Ward Kimball was one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, the group of heralded young animators who worked on the studio’s earliest animated shorts and feature-length movies. Disney fans know the legend that Walt never directed compliments toward anyone, but Kimball is the only employee he ever publically called a genius. With that knowledge in hand, I was eagerly looking forward to this book.
Supported by annotations from Kimball’s own personal journals and hundreds of interviews of his and others who worked with him, this was a fascinating book about an ambitious, restless artist. With a slim amount of formal art education and youthful aspirations of working as a commercial artist for advertising agencies in New York City, Ward reluctantly accepted a job at The Walt Disney Company to learn animation, originally believing the trade to be a step down from advertising. He ended up proving to be an expedient animator, working faster than most, and worked on all of the original Disney classics, including designing Jiminy Cricket. He would later co-direct “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” which won an Oscar for Best Animated Short for Walt Disney. He later earned one with his own name on it for “It’s Tough to Be a Bird”.
He founded the Firehouse Five Plus Two Dixieland jazz band which performed at clubs around LA and Disneyland, produced three installments about space exploration for the Disneyland TV show that drew fascination and interest from the viewing public up to President Eisenhower, and even enjoyed a friendly relationship with the boss, unique among the Company staff, building up the Mousetro’s interest in model trains, before ultimately feeling boxed in by the studio’s family friendly art house style.
In some ways, he reminds me of Chuck Jones, who claims to have told Walt Disney that ultimately the only job he wanted at his studio was Walt’s. Ward wasn’t that discourteous of Walt’s position or the benefits of creative opportunities he received from his employer, but later in his career, the eccentric Kimball clearly wanted to create his own artistic identity apart from the name Disney. So the later years, close to Walt’s passing in 1966 and thereafter until his retirement in 1973 were frustrating for him. He also faced criticism and resentment from other animators, including some of his Nine Old Men peers.
I wouldn’t call this a warts-and-all biography, but it doesn’t shy away from the animator’s stubbornness and misjudgments when he fails to recognize how best to spread his creative wings and pursue his ambitions with strategic tact and even some humility while at the studio. I enjoyed this book a lot. The only disappointment I had about the book is that it includes no photos of Kimball at all beyond what’s on the cover.
So I watched the new tribute short Star Wars: Path of the Jedi movie that soft opened last night where Captain EO used to play in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. The film short is one of a number of new attractions and thematic overlays under the promotional umbrella Season of the Force that takes over Tomorrowland and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World this season. It's all because of a little movie coming out from Disney in December, Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.
I actually know people - mostly under the age of 25 - who still have not watched some or any of the first six Star Wars films. Path of the Jedi spoils EVERYTHING! Ha ha. So there's your spoiler alert if you know one or you're one of them considering to see this before seeing the original films.
But as a long-time SW fan, there were times I was really kinda moved by the tribute. It was all stuff I'd seen before, nothing new was shown. But some new music composed for the short (not by SW composer John Williams, but clearly homages to his work) and connecting scenes from different films across generations created a fresh look at the Skywalker family story giving a meaningful reminder of the effect the Force has had in their lives AND OUR experience enjoying the cinematic thrill ride.
In that first viewing, none of the scenes from the Prequel Trilogies came across bad or jokey. During the screening, I remember worrying about that when those scenes started showing up. Hopefully, that feeling of actually enjoying the PT scenes in this short's context continues when I go back to see it again. Great job of editing selected PT scenes juxtaposed with Original Trilogy clips.
Mild spoiler: Perhaps the editing choice that the filmmaker's will earn the greatest respect from long-time fans for was including the original take from Episode VI when Darth Vader does not say, "Nooooooooo!" NOT hearing that - the silence in that moment - was so badass!
While it's not a preview with exclusive new scenes from The Force Awakens as Disney has often done for previous Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Studios previews screened at the parks, Star Wars: Path of the Jedi wasn't a waste of time for this SW fan.
I’ve now been to three of the four D23 Expo events held in Anaheim every two years since 2009. I skipped the one in 2013. But with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens opening just four months after this one, I thought this was one not to miss.
Because I was so busy with work, I could not make the time to do my usual thing and research the panels and plan out my Friday and Saturday attending the expo. From past D23 Expos, I knew lines would be ridiculously long for the big panels like the Disney Legends induction ceremony and beyond ridiculously long for the Star Wars one. And I needed rest and sleep. So I did not worry about waking up before the rooster crows and try and make it out to join thousands in line who most assuredly would be there overnight to see any of those panels. Both days, I made it out to park in Disneyland's Toy Story parking lot on Harbor Boulevard and arrive to the Anaheim Convention Center by around 9am.
