Friday, April 13, 2007

Disneyland Resort: Christmas 2003 (Wednesday)

This was our morning to go to California Adventure... I was both excited (new Disney park! new rides! old rides I like from WDW!) and worried (bad press about the park! two funny Simpsons jokes which I'll reprint here for your enjoyment!):

When The Simpsons visit Sideshow Bob in prison, Marge states that she doesn't think prison is "a great place to bring the children", to which Lisa replies "It still beats Disney's California Adventure." Also, in another episode of The Simpsons, while Homer is driving his convicted mother, he mentions that he'll hide her where no one will ever find her, Disney's California Adventure. (from Wikipedia entry on California Adventure)

While it's not Disneyland... or even equal to any of the WDW theme parks, California Adventure is on the way to becoming a great park. I wouldn't suggest a trip there just to see it - but it makes a great addition to a Disneyland trip.

Soarin' Over California: If you watch any of Disney's previews for the American parks, this is one of the rides they hype... and they're absolutely right to do so. It is an amazing experience that does feel like flying. I rode this one by myself, as Braeden was too small and Shari does NOT do rides that combine movement & movies. (No Circlevision 360 for her, either... sigh.)

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train: One of the things that was (evidently) messed up when California Adventure opened was the lack of small kid rides... so they opened up A Bug's Land, which is a collection of old-school carnival rides re-themed for the Pixar film, A Bug's Life. The "chew chew" train, besides being a horrible pun AND an homage to the classic film, "Murder By Death", is a train shaped like Heimlich that rides through some food-related scenes: apple, watermelon, animal cookies and, of course, candy corn. There's nothing spectacular about the scenery (with the exception of the piped-in cookie smell in the animal cracker box, which made me drool every time we rode the thing)... what makes this ride fun for kids & bearable for adults is the narration done by Heimlich. Not only is he quite funny, there are 3-4 different quips at each trigger point, meaning you have to ride a number of times to catch all of them. Of course, since we had a 2.5 year old who loved Heimlich, we rode it 11 times in the three days we visited California Adventure... I'm pretty sure I've heard all the jokes.

One good thing about visiting the parks in early December... we could ride rides like this over & over again without even exiting the vehicle. When the crowds are low, ride operators are very cool about letting you do that.

Flik's Flyers: Still in A Bug's Land, we rode this "Dumbo for families" spinning ride... a lot. It's not vomit-inducing & it's kind of cute, but for my money, I'd rather be listening to Heimlich (funnier) or zipping around on the Astro-Orbiter (cooler & higher).

Boudin Bakery: One of the oddball things about California Adventure is the way that the Disney designers chose to fill in the holes with what amount to fake factory tours. This & the Mission Tortilla Factory are very nicely done, but pretty much standard state fair kind of stuff. Points to the tortilla people for giving out lots of samples - we stopped by here 2 or 3 times this day to snack.

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail: This is how you would build a kid's play area if you had room & cash. I imagine this thing is a nightmare on weekends or when public school is out, but it was a lot of fun to chase Braeden through the maze of climbing stuff, cargo nets, and lookout posts.

The Magic of Brother Bear: In the center of the challenge trail is a small-ish outdoor theater where they have a show for kids. Part of it is live (both face characters & the bears in costume) and part of it is audio-animatronic (the mooses). The SFX are cool but no big deal and the show ran a little long for Braeden... not to mention scaring him a bit. [Side note: Brother Bear was his first "in the theater" Disney movie... it's not one I recommend highly but it's not as bad as Pocahantas or Home on the Range.]

Lunch: We ate in the Monterey Bay area... which is funny, since we've grown to like the ACTUAL Monterey Bay as a vacation place for the family. Sadly, my notes are over 3 years old... all it says here is something about a "monster duck," which based on Shari's history with waterfowl was probably a funny incident. I just don't remember it anymore.

Meeting Mickey: This time around, we found him out in the entrance plaza as we were working our way over to the Hollywood part of the park. Again, Braeden was starstruck - this time, Mickey was in some kind of beach/safari gear and Braeden was happy as a clam to have his picture taken with him.

