Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trip Report: Assisting the Elderly

Hi, Everyone!

I recently took a mini trip into the parks...(look at the title and you'll see why). Anyway, I have a few tidbits and a mini Photo Buffet for you. It's kind of a mishmash, but I hope you all won't mind...

 Gadgets & Gizmos

In the China Closet, where it kind of bleeds into the photo shop, I found a couple of cute snow globes.

First, we have Peter Pan here...very cute.

And this Hitchhiking Ghosts! And instead of glitter, it's got bats! Neat!

Interesting little tip about the Times board on Main Street, it seems, in the mornings, they have a listing of the restaurants that serve breakfast! If you're going to the parks on the fly, this is a quick non-internet way to give you a little more information.  (Top right column, there)

Someone has left the Shower running....

I reported earlier this year the Adventureland restrooms have been closed for a refurbishment, also closing down the Pioneer Mercantile next door (and next land). The ladies' room has re-opened, and, being a lady, I checked it out! 

The men's room is still closed. I guess you all have to wait....

It's got a nice Adventureland theme, with the zebra'd tile.  Classy zebra!

Cute light fixtures.

Did they just steal them from Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida? Be honest, can tell me.

And these sleek slanting sinks! Say that five times fast....

It's a nice refurb that doubled the size of the restroom, and it REALLY needed that size!

Hence, the Pioneer Mercantile....

Its refurb is far more subtle, but has some nice thematic touches.

But why is this light right by the open door? What is it giving light to?! Why?!

Really, the store is the same, but lost a little space on the side where the restrooms are. I don't think anyone is going to lose their mind of this.

Similar lighting in the shop. Stolen from the Wilderness Lodge? Grand Californian?

Recycling, Disney Parks style!

OK, maybe they just realized it's a good look....

The dancing Woody is still there, just shifted closer to the front of the store.

2017 Gadgets....

I'd like to take a moment and show off the 2017 merchandise.  While dated merch has always looked more, shall we say, cheap and tacky, Disney really stepped it up this year.  With a focus on Sorcerer Mickey, the colors and design for everything is actually REALLY cute and subtle. You won't look like a tourist in these!

Mugs. I am allowed no more mugs!

More cups.  I'm not allowed any of those either....why are cups and mugs so tempting?

And over in the former Pendleton shop (still part of Pioneer Mercantile, though, now), they have some cute patriotic Mickey merchandise. 

The mysteries of Tom Sawyer Island

So, walking past the island, repainted and ready for Fantasmic to come back, I noticed this little boat on the shore.  It's new, right? I wonder if it's for the show (projector, maybe) or what.

If you have any theories, or know for show, PLEASE comment on this post and we can all learn together!

Photo Buffet - Pirates at 50

This past weekend, Disney had some merchandise and food to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pirates of the Caribbean.  The refurb gave a nice little facelift to the attraction.

Even the railings in the queue were repainted, and it made a big difference! Everything looked beautiful.

Who's this guy? Is he important?

Now THIS guy looks like a Pirate!

The boats were changed out to a mold similar to the Small World boats...the only negative difference I can give is was fewer fireflies in the Blue Bayou scene, and none in the little area before you get off the boat.  Those are such a great, simple, Disney-esque effect. I hope they just didn't get those ordered in time or something.

Doesn't Imagineering have Amazon Prime?

It's hard to take pictures in here...I need more practice.

"Don't tell him, Carlos! Don't be CHEEKIN!"

So....who's that guy in the barrel?

For months, last year, the donkey was missing. And I thought the dog was, too...everyone is back to work now!

Seriously, why do I keep seeing this guy?!

Remember that period where the map had lights and the writing in the map would disappear and reappear? I'm glad they got rid of that...too much.

Is the tree supposed to be weeping willow-esque or is Disney dressing it up? Someone go get a tree surgeon!

Over at the Haunted Mansion, they've got these little covered pylons and CMs guarding them.  My understanding (I believe from Micechat) is these are going to be for our version of Fasthpass+.


Spring has brought the blooms in the trees all over the resort.

Matterhorn is still down, also for Fastpass installation.

But the flowers in the area don't know that!

They still have the Yeti footprint over near the entrance, but they added one over here. Nice way to draw curious guests over. Even if it is behind the fence.

Disney so often finds a way to make the refurbishment walls interesting.

Another random thing....we didn't get to ride the Monorail. Only the Orange one seemed to be running.  Any information, anyone?

And, with Spring Breaks coming, more characters tend to be out and about.  We were so happy to see a Penguin from Mary Poppins!

More pretty flowers on Main Street.

