Saturday, March 17, 2001 7:43 PM
Trip Report: Disneyland: The Original
March 12, 2001
"This is the land that Walt built, personally"
Welcome to day 3 of Eric and Dave's Califrna tour. For today we are checking into a true piece of amusement park history:Disneyland.
We arrived at the Disneyland resort slightly after 8, and dutifully followed the parking signs around to the old entrance, found a parking entrance and toll plaza there, paid the $7, and were diverted through Disney roads on over to the new parking structure anyways. Ok, parking garage, its a garage people. After parking our car in the mamoth garage and walking over to the tram station, we were soon on our way to Downtown Disney, where we would groan slightly as the main tram station has been positioned directly in front of the World of Disney, the world's largest Disney Store. Great the first thing you see, and last thing you see is a humongous souvineir store. We walked from the tram station to the ticket booths, found a line with no waiting and learned that Disney did something very cunning to its ticket prices. For a while now, Disney has offered 1,2,3, and 5 day passes. With two theme parks, we thought the perfect option would be to select the two day ticket, right? Wrong, the two day ticket has been taken off the market. Now your options are 1,3, and 4, and no season pass sales either. (editors note: Season Passes were put back on the market March 17). Weighing prices we decided the most ecconomical options was to buy two one-day tickets each.
After being appriately outfitted with tickets, and having secured a locker, we made a brief stop at La Briea Bakery for some pastries and mochas before heading into Disneyland.
Ahh, both familiar and curiously strange at the same time. I am a seasoned veteran of the Magic Kingdom in Florida, but this is my first time visitng Disneyland. We took the timhe to explore and film Main Street while waiting for the rope drop, ten at rope drop, decided on a non-standard plan of attack. That of heading directly to Fantasyland first.
First stop, Matterhorm Bobsleds, a truly historic coaster that deserves a moment of respect. Friends, we are looking at Arrow Dynamics Coaster Serial Number 1! We are looking at the very first tubular steel track coaster, we are looking at the coaster that without which many of todays steel wonders would not have been possible. And the theming, a scale model Matterhorn Mountain, and a swiss themed loading area. The cars themselves are simple bobsled style cars and can accomodate either 2 smallins or 1 biggin. The cars have been coupled into trains of two, and the ride features two tracks for increased capacity. Restraint is by means of a seatbelt, and there are two seatbelts per car Not too much longer and we were being shown to a Bobsled.
It may not be the fastest, tallest, whateverest, but it does score highly in the pure fun category. The small cars, the prone sitting position the low sitting position that makes you feel you are riding right on the tracks, the close clearances of the tunnels, the animated abomidable snowman, the sound effects, the tight hairpin turns, the surpirse dips and leaps, the splashdown finale. I'd have to say Arrow did a mighty fine job at their first attempt to build a coaster. I mean this coaster has the feeling your sled is running out of control. Wow, plus now I have been on the oldest operating wood and modern steel coaster.
Matterhorm Bobsleds - Left Track - Coaster # 171
After Matterhorn we took the time to explore Fantasyland, our next stop was the Alice in Wonderland ride, a cute clever dark ride in long pointy nose cars and several gratuitous turns. This darkr ide tells the Alice in Wonderland story and features several memorabl scenes from the story and ends with the Unbirthday Party. After Alice it was right next door to a ride that caused much comotion when it was riped out of Florida's Fantasyland. Let's hear it for:
Mr.Toads Wild Ride!
Mr. Toad is alive and well in Disneyland, and there are some key differences between the one here and the one that used to be in Florida. The cheif amougst them is that this version only has one track, and the queue area is inside the estate house. The general theme of the ride as being a car out of control is the same. The one scene I missed was the one where it looked like you were going to run into another car and turned off at the last minute. But the ride was fine, and I must say to all those who are still mourning the death of Mr. Toad in Florida to come on out to California.
We then stepped accross the street and experienced a no-wait ride on Snow Whites Scary Adventures, quickly followed by Pinochio's Daring Journey. Both dark rides that tell their respective stories.
We then headed back to our first wait of the day, that for Peter Pans Flight, another storybook dark ride, this time featuring suspended cars, or pirate ships as the case may be. I have always liked the Peter Pan's flight and today was no exception. Aprrarenly others like it to as it attracted more than Pinochio, Snow White and Pinochio combined.
While in line for Peter Pan, we caught a glimpse of the marching band, includin a scene where the marching band boarded King Arthurs Caoursel and procceded to play songs as the they rode.
