Disneyland Christmas Trip Report 2011 Pt 8

The next day was, sadly, our last full day at Disneyland. Over night, the temperature had plummeted, leaving us to wear wear our winter coats as we went out to explore the park. Not only was the morning cold, but it was gloomy and overcast. On top of that, the parks were also fairly crowded.

We started out at Disneyland, beginning the morning with some delicious gumbo in a sourdough bread bowl from Royal Street Veranda before heading to Haunted Mansion Holiday. From there, we hit the New Orleans Square train station and began our ride around the park.

Although I enjoy the Walt Disney World Railroad for a nice relaxing voyage around the Magic Kingdom, we admittedly don’t do it often. Maybe once per year. When you compare this to how often we ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, at least 5 times per trip, this might seem a bit shocking. However, we’ve always found the Walt Disney World railroad to be a bit lacking, with subpar views and only a few scenes. Plus, it’s longer than the TTA, and doesn’t start in locations that are convenient to us.

By contrast, we experience the Disneyland Railroad at least once per trip because of the Grand Canyon and Primeval World diorama. I think these scenes are really cool, as is the New Orleans Square train station, and so are some other sights along the way. It’s mostly better for the dioramas, though. If Walt Disney World added something like that (not sure if there’s even the space given how tight some areas are along the train’s present route), we’d certainly ride it a lot more, too.

We exited the train at the Main Street, USA station, and from there headed to Disney California Adventure. It seemed like every time we headed over there this trip, it was overcast. Maybe this is why we didn’t spend much time there!

Our first stop there was the Blue Sky Cellar. I had one goal, and one goal only, in mind here: photographing Storytellers! We normally try to quickly breeze through here, looking only at the models and not watching the videos, so as to not spoil anything we might see on future visits. This trip was no different. Get in, get photos of Walt and Mickey, raise hell, leave!

Next, we queued up again for the Little Mermaid dark ride. Even though we weren’t in Disney California Adventure much, we did manage to experience this attraction multiple times. Not nearly as many as Haunted Mansion Holiday and “it’s a small world” holiday, but many more than Star Tours: the Adventures Continue, so that has to count for something. I can safely say that we would have enjoyed many, many more rides on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure had we been in DCA more. It has definitely leap-frogged Monster’s, Inc. as our go-to short-line attraction in DCA.

Luckily for you, if you woke up this morning thinking, “gee, I’d really like to see dozens of photos of the Little Mermaid dark ride today,” you’re in for a real treat. I’ve already described the attraction itself, so here are some photos. I had refrained from photographing the attraction the first few times we experienced it so that I could soak it in, but now I was ready to do some shootin’! Now, if you’ve never seen the attraction and are planning a first trip to Disneyland in 2012 or are planning on riding it at Walt Disney World, I’d recommend skipping past these photos.

We were meeting some friends from college for lunch at the Grand Californian (they live in SoCal and don’t even have APs!), but we had a bit of time to kill, so I did some shooting around Paradise Pier and Paradise Bay while Sarah was wandering around in a shop. I was the only one in this seating area at the time, and it was really cool to think that the next trip if I looked around from this spot, so much would be different. To say I’m excited about the reboot of DCA would be an understatement.

This will be the first huge Disney gala of which we’ll be a part, and it concerns a park that I think has incredible potential. I’ve already sworn off looking at Dateline Disneyland and Disneyland Live updates because I don’t want to see any more of the progress. The first time I walk into DCA this summer, I want to be in total awe. I want to walk through the Pan-Pacific turnstiles and get goosebumps as I experience Buena Vista Street for the first time. I want to walk through the rockwork of Cars Land and be completely transported from a Disney theme park to Radiator Springs. I think everything will be all the more impressive if I haven’t seen photos of the closer-to-completed projects. It’s going to be tough going to me favorite Disney news aggregator, DisneyReport.com, and not clicking on those DCA progress links, but the payoff will be great!

All Quiet on the Western Front?

Finally, we got the call from them that they had arrived at the Grand Californian, so we made our way over there, to Storyteller’s Cafe. But for these two, we probably wouldn’t have been on this Disneyland trip, as we had tacked on three days at Disneyland (for our first visit to Disneyland) the previous year when I was in their wedding.

