Wednesday, February 15, 2017

AP Days are back: A Trip Report

Hello, Everyone! Happy Valentine's Day,...a day behind....

I hope you're all having a good week. I went to see what Disney was doing with AP Days this time around. So, come along with Monday.

And...let's all thank my mother for the long lens she gave me with my camera...because it's PERFECT for Star Wars construction viewing! 

Ooooooohhhh!!!!! Ahhhh!!!

(Yeah, I don't know what we're looking at, either...)

In the background, you can spot the construction on the former Tower of Terror.

Just FYI, the Shadow of the Mouse Blog will NOT ride or report on the attraction's opening in May.
If Captain EO can come back, so can Rod Serling, consarnit!

Look at the TEENY WEENY construction worker there! I just can't wait to see what we're getting!

Disneyland keeps the Valentine's decor low key, but these wrought iron hearts in Town Square are a nice and delicate touch.

AP Days

So, let's start off in the front of the park.  If you want to enjoy the screenings APs are getting every night (5pm, 6:30 and I think 8. Check with a cast member for specifics when you're in the park), you have to get a wristband (each color signifies a different screening time).

And Disney certainly wants to remind you, no matter where you are (or what coffee you're picking out) to celebrate AP Days.

Along my way, I saw part of the Star Tours facade was under some kind of refurb.

The Seasons of the Force banners are back out.

Now including characters from Rogue One!

People were queuing up to get into the Starcade for AP Days for up to two hours! With not much organization from the cast members.

This week, you can meet Robin Hood and Friar Tuck...with Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham in the afternoons.  When the demand for meet and greets is high enough, cast members can give out Fastpasses for the characters, but only when demand hits a certain point, and Disney has never really shrunk from allowing people to wait in insane lines for a character meet & greet. So, plan accordingly.

The AP Days lounge has a nice little area with couch and chairs (and device chargers) but I didn't really see anyone making much use of them.

They have a nice little activity center for the kids (or adults with a crafty side...don't judge!).

I'm not sure if this is a new little display in general for the Starcade or just for AP Days.  Either way, I found it....slightly insulting. Especially since the Starcade was more or less just draped off in areas to hide...whatever they're hiding (See below.)

But Disney is pretty good with a pun...

It was hard to get in to look at the merch because the table is too close to the entrance (big mistake), and was immediately swarmed with customers....

Nice little map.

Another shot of the partition separating the lounge area.

And, while waiting in line for Robin Hood...this is a perfect display of the time and care taken to the area. You've been closed down how long? And this was the best you could do?

A glimpse of the merch.

A nice little sign for you to take your picture with to promos the parks.

Smartly, Disneyland decided to have a separate queue just for APs who wanted the weekly button.  The Cast Member will scan your pass (please have it out and ready) and hand you ONE button. I'm not knocking it, I'm sure they've had problems in the past with reselling, etc. AP Days has always been kind of strict on this.

Also, while we're here, let me make a note. I, as a habit, note the CM's name and try my best to be pleasant with them. And this CM's demeanor changed for the better as I used his name and asked him how he was doing.  It really doesn't take much to be courteous to the person you're dealing with.  You never know what kind of day they might be having, and I'm sure working with APs isn't a dream assignment. Kindness is cool, kids! (Shadow of the Mouse Cares ®)

Here's a collection of the "swag" you can get an an AP.  A nice recipe card (swapped out weekly as well), and this interesting little Electrical Parade...craft? You are supposed to be able to take the perforated pieces, put a string through the pre-punched holes, and I think make a little standing version of the parade.  I'm just not sure the ACTUAL pictures of the parade floats are all that helpful. They have wonderful graphic designers (as evidenced by the button), so why not just make pieces that looks a little more like cartoonish versions of the floats? This seems a little....half-behinded.

Yeah, I said half-behinded!

Over near Pixie Hollow, Disney Horticulture put together this cute as heck little display for AP Days.  It's out of the way of everything Disney's done, but it's still a lovely little low-key thing to do. Give someone other than Mickey a turn, I say!

While going by, I saw a mother with her little (well-behaved) toddler, who was dressed as Elliot. I'm pretty sure I recognized this tot from Instagram (mother's screen name is @littlegraythread). Ever since the last D23 Expo, I've happened to find (darn that "Explore" tab on Instagram!) parents who cosplay their kids to the hilt, and it's so adorable!  Nice to see Elliot getting a little love.

Later in the evening, I did get to attend the AP Days evening screening in the Opera House. This was a better organized effort than the CMs in the actual lounge, thank goodness.  Programming will also change every week.  This week was a Backstage Disney special from 1986 (my birth year) giving you a look at the Electrical Parade.  It was a great special with so much detail.

On that note, it reminded me.....I couldn't figure out what else was missing from the Electrical Parade when I took pictures....there is a whole Dumbo section, complete with circus calliope (with King Leonidas from Bedknobs & Broomsticks for no reason).

Pirates is currently still closed for a refurbishment.

Big crane in Star Wars land!

The Snow White Grotto area is still under construction, just FYI.

While the 60th decorations are down, the roof is still sparkly and diamond-y. My understanding is that there is an issue removing this faux-roof that was placed over the original, we are.

Now, I want to sing "Shiny" from Moana...

Christmas Hangin' Around

Just a little "Gadgets & Gizmos" moment, while it's relevant... Fairy Tale Treasures, located inside Sleeping Beauty Castle, still has some Christmas merch from this past season.

