Summer Fun & Games - and "bits" & "jujus" - at Disneyland: "Legends of Frontierland" and "Adventure Trading Company"
When the Disney Parks Blog announced in July that "a new merchant is opening soon for a limited engagement beginning August 1", this was after Disneyland had already debuted "Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush!", an interactive experience where park guests are encouraged to participate in a role-playing game (RPG) to collect rewards, earn "bits" and choose sides in a land feud between Frontierland and Rainbow Ridge. A friend and I played it for about an hour the week it debuted.
Adopting the alias "Sasparilla Joe", I was stunned to find my game name on a wanted poster only a half hour later. Arrested by the local "law" (who were cast members in on the game), I got to duel for my freedom with the fellow Disneyland guest who turned me in. After my successful shootout, which was a round of rowshambo or Rock-Paper-Scissors, I was earned bits in the amount of the reward written on my wanted poster. I could continue playing to earn more bits and buy land in Frontierland or Rainbow Ridge with it.
I enjoyed the RPG, but I couldn't see myself spending too many hours at the park playing this. It was fun updating friends on Instagram during the game. I've shared some of those pictures below.
Now back to that new merchant post I first mentioned.
So when the Adventure Trading Company set up shop inside the Indiana Jones Outpost store in Adventureland, I thought it might be another RPG and ignored it for the first few weeks. However, when the Disney Parks Blog savvily updated that the final shipments of Jujus were soon arriving to the park, the idea that I would miss getting even one of them to own at least piqued my collector-itch enough to give it some more attention.
I discovered a great, informative article about the Adventureland experience on MiceChat which explained that nine "jujus", which were small, colorful totems one a leather, beaded loop, were available to purchase for either $5 or $7.50. Three required nothing more than outright buying them, but the rest involved receiving a game sheet of some sort with your initial purchase that provided instructions on how to ultimately receive your selected Juju. The activities ranged from looking for items around the park, taking specific pictures, calling a special phone number, and telling a joke at the Jungle Cruise exit.
The idea of spending over $50 to get them all was a turn off for me right from the start. Seeing pictures of them, I didn't think they were worth that to get them all. I admit I also didn't want to work all that hard and think of a joke to tell either. So after reading the last blog and MiceChat article, I decided to invest in getting just three Jujus, two of which involved food (natch!) and one that would allow me to experience one of the quest activities.
The pineapple Juju was my first and the easiest to get and just about provided The Most Pleasure of all the Jujus I collected. I just had to go the Tropical Imports fruit stand in Adventureland and buy a new food item, a "This Side Up" Pineapple Parfait. The Juju was packaged with it. $7.50 later, first Juju collected.
The parfait was DELICIOUS! I hope Disneyland plans to continue offering them here after this experience concludes.
The other two Jujus I sought out were the eye of Mara Juju, because - duh! - Indiana Jones, and the tiki mask one, because it involved going to Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel to enjoy a new drink! When I asked for these two Jujus at the Outpost, I was given two envelopes containing materials I had to work out in order to earn them. I paid $5 for the Mara quest but was given an envelope for the tiki mask juju for free. I'd pay the $7.50 for that Juju when I made my way to Trader Sam's and finally ordered the drink.
The eye of Mara quest packet included a line drawing of a map of Adventureland with a space in the lower right corner to do a rubbing from a tablet I needed to find in the land. Honestly, I had a hard time finding the tablet. I didn't find it until I saw other players hover around a spot near the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction and realized "There it was!" Turns out the tablet has a code on it. It's the same code to decipher the messages written on the walls of the Indiana Jones Adventure queue line. Disney fans know it as Mara Font or Mara's Eye Font. I used it to decipher the message written on my map, which asked me to find another tablet in Adventureland, which I found and decipher the coded message on it, which provided the answer to a question I was asked back at the Outpost when I returned there to earn my Mara juju.
It was more elaborate than I expected, but definitely doable without much frustration. It was fun and definitely in the vibe of an Indiana Jones type of adventure. A worthy exercise to earn an Indiana Jones totem!
Finally it was time to work out what I needed to do to earn my third Juju. I needed to find three icons that were displayed around Adventureland. These icons were new to the land and on crates that blended it with the look of Adventureland but still stand out. I found the first one at the Jungle Cruise exit fairly quickly. A friend who joined me later helped to figure out that the second one had to be near the Enchanted Tiki Room, and we found that one easily too. Then we both figured the final one had to be near where Indiana Jones is prominently displayed. This one took a while to find for us, but I finally found it when I looked through a Cast Member's legs! She was inside the Indiana Jones Outpost standing in front of some crates which had the icon stamped on it.
Finding all three icons, I wrote down the phrases that were printed next to them on the crates, which according to my quest sheet were the three ingredients needed to make JuJuJuice, the drink I could only order at Trader Sam's.
