My local friend Larry was going to play hooky from work this afternoon and join me at Disneyland (luckily, he owns the company, so he can get permission to do that :-)), but I had the morning to myself again. Normally when I go to Disneyland I avoid Fridays through Sundays, but at this time of the year, Fantasmic is only running on weekends, so I purposely included a Friday in my trip to see that show. I didn't want to spend 12 hours at the parks, so my plan was to go over there late morning, take a break in the early evening, and then return in time for the first performance of Fantasmic at 9:00 p.m.
So I took the 11:00 a.m. shuttle from the Candy Cane Inn. I went into California Adventure and hung out for a while around Carthay Circle deciding what to do. I confirmed with a CM--who was as sad about this as I was--that PUSH the Talking Trashcan is no longer performing at Disneyland.
I got a good seat in front of the fountain for the upcoming performance of the Red Car Trolley News Boys. They arrived on a trolley just after 11:30 and did several high-energy songs. Some were standards such as "California Here I Come" and "Happy Days Are Here Again"; one or two were from Disney's "Newsies" film (now a Broadway musical). Partway through their set, a certain rodent appeared from the trolley to join them. My friend Larry says that Mickey isn't always with them, depending on his availability. (I never have watched the original film; I need to see it sometime, because Christian Bale was just adorable when he was a teenager.)
By the way, as an example of Disney's attention to detail, the Carthay Circle fountain went off during the performance and came back on afterwards, so the noise wouldn't interfere with the music.
"Instant Concert: Just Add Water" is the name of a short daytime music-and-fountains show in Paradise Bay (home of the nighttime World of Color extravaganza). Goofy--in full conductor's tails--conducts the concert. After the News Boys rode off in their Red Car trolley, I walked over to Paradise Bay and caught a few minutes of this show. Then I headed through Cars Land and Flik's Fun Fair to Hollywood Boulevard to get in line for "Aladdin." I arrived at 12:10 and heard an announcement that the 12:40 show might be canceled due to a problem, but a few hundred of us decided to wait and see. We were rewarded for our faith when the doors opened at 12:30.
I had seen the show from the balcony previously, and maybe also the mezzanine, so this time I opted for orchestra seating, and ended up in the fifth row almost dead center. There are trade-offs wherever you sit in the Hyperion Theater. I had a great view of the stage and the elephant that delivered Prince Ali, but I was directly under the carpet most of the time it was flying, which is not a great view.
I'm afraid that I'm out of touch with much of the popular culture that the Genie makes jokes around. For those of you who've never seen the show, the actor playing the Genie gets to toss in current-events references. I didn't understand the ones about Britney Spears and Taylor Swift, although I did catch the one about John Travolta's recent flub at the Oscars. And I understood perfectly when the Genie explained to Aladdin that, "I can't bring back the dead--but I did bring back Twinkies!" (Spontaneous applause from the audience for that one!)
The show got out a little after 1:30. I called Larry and discovered that he was just arriving at the Disneyland parking structure. He had already eaten lunch, but we arranged to meet at the Paradise Garden Grill, where I would get some food myself. I realized after I hung up from the call that I was going to have to walk clear to the other side of DCA, but what the heck, I hadn't had much exercise yet today. :-)
The kebabs at the Paradise Garden Grill are very nice. I got the Lemon-Oregano Chicken Skewers, and this time I chose the Chimichurri Sauce (herbs, citrus, garlic, and olive oil). I had liked the creamy Tandoori-Spiced Yogurt Sauce before, and that was good, but I liked this one even better. The other two sauces (Moroccan Chili and Tzatziki) also sound good; guess I'll have to go back. :-) The skewers come on a bed of rice pilaf and sides of a cucumber-and-bell-pepper salad and pita bread. I think it's one of the tastiest (and healthiest) counter-service options at Disneyland.
Larry showed up as I was finishing my lunch, and after chatting for a while, we headed over to Soarin'. We were told that there were about eight people in each of the two Single Rider lines, but that didn't sound too bad, so we went ahead and got in line. After about 10 minutes, Larry was escorted to the boarding area, so I figured that I'd be on the next flight. We had already arranged where to meet up outside if we weren't on the same flight. But after a couple minutes of CMs standing around and apparently preparing a control box to start the ride, another CM came up the ramp, chose four people from the standby line, and then told me to follow them. I wasn't able to spot Larry in the boarding area as I walked down to Gate C, but after the flight, I stood by the exit doors and caught him on his way out.
We then decided to make the rigorous 45-second trek from DCA to Disneyland Park. We were vaguely headed towards Adventureland and New Orleans Square, but as we passed the Enchanted Tiki Room, Larry asked whether I had seen that show recently. I hadn't, so we waited a few minutes for the doors to open and went inside for that. By the way, there were long lines for Dole Whips and pineapple ice cream both inside and outside the Tiki Room waiting area.
Larry and I both like the Indiana Jones Adventure, so even though I'd been on it already once during this trip, we headed there and found that there wasn't much wait for the Single Rider line. As before, the bulk of our "waiting" time was spent walking to the boarding area. We were only in that area for a minute or so before I was called, and Larry must have been assigned a car shortly afterwards, because he appeared from the tunnels shortly after I got back outside. By the way, I wonder how often the CMs in the Indy boarding area get breaks; it's really noisy there.