I was lucky enough to receive the missing pieces to my collection for my birthday. However, some pieces are still here....including Friend Owl and Bambi. (Why so many Bambi's left?)

The China Closet on Main Street usually has a good enough collection year 'round, as does Off the Page in DCA, but it was nice to find this little treasure trove.  I think we'll have to keep an eye when the holiday season rolls back around.  It might be a good spot when you can't find something in the China Closet.

So, off to other New Orleans Square, I happened upon the Jambalaya Jazz.  I did Periscope it for those who follow. But I also try to post the video to YouTube later (link below) in case you missed it.  They're a great jazz band (I hope it's the Jambalaya Jazz and not the Royal Street Bachelors, but I think they perform AT the French Market in the bandstand....), kind of in the George Bruns vein. 

If you don't know about George Bruns, you probably know his work and don't know it.  He did a lot of music work for Disney over the years, particularly arranging and scoring movies alongside the Sherman Brothers.  His work, in my opinion, IS the sound of Disneyland.

The Jambalaya Jazz also threw out Mardi Gras beads to us, so if you hear them, stop and enjoy! 

What Crowds?

Alright, so...I have a bit of a concern with Disney right now. Not just as a lover of the brand, but as a shareholder in the company.


Now, Disney has been reporting for at least three fiscal quarters a dip in attendance of up to 10% across Disneyland and Walt Disney World combined. This is understandable with construction on both coasts and rising prices meant to fight crowding.

My real question is where is the dip in attendance for us? Obviously, I go often enough while trying to cover events for the parks-- I see no difference. If anything, it's MORE crowded. I rarely walk through Fantasyland because it is crowded with strollers and screaming toddlers who don't understand how much their parents paid for them to experience sensory overload.  I sat in the Jolly Holiday at 3pm on Monday and not only were people already sitting on Main Street for the 8pm performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade, but it was just so crowded with people. On a MONDAY, not a holiday.

And, to give the problem a new wrinkle, when I came into the parks in the morning, traffic was backed up to the bridge to the parking structure.  It took me about 45 minutes to go from getting off the freeway to getting off the tram. And the parking structure opens about 90 minutes before the park does. It seems Management has a problem at the beginning of the day and the end of the day.

Here's real issue: You're making things look bloated but crying about a substantial dip in attendance.  Disney....PICK YOUR PROBLEM.

You are making it harder and harder for people to get into and through the parks, but you want to tell me the opposite is the case? The bottom line is people are paying more and more to come here, yet you waste the time they have.  While I agree Disneyland is a better value than many other endeavors (please read the OC Register's article on the matter), the crowds and the inefficiency is cutting into that value. Not to mention the bad taste it leaves in the mouths of guests who go back to their friends and family.

I'm in no way describing this problem in the amount of detail it deserves.  The concept of the logistical nightmare of a theme park is a complicated issue.  Please feel free to comment at the end of the post.  Have you noticed a difference? What do you think should be done to combat the crowding?

And here are the strollers. Every nice area ruined by seas of them. No planter is safe, no expanse of valuable peaceful space.

While wandering towards the redone shop in Fantasyland, I came across a true unicorn in Disneyland...

Hark! A quiet space! Nice theming but no strollers, queues, or screaming kids.

I would LOVE more information on this lamp.  Someone get me an Imagineer!

The detail in Fantasyland often gets lost in the crowd.

I love this little piece of forced perspective near Pinocchio's Daring Journey.

Anyway, that quiet space.  For one thing, there is this little..sheltered what purpose I'm not sure.

But inside was this little window to the attraction load/unload area. Sneaky!

Just more nice detail. It was kind of a nice day for pictures.

The handicap/child swap entrance was actually pretty quiet for a good 20 minutes. I just leaned against a half wall and enjoyed the peace of the area....until a few families came and crowded me.

I haven't really been back here since the Skyway building came down last year. I was actually rather shocked to see the void it left.

Now, don't get me wrong, I was ok with letting the building go.  Sure, it was a piece of Disneyland history, but the area is being put to good use, and the building hadn't been.

Change may be necessary...but that still doesn't make it easy.

Again, speaking of the crowds, this was the early afternoon.

OH, and there's Mary Poppins and Bert. They can stay. Everyone else, get out.

Topiaries are a hallmark of Disney design.

Parking Structure Snafu

Now, while the screening was going on, a few cars caught fire in the Mickey & Friends parking structure.  Source:

Thankfully, the parking structure was quickly cleared before the Electrical Parade that night. 

I kind of don't have anything to add to the event except to commend Disney for getting the clearance safely and quickly for those waiting to go back to their cars. Say a prayer for those who experienced damage (or total loss) to their vehicles. I can't imagine coming into the parks, ready for a happy and memorable day, to come back to something like this. Such a shame. While, at the moment, Disney has expressed a lack of evidence pointing to foul play, you just never know the condition of the car you are parking next to when you roll into your space.

That's it for today. Again, if you have anything you want to add or ask, please go ahead and respond in the comments. I found a lot of great knick knacks around the parks, so keep your eyes peeled for a few more segments in the coming days, as well as a visit from Fred.

And, as a last little treat....I also Periscope'd the video that plays in the Opera House, "Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years" Starring Steve Martin.  It's a great little holdover from the 50th Anniversary, though I'm pretty sure it's edited down slightly. 

See ya! 

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