Trader Sam's was busy when I got there. No seats were available at the bar and waitresses were busy clearing off tables as guests were finally leaving them. I found a small table to sit at, but it took a while for me to get some service. But finally I did and I ordered my JujuJuice. She asked for my quest sheet to confirm that I indeed found the correct three missing ingredients. Then shortly thereafter, I got my third and final Juju of the day. It also came with a button. The JuJuJuice was tasty, but man, way too much ice!
So, having completed what I set out to do today, I was very happy and had a lotta fun while collecting them. During the day, I posted these pictures on Instagram and heard back from some Disney fan friends asking me what they were all about. I explained what I had learned about them and most importantly, that the supplies were apparently limited. That got some of them to start playing and collecting immediately. A few days later I met some of them who showed me what they were picking up.
I now got to see some of the other Jujus that I didn't pick up. What I haven't mentioned before is that these Jujus look and feel really nice in person. They're well designed, detailed and painted. They're cool! And I didn't realize that was the case when I initially just saw pictures of them.
And that's when my downfall began.
As I saw my friends' Jujus and how they were getting excited at the prospect of collecting them all, my collector instinct kicked in again. Damn.
And I could feel the urge to deposit more money into the Bank of Disneyland but quick!
Deciding to give in and grab a few more, I spread my search for the remaining six Jujus over the next two days. I played this inner monologue game with myself that by getting three Jujus one day and then holding off on the final three the day after, maybe some will have run out and then I can save some money. It was silly really, and they didn't sell out. So I ended up spending a total of $53.50 to acquire all nine Jujus.
Oddly enough, from the start, the one Juju quest I was least excited about participating in was the one that turned out to be one of the most fun to do. To earn the piranhahaha Juju, I had to tell a joke to a Jungle Cruise cast member. Despite being an actor, it's not necessarily fun or easy for me to be an extrovert on call. Add to that, of all the jokes I've been told, I never ever remember them. So I had to come up with one. And I did. And I thought it was pretty darn good too! It was appropriately Jungle Cruise-y, included a piranha, and the Cast Member I told it too really enjoyed it!
So having collected the set, I thought I was done. Then, a friend let me know that the park was secretly offering a tenth mystery Juju. Last year at D23 Expo, this Juju experience was originally beta-tested with the attendees there, and they earned a skull Juju. My friend said this was the mystery Juju and that I needed to follow Disneyland on Twitter to learn when adventurers were called to earn this bonus one.
Well, it was in the last two weeks of August that I collected mine, and I hadn't noticed any tweets from Disneyland about a special quest in that time. But Disney Parks Blog again comes to the rescue! In their last post about the activity, they told folks that there was an opportunity to earn a "special mystery Juju" on Friday, August 31!
I am so there!
But so were hundreds of others! When I got there in the morning, there was a line stretched from the Outpost all the way down through Adventureland, out of Adventureland and just across the entrance of the Enchanted Tiki Room. My first thought was, "This is insane!" My second was, "Damn ebayers!"
Seeing that line, all the past fun I enjoyed collecting the first nine Jujus became a distant memory. Now it was work because I had to wait in an hour long line to pay for an envelope and then wait in a second long line to fulfill an activity to receive the Juju. And I learned this limited edition Juju was available to anyone. No need to have purchased any previous Juju.
Taking a deep breath now.
So I waited an hour or two before getting in the line. When I got in it, the end of the line ended at just the Adventureland Bazaar, and my wait in line only lasted twenty minutes. For my five bucks, I got an envelope containing instructions on the outside and a sheet of paper inside.
The second line queued into Aladdin's Oasis. Looking into the area from the entrance, I could see several lines of cord strung all around the inside patio with scores of these sheets clipped onto them. Seems like Disney marketing found a clever way to collect data about this experience from all its participants. I also saw Cast Members inside, some just talking with guests, others interviewing them on camera.
On my sheet, I chose the "illustrate" option mentioned in the instructions and did a sketch of my adventure collecting every Juju on this August journey.
I waited for this line to die down too before finally getting in it. I asked a Cast Member how long the experience inside would last and I was told it'd take no more than 10-15 minutes.
When I got in, I was among a small group of eight joining two Cast Members who asked us to tell the stories we'd written down...but with a twist. As one started to tell his/her story, the next person had to segue their story at the end of the previous one. It was fun listening to some of the park guests get really into it creating original stories. When it was my turn about midway through our group, I showed them I'd just drawn a picture. But as a way to have me tell a story, she suggested I tell my joke. I was happy to, and everyone liked it -- tho' not as much as that Cast Member I first told it to.
After the final story was told, we turned in our cards and each received our skull Juju.
I later spoke to another friend who claimed his skull Juju that afternoon. His experience to earn his was different than mine. He had to also tell a story, but his group also had to decipher a message displayed before them. The message needed to be decoded using the Mara Font again. In addition, everyone in his group scored a treat that I really wanted to have again. They each got free mini cups of the "This Side Up" Pineapple Parfait. DAY-UM!! Color me jealous.