This was my first time going to D23 Expo without a game plan, just playing it by ear. As it turned out, I enjoyed a number of panels I never anticipated going to and got a fair number of really fun freebies over the course of the weekend that made the whole of the experience well worth not having a plan. After two full days attending this year’s expo – that’s 9am to 7pm each day – I left enjoying my best two days of D23 Expo ever! Playing it by ear as I strolled around the main floor meant (a) most everything was a new discovery and (b) not having a plan meant I had no idea what I was missing.
Here I'll describe my highlights from my two days at D23 Expo. For those of you who followed along as I instagrammed (that’s a word now, right?), this should fill out some more details I didn’t have space or time to share there already.
The Disney Legends Ceremony
Friday, August 14, 2015
I arrived at the right time to the convention and probably on a good day, Friday. Of the two days I was there, Friday was clearly the lesser attended of the two. And when I found the end of the line to enter the expo surprisingly near the building itself (rather than waaaaay far away where those who weren’t D23 members and had general admission tickets were) and in SHADE in the already-in-the-80s weather that morning, it was also next to one line that claimed to still get folks into the Disney Legends ceremony. In fact, the staffers called the Legends line. It was 9am and the ceremony started at 10. I had friends posting online saying they’d arrived two or three hours earlier than me and were already in the queue to get in. And I really didn’t think that line was serious. But since I had no plan, I switched queues. What the heck, right?
Oh. My. God!
One hour later at 10am, I entered what they called Hall D23 and was seated in the 8,000 seat area, on an aisle seat with no one sitting to my right. I was seated in the audience left so I really decent view of the stage. But there were large video screens on either side so nothing happening on stage could really be missed. Probably about fifteen minutes later, The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger stepped out and started the ceremony just a little late. I couldn’t believe my luck!
The ceremony lasted two hours. The first Disneyland Ambassador Julie Reihm Casaletto gave a cheerleader of a speech when she accepted her Disney Legends award, obviously still cherishing her memories and role in the Disney Company. Walt Disney Animation animator Andreas Deja was very emotional about being there, sharing with us how watching The Jungle Book as a ten-year old in Germany, from a family of limited means, defined his life’s mission, leading to buying a risky, one-way ticket to Los Angeles and culminating in the only thing he’d ever wanted to do…and did it, a dream fulfilled.
In between inductions of some of the legends, there was various entertainment. Dancers from "Dancing with the Stars" (I didn’t know who, I don’t watch the show) danced to “Once Upon a Dream”, the song from Sleeping Beauty before the Disney artist who designed and rendered all of the beautiful backgrounds for that movie, Eyvind Earle, was inducted. There was an “In Memoriam” video which closed with Robin Williams, and that was followed by a live performance by Ne-Yo (Who? Ha ha) of “Friends Like Me" that apparently will be included in a new compilation disc of Disney cover songs available later this year. The last inductees on the agenda, Danny Elfman and George Lucas (induction video), were the more anticipated of the lot, and it was a lotta fun to be there in the room when they accepted theirs, fans screaming loudly when they each were announced. Then, Bob Iger had one more surprise for us, revealing an unannounced, surprise induction for Johnny Depp! See the video of the entire moment in the video from Inside The Magic below.
I’ve been to two Disney Legends inductions now, this one and the one in 2011 with the Disney Princess actresses and singers receiving their awards and who also performed during that event. I think this one was a tad better experience ONLY because I had a closer seat to the stage! But just to be here with George Lucas and Johnny Depp, and to hear Deja’s speech, I really feel super lucky.
Disneyland Home Movies
Friday, August 14, 2015
At this year’s expo, I tried something new they offered. It’s called StagePass. Like the Fastpasses they have at Disneyland, the idea of StagePass is to use it to get in a shorter line for an event happening on stage somewhere at the expo, so you can arrive even fifteen minutes before the start of it and still get it before the rest of the standby line is allowed to enter. They also offered StorePass to get you into shorter lines for the Disney Dream Store, The Disney Store, and Mickey’s of Glendale. This system is similar to what they’ve offered at the San Diego Comic-Con for a while now.