After Peter Pan we headed accorss Fantasyland, and declining the flat rides (King Arthurs Carousel, Mad Tea Party, and Dumbo) we decided on the Casey Jr. Circus Train, a cute train ride in a circus train that travels through the Storybook land, except you don't get the narration. Narration? You have to ride the Storybook Land Canal Boats for that, which was our next ride, the boat ride was cute and the narration maybe a bit too cute. Suffice to say you can see where all your favorite storybook characters supposedly live. Then we coulnd't leave Fantasyland without one more stop. The attraction with a love-hate relationship, the one that makes us appreciate the Sally Interactive Dark Ride that much better. That's right its time for "It's A Small World" but "It's a Long Ride" Yes, "It's a Long Ride Afterall, It's a LOOONG Ride Afterall, It's a LOOOOOOOOONNNNNGGGG ride afterall, its a Long Long Ride" And I'm not talking about you Todd! Seriously we boarded our boat just as the whimiscal animated clock on the front of the fancy structure was striking 10:30, we were still in our boat waiting our turn to unload when same clock struck 10:45. We did take time to read the historical marker in fromnt of Small World.
At this time we jetted over to the Rainforest Cafe for some lunch and then jetted back using the ultra sleek Disneyland Monorail.
Back from lunch, time for Tommorowland. First stop was to take a walking tour of Tommorowland and check out Fastpass options. Space Mountain was currently selling seats 3 hours in advance, Star Tours would not be an issue, and Autopia was renting cars an hour in advance. Hmm, and the Space Mountain standby line is 30 minutes. Sounds like a plan, So we snagged Fastpasses for Autopia, and headed over to Space Mountain, and opted for the standby line. About 20 minutes later we were boarding a rocket.
Space Mountain - Coaster # 172
Note: Disney does not mess around with train dispatch, they are right up there with Knoebels with get them loaded and get the train out of here.
Space Mountain in CA is a lot differnet than in FL. for one there is only 1 track, and you ride in normal 2-accross rollercoastercars, though the cars are Williams Grove Cyclone size, 2 cars, 3 rows each. There are however SEVERAL trains. We boarded a train, and first experiences the tri-fold lift. Yep the lift is folded into three segments, then the ride itself is a lot wilder and intense than its FL counterpart, even the special effects seem better. A great ride, and you exit right into a construction area, no kidding, they do have wooden walls up to direct you back to the midway.
After our Space Mountain ride, we went in and saw Honey I Shrunk the Audience. Cute show, neato theater efects, but the same as I saw in Epcot. Well look at the time, its time to pick up our Autopia cars, but first a walk around to Star Tours and look seats are selling only 30 minutes in advance thay would mean right after we got done with our Autopia ride, so we snagged a Star Tours fastpass, then wnet over to pick up our Autopia cars. Using Fastpass we were taken through a secret tunnel and out to the loading area. Autopia has 4 tracks, and in a cunning move to promote Fastpass, Two tracks are dedicated for Fastpass riders,in a further cunning move, the Fastpass side was operating both its tracks, and the standby side was only running 1 of its tracks. After a minimal wait, comparatively, we were being shown to separate cars.
Autopia, I just don't get it. What is the big deal, I know this is the All New Autopia, but what am I supposed to notice here? This was nothing more than yet another U-Driv-Em ride. Oh was I supposed to notice the off-road section? All 10 feet of it???? While the cars look cute, and the ride is unique having 4 tracks, and I guess the off road part gets a few points, I just don't get it.
But lookythere, its time for our Star Tours ride. Star Tours fastpass was an unneded luxury as there was NO standby line, So e marched right up to a waiting Endor Shuttle and took the same tired ride as is at MGM Studios. Folks, this ride was cool when I first rode it in the early 90's, its a bit dated and old now.
After Star Tours we boarded the train to see the Grand Canyon and Primeval World Dioramas. Not mentioned on the park guide, thse two animated dioramas are a sleeper attraction in their own right, and worth taking the train ride to see. We remained on the train and rode around to New Orleans Square.