Disney Animation: One of the places Shari & I loved on our trips to WDW (Florida) was the Animation Tour - the great film, seeing the artists at work, getting to talk to an animator. But we weren't prepared for how much we loved the Animation building here at California Adventure. The first room (the lobby?) is literally filled with huge screens, projecting classic scenes from Disney animated films. (That description doesn't even do it justice... the scenes are repeated around the room & coordinated, with some screens showing closeups & other screens showing just scenery. It's absolutely captivating.) We sat there long enough for Braeden to fall asleep in Shari's lap - it was naptime.

This gave me time to explore on my own - I checked out the exhibits (nifty) in the "museum" area, some of the interactive games, and even thought about going to the animation class. But by that time, Braeden had used his 45 minute nap to rejuvenate... and we headed back into the interactive area to play with the Beast's magic book (you answer questions to find out what Disney character you are most like - I remember that Braeden was like Flik!) and the undersea grottos where you get to do ADR (voiceover) work to classic Disney songs.

Alladin (Hyperion Theater): Shari & I wept (seriously) over the Hunchback of Notre Dame mini-musical at WDW's Disney Studios... sadly, it's gone now. (What an amazing production - incorporating puppetry performing behind the cloaks of some of the actors to tell parts of the story!) Alladin is very good, but it's not that good. They've borrowed a bit from The Lion King's Broadway staging (some of the animal designs) and condensed the already pretty insubstantial plot down another notch. Braeden enjoyed it (we were worried he'd be freaked out by the snake). I'd go see it again as it makes a great mid-afternoon break in air-conditioned comfort.

Playhouse Disney Show: We don't have cable or satellite TV in our home, so the only contact my boys have with the Playhouse Disney characters is when we stay in a hotel. The show was cute, Braeden was mesmerized but not as involved (since he didn't know the characters). It will be interesting to see how he takes it now that he knows more about what's going on. (Parent warning: there are no chairs in here. You sit on the floor.)

Muppets 4D: My deep love for all things Muppet-y is well known... and this 3D + SFX film is possibly Jim Henson's crowning achievement before his death. (He completed the filming of this the year he died.) And don't get me started on how his death & greedy Disney lawyers kept all of us from enjoying an entire section of the Disney Studios devoted to the Muppets, including a parody of the Great Movie Ride and a eatery run by Rizzo & the Swedish Chef, complete with audio-animatronic Muppets. Sigh.

So, I was just excited to see the show again in a slightly different setting... but Braeden was a little overwhelmed by the 3D and the SFX and didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Shari & I did. (Of course, writing this trip report up reminds me that this was his third theater show of the afternoon - his reaction might have been much better if it had been his first.

King Triton's Carousel: It's another merry-go-round... this time with fish. Braeden rode it a number of times - once with the whole family and then more while Shari & I traded off single-ridering California Screamin'.

Sun Wheel: The Sun Wheel is a part of Paradise Pier, which is a collection of "standard" carnival rides dipped in Disney pixie dust. It is, without a doubt, the cleanest & safest looking set of fair rides I've ever seen. And the Sun Wheel is monstrous - huge. I know there have been bigger ferris wheels, but this thing is gigantic. There are also two ways to ride it: 1) sedate (the cars just hang) and 2) scary (the cars are on sliding tracks that drift along & swing). We, of course, chose sedate... and not simply because I'm scared of heights & Shari was scared of Braeden falling out. Seriously - the line is MUCH shorter. :-)

It's actually a very nice ride - the view is gorgeous and would be stunning on a clear day.

Golden Zephyr: Braeden saw it across the Paradise Pier lagoon and wanted to ride it - it's basically a big rocket on a pivot that spins around and around - Dumbo crossed with Flash Gordon. It's nothing to write home about but it was fun to ride as dusk was approaching and all the lights around the lagoon were coming on.

Mullholland Madness: Shari & I traded off feeding Braeden french fries & letting him play as we single-ridered this "mad mouse" coaster themed as a drive through the Hollywood Hills. It's actually a neat little coaster - I look forward to taking Braeden on it this December.

California Screamin': This is a proud entry in the pantheon not only of Disney coasters but of steel coasters everywhere. It's smooth as silk, has a great take-off, almost every good coaster element you can think, and a synced soundtrack blaring through speakers behind your head. I can't wait to ride it again.

Heimlich (again!): We closed the day with a couple of more rides on Heimlich... and then went out to dinner outside the parks (much cheaper!) The highlight of the evening: watching the fireworks through our bedroom window.

No comments: