video game that you don’t even need a controller for. You just move your body.

Wouldn't it be amazing if someone like Sony invented this one day?

I did learn, however, that the house of the future is apparently one of the best places to take a nap.

You fall asleep at Disneyland, you end up on someone's blog. Just sayin'.

The funniest part is, see that screen above the woman’s head? This is what it says:

Going into energy saving mode indeed!

In the future we will also have coffee tables that have books inside them that you can just flick with your fingers to turn the page. It’s like a Nook, except it’s in your coffee table and it’s also part of the future.

For God's sake--use a coaster for that drink!!!

Man, that lady in the picture looks like she could go into energy saving mode at any moment.

I did like the prototype children’s room.

Some kids sleep in a race car bed, others shoot cannons all night.

They did have a detail that everyone should have in their homes–a model railroad!

I'm pretty sure that if I let him, Kevin would drill holes in all of the walls below the ceiling and install a whole-house elevated model railroad

And finally, you wake up from your nap and exit through the former entrance.

Back to the world of today, kind of like the home of the future/today

The weird thing is, you can kill a massive amount of time in Innoventions. We spent a good 45 minutes there and all I was really doing was walking around taking pictures. You could easily spend the whole day in there and not realize it.

But at least you wouldn’t be hot.

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.

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