Storyteller’s Cafe was actually quite good. We probably wouldn’t have eaten there for at least a few trips, but it was the most convenient place to eat. I order the Grilled Chicken Sandwich on Garlic Bread, topped with carmalized onion and beefsteak tomato, which was excellent. Although to be fair, I have a soft spot for garlic bread, so this sandwich got some bonus points for that. But for only $14.99, it was a great meal!

Sarah ordered the Classic Cobb Salad. Since dining at the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this has become her “thing.” She ordered it there. She ordered it here. She ordered it at The Wave in late December. None have been as good as the Brown Derby’s, but all have been pretty good. Probably three of the best salads I’ve ever tasted.

We ate and chatted with them for a bit, but I was itchin’ to get back into the park (it was our last full day after-all) and we had the Holiday Time at Disneyland Tour starting fairly shortly, so we didn’t stay for too long. It had been raining during lunch and we essentially left as soon as it stopped raining. Disappointing that we couldn’t catch up longer and that they couldn’t join us in the park since we basically only see them at weddings now (and back in the college, we got into all sorts of mischief together), but it was nice to catch up, and luckily a lot of our friends are getting married.

Even though the rain had mostly stopped, it was still misting a bit. Before we returned to Disneyland, we decided we’d try to wait out the mist with one more trip under the sea. As we were in line, some obnoxious Phineas and Ferb car rolled by with what I can only assume was a roaming dance party. Just as Paradise Pier completes its construction and really becomes a nice tranquil place, they add a blaring dance crew. Makes sense.

Luckily, we didn’t have to hear much of it, because we headed below the surface of the water. Here are some photos from that voyage for your viewing pleasure:

We then made a detour to wander around Paradise Pier for a bit. This was incredibly short-lived, as it was still overcast, making for incredibly ugly photos, as you can see here.

When we arrived back at Disneyland, I immediately screamed “CHIP & DALE, I KNOW THEM!” and ran over to their meet and greet line. The couple in front of us had a lot of fun with them, taking perhaps 50 photos or so, much to the chagrin of the handler. We didn’t really care, as it was a nasty day and they seemed to be having a lot of fun. Plus, I think there were some cultural differences at play.

As we approached Chip & Dale, I introduced myself, and asked “what’s your favorite color?” (I hope someone gets the offhand pop culture references I make throughout these reports, otherwise I just sound like a raving madman; no one commented on my reference to Henry stealing underpants a couple installments back…did anyone get that, or did you all assume he’s a creep?) We snapped a few photos with them and then headed into the new Disney Gallery exhibit, “Trains of Disney.”

Lately, I have become increasingly obsessed with an extinct attraction called Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. Reduced to its simplest terms, Nature’s Wonderland was somewhat of a Jungle Cruise of North American animals–on a train. This attraction took up a huge footprint in Frontierland, and some of the attraction’s Rainbow Ridge town is still present at the conclusion of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Why does this attraction no longer exist? Foremost because the aforementioned Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is smack in the middle of where the attraction once was. It also wouldn’t be surprising if this is an attraction that would no longer resonate with the average guest. Personally, I think it would’ve been cool to keep this unique attraction instead of having multiple Big Thunder Railroads throughout the world. However, since I also visit Walt Disney World, my opinion might differ from someone who only rides Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain.

Part of the reason I’m likely so intrigued by Nature’s Wonderland is because I never had the chance to experience it in person. It’s a bit shrouded in mystery for me, and we always want those things which we cannot have. If both BTMRR and MTTNW existed today, I’m not sure that I’d actually experience Nature’s Wonderland more than Big Thunder. In my head, though, I’m infinitely more intrigued by the former.

Thanks for the magic of the internet and dedicated historians (if you’re even slightly curious about Nature’s Wonderland, you absolutely must check out this ImagineeringDisney.com article and this blog dedicated to recreating the attraction), I have learned a lot about this extinct attraction. With its new Disney Gallery exhibit, Disney has helped fuel this fire even more. Talk about an awesome exhibit. Sarah is lucky some of the Nature’s Wonderland art featured in the Gallery wasn’t for sale. We would have a Nature’s Wonderland room right now if it were!