After leaving Hall D23 and the Disney Legends event, I spent some time roaming around the main floor. I never got to review the floor plans, so I was lost…a very unique experience for this guy who goes to Comic-Con and WonderCon now as often as I do. Eventually I found the Disney Dream Store and noticed the line was fairly short. So I took care of some D23 Expo-exclusive merchandise shopping business on day one of my two day visit within an hour. Right next to the store’s cash register area is the queue area for StagePass. One great idea I noticed at this year’s expo were so many video displays positioned throughout the show floor, showing event times happening in areas all around the expo. And over the StagePass area were the list of shows they were offering them for today AND which ones were still available and which were already gone. That info is great for folks who realize they don’t need to get in line because StagePasses for the show they wanted is already sold out and they’ll just need to plan on getting in the regular standby line upstairs.
Because I wanted to try it, I waited about twenty minutes in line to get a StagePass for something called “Disneyland Home Movies”. Some four hours later, I headed upstairs to “Stage 28” (one of the many, large conference rooms in the three-story convention center) and stood in the proper queue. When it was time to enter, I found a seat in a room that held maybe 1,000 people, and I got a decent seat near the front (it helped that I was by myself). When the presentation started at 4:30pm, that's when I learned this was presented by The Academy of Arts and Sciences – The OSCARS – and they would be screening home movies taken by folks who visited Disneyland in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Not only that, some of them were taken by one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, Ward Kimball, whose son was there to provide commentary of that footage, and actor Steve McQueen, whose wife Neile was there to talk about their video of their family trip to Disneyland in the 70’s. It was fascinating!
Rare color footage of the park during opening day and, supplemented with home movies donated by other non-celebrity family, later in the 50’s was screened. Kimball’s videos also included trips before the park opened, when he took Walt Disney to a friend’s home to show Walt his very miniature train and a visit to northern California to a plum orchard whose owner offered train rides through it on a little bit larger train. It was fun to see Walt clearly enamored with the trains!
Apparently, the Academy archives lots of videos pertaining not only to the show business industry but also things of interest in the LA area. They announced that a location to share videos from their inventory would be opening to the public in 2018.
Some fascinating scenes from the footage I remember: Walt shown smoking a cigarette while hosting a group of international OSCAR nominees at Disneyland; no long lines ANYWHERE for the attractions in the 1950’s footage; undeveloped land seen outside Disneyland before Anaheim grew into what it is today; sites of Disneyland that looked absolutely foreign to me like 1950’s Tomorrowland and the original entrances to the Jungle Cruise.
The session was closed out by a screening of color photographs taken by silent movie star Harold Lloyd. His granddaughter was there to talk about the photos. She was the subject in many of them, taken at Disneyland when they were still finishing up putting the sails on the Chicken of the Sea pirate ship restaurant. In fact, there were some pictures with only naked masts and others with the sails finally on them, apparently taken days apart.
She explained too that her grandfather was a 3D enthusiast, and while they were presented to us in 2D, the 3D versions were exhibited downstairs as part of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit. I just filed that away in my mental to-do list to check out the Archives later!
“Disneyland Home Movies” was an unplanned stop at the expo that was thoroughly interesting and enjoyable!
Disney on Broadway: The Originals
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Here’s another panel I grabbed a StagePass for. This was on Saturday at 2pm. There were two showings and I picked the later time. I didn’t know more than what the title suggested, and I figured “Broadway” was a good reason to check it out.
At the proper time, I found myself seated in a larger room than Stage 28, that held maybe 2,500 seats? On stage was a five-piece band, but I still didn’t know who was performing and what. Then the lights dimmed and the show began.
Oh. My. God!
As a guy who does community theatre in Torrance, this 90-minute LIVE CONCERT was absolutely unexpected and phenomenal! The show featured James Monroe Iglehart, the Tony Award winner for playing The Genie in Broadway’s “Aladdin”, Ashley Brown who played the title role in Broadway’s “Mary Poppins”, and Josh Strickland who played the title role in Broadway’s “Tarzan”. Thus the subtitle is explained: the original stars were headlining this musical revue of songs from Disney’s Broadway musical productions. Holy cow!
Iglehart was the emcee and was incredibly charming! Everyone sang solos or with each other as the song warranted. I kept track of what they sang during the show and (if my memory didn’t fail me) who sang what.
