It was then back to DCA where we started with some Monsters, Inc.. As I was carrying on about the excellence of this attraction and stating that it’s underrated, I learned something that shocked and disgusted me: Henry does not like the ride. This coming from the same man who enjoys the Chew Chew Train. He explained that he thought the attraction was weak because the characters don’t have articulated mouths and because they’re fairly simply AAs. This coming from the same man who enjoys the Chew Chew Train. (I feel I should add this a couple more times for emphasis.)
I don’t get it. I think Randall is fairly advanced, and the Mike and Sulley AAs look good for the most part. Yeah, maybe these aren’t as advanced as the Pirate Auctioneer in POTC, but they’re not too shabby. And the ride is leagues above the Chew Chew Train.
After that, we noticed almost no line at the Cars Meet & Greet, and even though we “met” them last year, it was against a different backdrop. Although meeting these stationary cars isn’t as satisfying as meeting a living character, it’s still fun, especially without a line. This is one of the huge benefits of Disneyland. People seem to be indifferent to meet and greet characters. I wish more people were “too cool” for meet and greets in Florida! I will gladly concede that I’m an uncool dork if it means having to spend less time in line to meet my favorite characters!
After this, we headed onto the Pier where I spotted some ice cream! Although it was nothing more than regular swirl soft-serve ice cream, this was a huge victory. I don’t normally eat ice cream when we’re not on vacation, so it was a great treat. Much like I never have Coke when we’re not on vacation, so I can justify drinking 32 ounces of the stuff at 10 am in the morning. Yeah, odd to consider these things “special vacation treats,” I know.
Obviously the most pragmatic thing to do after eating a large ice cream cone is to ride California Screamin’, so that’s what we did next. We came this close to convincing Sarah to ride, but she figured she would be sick the rest of the day, so it just wasn’t worth it. While in the queue, we noticed a patch of sand behind the coaster. Henry assumed it was just leftover dirt from construction. Given a half broken fence and some wild beach grass also back in the area, I think it’s intentional theming. Quite possibly the most half-hearted theming I’ve ever seen, but theming nonetheless.
Most would probably view the new barker lines recorded by Neil Patrick Harris as only minor gains. I am a huge fan of his work (it’s legen-wait for it-DARY!) so I was quite impressed by the new lines. Again, it’s the little things like this that makes a huge difference. Screamin’ remains one of my favorite coasters, and for a simple coaster, it works surprisingly well. I think I might be a little too high on Paradise Pier, but I really love the place.
Yes, I took a photo of myself while riding on Cali Screamin’. I’m just that cool/stupid.
It was mid-afternoon, and at this point, I think the heat had gotten to us all a bit, although I’m going to claim that it was partially the tranquil ambiance of Paradise Pier lulling us into a deep state of relaxation. Relaxed and hot, there was but one place for us to hit: the Cove Bar.
Sarah and I have done the drinking around the world thing at EPCOT a couple of times now, and I see it as sort of a double-edged sword. It’s a lot of fun, and vacationing is about fun. Conversely, when we’re doing it, it seems we spend less time hitting attractions, and don’t do things as efficiently. Plus, it seems we could always go to a bar at home (although I’ve never had as much fun at a bar as I have drinking around the world). Another advantage, I think, is that it gives you a chance to soak up the ambiance of the park as you stroll around enjoying your drink, rather than running from attraction to attraction with blinders on.
In any case, California Adventure doesn’t have anything comparable to World Showcase, but the Cove Bar was still a nice diversion. Like I’ve said multiple times, Paradise Pier has quickly become our favorite area of DCA. Sitting there at the Cove Bar really reinforced this. We could watch as everyone passed by, and gazing off at the Fun Wheel and other attractions over the Pier just put me in a good mood (as if being in Disneyland didn’t already have me there!).
Much like just about everywhere else, the beer selection here was subpar, so I decided to get a mixed drink. Since we were at the Pier and it felt like summer-time, I got something to fit the mood: a Zombie. The drink was excellent, not too feminine but it didn’t taste as if my breath could catch fire.
We also ordered some Lobster Nachos. These nachos were great at first, with the flavors of the lobster really adding a nice extra punch. Unfortunately, it was really windy, and by the time we finished half of the nachos, they were cold. (This was not the fault of the Cove Bar or its staff, obviously; they did a great job preparing the nachos.)
After ordering another drink, I borrowed Sarah’s camera from her to take some photos of the drinks. While taking the photos, I noticed I was never getting the rim of the glass in crisp focus. I took about 10 frames before realizing that it wasn’t me missing the focus. I took the lens off the camera to discover that one of the aperture blades of the lens had gotten stuck! This really stunk, because Sarah’s camera and this lens (Sigma 30mm f/1.4) were what we had been using for most of the photos of us, and it was now unusable.