This, and small “Easter Egg” tributes within contemporary attractions, is exactly how recognizing extinct attractions should be done. As much as diehard fans may clamor for it, bringing back extinct attractions like Captain EO is a mistake. I said this back before the Captain EO tribute debuted at Disneyland (I also objected on the basis that Disney shouldn’t be paying tribute to an attraction featuring a man, albeit an extraordinary entertainer, with such a checkered personal history) and I was mostly vilified for not wanting to see an attraction that was supposedly “an integral part of so many childhood visits” to Walt Disney World and Disneyland for so many. My argument, more or less, was that the attraction might appeal to hardcore fans seeking to relive their childhood experiences, but it was very dated, weird, and represented a backwards step for a company that so regularly pastes Walt Disney quotes about “progress” throughout its parks. Honey, I Shrunk the Audience was due for a replacement, but not one that took a step backwards. I was definitely in the minority with this sentiment, but I think with the lines (or lack thereof) that now form for Captain EO, my sentiments have been vindicated.

It might’ve given a Epcot and Disneyland a short burst of visits from diehards, but now it plays to mostly empty theaters, just like HISTA. Some may argue that because of this it isn’t a backwards step but instead a sidestep, but HISTA itself could have kept playing to low crowds, and wouldn’t have required the expense of modifying the theater and bringing in a “new” old attraction. All that Captain EO has done has been to allow hardcore Disney geeks and Michael Jackson fans to take a stroll down memory lane (and maybe purchase a bit of merchandise) while signaling that it’s acceptable for Disney to bring back dated attractions that have no place in the contemporary parks. More importantly, it has delayed a much needed replacement for HISTA.

That said, the appropriateness of classic attractions in today’s Disney theme parks should be judged on a case by case basis. While Captain EO, an attraction from the 1980s, is too dated, some opening day Disneyland attractions still exist without issue. It’s a matter of timelessness, something Captain EO did not have. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is timeless. Something like Food Rocks is not timeless.

Even the original Journey into Imagination, which I so loved, should not return to Walt Disney World in its original form. It is, unfortunately, dated. While I would absolutely love to experience it again in its original form, I don’t think it’s in the best interests of Epcot to bring back that attraction in that form. Now, an attraction similar to the original in a modernized state might work, but not the original.

Bringing this full circle to the Disney Gallery exhibit (excuse the above tangent), again, this is how tributes to attractions that no longer have a place in the parks should be done. Epcot has a great area in Innoventions that is perfect for tributes, and One Man’s Dream would also be a great place to include an exhibit area focusing on one attraction or one type of attraction that could be changed out every six months or so. This, and not the Captain EO Tribute, is the way to pay tribute to extinct attractions.

After browsing the exhibit for a while, we headed to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The show wasn’t quite ready to start, so we had the chance to watch the Steve Martin Disneyland 50th tribute in the lobby for the first time. What a remarkably cool video. I’m never quite sure how the Disneyland curmudgeons–I mean fans–will react to things like this that offer superficial (and character-involved) views of Disneyland, but I know that we both loved it. After watching this a time and a half, we headed into Great Moments.

This time we did not fall asleep, but instead enjoyed this timeless Walt Disney masterpiece. As it combines some of my favorite aspects of Hall of Presidents and the American Adventure, this is easily one of my favorite “overlooked” attractions at Disneyland.

By the time this got out, it was time for our Holiday Time at Disneyland Tour. Unsurprisingly, it was pouring. Just our luck. The tour proceeded anyway, but with only about 8 people (apparently these tours normally have around 20-30). I guess the more intimate size was nice, although I would’ve traded that for a rain-less tour!

We started at the Guided Tour kiosk and proceeded down Main Street. The tour guide discussed the history of Disneyland at Christmas and pointed out a number of small holiday details that would otherwise go overlooked by many guests. We did this in many different lands, and we both actually learned quite a bit.