From “Beauty and the Beast”
“Gaston” performed by James Monroe Iglehart
“Beauty and the Beast” performed by Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland
“A Change in Me” performed by Ashley Brown
“If I Can’t Love Her” performed by Josh Strickland
From “The Lion King”
“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” featuring Ashley Brown and James Monroe Iglehart
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by all
“My Strongest Suit” performed by Josh Strickland
“Written in the Stars” performed by Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland
From “The Little Mermaid”
“Under the Sea” performed by James Monroe Iglehart
“Part of Your World” performed by Ashley Brown
“Who Better Than Me?” performed by James Monroe Iglehart and Josh Strickland
“Strangers Like Me” performed by Josh Strickland
From “Mary Poppins”
“Jolly Holiday” performed by Ashley Brown and James Monroe Iglehart
“Chim Chim Cher-ee” performed by Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland
“Feed the Birds” performed by Ashley Brown
From “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
“Someday” performed by Ashley Brown and James Monroe Iglehart
“Out There” performed by Josh Strickland
“Something To Believe In” performed by Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland
“There’s So Much More To Me/Proud of Your Boy” performed by Josh Strickland
“A Whole New World” performed by Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland
“Friend Like Me” featuring James Monroe Iglehart
“Let It Go” performed by Ashley Brown and (after a few false starts that were funny) Josh Strickland
This is the only video I took at the concert, most of the song "Friend Like Me" performed by The Genie himself James Monroe Iglehart. It gives you a taste of how the entire show was staged.
I saw Ashley Brown when “Mary Poppins” played at the Ahmanson and loved the show. But hearing her perform here live, she knocked out every song she sang outta the place. What a beautiful voice and passionate performance throughout. Seeing James Monroe Iglehart performing live made me feel bad for missing the opportunity to see him as The Genie in his show. And they included “Frozen” as a prelude to its Broadway version. Done as a duet by Ashley and Josh, “Let It Go” has a subtly stronger meaning to some of her lines sung as a male and female duet and an appealing sound sung in harmony by two voices.
Man, I can't believe I saw this. I guess D23 has offered musical shows at previous D23 Expos. This was my first time seeing one of them. Wow! What a cool and unique opportunity to get to watch for the price of admission and a little luck getting in line!
The Making of Aladdin
Saturday, August 15, 2015
The last highlight of D23 Expo for me was also the last event I saw. The 6pm panel discussion of The Making of Aladdin featured co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements, Genie lead animator Eric Goldberg, Jasmine lead animator Mark Henn, Jasmine voice actress and Disney Legend Linda Larkin, Aladdin voice actor Scott Weinger, and Aladdin singing voice Brad Kane.
It was a breezy hour-long panel filled with production anecdotes and of course, personal memories of working with Robin Williams, especially from the co-directors and Goldberg. One of the funnier stories involved how the "Applause" sign came to end up at the end of the "Friend Like Me" number in the movie. As Goldberg described it, after one of the test screenings, a complaint was made to the production team that no one applauded after that number. Goldberg only described the executive as someone who won't be named. Immediately after that, one of co-directed chimed in with "Katzenberg", generating a really good laugh from the audience. So the animators decide to force the issue by adding the sign into the movie which, after subsequent test screenings, required them to actually pad out the timing after the song's end for the applause so the next lines could be heard!
Brad Kane revealed that once people realize who he is, he gets asked to sing “A Whole New World”. But he admits to being a jerk and refusing; he explains he likes to keep the song special and not perform it. He was even asked by a woman he was dating to sing it for her. He didn't, but promised if….er, when they got married, he would. And they did, singing as a duet at their wedding, which got the obvious "Awww..." response from the audience.
Revealed at the panel was news that included in the upcoming October 13 release of “Aladdin” on Blu-ray would be a newly produced bonus feature. Eric Goldberg took some of Robin Williams’ unused and previously un-heard outtakes and animated them into a new short. They showed a few of his storyboards of the project. This should be brilliantly funny!
The panel closed with a screening of a short scene from Musker and Clements’ upcoming animated feature “Moana”. The directors explained that the ocean becomes an important character in the story, and the footage shows a barely able to walk Polynesian baby girl along on the beach and her interaction with the ocean as she collects large seashells. If you can imagine this, the ocean is shown fascinated with this little girl who wobbles but never falls down, and then the little girl realizing she's being "watched" and "coddled" by the ocean. It ends segueing into an establishing shot on the same beach of the baby girl who has now grown up into a teenager. As short as it is, the scene is beautiful, funny, and heartwarming. Looks like another Disney winner!
