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!
This holiday season, I had plans to enjoy three versions of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale. For some, three might be enough. But this year, my interest in "A Christmas Carol" was piqued (not "peaked"), and I found myself wanting to explore more than these three versions, others that I either hadn't checked out before or wanted to revisit again. Here's how my journey through two, three, four and more "Christmas Carol"s turned out.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The first one I saw this year was this one. I've seen this only a few times before, but I've played my CD of the soundtrack over and over for years! This happens to be the first time I've owned a copy this movie. And it's on VHS!! I know, crazy, huh?
We had it at a yard sale my friends and I held to raise money for our Relay for Life team, and it was among the items that didn't sell. Originally, I had planned to buy the new Blu-ray version of it, but with it missing the "When Love Is Gone" scene, I dragged my feet on getting it. Ultimately, this VHS - which includes the scene (albeit in pan and scan format) - ended up with me. I know I speak for many fans of the film when I say how impressed I am by how much it uses the dialogue of the original story and retains much of its same tone while being told by The Muppets.
Disney's A Christmas Carol
I passed on watching this when it was in theatres three years ago because I got tired of Jim Carrey mugging and bugging his eyes out so damn much in his films. It was fine when he started out, but it got to be his schtick, altho' friends tell me I need to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so there's that. But the reviews claimed he reined in his usual-ness in this film, so when it came out on Blu-ray, I took a chance. And I was overwhelmingly impressed! I now have to watch this every year with my family at Christmastime who enjoy it too.
A Christmas Carol performed by Patrick Stewart
I'm a Star Trek fan. I got started watching the reruns of classic Trek, then got hooked on TNG after it debuted. That was around the time when I happened to start taking acting classes. And watching the show, even then I recognized how much Patrick Stewart forced the rest of the cast to bring their level of acting up to his level. Midway through his run on TNG, Stewart produced and performed his one-man show of "A Christmas Carol". A CD of it quickly became part of my CD library and I have loved playing it every year ever since. I finally got to see his show at the Doolittle Theatre in 1996, and I remember how cool it was that he'd changed the personality of Scrooge from the one I'd heard all the years before on CD to a low-key, sharp businessman, like one of those single-minded sharks you'd imagine swimming on Wall Street! It was a refreshing surprise and I often wished he'd record a follow-up CD performing that personality of Scrooge on it.
To listen to an excerpt from the CD, a lengthy clip is posted by Simon & Schuster on SoundCloud.
Dickens' words...my brushwork, on the TTC set
So there are the three "A Christmas Carol"s I had planned to enjoy this season. But I also got to watch a stage version of the story told by several actors each performing many different roles of the story at my local theatre, Torrance Theatre Company. It was great and reminded me of another condensed-cast-adaptation of the novel I'd done in Poway many years before.
Now, you'd think I'd gotten my fill of Dickens and Scrooge by now. But I also started reading the original short story too, something I hadn't done before. If you haven't either, I suggest you do. I knew it would be so, but it's still amazing to realize how much of Dickens' words are familiar to you as every adaptation has pulled their dialogue verbatim from his story. As I write this, I still haven't finished it yet. Unless the words are broken up with a lot of illustrated, colored panel art in between, I'm a very slow reader.
And speaking of panel art, I did finish "Batman: Noel", a graphic novel I'd gotten for Christmas last year. It's a book I wanted because of the beautiful, detailed artwork by Leo Bermejo. And "Surprise!" it's another adaptation of Charles Dickens' book, and a good one too that has the messages delivered by the three spirits in the original book represented by three familiar characters Batman runs into while patrolling Gotham City on Christmas Eve.
So two movies, on audio retelling and one and a half books later, you'd think that might be enough. But I still had that itch to look up other versions of the story. I went online and was delighted to find two full-length versions available to watch. And I also remembered I own another one that I've never seen. I only watched about twenty or thirty minutes of each the two online movies, but it only took that long to see the entirety of the other one that I owned.
A Christmas Carol (1999)
I tried to watch Patrick Stewart's TNT movie adaptation once before and couldn't get through it. This year, I still can't. To begin with, it's so dull to me right from the start. His performance on the CDs are so enthusiastic, I guess I miss that in the film. I recognize he's working with a script that includes many wonderful ideas that bring more insight into the situations and main characters, but those ideas just didn't play out well for me when acted out. He's also too much Patrick Stewart in the role if that makes sense; he's ultimately too darn charming.
It was a nice surprise to find the first sound version of "A Christmas Carol" on film available on YouTube. Taking into account the time it was filmed, I found the performances rather genuine and refreshingly less formulaic than what we've all grown up seeing of the main characters in more popular adaptations. Seeing only half an hour of it, I look forward to making time to watch the rest of it. And from what I've learned about the film, we should all be grateful that it's the full-length version that's available on YouTube (embedded below) and not the abridged 60-minute US version that's out on recent DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases.