Upon our arrival at New Orleans Square, we headed for the Haunted Mansion, and noted the standby time to be posted at an unlucky 13 minutes, however with our own eyes we could see that guests were being ushered directly into the house with no wait. We entered the haunted house, and encountered the Stretch Room effect. For once an elevator effect that is an honest to goodess elevator. Then upn navigating some hallways we were in our doom buggies for a trip through the haunted mansion which was not that much different than in Flordia. Upon exiting the Haunted Mansion we weighed our Fastpass options. splash Mountain was selling Fastpasses like 3 hours in advance, Big Thunder was a little over an hour, and Indiana Jones was about an hour. We decided to snag the Fastpass for Big Thunder, and use our virtual queue time to ride Jungle Cruise. Jungle Cruise is just a wee bit different than the one in Florida, the skippers still tell the same corny jokes but the sequencing is different, and you don't go through the indoor portion. The double deck queue though does have one traffic problem. At one point it splits into two lines, then merges back down to one, then splits back into two. How weird. I have always loved the Jungle Cruise and this cruise did not dissaoint.
After our cruise and a brief rst stop, well looky there, time for our Big Thunder Mountain Ride. This time with Fastpass we were escorted all the way to the front of the line. Wow. I almost feel guilty walking past all those toursits in line. We were soon seated for the Big Thunder Moutain Railroad, and noted the addition of queue gates, but the Disney folks waste no time in getting them open. Decals were also seen in the cars admonishing parents to "SUPERVISE YOUR CHILDREN" with an icon of a child with foot hanging out side of car, with a big red NO symbol over it. Big Thunder, I seems to note more special effects on this verson, though the ride is similar. In fact the ride was exactly what I expected out of Big Thunder which was a good thing.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - Coaster #173
We exited Big Thunder and encounted "THE SMELL", ughh, paradise ruined by the distinctive smell of a Mcdonalds French Fries Cart. But lets troup around the ride and shoot some video, and looky there almost time for our Indy Ride. Just enough time to head to Splash Mountain and get its FastPass. On Splash Mountain we encountered the Fastpass Mercy Rule, since our Splash Mountain appointment wasn't for 2.5 hours, we could get our next Fastpass at the 2 hour mark instead of waiting the full time. Enough let's head back to Indy. Fastpass got us on the ride again no waiting. Strange they have an ornate queue but the standby line is held in the outside overflow, leaving the indoor queue to be an empty walk through. What a waste.
Indy though was not a waste, Indy was a pretty impressive dark ride. The first to combine motion bases with a dark ride I believe. The effect is stunning, though I must give the nod to Spiderman. Indy though does score on offeig a rough out of control feeling, something not often felt in the confines of a dark ride. Two thumbs up.
We thene exited Indy, and decided to take another spin around the park. We climbed through Tarzan's Treehouse. Sorry but I liked the Swiss Family Rovinson theme better. We then walked over to the Enhanted Tiki Birds, 15 minutes till next show, let's look at the castle and come back. We never made it back.
In front of the castle is the Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse sculpture, had to get some pictures of it, before looking at the castle, and stumbling upon the Snow White Grotto, another sleeper attraction, the scultures were a gift to Walt, and approriate background music plays.
We then walked through the castle, quite litterally. You see unlike Flordia, where the Castle rooms are given over to Food Service and Resale, out here in California there is a walk through attraction that tells the story of Sleeping Beauty in animated tableaux as you explore the castle. Another fine sleeper attraction.
Coming out of the castle, we took some Fantasyland video before exploring Toontown.
Toontown and the fist thing we come accross is Roger Rabitts Cartoon Spin. And a barricade. No explanation, just a baricade. not even a friendly cast member to tell you its closed. We noted the whimsy of the area down to the Jolly Trolly, the buildings, the Bounce House, and in the back the Go-Gadget Coaster. The Go-Gadjet coaster is a standard Vekoma Rollerskater, albeit very well themed. Closer examinaton of the ride revealed a 45 minute wait. For a Rollerskater. Cue JJ Mailman Voice: "I don't need the credit that bad" We decided to can the old Go Gadjet coster and head back to Fantasyland, and in particular Matterhorn Mountain. At first when we saw the queue blocked off we thought it was closed, but hey they are loading bobsleds. Ahh smart thinking, the Bobsleds exit interects its entrance, rather than have both exits interecting to manage, they are feeding both tracks off of one queue line. (Up to the split point at the bigining of the covered queues) We queued up, and in true coaster nut fashion, sicne we rode the Left track last time, we rode the Right track. With only one turn of the queue to go, the loader called out "I need a party of two" not thinking we volunteered and a secret gate was opened. After seeing the size of both of us waiting in one seat queue, the loader had mercy on us. "I know you two won't be too comfortable if I make you ride together, how about waiting for the next sled and I can seat you both seperately. Fair enough. .