So those were my highlights over two days. There were a lot of other great memories made...meeting friends there, getting a Jedi Knight ID card, and others. All the pictures in this blog are mine and you can see them and the rest on my Instagram feed.
After this experience, I'm really looking forward to NOT missing the next one in 2017.
A short and (bitter)sweet photoblog highlighting all of the food I used to love eating at Disneyland that I no longer can...
...because they've all been taken off the menus.
So here's a gallery of some of Disneyland's "yesterfood", a term I made up inspired by the name of the Disney fan-site archiving the history of bygone Disneyland attractions, Yesterland.
All of these pictures were taken by me and posted in my flickr album Dining at Disneyland, which includes hundreds of photos I've taken at the parks. Dates noted on the photos below are when I took them.
Of all these, I probably miss the ribs from Taste Pilots' Grill the most. Then, the breakfast dishes from Carnation Café.
For the fourth straight year, Disneyland stayed open 24 hours this weekend when park guests could enjoy the park from 6am Friday morning through 6am Saturday morning. The first time they did it at Disneyland this was in 2012 on Leap Year Day. They called it “One More Disney Day” and I blogged about my experience being there during the last six hours of it. The next year, they did it again, this time holding it on Memorial Day weekend and adding sister park Disney California Adventure to the festivities. Cross-marketing it with that year’s Disney-Pixar sequel “Monsters University”, it was promoted as a kick off to a "Monstrous Summer" (my blog). Since then, they’ve continued to schedule it every year on Memorial Day weekend, with “Rock Your Disney Side” in 2014 and yesterday’s “Diamond Celebration.”.
I've been to Disneyland every time they held it. The first time three times, I’d wake up whenever I did and arrive later in the day or evening, just so I could honestly say “I was there”. But yesterday I was there for the entire 24 hours, from before the start through to the very end. I posted to Instagram and Twitter throughout the day. Here’s a lengthy recap, expanding on what I shared in those earlier posts.
HOW IT BEGAN
First off, I’d never been to any of the previous 24-hour events when they started right at 6am. That would mean having to wake up in the dark to join a line of fans who’d started the line the day before. That didn't really sound appealing. I like sleeping in too much. But this year, I decided I’d make the effort to be at the start, just to experience something different about going to one more Disneyland 24-hour event.
I’d gotten three and a half hours of sleep when my alarm went off at 2:30am. From following the Disney Parks Blog, I knew the Pumbaa Lot was open at that time and that the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure would open at 4am. By the time I was finally out the door, I realized I'd just park as I normally do, in the parking structure, and head to the park my regular way rather than figure out navigating some new way to learn how to get there from Pumbaa. Less stress and drama I figured.
When I got to Disneyland Drive from the southbound I-5, it was 3:50am, and I was surprised to find the ramp to take you directly into the parking structure was still closed. I continued to the stop light at Ball Road and found the entrance ahead from Disneyland Drive to the parking structure was also still closed and now, cars were lined up there waiting for it to open. As a matter of fact, when the light turned green for me to cross Ball, I couldn’t. The line of cars waiting to enter the parking structure had reached Ball, so unless I wanted to block the intersection like one of those annoyingly self-centered, arrogant drivers, I was stuck. Fortunately, Disney opened the ramp by 3:55am and the line started to move. I crossed the intersection, got through the pay booths, and parked in the Pinocchio lot within ten minutes.
I got a text earlier in the morning from a friend to let me know she was already in line near Harbor Boulevard and that I could join her when I got there. I texted her updates from the time I parked to when I was on the tram to passing through security and arriving in the Esplanade plaza between Disneyland and DCA, thinking I was grateful to have a much shorter wait in that god awful long line that had started since the day before.
Crossing the esplanade, I saw to my right folks waiting and lined up in front of the DCA main entrance. To my left I noticed a plain courtyard with no lines but cast members stationed at most of the turnstiles of the Disneyland Main Entrance. I then noticed a trickle of guests entering the esplanade from the Harbor Blvd. side towards the closest turnstile to them. It was then that I noticed that there were people milling around inside the main entrance who weren’t cast members. It was around 4:15am so my brain wasn’t quite clicking on all cylinders yet and didn’t immediately figure out what all I was seeing, because I knew my friend had been in line since midnight waiting to enter the park at 6am with thousands of others in the line. And I was supposed to join her. But I also realized there were people already inside the park. And that those cast members at the turnstiles seemed really, really lonely.
