Monday, May 9, 2011

Almost There; California Adventure

{The kids, enjoying soft-serve from Catch a Flave
back when you could get bubblegum flavor!}
On the West Coast, we are lucky enough to have two Disney Parks!  Oh, you knew that?  There is, of course, the one, the only, Disneyland!  Then, Disney un-paved a parking lot and put up a paradise.  In 2001, Disney's California Adventure (or DCA) opened it's gates for the first time.  Unfortunately the response from locals was luke-warm at best.  Revisions of the park started almost immediately.

Perhaps it was my not being a local, but I fell in love with DCA when we first visited in 2005.  When we needed a calming break from the bright hustle and bustle of Disneyland park, we headed over to DCA.  There were quiet pockets of the park like the farm area with the best cheese sticks ever... I mean, these suckers were huge and came with a generous helping of purple grapes.  We would hit that little market, find a picnic table in the shade and relax while we watched the world hurry by.  While I think everyone in our family would still choose Disneyland as their favorite park, DCA provided a reposed place of refuge.

Apparently, our little utopia was not seen in the same light by Disney's dream team executives.  They had a new dream already {why they didn't think this through in the first place, I don't know...} and everything was set to change.  Some speculated that the original plan for the park was to "get it done yesterday", with the intent of re-doing what didn't fit as the admission money came in.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I know that Disney, like any business, ultimately needs to make a profit.  Having a Southern California themed park in Southern California became redundant.  The process of changing the kitchy California of yesteryear image to a full-fledged deluge of Disney theme park began.

Toy Story Midway Mania blasted onto the scene in summer of 2008.  This was a wonderful addition.  The Boardwalk got some new games, the neon Mickey came down from California Screamin', and the sun from the Sun Wheel became Mickey and thus Mickey's Fun Wheel.  More recently, the somewhat iconic Maliboomer was taken down and has an awkward "park" in its place (basically, some benches and pvc trellises).  I was quite disappointed to hear that our favorite little farm area was being torn down to put up a ride for the new Cars Land.  It was a full circle; they paved our paradise to put up a parking lot ride. 

Paradise Pier 2005

Paradise Pier now

I don't like to speak ill of Disney, but I have to say that if I had gone to DCA within the last two years, and it was my one BIG trip, I wouldn't have been impressed.  Many of the park's major renovations have come with long term closures and construction walls everywhere you turn.  (The water in the bay was drained for the better part of a year while work on World of Color was underway)  With all the "coming soon" and "pardon our pixie dust" signs I'd feel like I had really missed out.  Something great is coming, but you won't see it any time soon.  Please visit us again! 

Slowly, though, things are coming together.  The new park is emerging.  In 2010, the much lauded World of Color finally premiered, and to stellar reviews.  The California inspired, "Orange Zinger" got a face-lift to reveal a more blatantly Disney, "Mickey's Silly Symphony Swings".  Work has long been underway for the new Little Mermaid attraction, which will open June 3rd. (Perhaps it's the homeschooling mom in me, but I have missed "Golden Dreams", the edutainment film on California's early history.)  Also slated to open this summer is the re-themed Goofy's Sky School, formerly Mulholland Madness, and Paradise Gardens, a boardwalk inspired eating area which replaces Pizza Oom Mow Mow, Burger Invasion, and the water play area with the surf boards and the fire boat.  (Disney Parks Blog has more info on Paradise Gardens Menu items, as well as a new opening date of July 1st for both the eateries and Goofy's Sky School.)

Tandem surfing was never so easy!
Future home of Paradise Gardens, summer 2011

Although there are still many changes ahead... Cars Land in 2012, along with a complete 1920's era re-theme of the park's entrance, including a replica Carthay Circle Theater(where Snow White first was shown) and a Red Car Trolley line... now is not a bad time to visit.  It's sad to think about some of the places that our family really enjoyed being replaced.  But a part of me is growing more and more curious to see what new opportunities Disney has planned.  I am looking forward to making new memories.  I think I'm ready to be almost there.

Are you curious about what's new and what's next at DCA?  This is a fun look at Disney's Blue Sky Cellar, the Imagineers' concepts for upcoming attractions and new themes.  Click here to see what's NEW at Disney's California Adventure Park.

The much-braver-than-I kids after riding the Maliboomer in 2009
Glad they all met the height requirement before its removal!

My last two cents: With all the changes, why couldn't they have revamped It's Tough to Be a Bug?  A Bugs Life is one of my all-time favorite animated movies.  The attractions's 3-D show does not do it justice.

Really cool themed cue area in Tough To Be A Bug.
Just watch out for the stinger and the stink bug in the show.
Seriously, what were they thinking with that show??

Monday, May 2, 2011

Almost There; 40 years

October 1st, 1971.  The Magic Kingdom opened it's gates for the first time.  It must have been a bittersweet day: a Park without its Creator.  Nevertheless, Walt's brother Roy gave the welcoming speech, reminding everyone of the collaboration involved with making the dream come true. 

“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place… a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together. Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971.” ~ Roy O. Disney
Months earlier, a significant day in my history was occurring.  On the second of May, 1971, my parents were married!  This sense of Disney connection might have been lost on them, save for the fact that on our trip to WDW this past fall, there were 40th Anniversary signs everywhere!  Disney is huge on celebrations of all kinds, and is never a stickler about the exact date.  So the fact that we were celebrating my parents' anniversary seven months early was no problem (hey, Disney was celebrating its own birthday a whole year early!).

Upon check-in at any Disney Resort, the cast members cheerfully ask if you are celebrating anything on your trip.  You see, they have bins full of buttons for every occasion.  First trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth?  There's a pin for that.  It's your birthday?  There's a pin for that.  Anniversary?  Yep, there's a pin for that.  Once you get your pin, you are encouraged to wear it as often as you like.  Other cast members around the parks are on the lookout for said buttons and will congratulate you in casual passing.  Sometimes catching you off guard if you've forgotten you were wearing the button.  "Hey, how'd you know...?"  Oh, right.  Duh.  Even fellow guests can get in on the congratulations; again, often throwing us off.  I blame the heat.  It was fun to be on the reciprocal side, though, spotting buttons on others and shouting out congratulations to forgetful celebratees.

In 40 years, Walt Disney World has grown from one park & two resort hotels, to four theme parks, two water parks, and twenty-three resort hotels (with more on the way!).  In those same 40 years, my parents have grown from a family of two, to parents of one, to grandparents of three.  Kinda glad their expansion wasn't quite as prolific as the Walt Disney World Resorts...that would have made a very crowded Thanksgiving table indeed. 

Happy 40th, Mom and Dad! 
With Congratulations & Love,

Ooh!  Sometimes along with the congratulations
came complementary cupcakes - yum!
{Mom & Dad at the Contemporary Resort} 

{Happy soon-to-be 40th, Magic Kingdom... you're almost there!}

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