So there you go. I got a few bits and a whole lotta Jujus from Disneyland this summer. Despite the crazy long line that put a big drag on what had been a lot of great, impulse fun previously (and smacking of just giving eBay businesses an easy way to make great profits for a few hours' time while robbing folks who want one for themselves the cheaper $5 way), I had a lot more fun collecting the Jujus than I ever expected.
I hope Disney does this again. I hope if they offer another bonus Juju, that they ask for proof of getting the previous Jujus first. And I really, really hope the "This Side Up" Pineapple Parfait becomes a regular item they sell at Tropical Imports or elsewhere in Disneyland!
You can see a few more pictures from my hunt on Instagram.
Disney geeks know that July 17 is Disneyland's birthday. It's the day in 1955 that Walt Disney officially opened his theme park to park guests in attendance and those watching a live television broadcast.
For this year's 59th park birthday, I won passes from Disney Parks Blog to attend "...a sneak peek at some of what’s in store for the resort’s 60th anniversary celebration next year." While many Disney fan and news sites speculated about what would be announced, as it turned out the sneak peek was simply the introduction of a new diamond-themed logo and the announcement of a photo contest granting its winner and guests a trip to Disneyland. Those websites were disappointed, but I wasn't.
I would've gone to Disneyland on this day anyway, regardless of winning passes from the Blog. As a Premium annual passholder, I can go in anytime! But attending as guests of Disney Parks Blog definitely had its privileges, as my friend and I joined other Blog guests in receiving complimentary 1-day park hoppers; Blue section World of Color FASTPASSes; exclusive upfront viewing for the park's 59th birthday celebration; an exclusive reception with refreshments and photo ops with Disney characters; and a couple of amazing keepsake gifts!
We arrived early on July 17th to the park to check in at one of the ticket booths. After showing my ID, we had wristbands put on us and received the passes, voucher and schedule shown in the photo above. Getting park hoppers caught me off-guard. For some odd reason, I had assumed this event was exclusive to annual passholders. But I was wrong. It was open to all Disney Parks Blog readers, who aren't necessarily passholders or if they were, might've been blocked out today. Curse my snobby privileged AP mentality! (This is where a smiley face with a tongue sticking out would go. But this blog isn't a text, is it.)
At the park entrance, one turnstile at the far left was marked for "Special Guests". We entered through there and was asked to stand to one side to wait for a Cast Member to escort us into the park. We didn't wait at all as one arrived at that moment and walked us through the berm tunnel into the town center, where we could see park guests already crowding in the space in front of City Hall. The pathway onto the street was clear tho', because it was roped off. But as we approached with our escort, a Cast Member there unhooked the rope to allow us in. We were told we could stand in one of two taped off areas on the street and sidewalk.
To be honest, I was a little confused at this point. I didn't know what we were going to be seeing today and how it would be presented. So having the whole unexpected VIP treatment upon arrival and being escorted to a taped off area on Main Street was kind of surreal. But once we saw the new 59th birthday display set up on the top steps of Main Street Station (that's the photo at the top of this blog), the pieces started to come together in my head. The entire street along the front of Main Street Station was roped off and regular park guests were filling up in street areas around us and behind the flag pole, saving their spots to see the 10am celebration. We, as it turned out, were gonna see it from the front row.
Well played, Disney Parks Blog!
Over the course of the hour we had to wait for the event that this week's Entertainment Times Guide called "Celebrating Disneyland's 59th Anniversary", my friend and I took pictures around the area and chatted a bit with the other guests that we stood with. Noticing a red carpet behind us with a microphone standing on it, we started speculating what it was for. Someone next to us said it represents the spot where Walt Disney stood when he gave his dedication speech. A Cast Member overhearing us added that we should return here later at 2:30 p.m. to hear the speech played at that time.
Finally, the event started on time at 10 a.m. as the Mayor of Disneyland arrived at the podium to begin the festivities. He introduced the Dapper Dans and, for this performance, their piano accompanist to perform a number of signature Disneyland songs including "The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room" and "It's a Small World". Their five-song set got the crowd warmed up and in great spirits! Then, the mayor returned to briefly speak a bit about the success of Walt's theme park before welcoming 59 Disney characters and park Cast Members who entered town center and scattered themselves on and around Main Street Station for the next part of the celebration, leading the park guests in singing "Happy Birthday".
After that, the Mayor of Disneyland unveiled a new logo for Disneyland's 60th Diamond Anniversary with a flourish of white doves. And then the ceremony closed with the 59 Disney characters and Cast Members dancing to an upbeat version of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" that's been performed at past park birthday celebrations. I gotta say, overall it was a fun fifteen minutes. And having front row privileges really made it that much better.