In my rush to loyally join my friend in line, I decided to hold up and turn left towards the Disneyland entrance. Approaching the nearest turnstile, I pulled out my wallet and decided I’d hand my cast member my annual pass when I got there to see what would happen. What happened was at 4:20am, I entered Disneyland. And I didn’t have to get there any earlier than I had to and lose any more sleep to wait in a long line overnight in order to simply walk in when I arrived.
After my friend cursed at me by text when I told her what had just happened, I took a selfie with the clock on the Main Street Train Station behind me, posted it to Instagram as a way to tell my unsuspecting friends and followers “Good morning from Disneyland”, and then headed onto Main Street, USA where I found hundreds of guests already there. There was a long line for the Emporium where folks told me it was so they’d have first dibs to buy collectible 60th anniversary merchandise, and the rest of the people had bottlenecked themselves on the Main Street, USA straightaway, the hub area naturally stopped because the rest of the park wasn’t open yet. An emcee somewhere at the hub area could be heard over the area speakers deejaying music (Toni Basil’s “Mickey” was among the songs played) to keep the crowd pumped and excited while waiting for the official opening at 6am into the rest of the park.
My friend and her friends joined me in that crowd only about twenty minutes later, and together we strategized what we’d do as soon as the park opened. My only significant goal of the day was to snag myself one of the limited edition Disneyland 60th Anniversary commemorative Star Wars figures, R2-D60, from the Star Trader store in Tomorrowland. My friends? They wanted to find a restroom without a long line. So our plan was made. We’d go together to Tomorrowland, but I'd split off to get in the anticipated long line at the store while they continuing on to the restrooms back by Autopia. Then, we’d meet up whenever I’d (hopefully) get my hands on my action figure.
After a countdown to 5:55am (yeah, five minutes early), the park was officially open. By the time I got my R2-D60 figure, I was waiting for them at one of the tables at Tomorrowland Terrace when they got out of the restrooms. Ha! There was no line at the Star Trader; it definitely paid for me to get there early. Thus the rest of my day was cake! A great start to a pretty fun and rather drama-free day at the 2015 Disneyland Diamond Celebration event.
OBSERVATIONS FROM MY FIRST 12 HOURS AT DISNEYLAND
From where we were at Tomorrowland Terrace, we thought the line for the Matterhorn Bobsleds was short and moving pretty fast. It was the attraction’s first day of public operation since closing for a few months to receive some enhancements. So we decided that would be the first ride we’d do there. We went in search of the end of the line. We discovered it was at it’s a small world. Nope, Matterhorn Bobsleds would not be our first ride of the day.
I’d stopped by Carl’s Jr. on the way to Disneyland that morning where I was disappointed to learn that breakfast menu items weren’t served until 6am. So it was a Famous Star combo for breakfast for me earlier, while I just kept my friends company as they enjoyed their breakfast at Tomorrowland Terrace. It was a good decision on their part to have breakfast now. When they ordered breakfast, the lines were short. Over the next few hours walking throughout the park, we noticed uncommonly long lines were commonplace today for any place that sold new merchandise and food.
Popcorn stands had long lines because debuting this week were new popcorn buckets shaped as Mickey Mouse head-shaped balloons, gold-filled mine train chests, and Han Solo in carbonite. New plastic Disneyland steins also debuted, at Edelweiss Snacks and Village Haus that we'd heard. Never mind that these were not limited edition items and would continue to be sold after today. Fans and collectors wanted them today, including pathetically me as I joined my fellow Disneyland annual passholder friends in line to have our own new Disneyland stein.
And besides being a place to have breakfast, restaurants also offered new food items just for the day. The most surprising line was found at the Jolly Holiday Bakery which extended all the way to the entrance of the Enchanted Tiki Room! We’re guessing part of the reason for that were the new Disneyland 60th commemorative cupcakes only available during the 24-hour event, while supplies lasted.