Disneyana tidbits - Old Friends 

I like to wander through Disneyana, and found available character portraits...princesses, the redhead from Pirates...and Figment!

For those who don't know, Figment is essentially the mascot of Epcot in Walt Disney World.  He first appeared in 1983 (officially) in the Journey into Imagination attraction at the Imagination Pavilion. While the current iteration of the ride is a mere shadow of the original, Disney has given him space in other venues to charm and enchant generations....including my very grouchy godfather!

Whenever he happens to show up here, it's a nice surprise!

(And here's a nice video to introduce him to you!)

And here was a little friend I also found in Off the Page in DCA.  This is Amos, the little hero of the 1953 short "Ben and Me," Ben being Benjamin Franklin.  It's really nice the artists who create these works for the park seem to get a lot of freedom of subject.  You get to see the real Disney geeks show their colors...

And here is a video of Ben and Me, it's a little hard to get on DVD, I think...

That's it for today, have a good week and weekend!

Again, please feel free to comment below if you have questions, concerns, subjects you'd like me to cover, comments, random's always nice to get feedback.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Life's Like a Movie: Beauty & the Beast

Happy Monday!

I got to rush off and take my aunt's children to see Beauty & the Beast! Let's dig in, there's a bit to unpack.  Grab your grey stuff...!!!

Tale as Old as Time

Now, with this film in particular, the same question has come up.  To quote Cogsworth, "If it isn't Baroque, don't fix it!"  Why remake a near perfect film in the first place?

It's a good question, no doubt.  A lot of people are simply chalking it up to the creative bankruptcy of Disney and Hollywood in general.  The answer is more complicated.  We're in the middle of a sort of vicious cycle that's affecting the creative bank of Hollywood, and Disney's no exception.

The problem starts at the movie theater.  The average married couple with 2.3 children (like my aunt), pays a ballpark of $60 to get seats in a theater. And if you think my aunt's ravenous children will see a movie without snacks, you're crazy.  Like locusts, they are! A family night at the movies isn't any less than $100. So families aren't going to make a bet on seeing a movie that they're not sure their kids are going to enjoy.  Hence the glut of remakes, reboots and adaptations.

Now, while audiences won't go for anything unfamiliar (i.e. a safe bet for their children), there is another wrinkle.  Can't Disney just re-release their movies like they used to? Walt had a theory that if you released a movie back into theaters every 7 years, you have a new generation of children to enchant. we've got home video (ok, DVD/Blu-ray.  I'm old, I get it.)  You don't have to go to the theater anymore.  You don't have to endure the families who don't discipline their children and allow them to talk the entire movie...

So, that lets out re-releases. Even a few years ago, Disney attempted 3D releases of Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo. After Beast, Nemo, and Monsters Inc.,they cancelled the Little Mermaid....which made me sad despite the fact that I saw it at the El Capitan in Hollywood for my 25th birthday.....yeah, my 25th....

In a sense, what Disney is doing with, is genius.  They aren't intending to replace the original films. With the new outpouring of merchandise from various outlets, it proves they're as interested in the nostalgia as they are the new film, because it's not just merch from the new movie, but the old.  I'm not saying whether this is all necessarily the most artistic move on Disney's part, but they're working within the parameters they have.

The good...

With a $170 million opening weekend, seems like Disney is making the right move.  Overall, the film  is beautiful and tries very hard to flesh out an original film made in a nine month period, a ridiculously short amount of time for a hand-drawn animated film.

The 1991 original is, without question, a masterpiece.  But as I said before, Disney isn't trying to improve on it, or imply it wasn't good enough.  Nevertheless, director Bill Condon did use the opportunity to further color the characters and modernize the story a little....

If you want information about the making of Beauty and the Beast, I cannot recommend more the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty.  It chronicles the Disney Animation Studio from 1984-1994, including the struggles surrounding the production. So, for now, I won't go down that rabbit hole.

Again, the movie is beautifully and lovingly put together, there is no doubt about that.  The cast is just an incredible mix of people. I mean, who else could have played Belle but Emma Watson? And in this age where there are many polarizing "celebrities", Disney assembled a large and universally loved group.

And, I could swear, there are moments the crew of the film watched the original and said, "Now, people are going to do we make it worse?" In the interest of being spoiler-free, I'll leave it at that.

There were moments, again, no spoilers, where I feel certain there was an intention to re-create the original animation from Disney Legend Glen Keane.  As an animation geek, this kind of thing really hit my heartstrings.