Afterwards, after chatting with some very jealous friends who were at the park too and found me after the ropes dropped at the end of the show, it was off to the Opera House where we would learn what this reception thing was all about. Our wristbands were again our exclusive pass to get in, and once inside we found the front exhibit area crowded with guests. There were also refreshments found for the taking: ice water, lemonade, and three flavors of cupcakes. Cast Members were everywhere to help with clearing trash off the tops of a few tall tables that were set up here and there and to replenish the drinks and cupcake trays when they were empty. Looking over the crowd, towards the back area where the entrance to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is, we saw lines going around the Capitol building model ending in photo ops with Elsa, Anna, Mickey and Minnie. I'm not usually one to make any effort to get my picture taken with a Disney character, but knowing how much of a grind it is these days to get pictures with the popular queen and princess from "Frozen" at the park these days, I felt I couldn't pass up this opportunity. I mean, now I can tell my friends I got my picture with Elsa and Anna and didn't have to wait three hours in line to get it! (If this blog were a text, this is where a smiley face with a huge grin would go.)
After my cupcake, lemonade and pictures with Disney royalty were taken, it was time to head out. Earlier while we were waiting in line for our photo ops, I received a text from my friends outside.
"We know what your gift is! Awesome wish we could have gotten one."
My friend had seen large boxes on a tray near the entrance when we walked in but didn't see what was inside. Now it was time to find out.
As we rounded the corner to exit, we were greeted by a very dramatic scene. There were indeed gentlemen carrying trays near the entrance/exit, and the opening past them that normally led to the Mad Hatter store was now curtained off with displays set up inside. We walked up to the gentlemen and one of them asked for our gift vouchers. Handing them to him, we each received a bagged cookie with the new Disneyland 60 Diamond Celebration logo printed on it. Then we continued into the new display area, which felt a little like a jeweler's shop, where another Cast Member handed each of us a blue box with the same new logo printed in silver on top. He opened it to show me what was inside and that's when my jaw hit the floor.
It was a large, beautiful crystal with the Disneyland 60 logo etched on top. I didn't realize until I got to my car later and my friend pulled it out of the box, that the crystal is in the shape of a diamond! We also received a Disneyland coupon book filled with actual FASTPASSes that we could use in both parks today only. The Cast Member explained that there was a colored ticket on top and a matching white duplicate ticket underneath each colored ticket. The duplicate is the one we could show at any attraction today to use as a FASTPASS. That way, if any were used, the colored tickets would still remain to give the coupon book its original appearance. Of course, you know what I was thinking when my brain managed to understand what he was saying as I was still working to pick my jaw up off the ground. That there was NO WAY I was gonna violate this sweet new Disney collectible by tearing any pages from it! Silly Disney Cast Member.
Dazed and thrilled, we left the Opera House feeling euphoric over the gifts we received and the great, great time we were enjoying today, all compliments of Disney Parks Blog.
There was only one hiccup to our otherwise exceptional day.
We decided to hang out until 2:30 p.m. so we could enjoy Walt's speech then as we were told by that Cast Member. We spent our time in between having lunch at the French Market, enjoying jazz music by the Royal Street Bachelors, and uploading our day's pictures to Instagram.
At around two, we started heading back to Main Street, U.S.A. Halfway down I realized we hadn't heard any announcements overhead stating the Walt Disney speech would be played soon. Then I remembered the traditional time his speech is replayed is 4:45 p.m. So why 2:30 p.m. today? Then I realized we had already heard the speech. It was played during this morning's birthday celebration.
I went to City Hall to ask about it again. It was now 2:20 p.m. But a Cast Member there also said it would happen at 2:30 p.m. So my friend and I waited.
There was a small gathering of guests including a few we recognized from standing with them this morning at the celebration. Mickey Mouse came out, but only to pose for pictures by the flag pole and sign autographs. Now why is Mickey signing autographs? Shouldn't he be part of the Walt Disney speech event?
After twenty minutes we finally gave up. It was the only downer, but only moderately so, to what was otherwise an incredibly - yep - magical day. But even if it somehow had turned out to be a lame, boring day, we were still cognizant of the fact that we were leaving the park with diamonds!
You can see the rest of the pictures I posted that day over on Instagram and also see those plus a few extras all embiggened in a new gallery I have on Flickr.
Looking forward to Disneyland's 60th!
On May 27, word was released of a great disturbance in the Force...
...in the world of Disney running events.
So. Disney announces a Star Wars Half Marathon. Crazy! And this, just three months after announcing another new running event at Disneyland for their Marvel Comics property, the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon.
Since 1994, Disney has hosted running events in Florida over at Walt Disney World. They now include the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend every January, the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend every February, the Expedition Everest Challenge every May, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend every October, and the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend every November.
It wasn't until 2005 that the west coast would finally host their own runDisney event when the "Happiest Race on Earth" would take place during the inaugural Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend in mid-September 2006 (before moving up a couple of weeks to Labor Day Weekend thereafter). Eight years later, the west coast is now also home to the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend (originally a January event, the next one is scheduled for May) and the aforementioned Avengers (November) and Star Wars (January) runs. Disneyland is quickly catching up to Walt Disney World!
I'm not a runner. Not a fan of it at all. And the idea of paying to go running, especially to run just over 13 fricken miles, sounded stupid!