For the next several hours traveling throughout most of the park, we never really encountered major crowding. We did notice the crowds grow as the day progressed, but even by 3pm, it was bustling but not as bad as we regular park visitors had seen it on other days where it could be shoulder-to-shoulder over the summer or the holidays. It was around that time that a friend I’d planned to meet later that day texted me to let me know she was on the road and on her way. She was taking her son and his friends to DCA for the day but hadn’t gotten their tickets yet. Coincidentally I’d also learned then from inside the park that Disneyland had already closed their entrance because it had reached capacity. This was expected, as it had happened every other time they’d held a 24-hour event. But this year's closing happened earlier than ever that I could recall.
To make sure my friend’s drive there wouldn't turn out to be a mistake, I checked with several cast members on how busy DCA was and if tickets were still sold for that park. At that time, I really couldn’t get a confident answer, so I went to Disneyland’s entrance to look through the gates and see what was happening in the esplanade plaza. Ropes were set up around the entrance to Disneyland, with cast members and security (with dogs) stationed around them to keep park guests away from approaching the turnstiles. Disneyland was closed and no one appeared to be allowed to come in. Meanwhile, the lines into DCA were pretty long. Obviously folks coming in at that time had no other choice of park to enter but that one when they got there. It was between 4:00 and 4:30 when I heard a cast member tell another cast member I was questioning that “DCA never reaches level 1”, which from the tone suggested I shouldn’t worry about DCA ever closing today because of crowds or reaching capacity.
Boy, was that guy wrong.
OBSERVATIONS FROM MY LAST 12 HOURS AT DISNEYLAND. ACTUALLY AT DCA
A consequence I always encounter when I’m at the park and it’s reached capacity is that the cellphone signal sucks. So getting texts and phone calls from my friend who was on her way were intermittent or static-y. When I finally got texts and was able to figure out she’d actually gotten to park and was on her way to getting in line to buy their tickets, the lines into DCA were much shorter while Disneyland was finally letting guests who’d already been in the park re-enter, with a long line of first-timers to the resort waiting outside the esplanade for their chance whenever it came. (I think I'd learned later on that Disneyland didn't open for those folks until some time around midnight.)
I met my new arrival friends near the Tower of Terror around 4:30p which coincidentally meant I’d been on Disneyland property for over 12 hours by then. We watched the Pixar Play Parade before heading to get bread bowls for dinner at Pacific Wharf.
My original plan for the day was to leave the parks that evening to join another friend for drinks in Culver City. And I hadn’t seriously considered the option available to me of returning to the parks afterward and be back inside the parks before they closed at 6am Saturday morning. I’d already experienced being in the parks - well, in Disneyland - on past 24-hour events when it ended. So today’s unique experience to be there at opening had been accomplished. There was nothing else on my checklist for the day to check off.
But long story short, I promised my friend at DCA that I would return later to the parks from Culver City to keep her company. They also hadn't planned to stay through to 6am, so their driver (it wasn't my friend) wasn't able to commit to staying that long either. So my promise to return was also a guarantee to be their ride too just in case. I subsequently received texts from my other friend and her plans weren’t working out as she had planned either. And our plans to get together consequently diminished.
Little did I realize that starting my day at Disneyland would lead to spending my entire day there – all 24 hours of it, and then some - after all.
After dinner, my friend and I exited the park to the Grand Californian Hotel while her son and his friends enjoyed DCA on their own. My friend wanted to hang out at the hotel to discretely “rest up” there for an hour or two in preparation for potentially staying through to 6am. So I left her there and returned to DCA to do some exploring on my own. I’d never been to DCA at all on my previous 24-hour visits, so this was the perfect opportunity to see what it was like at this park.
It was around 7:30pm and I texted to see if my other friends were still inside Disneyland. They were and Disneyland was still closed to new guests. Shortly after texting them, they texted back saying they’d heard that now DCA was closed. I had just re-entered DCA so I was originally skeptical when I heard that. I decide to walk to DCA’s main entrance and check it out for myself. At 8pm, DCA was still letting guests in. But at 9:30pm, I got a text from my friend at the Grand Cal saying she wasn’t allowed re-entry into the park.
DCA had reached capacity. For the first time that I had ever heard of. Wow. And now, both parks were closed off during operating hours for the first time too.
My midnight, she was finally allowed to re-enter. It was at that time that I realized how crowded the park had suddenly gotten. I went back to the main entrance and saw they were finally letting people in. Pour in actually! So I texted my friend at the Grand Cal about it, and she was allowed back into DCA shortly thereafter.