As to the music, I'm glad none of the songs added to the Broadway show made it, but that Alan Menken was brought in to add new songs.  His and Howard Ashman's work truly made the movie (Please see Waking Sleeping Beauty), allowing the music to continue to drive and change the story.

Before we get into the more...critical end of things, I'll just say, if you're going to go, just enjoy it and don't overthink anything.

The Beastly....

Now, for the not-so-good. 

I have to say, if the movie truly failed anywhere, it was in the moments where they tried to re-create dialogue heavy scenes from the original, a little too hard.  One of the funniest scenes in the original is the Beast attempting to bend to Belle as he asks her to dinner...and it just felt as if these actors were trying too hard to make their lines sound different from the original, instead of focusing on the situation itself.  I think another reason for this tended to happen with the actors playing the objects, Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian McKellen, and Emma I'm wondering if the aspect of recording the dialogue somehow stilted the performances...

On that note, I feel the addition of more objects left many well-known and talented actors with less to do than their worth. Sir Ian McKellen, in particular, I feel had a real uphill battle.  And no offense to the masterful actor he is....but you kind of can't beat David Ogden Stiers, who's best lines in the movie were essentially ad libs. 

The film is an additional 40 minutes long, and yet its cast hardly has time to really give it the moments the original had.  Even some of the additional lyrics in "Gaston" were lost to what I felt was a bad mixing moment.  I couldn't understand the lyrics half the time at all. I'm not sure if it's where I was in the theater or what...I'm hoping so. 

And the Controversial... everyone appeared to lose their minds over the fact that LeFou might be gay. 

Let me make this simple...CALM DOWN.
Your kids won't even notice. 

Josh Gad is, on camera, quite interesting, because he really adds layers in his performance to a fairly one-dimensional character.  He's got some of the funniest moments in the movie.  He either worked the hardest to get those moments in, or was just the most successful.  

In my opinion, at lot of these "moments" of concern played out like an episode of Boy Meets World where Cory and Shawn's friendship is at stake as a girlfriend keeps them apart.  The dialogue deliberately veers off into this tone that sounds like a relationship.  It's a nice cheap little sitcom joke, but doesn't lead you to believe anything else other than Cory and Shawn miss each other.  If your kid didn't realize what's potentially up with LeFou...then it's just funny. 

And we're gonna put that one to rest, people! Go have a glass of wine...


The movie, overall, is a great compliment to the original.  Disney's chosen to create an interesting side catalog to its animated classics in live action.  It does not exceed the original, but it wasn't meant to.  It made my family happy, it made me happy.  It was a nice moment to share all together.  That's all it needed to be. 

Oh, one more thing....why did Disney have to use John Legend and Ariana Grande to sing the title song? I'm just so sick of them both.  Celine Dion was fairly new to the industry when she and Peabo Bryson sang the title song in 1991 (and she came back to sing one of the new songs, nice full circle).  The choice of artist is entirely uninspired here....

So, I will leave you with the original version, to make us all happy. 

And if you're in DCA, go check out the preview in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot.

Have a good week, everyone! 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

DCA Food & Wine Festival - Kanine Krunchies

Happy Wednesday!

I'm SO sorry for the lateness of this post, but a technical blustery day blew our schedule back to today! 

On Friday, I went with a fan of the blog (Hi, Joy!) to check out the offerings at the DCA Food & Wine Festival. 

It's located along the parade route (there isn't any parade right now due to Guardians of the Galaxy construction anyway...), in the same area the Festival of Holidays was placed.  In fact, they just pulled out and redressed the booths. Not that this is a bad thing, if you didn't know, you probably couldn't tell. 

Plus, if it isn't broke, why fix it? 

Or Baroque....

Nice little "Welcome Center" at the entrance, but I'll discuss it later..

Merchandise kiosks....

If you wanna take your wine to-go....(well, not really....)

Also, Disney brings in other companies (mostly botanical and food-related), to fill in the spaces.  It's different, but nice....

And now...the Main Event....

Now, of course, with only three people, the food report just cannot be comprehensive. This is a small operation I'm runnin' here! (For now...) But, hopefully, it will give you an idea of the variety this year...

Yes, the Apple Maple Bacon Whoopie Pie IS back, and as good as it was....

This is the smoked mac and cheese with bacon and barbecue seasoned onions.  It had a nice texture and anyone who doesn't like bacon needs to be considered suspect. 

Here is the bay shrimp Louie salad served in a mini Boudin sourdough bread bowl (from the Sweet & Sourdough booth). 

From "I Heart Artichokes" we have the Grilled and chilled artichoke hearts with Romesco sauce.  Interesting, I hadn't had artichokes before, but the sauce was very good as well. 