But by then, I'd been visiting Disneyland using my annual pass for seven straight years and in that time, I'd become a bonafide Disney geek. So when the idea of earning a hunk of medal with "Disneyland" stamped on it came up, "stupid" quickly evolved into "sucker"! I registered for the first year and then, followed up doing the next four.
The first one was truly magical. The first eight miles was work, and I didn't enjoy it. But as I headed back towards the park from Angel Stadium and finally saw the back entrance of DCA on Harbor Boulevard, tears of joy welled up in my eyes. "Damn, I'm actually going to finish this!"
The four half marathons that followed became routine affairs. Like the first, I'd only be able to run during the first six to seven miles before my calves would cramp up. I'd have to walk the rest of the distance, but I always completed the runs within the required 16-minute mile pace.
After earning my fifth straight Disneyland Half Marathon medal - which I did by refusing to run at all and walking the entire distance and still within the required pace, I was DONE with running. I proclaimed to myself and my friends, "No more running for me!" Another motivating factor was that the fee to register increased every year. $90 for the first one was fine. Approaching $140 by the fifth one, and for me, this was no longer worth it after this.
When the Tinker Bell event was announced in 2011, I felt a little hook to do the run, since Tink is one of my favorite Disney characters. But the distaste for running half marathons was still fresh on my mind, so I quickly brushed off that desire. And as a comic book fan, I'm more a DC Comics guy than Marvel. So when the Avengers event was announced earlier this year in March, that was an easy one to ignore. By the time this Star Wars one popped up, I was like, "Meh."
But then a bunch of my friends registered during the early Annual Passholder sign up period. And I started to feel a little envious. I mean, I've designed Star Wars toys and even been to Skywalker Ranch more than a few times. Could I really let this Star Wars event, happening in my own backyard, pass by without being involved in it?
Flash forward to a week ago Monday. I was reading MousePlanet's weekly Disneyland Update which shared tips on getting signed up for the different Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend events - 200m dash, 5k, 10k, Half, and Rebel Challenge - to make registering for any one of them easier when registration opened the next morning. They also claimed it would sell out very quickly, which sounded totally legitimate. Reading over their strategies, I started "role-playing" in my mind, mulling over "What if I did...?" scenarios. I looked up the event page. And studied.
Before going to bed Monday night I talked myself into wanting a medal with "Star Wars" on it, dagnabbit! But I decided to cut myself a break and do the light and easy 5k. However, by Tuesday morning, I decided I'd rather have cold hard metal rather than the plastic medallion normally handed out for Disney 5k events. So by 8:59a, a minute before registration opened worldwide, I firmly decided it was the 10k for me!
At 9:00a, after some bizarre-ness reaching the proper page of race options (thousands of Jedi and Sith hitting the website at the same time might've had something to do with that), I finally got in...AND THERE WAS NO 10K OPTION LISTED.
Considering how I'd only worked out wanting to register for one of the running events in just the last twelve hours and decided on registering specifically for the 10k in only the last thirty minutes, I thought the omission was hilarious! For the next few minutes, I went back to the home page and clicked the proper link several times, only to continue getting options for all the other races but the 10k.
I went to runDisney's Facebook page and was relieved to find others couldn't see it either. Several minutes after 9, someone posted that runDisney was looking into the 10k dilemna.
With nothing else to do, back to the event website I went and continued to click the 10k option. Finally, by 9:18a the 10k race was finally added to the options. Ready, set, GO!
So, eventually...and eventfully, I'm in, and before all slots for the weekend sold out in the first two hours. Happy Ending. Cue Return of the Jedi celebratory music here. Not the new age-y stuff from the 1997 Special Edition, the "yub nub" chant from the original 1983 release.
I took pictures before, during and after each of my Disneyland Half Marathons. I posted the ones from three of the events on Flickr. The set from 2006 is posted here, the set from 2008 is here and for 2009 here. But of course, the 10k course won't need to take me as far as Angel Stadium. Instead it sounds like, after running through the parks, I'm heading north up Anaheim Boulevard for a short spell before making my way back to the parks to finish the run. Snapping a new set of shots during the 10k - which I plan to mostly walk the entire time - will be fun.
And for those of you who successfully registered for the weekend as well, may the Force be with us all...
A few months ago, I started ruminating about what I might do for a Christmas card illustration this year. Just as I do when brainstorming any creative project, I kept my eyes open wherever I went. You never know when you might come across something that might inspire some ideas, things that might cause you to ponder "What if...?".
Hanging in my living room for several years is a piece of shadowbox artwork that I treasure. I bought it from the Disneyana store on Main Street USA at Disneyland. It's by Dave Avanzino and for years his work has been featured at the park, cleverly crafting these framed words and messages from iconic elements inspired by things Disney and Disneyland.
While admiring one of Avanzino's latest pieces on a recent visit to the Disneyana store, the notion came to me to adopt his brilliant idea for my holiday art. Soon after, I started building my word collage. It was going very well. And this was back in October. So on top of the phrase art looking good, I also got excited that I might actually get this year's art done WAY early!
I wanted to highlight several noteworthy events from the past year in my design.
