We visited Disneyland for 2012’s “One More Disney Day” Leap Day promotion, which took place both there and at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Our journey actually begins at Walt Disney World, ironically enough. It was there, on New Year’s Day, where the TouringPlans team gathered and discussed the “news” of the 24-hour Leap Day promotion, which was announced the previous night. I put air quotes around “news” because it had leaked out several days in advance, and at that point, it was about as much of a secret as Disney Vacation Club.
As we sat there and discussed the promotion, we all got pretty excited (we are Disney geeks, after all) about the prospect of spending 24 hours in the parks. We began thinking up different unprecedented touring-related things we could do. When the news first leaked, Sarah and I decided we “couldn’t” make a trip for Leap Day given that it would be in the middle of the week and since we were already going to be traveling a lot in 2012. Listening to everyone else made me really excited. In a stunning turn of events, Sarah reminded me that the trip simply wasn’t feasible. She is usually the one who “provokes” our trips, so this was a change of pace. I reluctantly agreed, and simply listened as others talked about their grandiose plans.
Obviously, since you’re reading this trip report, my scheming didn’t die there. In order to convince Sarah, I knew I needed a good “hook.” We had been in the Magic Kingdom until after 4 am due to Evening Extra Magic Hours and during that trip (for New Year’s Eve) we had been in the Magic Kingdom as early as 7 am. So being in the Magic Kingdom at odd hours wasn’t really a unique experience to us. Everyone else from TouringPlans would be there, and this put a little pressure on Sarah (it got her close!), but everyone was there for New Year’s Eve, so we had just seen them. Again, not unique. Then, out of the blue a few weeks later, the idea of doing an eBook based upon 24 consecutive hours in the Magic Kingdom popped into my head. I floated the idea by Len Testa, who was immediately on board. I had my hook. Sarah was on board.
Obviously, since the trip report has “Disneyland” in the title, the story doesn’t end there. As we discussed the plans for “One More Disney Day” more, we noted that everyone was going to Walt Disney World, but no one was heading to Disneyland on behalf of TouringPlans. It was suggested that someone go to Disneyland to cover that. I made the suggestion to Sarah that we might switch to the left coast (side note: is ‘left coast’ a hip term or lame?), and her response was an emphatic “LET’S DO IT!” I figured that if the eBook were going to only focus on one park, it would be better to focus only on Disneyland than the Magic Kingdom, anyway. Plus, I had never photographed the sunrise in Disneyland (and might never again have the opportunity) and had photographed it a couple of times in Walt Disney World (and would have many future opportunities). So we switched our flights and itineraries from MCO to SNA, and started planning.
Housekeeping: Before we get into the bulk of the report, one thing is worth noting: since the whole purpose of taking the trip was to create the eBook, the majority of the “best” photos I took on “One More Disney Day” are not presented here. If you like Disney photos, I strongly encourage you to check out the eBook, Disneyland: Sunrise to Sunrise, by clicking here. If eBooks don’t interest you, fret not, as there are still a lot of good photos here, but they’re generally the ones that didn’t make the cut.
We started out the trip just as we start out any. McDonald’s. I purchased an obscene number of LivingSocial Big Mac coupons during a promotion they were running so I knew what I was getting! However, since my Big Mac and fries only cost the amount of tax and I didn’t want to charge $.50 or so, I decided to add on a McDouble. Then I saw the world-famous Shamrock Shake. I knew I had to add that as well. Sarah doesn’t eat McDonald’s (communist), and when I arrived back at the table with all of this food, she was a bit…uh…stunned, to say the least. I really have no defense for my actions. I quickly realized I ordered way too much. But I ate it all anyway.
Nothing significant happened on the flight, although I did spot some cool clouds while we were beginning our ascent. I knew that if I waited until the electronics embargo was over, we’d be at too high of an altitude to get a shot like this, so I turned on my camera, put it in quiet shutter mode, and clandestinely fired off a few frames. Before any of you gasp that I would so irresponsibly endanger a plane full of passengers, electronics use on airplanes doesn’t do anything. In fact, studies have shown that the possibility for harm in everyone powering on their phones at the same time is greater than regular electronics use. Even the potential harm there, though, is infinitesimal at most. Do you really think they’d let you bring electronics on the plane if there was even a slight chance that they’d pose a danger?
We went through the usual routine, making a stop in Arizona before arriving at John Wayne airport. From there we caught Super Shuttle to our hotel. I honestly don’t know why we continue to use Super Shuttle. They’re slow and inefficient. I guess because we’re cheap.
Our (first) hotel was the Anaheim Fairfield Inn, which is about an 8 minute walk to the Esplanade. We arrived at our hotel at around 9:30 pm, but the parks were already closed. Even when this happens (regardless of whether we’re at Walt Disney World or Disneyland), I still like to head out to get a ‘dose’ of Disney. In this case, I wanted to scope out whether a line was forming for the limited edition Mickey Mouse ears that were being given away to the first 2,000 guests. I arrived at the Esplanade at 9:45 pm. The line didn’t “officially” form until 10 pm, but already there was an informal line to get in the line that started at 10 pm. The Mouse ears looked lame to me and I wanted no part of this line, so I passed by these nuts to check out the main gates of Disney California Adventure and Disneyland. I was surprised to see fairly tight security (wanting to prevent people from making additional ears-lines, I presume) at the edge of the Esplanade. They asked where I was going, and I responded, “Downtown Disney.” It wasn’t true, but I knew it would be a lot easier than explaining that I wanted to take photos of the turnstiles.
I got my photos, then sat around in the Esplanade for a few minutes, soaking up the ambiance. I love the Esplanade music at Disneyland. (Anyone know where I can find the current loop? Please leave a comment if so.)