Mickey's Christmas Carol
I own several titles of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series. They were those 30 different titles that arrived every fall between 2001 and 2009 in distinctive silver or black tin cases holding a two-disc DVD set inside. I've watched some of them like Disneyland USA, On the Front Lines, and Tomorrowland, but others like Silly Symphonies, Disney Rarities, and Mickey Mouse in Black and White I bought mainly to hang onto for future reference, especially for my design work. Then I remembered one of my Mickey Mouse in Living Color sets includes "Mickey's Christmas Carol"! I pulled it out to watch, all 25 minutes of it. It's cute and very entertaining!
So that's all the ones I've seen this year. It was fun to discover the adaptations that were new to me. And there are still a few more that came to mind that I wanted to see. One was Albert Finney's "Scrooge" which I saw when I was a kid, but all I can remember about it is the catchy tune "Thank You Very Much". Another was George C. Scott's "Scrooge". And finally there's that Alastair Sim one of "A Christmas Carol" which I can't remember if I've ever really seen. So these'll be high on my list to try and catch next Christmas season.
That is, if that itch doesn't come back and I decide to watch 'em before then!
Here's a video diary of my five hours waiting in line to enter Disney California Adventure on its Grand Re-Opening Day condensed into eight minutes.
On June 15, 2012, I got in line at four in the morning to join those who had been waiting in line since 6:30 pm the night before! However, when I first saw this line filled with hundreds of people, it was nothing compared to what I encountered seven years ago in the same spot. That was 2005, the year Disneyland celebrated its 50th birthday. And on July 17 that year, I arrived here at three in the morning to be among the first to enter the park when it opened, and there were thousands already in line. Coincidentally, Disney used DCA to stage the long line before its sister park opened at 7 am.
The video above shows the size of the line in the Promenade when I first got there and how it continued to grow over the next couple of hours. At 7am, the park's Re-Dedication Ceremony was broadcast in a live feed onto a jumbotron we could see, so some excerpts from that are included too. And from my place in line right at the main entrance, I got a nice, short piece of video of Disney CEO Robert Iger and Chairman of Parks and Resorts Tom Skaggs at the front gates opening them up themselves so we could finally come in.
I had a great time. So if you want to enjoy a special Disney event vicariously through the eyes of a Disney geek, here's your chance. Enjoy!
With Disney California Adventure officially opening to the public tomorrow, I've been reading online about fans debating whether or not it's worth it to get in line at 11pm tonight and stay up all night to be there when DCA opens for its official Grand Re-Opening Friday morning. It reminded me of a very similar event I attended seven years ago.
I went through my archived photo CDs to find the photos I took on July 17, 2005, the day Disney celebrated Disneyland's 50th Anniversary. They're up on my Flickr account now. You can reach them clicking the photo at the bottom. Because I wanted to get them up quickly, I didn't editorialize my selections, I just posted every shot, saved down to low res quality.
To briefly describe the day as I can recall off the top of my head, I got there around 3am to get in a line that snaked through DCA. I passed by scores of fans who were huddled under blankets or inside sleeping bags under an eerie but still exciting dark, early morning sky. Exciting because what park guest ever gets a chance to be here at three in the morning? I later learned I arrived about the time Disney estimated 7000 were in line. I believe between 9000 and 10000 arrived by the time the park opened at 7am.
As we slowly left DCA and entered the promenade between the two parks, we were surprised by cast members standing along the stanchioned walkway into Disneyland, who waved at us saying "Welcome back!" We received the same warm welcome as we entered Disneyland, walked through the tunnel under the railroad track and onto Main Street, USA. Cast members everywhere were waving and cheering at us saying "Welcome back!" It was a fantastic surprise, very heart-warming, and you could tell the cast members were just as thrilled to be there as we were!
At 10am, an official ceremony was scheduled in the Hub with Disney dignitaries and celebrities there to add to the pomp and circumstance. Julie Andrews was that year's official Disney ambassador, so she spoke during the ceremony, as did Art Linkletter who was there 50 years ago as one of the co-hosts during the televised opening of the park. Christina Aguilera performed a song and then there was doves and fireworks.
I made friends with the people I was in line with, and we spent the rest of the day together enjoying the park. I left Disneyland around 4:30p, after speakers throuplayed Walt Disney's dedication speech, the famous one he spoke to open the park 50 years ago to the time and day.
The rest of the details I'll leave for you to interpret from the pictures. Most should be self-explanatory.
And you ask, "Was it worth it?" Yes!
I will already remember this weekend as my "magical weekend", but not simply because "I was there" for Disneyland's birthday. The day before, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince arrived in bookstores. I picked mine up early that Saturday morning and then spent the entire day reading it. I managed to finish reading the entire book by around 1am, which released me from any worries I had about anyone spoiling the book for me! I then took a quick shower and headed off to Anaheim, ready to focus on the next half of my truly magical weekend.
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!