Taking Avanzino's cue, I spelled out my holiday message with letters lifted from visual elements related to those events.
While I was pretty happy with this part, I wasn't with the background. I was also hoping to do something even more creative than just delivering a plainly printed card. So I ended up taking a break on it, hoping that coming back to it in a few days would give me fresh eyes on my project. Those "few days" ended up lasting for over a month as I had a trip to Florida coming up, Thanksgiving weekend, freelance work and other distractions.
But when I finally came back to it in mid-December, it took me just a few hours to not only design a background but also design the rest of the actual Christmas card, which became another pop-up design. At the end of this blog is the final result.
But leading up to that, I've provided explanations for what each of the characterized letters represents from moments of my past year with some extra photos and links if you want to learn more.
M from "Musical"
On May 19, my team, "Naboombu All-Stars", won First Place in MousePlanet's latest scavenger hunt game, MouseAdventure Musical, which took place at the Disneyland Resort. It was also our second time earning the top spot. You can read all about this event in MousePlanet.com's Recap. And my history playing MouseAdventure is summarized in this blog.
A backwards "3" from the Club 33 logo
On June 23, through the generosity of a friend, we later celebrated our win with a celebratory lunch at Disneyland's VIP restaurant Club 33. My pictures from Club 33 are posted on Flickr.
R from "Treasures"
On February 9, my Naboombu All-Star friends and I traveled to Ojai to tour the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit on display at the Ronald Reagan Library. I enjoyed both the Disney exhibit and the Reagan tour. My pictures from the visit are also posted on Flickr.
R from "Ordinary"
Running September 6 through September 29 was a heart-warming production of the musical "Ordinary Days". My friends produced, staged, directed and performed in it to rave reviews, among them from The Hollywood Reporter, NoHoArtsDistrict.com and The Tolucan Times. I was surprised and honored to be asked to design their set. Below are two concept drawings I produced followed by a shot of how the final set turned out.
Y from "Willy"
Running August 3 through August 17 was Torrance Theatre Company's summer musical production of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka. And in it, I had the good fortune and fun to play reporter Phineous Trout. Below are shots from the production. And if you hadn't read it before, don't miss my blog about the pop-up Golden Ticket cards I designed and produced for the cast and crew.
C from "Capsule" in the logo I designed
On February 23, before earning our February MouseAdventure win, the Naboombu All-Stars created our first of three installments of our home-grown scavenger game for the year. Questacular - Time Capsule: 1973 is the quest we hosted for our friends, giving them another chance to get together and hate us and/or love us some more as they scavenged for clues and answers all afternoon and evening throughout Disneyland.
The other two quests we hosted were Summer Questacular: The Quest for the Truth played at Disney California Adventure and Questmas Cards back at Disneyland.
H from "Hollywood"
On March 26, I accomplished what most everyone who comes to Los Angeles wants to do someday. After 18 years living in LA, I finally hiked up to the Hollywood sign! I wrote about my adventure in a blog.
r from "Travelling" in the logo I designed
On the weekend of April 27-28, my Relay for Life team, Travelling Turtles/Friends of the Arts, participated in our fifth consecutive weekend walk to raise donations for and awareness of the American Cancer Society. And our team sported tee-shirts generously donated by Embroid Me with the artwork I produced. We'll be involved once again together in 2014, our sixth year together as a team.
I from "Iron"
On May 2, I joined my geek buddies and former toy company co-workers for one of several trips to the theatres this year. On this day, it was to watch "Iron Man 3" in IMAX 3D at Rave Motion Pictures.
S from the new Superman logo
On June 14, my geek buddies watched "Man of Steel" together in IMAX 3D at the decent screening time of 8pm on opening night again at Rave Motion Pictures.
T from "Thor"
On November 12, we headed to ArcLight Cinemas to watch "Thor: The Dark World" in 3D. (If you didn't already know, we love comic book super-heroes.)
M from "Men"
Running March 1 through March 30 was Torrance Theatre Company's production of "12 Angry Men" where I played Juror 6. Below is banner art I designed to promote our show, using a photo by Brad LaVerne.
A from "Castle"
I just love this show!
s from "Disney"
I hadn't been back to visit Walt Disney World in fifteen years. But MousePlanet also hosts MouseAdventures over there. And after playing together at Disneyland for a couple of years, my Naboombu All-Stars friends made sure we played in at least one of them over there! So off to Florida we went from November 13 to November 18, to play World Explorers V over that weekend. No other crazy way to visit all four parks for essentially the first time than while playing a timed scavenger hunt!! On this very first try playing there, we proudly placed 7th out of 39 teams. Here's the recap to read all about the quests we played and how we had to get our answers. And with a hundred less teams playing there than MouseAdventure at Disneyland, we also managed to get featured in a couple of candid shots in the recap.