At The Onion Lair, this is the French Onion mac and cheese with Parmesan crumble and chives. Another interesting twist.  A little adventurous, but not too much for the more picky eaters in the park. 

Here we have (left to right), Vanilla Bean crème fraîche Panna cotta with Amarena cherry jus and an EVOO madeleine (from Olive Us), Artichoke carbonara with garlic aioli and smoked bacon (I Heart Artichoke), Warm olive focaccia with olive oil and sea salt (Olive Us), and the Passion fruit posset and coconut chia with mango compote and jelly (Seafood...Sustained).

Orange iced tea with orange pearls from I heart Artichokes. 

Bottom line, it was ALL good. Seriously all good.  I don't know that I could think of something to say about anything that was bad, taste-wise.

Again, keep reading, we'll get to the problems.

These nice little blurbs were cute, although I'd like proof Walt intended to name the dwarfs after different kinds of wine.  Would have made my grandmother's favorite Disney movie MORE her favorite...

Here is the Mimosa flight from Uncork California.  As you can tell from the sign, you got Pear, Apricot and Mango Mimosa. Again, everything was great. The pear was a little more subtle in taste against the other two, though. 

Now, when you go to drink...look for the numbers first so you remember which is which....

There are two showcase areas, one in Hollywood Backlot (where they are doing more wine and beer tastings) and the other in Paradise Pier.  

Now, for the bad news....

Alright, the food was fantastic.....but Operations strikes again.

Just to back up a little, last year, we partook in several booths before finding the Sip and Savor Passes in the Blue Sky Cellar.  Now, we're not oblivious, we try to get all the information to be had.  Why were they essentially hiding?

So, this year.....
Since seating is kind of hard to come by, my mother went to go get the Sip and Savor Pass, available at few locations (I'll get to that in a minute).

The Sip and Savor Pass is located in the two AP "Corners" in Paradise Pier and the Hollywood Pictures Backlot in Stage 17.  Why are the only two areas where you can get the pass on opposite parts of the park, nowhere near the actual booths?

When she got to the Paradise Pier location, they had the cards...but no registers.   A cast member was actually going down the line of people waiting (starting from the back or the line, which also makes no sense) to inform everyone about the situation.  Not that they weren't working....they just didn't have any. How, on the first day of the festival, do you have NO registers....with two days of soft openings? That will be a theme of the day, by the way...

That Welcome booth right in front of the festival couldn't be made to accommodate the AP Sip and Savor cards? Really?

Then, to make things worse, TWO booths, at noon on the first day of the festival were out of food.  You read that right.  Out of Food.  My mother, being the fantastic assistant to the blog she is, was trying to cover all the bases and the Garlic booth was out of sliders, the Cheese and Nuts booth out of brie.  She went to the Artichoke booth and said, "Ok, if you're out of food, we're going over to Disneyland and eating a burger."  The Cast Member was shocked. The festival starts its day at 11 and at 12 both the neighboring booths are out of food?!

Well, this CM was kind enough to explain.  The food is made with remote preparation system and brought TO the booths.  OK, fine, I get it, the booths are small. But why is the food not brought over fast enough? Or why is communication so bad booths have no food to serve customers? At lunch?

As the CM put it, "I thought two days of soft opening were to fix these problems."
Apparently, not.

For at least two years now, in so many events, in both parks, we've seen issues with Operations.  Basic bonehead problems.  At what point is Disney going to look into this and fix it? Who needs to be fired? Who needs to be brought in?

The supposed hallmark of Disney's legacy is service.  Walt said himself you could build anything you want but it's the PEOPLE who make the endeavor work. It's also the people who can mess up a good event, attraction or experience.  And right now, I'm finding nicer Team Members at Universal and Knott's. The wrong people in the executive areas are setting things up without a thought for logistics, alienating their core audience, Annual Passholders.  Not smart.

Plus, once you lose the aspect of your company that sets you apart, superior service, then what do you have? Crowds, angry entitled parents, 1/3 of the park's attractions down, an hour to get into the park because of inefficient security measures, where does it end? It certainly won't when people stop coming, but does something large and problematic from a PR perspective have to happen before this kind of thing gets reined in?

Now that the Festival has run a few more days, I sincerely hope the issue is rectified.

So, that's it for the moment.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Thank you to Joy and my mother, Regina, for helping out with the event!

And thank you, readers, for coming back! If you have any questions, similar experiences to share, comments PLEASE feel free to add your comment below.  This blog can only grow with the help of its readers.

Have a great day!