From there, I headed back to the edge of the Esplanade. I was taken aback when I saw roughly one-thousand people lined up for the ears. That’s right: a line to wait overnight in the cold to receive some cheaply designed mouse ears. To some extent, I can’t say I blame these people (besides a few of the idiots I spotted waiting in the 40-degree weather with their infants), as I’m sure it was a fun experience and spectacle to be a part of, no matter how lame the reward. One of those, “more about the journey than the destination” type deals. My journey was to be 24 consecutive hours in the park the next day, and adding another 6 hours on to that just didn’t seem pragmatic. In retrospect, I think I could have done both and sort of wish I would’ve tried.
When I arrived back at the hotel, I went right to bed. I actually woke up in advance of my alarm going off the next morning at around 3:30 am. If going by Eastern time (which I assume my body was), I was actually getting up “late.” I guess being an early-riser finally paid off. Sarah, on the other hand, didn’t plan on getting up that early. So I headed to the park by myself. I substantially misjudged the weather and wore only shorts and a polo. Here I was turning my nose up to people waiting outside overnight in the cold, and I had worn a polo and shorts in the cold weather. Unfortunately, by the time I realized that I wasn’t appropriately dressed, I was already a few minutes from the hotel, and some tweets I saw suggested that I needed to get in line ASAP. I figured that, at worst, I’d be cold for a couple hours in the morning. No big deal.
I was back at the park at 4:15 am, where a massive line had already formed. Even though it snaked several times, I still found myself back by the Tower of Terror. For those unfamiliar with Disneyland, that’s an attraction in Disney California Adventure, and is a fair distance from Disneyland’s main entrance. Just to “prove” where I was, I’ve included a couple terrible photos that I snapped while in line.
I asked a Cast Member when the line would start moving, and he assured me 5:30. Since Disneyland opened at 6 am, I figured this wouldn’t pose any problems. I should easily be in the park by 6 am. Of course, the line did not move as quickly as I expected. At 5:45 am, I was still a good distance from the bag check and the line was moving slow. I figured I was going to miss the sunrise, which would happen at around 6:15 am. Gregg Cooper, Ryan Pastorino (from Disney Photography Blog) and I were all trading text messages, and they shared the same concern. The sky was already looking gorgeous, so this worried me. Then, like clockwork, a Cast Member announced that the LE ears had just run out, and the line would start moving really quickly. It did. I didn’t get into the park until about 6:10 am, but this was still before the sunrise. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t there for the exact start of the day, but I was very relieved that I wouldn’t miss the sunrise.
As I entered, I saw Band Leader Mickey and his band, and a whole slew of press-types. Already, I felt energized and excited. I knew this was going to be an awesome day in Disneyland. I was so pleased we had made the decision to head to Disneyland for the event. I’ll touch more on the “why” part of this later, but I’m fine with being a bit anti-climactic: Sarah and I both agreed that this was our best day in any Disney theme park ever.
I had no time to stand around and gawk at Mickey and the Band as I had a date with sunrise near Sleeping Beauty Castle! After all, I had already heard reports that sunrise in Walt Disney World was a foggy mess, so it as my blogging civic duty to capture some quality photos to run with this post. You’re welcome, America! (And Canada…and the United Kingdom…and wherever else people reside who read this–but mostly America!) As I ran from Mickey, I shot some photos for documentary purposes.
Heading down Main Street, USA was awesome. I have never seen so many waving Cast Members who all seemed genuinely happy to be up so early in the morning. I didn’t count, but I’d hazard a guess that there were over 100 Cast Members on Main Street waving to guests. It was an awesome touch. Most guests at Disneyland headed not for Space Mountain, Dumbo, Indiana Jones Adventure, etc., but instead for the Emporium. Disneyland fans are crazy about collecting (Exhibit A: 10 pm line for crumby mouse ears), so they immediately gobbled up the “special” shirts for the day. When Disneyland eventually does roll out xPass, it should include an option for limited edition merchandise lines. The company would make billions, if not trillions, off that option alone!
Sometime around 6:20, I realized that a 6:17 (or whatever the exact time was supposed to be) sunrise didn’t mean that the sun would hit all parts of Disneyland right then. So I began racing around, trying to “find” the sun. It first rose in Tomorrowland, so I snapped a few photos there. From there, I’m not quite sure where I headed. I was so “in the zone” that I honestly barely remember what happened. Just ask Gregg or Ryan. I was flying all over the place. I also saw the crew from Tours Departing Daily as I manically raced around. Hopefully they didn’t think I was blowing them off as they said “hello” and I merely grunted and barked at them as I shook my camera in one hand and my fist on the other.
I could make up a narrative to accompany these photos, but there isn’t really one. At least not one that I remember. I was rarely in the same spot for more than a few seconds. Other photographers set up tripods and took their time composing shots. Not me. I had my Nikon D7000 in one hand and Sarah’s D3100 in the other. I hadn’t even brought my tripod or 70-200 f/2.8 lens that morning (the closest thing I have to a “pro” lens) because I didn’t want to raise the ire of security. Imagine getting all the way to the front of the line and being turned away due to camera gear?! Sarah would bring me the tripod later, but I didn’t even mess with the 70-200 lens at all that day.
As mentioned, the cameras controlled me for most of the morning, making me race here and there without much recollection of where I was. When I came to, it was around 9 am and I found myself with a Coca-Cola IV drip at Tomorrowland Terrace. Sarah had just arrived and we were beginning to start our touring day in Disneyland out some much-needed caffeine. Those first five hours of the day and three hours in the park felt like about a half hour. I hadn’t done a single attraction, but I was having an absolute blast. Sarah asked if I got any good photos and I responded with an honest “I don’t know.” I was having so much fun that I had stopped to review any of my shots. For all I knew, they all could have been garbage!
Fully caffeinated, it was time to explore Disneyland…
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