Oh, yeah, I am credit obsessed and it is a dual track coaster so:
Matterhorn Mountain - Right Track - Coaster #174
After Matterhorn, we filmed some, found Space Mountain to bedwn mechanical, we went out a got coats from locker, we explored the DCA Preview Center. A very friendly DCA Preview cast member attempted to tell us all about the park, not knowing that we were die hard park fans and already knew more details about the attractions than he did. Good show though on Guest Service in the preview center. We strolled down Main Street, and look its almost time for our two hour mercy Fastpass. We headed towards Big Thunder Mountain, headed to the fastpass machines, inserted our tickets, and out came "Sorry..." The fastpass computer is slick instead of embarassing the guests it prints a note on a void ticket informing you what time you can get your next Fastpass and the current time of day. Inspection revealed only a 4 minute differance. Come on can't I have one a couple minuted early. It also tells you what your active Fastpass is for. Slick. We headed into giftshop near Big Thunder, walked through and found THE shirt we wanted. Unfortunately after having the cast members check the stock room, they could not find the SIZE we needed. Aw shucks, I guess its the dreaded Main Street Gift Shops pretty soon.
After killing this time it was time for us to try to get a Big Tunder Mountain Fastpass, this time the machine agreed to have mercy on us and give us a BTMR fastpass. Great now we can head over to the Haunted Mansion, after taking a few photos of Pirates of The Caribean which was down for rehab. Haunted Mansion had no line, we were the next group to be invited into the house, when some guest just had to go and get sick in the preshow room. After seeing that the park was going to make the cleanup a major production, we bailed. We then headed to the Country Bear Jamboree, sorry Country Bear Playhouse. I still like the original Country Bear show the best, though the current one has its moments. Playing to a near empty room, in a crowded park, I just don't see this show lasting too much longer.
But The Bears did entertain us just long enough that it was time for our Splash Mountain Ride. And here is where I felt the guiltiest using a Fastpass. Not only were we escorted past a huge line of guests growing more impatient, they actually help up the standyby line to keep the Fastpass line moving. But then I must think, Fastpass is free and open to all, if folks don't use it, then shame on them. In fact, deep down, I kinda really like Fastpass, I mean isn't it every enthusiasts dream to be scorted to the front of the line to ride. In fact after a couple days of Fastpass and seeing just how much more I can do in a park by using the Fastpass system, I must say Fastpass is one of the best things to happen to Disney.
And hey not too much longer after exiting Splash Mountain, which is a great log flume, though I prefer the logs they use in Florida better. (FL used 2 accross, CA uses traditional style log flume logs) And upping Kennywoods ante, Disney expects a minimum of 6 guests to a log. Of course their logs are a lot bigger than the normal logs. Is it a Log Flume, is it a dark ride?
Anyway after having a Zippy-de-do-dah time in Splash Mountain with minimal water damage, it was time for our Big Thunder ride. By now Big Thunder was only using 1 of its 2 loading areas, which I think means 3 trains max. But heywith Fastpass, Line? What line? Sorry folks, this little card means I get to just march right up and board while you still stand there. Another fine mine ride, then we headed over to Matterhorn (Left track), another fine Matterhorn ride, and to complete the trifecta we headed over to Space Mountain and here our Trifecta got sunk, courtesy of Fastpass. You see all that time Space Mountain was down mechancial, they were still issuing Fastpass tickets for it. Now all those folks expect to recieve their ride. The upshot, Fastpass was sold out, and the Standby line neared the hour point. And did not look much longer than earlier when it was only 20 minutes. Meaning the ratio of FP to SB was tipped more heavily in the FP riders favor. No thanks.
Instead we setled for a ride on Astro Orbiter, a Roto-Jets style ride, and while waiting for it we laughed how we are waiting 15 minutes to ride Roto-Jets here, when we didn't even look at the Roto-Jets at Kneobls with a walk on wait. Astro Orbiter was fun, the ride cycle was way too short, but I noticed the G's were stronger when you flew. low. We also commented on how many rides the queues take you close to the ride loading area as if you are about to ride,they divert itself to the furthest point in the queue from the ride. Very decieving. Makes it hard to judge progress.
We then looked in EVERY souvenir store on Main Street and never did find THE shirt. After much heartache, we finally settled for a different pattern, its nice and all, but not the shirts we really wanted. Also the line for Mouse Ears was obscenely long, Can I get a gift shop Fastpass????? Mouse Ears were NOT purchased.
By then we had dinner at Naples in Downtown Diseny, where we noted some staff discontent and tension going on, then headed back to our hotel.