At the end of Game Day #1, each team was given a blank Vinylmation Mickey and asked to decorate it and bring it with us at check in the next morning. That's when we learned that in the middle of Game Day #2, our goal was to travel throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort and take pictures of ourselves with it at as many locations specified on a provided list as we could reach within four hours. Traveling by monorail, tram, boat and in the last half hour, even running, we reached 19 spots out of 28. Here's a photo collage I layed out of all the locations we reached.
Of course, these weren't the only best and memorable moments from my year. There were others. These were just the ones that just found their way into this design. For each and every moment of fun, challenge and good fortune that has come my way, I am truly grateful.
And Happy New Year!
I hope you all enjoyed just as memorable and wonderful a year with your family and friends too!
Added December 27, 2013:
Here's how the pop-up snail mail version turned out.
As my friends know, I take pictures of my food. How and when did it start? A few years into owning my Disneyland Annual Pass. I'd run out of clever things to photograph in the park and one morning, I took that first photo of my plate of food.
To the left is that photo. Wow, I've really been doing this stupid thing for ten years!? It had more to do with sharing with (read, bragging to) friends how I was spending one weekend morning, chilling out on the patio at the River Belle Terrace enjoying a relaxing view of the Rivers of America.
Been taking pictures of my food ever since. Many of them have been uploaded to a gallery on Flickr. Uploading my latest batch, I scrolled through the lot of them and decided to share some of them in a new blog. I also just recently discovered something new at the park that's immediately became one of my new favorite things to order.
So here are my favorite things to eat at Disneyland. Descriptions are taken from AllEars.net's excellent Disneyland Resort Menus resource page that I recommend you bookmark on your smartphone.
Enjoy. And bon appetit!
Main Street USA
Penne Pasta with Shrimp
Pasta and Sauteed Shrimp with Broccoli and Mushrooms in a creamy Garlic Sauce. $17.99
I haven't been here much since it reopened last June, expanding into the former coffee shop next door. I used to come here for breakfast often with friends, often enjoying the friendly service of server Bob! But since its remodel, I've been here to try a delicious seasonal special and this pasta dish. At first I thought it was a special, but now it's on the menu. Good! I loved it!
Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner
Mac & Cheese Hot Dog
Featuring a Premium Hot Dog
Includes sliced apples or small bag of chips
Topped with bacon bits. $7.19
This was taken a few months before it was permanently added to their menu. I had attended an exclusive annual passholder event where we got to preview Mickey's Soundsational Parade before its debut to the general public, and this was among the unique new food items offered during event. I haven't had it since, but at least I know there's now a place I can order it if ever I get the whim.
Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe
Hot Angus Roast Beef on Toasted Onion Roll
Served with House Chips
Caramelized Onions, Horseradish Aioli and White Cheddar. $9.99
Another new place I really haven't visited often for meals. But the Jolly Holiday opened around the same time as the remodeled Carnation Cafe, offering an expanded place to get your mocha and latte plus bakery items. This was a year before Starbucks moved into the park, but it's still a busy place. And I remember really enjoying this generous roast beef sandwich and chips.
Plaza Inn Specialty Chicken
Three pieces of chicken, fried to a golden brown, seasoned with distinctive herbs and spices. Served with mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuit and mixture of vegetables. $13.99
Tasty, delicious fried chicken! Finish this and it's guaranteed you won't leave hungry.
Little Red Wagon
Hand-Dipped Corn Dog
With sliced apples or a small bag of chips. $6.69
There's often a long line at the Little Red Wagon next door to Plaza Inn, because the corn dogs at Disneyland are huge, battered in tasty corn meal, and deelish! You can also order corn dogs at the Stage Door Cafe in Frontierland. I've never ordered them there; it just seems traditional for me to get them from here.
Tiki Juice Bar
Dole Whip Float
If you're never had a Dole whip or Dole whip float, SHAME ON YOU!
For the longest time, I only ordered the Dole whip, which is simply a generous serving of pineapple-flavored soft serve ice cream. Then I tried it as a float with pineapple juice added. It was on a hot sunny day, and that was it. Float every time!
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus $3.89
I don't come here often. The line's always a tad too long for essentially snack food. But when I do, it's bacon-wrapped asparagus all the way. There's a Chieftain Chicken Skewer (in polynesian sauce) shown here too that I got for variety's sake.
Crispy Chicken Mixed Green Salad
I've made an effort to order more salads and meatless meals at restaurants the past few years. If it weren't for that, I likely never would have tried this. What I like about this meal is it's like have a main course - the chicken tenders which I dip in BBQ sauce - with a dinner salad.
Stage Door Cafe
Fish & Chips
with tartar sauce. $9.99
They only added Fish & Chips in the last few years as I recall, but I'm glad they did. The fish fillets aren't overly greasy, and the fish inside is very flaky. So I'm glad I have a quick and tasty fish option to choose when I'm at the park.
