Sunday, January 24, 2016

Disneyland Recap: Friday

Click here to view my recap of the previous day's Disney fun!

My wake-up call at 7:00 was one of the latest wake-up calls I had during the weekend! My hotel's continental breakfast was great - it was a large breakfast space with lots of seating, and they had all the necessary breakfast items: eggs, potatoes, oatmeal, pancakes, cereal, fruit, danishes, and DONUTS! (Lots of hotels don't have donuts anymore, and these were so tasty! The only thing they didn't have? Pork - no bacon and no sausage. Kind of a bummer, if I was more into bacon.


My short walk allowed me to get to the Disneyland front gate by 8:10 for an opening at 9:00. There was a line of about 8-10 people at each entrance, so I picked one and sat to wait. About 20 minutes later, they allowed people into the park. We got to walk down Main Street U.S.A. and see the teeny tiny Sleeping Beauty Castle at the end. (It would take some getting used to.) Since opening wasn't for another 30 minutes, they held us at the entrances to each land.

I chose Tomorrowland, and most of the other people did as well. We were all excited to see the new Star Wars additions called "Seasons of the Force." They overlaid Space Mountain to be Hyperspace Mountain, added a new scene to Star Tours, and used the lower level of their exhibition area as "Star Wars Launch Bay" with costumes, props, and meet-and-greets. (More on this later.)

I was in one of the first cars to jump into lightspeed at Hyperspace Mountain, and it was a lot of fun! The audio is piped in through the seats, and the story is great - you're in an X-Wing squadron and you run into a Star Destroyer and TIE squadron and have to beat them. You hear a lot of audio chatter between your fellow X-Wing pilots, and the video - while limited because the building is almost 40 years old - does its job well.

Saw a few Rey cosplays by girls -
I was so happy to see it!!
I grabbed a FastPass (they still have paper ones in Disneyland) for Star Tours and viewed a special film called "Path of the Jedi," which is a nice compilation of the most important Star Wars moments from the first six films, culminating in the big trailer for The Force Awakens that had premiered on October 19. It was a theater that had some additional effects piped in (it used to be for "Captain EO" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience"). When blasters fired on screen, the lights in the theater flashed. Explosions resulted in seat rumbling. It was a short film, but a nice way to wait until my Star Tours FastPass came up.

Another way to wait for time to pass was to head across Disneyland to Adventureland and see the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction. You are loaded into vehicles and are allowed to enter a sacred temple where you can achieve one of three wishes: riches, youth, or a vision of the future. You just can't look into the statue's eye...which inevitably everyone does, and then you have to escape the temple as it comes crashing down. It's pretty spectacular!

I wandered a bit through Adventureland, disappointed because the Jungle Cruise was closed for refurbishment. However, the skippers were doing improvisations outside the attraction, and even were doing mock Cruises featuring park guests!

This was my chance to get a world-famous Disneyland churro, and it was warm, full of cinnamon, and very, very tasty. I would definitely get that again!

I got to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, which has an almost completely outdoor queue. Once you get inside, you're almost on the boat! I loved this attraction here at Disneyland, because it was a lot longer than the one at WDW. As you go through the beginning, it's very quiet, and full of skeletons. But when you go down the second dip, suddenly the Klaus Badelt music kicks in and you're right in the midst of a boat/fort battle! It made me want to watch Pirates of the Caribbean again.

Star Tours was great, although I'm not big into the motion simulation stuff. They have quite a few new things added in for The Force Awakens, including following the Millennium Falcon through the junkyards of Jakku to an appearance of Finn to a message from BB-8.

By this time, my touring plan was suggesting lunch. I'd chosen a pretty carb-rich menu for my trip, and my first major meal was jambalaya from the French Market. While I'm not a big fan of andouille sausage, the rest of the meal was delicious! I actually did FaceTime with my parents during my meal and got to tell them all the awesome stuff I'd done so far.

New Orleans Square is a land that's not not in Walt Disney World, and I fell in love with it as soon as I stepped foot in it. It's mostly tight streets with wrought iron balconies and beads everywhere. It also features some great restaurants (I come back here later).

A great aspect of Disneyland is its live music. Since the Haunted Mansion was closed (another big bummer) there was a Dixieland jazz band that set up in front of the entrance, playing music and handing out beads. There was a couple with their small son listening, and one of the instrumentalists was giving him beads and instructing him to give them to his parents and other little kids. When he was told to give it to a little girl, he got pretty close, but then just dropped the beads at her feet. Adorable! Another band was on the balcony of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, and both bands were incredibly talented.

I had decided a few days earlier to go back to the runDisney Expo for one of the talks they have throughout the Expo. To get there, I went to Tomorrowland and caught the Disneyland Monorail! This monorail travels through California Adventure to the far side of Downtown Disney, near the Disneyland Hotel. It was only natural I take this route!

As I entered the hotel, I was surprised to see Chip, Dale, Goofy, and Pluto doing photos inside the entrance with no line! The reason I usually stay away from characters is because I don't like the lines, so this was a great chance to get some photos.


The speakers I was going to see were Matt Martin, Lucasfilm's manager of digital content who had just been promoted to the Story Group, and Cole Horton, an author of several Star Wars books. Usually runDisney presentations are based on running or dieting, but this one was about Star Wars...with some loose connections to running. They went through the movies and talked about the Hero's Journey and the state of the galaxy. One of the best thing was that a trailer for the newest part of Star Wars Rebels, a cartoon on Disney XD, had just been posted earlier in the day, and they showed it to us on their big screen!
Matt Martin of Lucasfilm

This was my opportunity to see the "usual" long lines that exist at the runDisney Expo, and I was very surprised to see the lines for the official Disney merchandise tent. I didn't have to be there, though; I had already seen everything I needed to know!