I heckled her about breaking the lens (after reviewing the photos and determining the problem first occurred a couple of hours prior but just wasn’t as noticeable except on the extreme closeup photos, I realized it wasn’t actually her fault) until reality set in that I had now had around $400 worth of photo gear broken on this trip (I don’t think I mentioned it, but I dropped and broke my expensive ND filter after Remember… the previous night). Hopefully the photos are worth it!
After spending a while at the Cove Bar, we headed over to Wine Country Trattoria. Like I said, this was to be a relaxed day. We had a couple of drinks there as we gazed off at the Carsland construction in the distance. We discussed Carsland for a while, wondering if it could become Lassetter’s folly as Disneyland Paris was Eisner’s. While I think it’s going to be a great addition to California Adventure, I think it could. It seems Lassetter has a personal interest in the project, and I wonder if those within Pixar connected to the project are letting their personal interest cloud their business judgment. It will have to generate a lot of revenue to recoup the investment, and it’s questionable as to one land in the park can do that. Conversely, I said, it might be what pushes Disneyland over the top to make it a tourist destination on par with Walt Disney World. In that case, it’s a brilliant move. Either way, it’s good to see someone finally taking risks again instead of just playing it safe because “safe” is the best way to protect their jobs. I have a respect for Eisner (mostly in his early years) for being ambitious and taking on projects based on his intuition rather than the artificially “vetted” numbers provided to him by the bean counters that now seem to dictate when projects get done.
The view from up here was great, and I can see this place being a hidden gem of California Adventure (for us at least) as it offers great views, no crowds, and a great relaxed ambiance. California Adventure may not be the World Showcase, but I can see these relaxed afternoon strolls around the various restaurants becoming a staple of our trips. We had a great time doing this.
When we finished enjoying the view from the Terrace, we headed, where else, but to Silly Symphony Swings again. This time, at Sarah’s insistence. By this time, we each had consumed a few drinks over the course of the past couple hours at the Cove Bar and Wine Country Trattoria, so we had that gleeful, “strollin’ along the boardwalk on a California sunny day”
After that, we did some more wandering, heading over to Golden State to see what the standby wait for Grizzly River Run was. Too long for our liking, so we continued wandering, through Condor Flats, where the wait for Soarin’ was also too long, until we finally arrived at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot.
For reasons that are beyond me, the thing about which Sarah was anticipating the most on this trip was elecTRONica. So excited, that the night before, she wanted to skip the fireworks for it. While I was loath to skip Remember… or World of Color, I reluctantly gave in, and agreed that this night could be elecTRONica night. I can’t really stand techno music, the loud club atmosphere, or dancing, so this seemed like a recipe for disaster.
Sarah wanted to experience this event from the time the portal opened to the time it closed, so we arrived plenty early. About an hour before it began, it fact. To kill some time, we went in the Animation building, where we saw some pretty cool little exhibits. I don’t know its proper name, but by far the coolest thing there was this spinning Toy Story claymation-type thing that combined strobe lights, spinning, and multiple variations of the same characters to create moving animation. It was absolutely awesome. I was enamored with this thing for at least 15 minutes. If not for Sarah and Henry wanting to move on, I probably would have stayed there even longer.
After playing around in here for a little while, we went back outside to the streets of the Hollywood Backlot. Some elecTRONica preview show was about to start, so we waited for that. Maybe this is because I’ve seen neither Tron nor Tron: Legacy, but this show was messed up. It was fun, and very entertaining, but it was ridiculously odd.
elecTRONica proceeded in pretty much the same fashion. Really odd, but really fun. At this point, elecTRONica isn’t really doing anything to promote the film; would Disney be better suited reverting to GlowFest? It seems that if you haven’t seen one of the Tron films, you might respond to elecTRONica the same way I did (except perhaps you’d dismiss it out of hand after seeing the initial oddness). I know Disney is all about synergy these days, but I don’t think the Tron movies have been the box office smashes necessary to make semi-permanent attractions out of them. From my experience, they don’t have accessible characters like more obscure films such as Song of the South to justify the films’ usage on the parks on that ground, either. (Stated differently: If you haven’t seen a Tron film, you probably think the Tron shtick is odd; if you haven’t seen Song of the South, you still probably will enjoy that film’s characters.)
All of that said, I thought Laserman was awesome. As were the ridiculously overpriced drinks. Looking around at everyone with the $11 drinks in their hands, it’s no wonder that Disney keeps these shows going! Unfortunately, I kept my camera in the bag for the duration of the evening so I could enjoy myself at the show. I wish I would have at least grabbed a couple photos of Laserman, but it sounds like I’ll have the chance the next time we’re out there with elecTRONica extended once again.
After elecTRONica was over, we headed to the California Zephyr to get some food, took our time eating there, and then headed out. We could have gone over to Disneyland for about 20 minutes before it would close, but we were pretty tired, buzzed, and not too keen on a repeat of the previous night’s encounter with security. Instead, we called it an “early” night.