River Belle Terrace
River Belle's Roast Beef
Served on a fresh baked roll with our signature savory salad with horseradish aioli. $11.99
Here's I place I used to come to often for dinner. When I first got my annual pass, they served fried chicken and BBQ ribs here. Then the menu was changed to offer sandwiches. I think the park was adopting a new mandate to offer more health-conscious options. Remember when you could buy McDonald's fries next to the Mark Twain loading dock or at the Harbour Galley by the Haunted Mansion? The fries disappeared when Disneyland didn't renew McDonald's contract. Anyway, early online reviews weren't flattering so I avoided it for the longest time.
Then, recently I finally dared to walk in and see what the food looked like. First off, I was surprised to see the roast beef and turkey was hand-carved for each freshly-made sandwich. Second, they also offered hot plates with mashed potatoes and other sides. So I gave the roast beef sandwich a shot...and enjoyed it! Glad I finally had an open mind to give this place a try.
Big Thunder Ranch Celebration BBQ
We're serving up fun FAMILY STYLE
at Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue
ENJOY Our Barbecue Chicken and Ribs with all of the fixings served family style at your table!
Adults: $26.99, Kids 3-9 $11.99 (not including tax and gratuity)
Each supper includes:
BBQ Chicken and Ribs with Miss Chris' special sauce
(Vegetarian Option Available)
Corn Cob Wheels
Just four words: "all you can eat". What's not to like! Just come in with a huge appetite so's you can get your money's worth. By the way, this is their dinner menu. For three bucks less, the lunch menu omits the smoked sausage and corn cob wheels.
New Orleans Square
Blue Bayou Restaurant
Buccaneer's Boneless Beef Short Ribs
Each entree served with choice of the following:
Blue Bayou House Salad or Cup of our Signature New Orleans Gumbo
Braised Short Ribs, Boursin Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Cabernet Reduction. $33.99
I usually come here for friend's special events like celebrating birthdays. And I've sampled about half of their menu offerings. Of them, these have become my favorite so far. The meat is falls apart easily and the sauce is tasty!
"Crescent City" Salad
Choose Blackened Chicken or Pan-seared Atlantic Salmon on top of fresh Spinach and Mixed Baby Greens, tossed with Carmelized Pecans, Red Grapes, Navel Orange Segments, Caramelized Onions, Chopped Green Onions, Roasted Sweet Corn, and Orange-Cilantro Vinaigrette.
-- With Blackened Chicken $15.49
During many visits here, my go-to meal here was the Monte Cristo Sandwich or Three-Cheese Monte Cristo with the Pommes Frites. I used to have a hell of an appetite! But these days, I can barely finish half the sandwich, plus I've been trying to be more health-conscious. And the fried sandwich filled with cheese isn't at the top of my list of choices any more. Instead this salad just barely beats the fresh Cafe Orleans Salmon Sandwich.
Pan Seared Chateaubriand
with Truffle Vintage Port Reduction $59.75
I've had the pleasure of getting to visit Disneyland's members only VIP restaurant, Club 33. And man, it's cool!
This is what I had on my first visit and it is one of the best steaks I've ever had.
Here are the rest of my photos from that visit and here are ones from my second trip.
in a buttered brioche roll served with Old Bay seasoned home-style chips. $13.99
I had this when it was only offered during a limited time celebrating Mardi Gras. It's since become a regular item on their menu.
Daisy's Special Pepperoni Pizza $7.99
In all the years I've owned a Disneyland Annual Passport, I'd never once had anything to eat inside Mickey's Toontown until last month when on a whim I tried this personal size pizza. Filled with tasty pizza sauce, I found it way better than the pizza offered at Pizza Port (which for some might not be saying much). I've seen been back four more times to enjoy this. Don't really know when I'll become tried of it.
Fish Sandwich with Chipotle Crema
served with fresh fruit or French fries. $10.49
A friend and I decided to eat here one day recently, a place that is not normally even on our radar when considering places to eat.
We both chose this to eat, and we were both sincerely shocked at how good it was. The Cast Member at the order window told us the fish was baked, not fried, and together on a fresh, un-toasted bun and all its fixings, it's a great, fresh-tasting meal.
Redd Rockett's Pizza Port
Count Down Chicken Fusilli
Fusilli pasta tossed with seasoned grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and Parmesan cream sauce with a touch of fresh basil $9.49
This became my regular order during the first few years I visited Disneyland. Seriously, BOTH the fusilli AND a slice of pizza. plus a drink. I can't do that anymore, but when I come here, I always get the fusilli (and now save my pizza appetite for Daisy's).
Village Haus Restaurant
BLT Flatbread Pizza
Thin flat bread crust, smoked bacon, Provolone and Mozzarella cheeses, caramelized onions, marinated tomatoes, topped with arugula and shaved fennel. $8.49
I never really visit Fantasyland much, so I don't have a long history with sampling their fare here. They currently updated their menu and while I'm not usually a big flatbread pizza fan, this has bacon!
That's it. Nothing from the Hungry Bear Restaurant or Rancho del Zocalo, which I've been to but just wasn't particularly knocked out by anything they've ever ordered.
Coming soon: My favorite foods at DCA and elsewhere at the resort. Check out the rest of my Disney food fotos on my Flickr page.
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!