As an Air Force veteran, Larry likes to attend the Flag Retreat whenever possible. He said it would be fine to miss it if we had other things to do at that time, but as it happened, we got out of Indy just in time to walk back up Main Street to Town Square. He knew from the schedule that the Disneyland Band would be performing at today's retreat, but it was a surprise to us when the Dapper Dans also appeared. That was a treat to have both groups at once. When the band is there, they play the official tunes of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, so instead of all attending veterans walking up to the flagpole at the same time, they go up as their branch's theme is played. Nice touch. I noticed that one of the Dapper Dans stepped forward when the Army's song was played, although he then went back to his position with the group so he could sing with them.
Whitewater Snacks at the Grand Californian is a favorite eating spot for Larry and Julie, and I like it, too, so Larry and I left Disneyland Park and walked through Downtown Disney to the GC. We stopped for a minute in the Brisa Courtyard and were quickly rewarded with the sight of a monorail train passing through. We then continued on to Whitewater, where Larry got a hamburger and I got a grilled chicken sandwich. We ate on the patio and were hoping that some of the hotel's resident cats would come by, but no luck.
After dinner, Larry headed home and I took the 6:45 shuttle back to the CCI. I changed into warmer clothes, rested for a while, and took the 8:00 p.m. shuttle back to DL. By the way, the weather was perfect while I was at DL--mid-70s during the day and 60s in the evenings. I thought I was going to get some hotter weather toward the end of the week, but I didn't.
When I got to the parks, I headed straight for Rivers of America. And a good thing, too, as the best spots to watch Fantasmic were already filling up. Although there are advantages to seeing the show from the New Orleans Square area, I didn't want to fight the crowds there, or have to exit through the Adventureland bottleneck afterwards. So I went to the Frontierland side and found a spot right on a railing in front of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon. Good timing, too, as the railing spots were gone within another few minutes.
The railing allowed me to sort of sit down (or at least lean against something) while waiting the 40 minutes for the show to begin. This location also positioned me perfectly to see the righthand water screen of Fantasmic. There are a couple of drawbacks: we couldn't really see the Pinocchio segment because we were edge-on to the puppets. And you see some things moving on the water before the spotlights go on and they make their grand entrances, so the effect of those isn't as powerful as when they sneak up on you. But all in all, Frontierland is a good location.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Even if you've seen Fantasmic at Walt Disney World, you must see it at Disneyland. It's on a much bigger scale. Literally. I don't want to give away spoilers, but there are big elements in the show that simply don't exist at WDW. I also think the storyline holds together better; to my mind, the WDW show has a feeling of, "Let's throw in snippets of every Disney movie we can."
Because I normally go to Disneyland in the off season and avoid weekends, I hadn't seen the new Fantasmic dragon that was installed a few years ago. Although I had enjoyed the old dragon, I know why people said it looked like it had a bunch of black plastic garbage bags for wings; this one is definitely fancier, looking like a real Disney animatronic figure.
I had thought about leaving DL after Fantasmic, but decided to stick around for the fireworks. Although from Frontierland you can't see the images projected on the castle, or Tinkerbell's flight, it's otherwise a great place to watch from. The lights around Rivers of America are turned off, you can see the fireworks just fine, and there are even some fireworks launched from the roof of the Golden Horseshoe. Also, I was near one of the light towers for Fantasmic, and during the Haunted Mansion sequence of "Remember...Dreams Come True," there were white lights flashing behind me scarily. A nice touch.
After the fireworks, I got the bright idea that this might be a good time to get on Peter Pan's Flight, since most of Fantasyland is closed during the fireworks. All the front routes through and around the castle were still closed, and I thought about going back to the Big Thunder Trail, but then decided to stand behind the ropes near Rapunzel's tower. Obviously I wasn't the only one with the same idea, because one of the CMs there said, "In just a couple of minutes, I can drop the rope and you can all run to Peter Pan." Which is exactly what happened. :-)
What with people coming straight through the castle and presumably others having come from the back part of Fantasyland, by the time I got in line at PPF, it looked like a 20-minute wait. It turned out to be 25, but that's okay, because I hadn't been on it for years. A lady behind me in line who had two small boys said they'd been trying to get on this ride for three days, with even the Early Entry lines being too long.
Ahead of me were three people in their 20s, and I got to chatting with one who was holding a Hidden Mickeys book. He had just renewed his AP and is hoping to find all the HMs before his pass expires. Since the galleons only hold two people, he normally would have flown by himself, but he asked me to join him. The CM who boarded us saw his book and took a few seconds to tell him exactly where to look for the HM, which I thought was very nice of her. Using her advice, the young man was able to spot the HM. (It's on the clock tower of the Parliament building.)
I had originally only planned to see Fantasmic and then head back to my hotel, so after staying for both the fireworks and Peter Pan, I decided that it was high time to leave. As it was, I didn't catch the shuttle until 11:15 p.m. It's always a bit of a letdown to leave Disneyland for the last time, but getting a ride on Peter Pan was a great way to end my trip.
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Last updated 3/20/2014