Unless you’re a history buff who can recite the lines from vintage Disneyland Christmas television specials from memory, it’s likely that you’ll learn something on the history portion of the tour. A few of the facts presented we had learned at prior Disney events, including D23’s Destination D, but for the most part, the information was new. To be sure, guests could just as easily find som of this information themselves on the internet for free, but a lot of it isn’t readily available information, and there is something to be said about having it presented to you by a delightful and cheery Disneyland Cast Member as you tour the park.

In addition to the walking history lesson, we received dessert samples and hot chocolate in a collectible plastic mug. For many, one of the big draws of this tour is the priority access to “it’s a small world” holiday and Haunted Mansion Holiday as well as the reserved seating (in actual chairs, no less!) for “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade. Of course, no Disney event would be complete without guests also receiving a pin that commemorates the tour!

The reserved seating for “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade was one of the big draws for us, but unfortunately, the parade was canceled the evening we toured. This was a huge deal to us, as the primary reason we booked the parade was because we heard how difficult it was to get a good spot for this parade. We had even experienced these difficulties earlier in the week, and hadn’t bothered watching the parade again because we knew we’d have these great spots the last night of our trip. Consequently, I ended up with very few good photos of the parade since I didn’t put too much effort into shooting the first night from our atrocious location.

The fudge, gingerbread, and hot chocolate we sampled likely totaled a little over $10 in value, and all of these treats were delicious. It wasn’t a case of receiving $10 in “value” of things we didn’t want and wishing that the tour simply would have been $10 cheaper without the treats. The treats definitely enhanced the tour.

Given all of this, in retrospect, we feel the Holiday Time at Disneyland tour didn’t offer great value on the particular day we went, but it would otherwise be a reasonably good value for the money. We learned a little and ate a little, plus had a good time despite the rotten weather. Our tour guide was awesome and we also met a new friend and fellow Disney geek along the way, Heather, with whom we chatted throughout the tour as we walked from place to place. She was really cool and well-traveled, and if you’re reading this now, hello! It would’ve been a lot better minus the rain and with the parade, but we really can’t fault Disneyland for the weather.

Still, I do wish something were offered as an alternative to the parade viewing location. Disney always seems to play coy with these types of things, contending that entertainment is subject to change and can be canceled. Much like at the hard ticket parties, where you’re offered nothing if the entertainment is canceled, we were offered nothing. I’m not one to always look for handouts, but when you advertise that a specific event includes (in the case of the hard ticket parties) seasonal entertainment or (in the case of this tour) VIP seating for a parade, you can’t also contend that what guests are paying for (in the case of the hard ticket parties) is ONLY access to the park on a particular evening with a 7pm closing or (in the case of the tour) ONLY the tour guide’s time. That’s disingenuous.

Obviously, Disney can’t control the weather, but neither can guests. To put the “loss” solely on guests is a bit irritating. We didn’t ask for any “compensation” to make up for the lack of a parade, but we shouldn’t have had to ask. Disney should have a contingency plan, and have a standard “alternate” to the parade viewing spot. To me, this is just good Guest service. It’s not sufficient for Disney to merely throw its arms up in the air and say, “sorry, we can’t control the weather!”

After the tour I put my poncho on my camera and started taking some photos! The ground was wet, so this was the perfect opportunity. It was still pouring, but I was already soaked, so what did it matter at this point?

We wandered around the park, heading towards Main Street where Sarah took cover as I did more shooting. After seeing one of the acts of the always enjoyable Wintertime Enchantment castle lighting show, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel so Sarah could change shoes (her Crocs have terrible traction) and so I could change clothes. At the time, I was more than willing to just be soggy all night long so I could keep taking photos, but in retrospect, this was probably a good idea. After all the rain was (seemingly) over, so it was probably a good time to head back and change.


12 Responses to “Disneyland Christmas Trip Report 2011 Pt 8”
  1. Jeff Lynch April 8, 2012
    • Tom Bricker April 8, 2012
    • Dan August 8, 2013
  2. Michelle March 1, 2012
  3. Rebekah January 23, 2012
  4. Erica January 16, 2012
  5. Nik January 16, 2012
    • Tom Bricker January 16, 2012
  6. Melissa January 14, 2012
    • Tom Bricker January 16, 2012
      • Kitty January 19, 2012
  7. Brian January 14, 2012

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