I was in line at Award Wieners when I found out she was back inside. Just as it was at Disneyland earlier, the lines for food in DCA were long all evening too, and it took me twenty minutes in my line to reach the counter and order “The Insomniac”, a bacon, egg and sausage dog crafted just for tonight. I took it and a cup of black coffee (one of four cups I used that morning to help me stay awake) with me to Corn Dog Castle where I found my friend in an even longer line to buy herself a corn dog.
It was almost 2am when we both finished our midnight snacks. We planned to hit some rides before viewing the 3am World of Color – Celebrate! water show, another attraction making its public debut today. The new fireworks show Disneyland Forever was the third new show, and it was debuting in Disneyland. But on our way to Cars Land, I checked with a cast member about line up for World of Color and he informed me that Fastpasses were needed. When I checked earlier, the World of Color Fastpass machines were down for the evening, so I assumed the first and final show of the night would just be completely standby. But he told me Fastpasses were all dispensed that morning. Wow!
He pointed out where the non-Fastpass holder sections were, and we decided to skip Radiator Springs Racers (which closed at 3am that night, so seeing World of Color meant sacrificing doing that ride) and instead squated for an hour in front of Ariel's Undersea Adventure to see the new show.
The show is wonderful!!! I’ve seen past versions of World of Color, which seemed to me like a lot of individual vignettes showcasing a Disney movie or Disney theme and stringing them one right after another. This time it seems they took what they’ve learned technically to produce the magic here, added some more technical magic, and crafted a story and experience that flowed organically from one to the next using the effects available to them. The show was also more nuanced and restrained from past shows, not always having each part of the story ending with a dramatic, earth-shattering crescendo. My friend and I both loved it!
It was around 3:30am by now and I’d like to make one comment about the weather for the day. In my haste to join my friend in line the morning before, I forgot to grab my light jacket from my car. As it turned out, I didn’t need it (much). The weather the entire time was in the mid 50’s to mid 60s, often cloudy, briefly sunny at times, but for the most part never cold enough that I “needed” to buy a sweatshirt or jacket from the park in order to survive the overnight comfortably. (Sorry, Disney.)
Sitting on concrete before the World of Color – Celebrate! show for twenty minutes and deciding to stand for another forty took its toll on our aging bodies, so after the show we rested for a while at Paradise Gardens. We didn’t leave there until 4:30a, deciding all that remained on our checklist for the night was a ride on Soarin’, a visit to Ghirardelli, and a stop in a shop on Buena Vista Street for some final shopping.
Ah, the best laid plans. The wait time for Soarin’ was one hour. Pass. And walking to Soarin’ meant we’d walked ourselves way too far to enjoy the walk all the way back to where Ghirardelli was at the Pacific Wharf area. Pass number two. Instead with just another hour left in our day (and thoughts of going to bed becoming a prized idea), we spent the rest of our time at Buena Vista Street, where we’d be close to the exit when it was time to leave.
THE HAPPY ENDING
Sitting at a table outside the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Café, where it wasn’t very crowded at all, we watched the morning sky behind the Carthay Circle Restaurant slowly then dramatically change from a dark grey to a beautiful morning blue obscured by white clouds.
At nearly 6am, Chip ‘n’ Dale arrived on the scene, dressed in their PJs, at the water fountain escorted by a cast member. In previous years, I’d witnessed how Disneyland ended their 24-hour day by bringing out Mickey and his friends at Main Street Train Station wearing their pajamas too to wave us all goodbye as we left the park. So this pair’s arrival in the same fashion was no less thrilling, to me and the crowds in the area. Them waving goodbye at us from a short distance (a low planter and the cast member escort kept us from walking right up to them) dramatically signaled the end of the event.
Not only that, but after a brief, recorded announcement played right at 6am congratulating us for making it to that point, whoops and hollers and cheers erupted from the guests all there! Then, we discovered a line of DCA’s cast members, most wearing various versions of Mickey gloves, standing near the exit waiting to high five us on our way out. My friend and I immediately joined the line of other guests that formed, and we each high fived every cast member there as we passed them, a really fun and for this smaller park with less employees there, more intimate conclusion to reaching the end of my full day at the resort.
I had a really good time! And I benefited greatly by having two sets of friends to share the time with, over two different "shifts", to keep it fun and always interesting. Thanks to Jessica, Kathy, Wayne, Scott, Celia, Kyle, Alex, Melissa and Helena.
I think I may actually try to do all 24 hours again if Disneyland tries this again next year!
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed this.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!