My intention was to take the monorail back to Tomorrowland, but they closed the monorail. That meant I had to walk back to Disneyland, which wasn't a big deal.

My re-entrance back to Disneyland was timed perfectly with finding a spot for the Soundsational Parade. There were about 45 minutes before it was going to start, and to my surprise there were a ton of great spots, including some benches around Town Square! I guess the parade has been around for almost 5 years, so it isn't as popular as it once was. However, as the parade time got closer, I noticed high school students that were fresh from class coming in. They knew all the words, and pretty much knew all the dance moves, too!

As I waited on my bench, I sat next to three people from New York, two of whom had just run the 5K race that morning. One of them was also doing the 10K and Half Marathon, and had also done the Walt Disney World Marathon the weekend before! (Talk about dedication...and money!) She and I had a very nice chat about running, as well as other Marathons and races.

The Soundsational Parade was great! I'd heard many positive reviews when it premiered back in 2011, and they really did some amazing things with the floats and dancers. My favorite section was the very beginning, with six drummers not only playing amazingly on snare drums, but dancing, too! Right behind them was a float with Minnie and Mickey. Mickey was up playing a drum set himself!

As I've gotten older, I have begun to appreciate the mechanics and engineering of the floats, as well as the brilliance behind the audio that changes with each themed float that passes by. Each float series featured dancers, the main float, and perhaps some secondary characters or dancers. This parade had a section for Aladdin, the Lion King, the Three Caballeros, the Little Mermaid, a Princess float, the Princess and the Frog, Peter Pan, and ending with Mary Poppins. The Mary Poppins section featured chimney sweep dancers, a very large float featuring the fox hunter and fox ("View Haloo!") and Mary and Bert on their carousel horses like in the movie!

I headed back to Tomorrowland to see the Star Wars Launch Bay, an exhibit area that featured costumes and props from the Star Wars movies. You enter to another opening crawl on the rug, and then the space opens up. Glass cases are all around featuring someone's costume, weapons, and several models of ships or vehicles. Each had a very nice description attached, so you understood when in the Star Wars galaxy that item existed.

There was an area where you could play the Star Wars portion of the video game Disney Infinity 3.0, but I wasn't here to play video games! I was, however, here to meet characters, and I hopped in line to meet Chewbacca!

They let in a few groups at a time, and I ended up being the last person in a group, which mean I didn't have people waiting behind me. That was great. It also meant I was hangin' out with Chewie by myself! (...and one PhotoPass photographer and Chewie's handler, who wasn't Han Solo, unfortunately.) I believe I said something like "This is such an honor!" because you have to play pretend when in a situation like this. I decided not to ask any questions about The Force Awakens, even though he did growl and roar. The picture they took first was a side-by-side shot, but I got what I wanted when I requested a back-to-back shot. It was pretty much perfect.

I could have also done a photo op with Darth Vader, but the queue was longer and I wasn't very interested. I checked out the Marvel exhibits on the second floor, then headed out.

You could make a sign to cheer on
runners at the races - this is mine!
One of the shops in Tomorrowland was selling nametags and other jewelry that you could customize with your name in Aurebesh, so I got a bracelet with my name on it in the language of Star Wars. It's pretty neat.

Friday was the lightest crowd day I experienced in my weekend, which was interesting because they decided to film footage for a 60th anniversary television show on that day. There was a stage set up right in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle as well as speakers and other equipment. I didn't think that was any different from normal, because in Walt Disney World they have a stage in front of Cinderella Castle all the time! The next day I found out that it was only temporary, and the space was clear.

This TV special also had a concert that was on that stage at 7:00pm for people who had a special ticket. Because of this, the usual nighttime spectaculars were being pushed to earlier times - the Paint the Night parade would be at 5:45 and the Disneyland Forever fireworks would be at 6:30.

I was already planning on making it an early night because of my planned 3:00am wake-up call for the 10K, so when I saw that I could conquer both Disneyland nighttime shows on Friday, freeing up my other night (Sunday) for the World of Color at California Adventure, I had to take advantage of it. I was thinking I would have to choose, and now it was so easy!

My supper was at the Carnation Cafe, a popular restaurant right on Main Street U.S.A. that has been around since the park first opened. It didn't take me long to get a table, and they sat me outside, where heaters had been set up over some of the tables. I had decided not to bring my jacket this day, and at this point I was starting to regret that decision. The heaters helped.

I ate a smoked turkey sandwich with fries, and splurged on a lemonade drink that had citrus foam on the top that was very tasty!

For the next hour I plopped myself on the curb of Main Street U.S.A. and rested my legs. It really worked out to have to sit and wait for these special things, because it meant resting my legs and not overdoing it before my races. I had no problem waiting.

Since I've known since May that I was doing this race weekend, I had not watched any videos of Paint the Night or listened to any audio. And because I remained spoiler-free, I was greatly rewarded! The audio mixed the song from Wreck-It Ralph ("When Can I See You Again" by Owl City) with the music from the Main Street Electrical Parade, as well as individual songs for each of the floats. The parade was essentially the Main Street Electrical Parade on steroids, and that made it great. I really appreciated how the larger-than-life characters or dancers still allowed you to see the operators underneath. This has become a trend in Disney shows (like the puppets in the Finding Nemo musical) that I really like.

After the parade, we all rushed to the center of the street, and the fireworks started 10 minutes later. I had a great vantage point of the fireworks, and an even better POV of the projections that they put on the buildings of Main Street U.S.A. For example, during a Little Mermaid section, giant coral and seaweed were blown up above the buildings, and the buildings were overlaid with bubbles and water. And in the Frozen section, snow fell! (Well, soap bubbles, but it looked like snow.)

The fireworks ended and I made my way out of the park. It felt really strange leaving at 6:45 when the park was open until midnight, but I knew I needed a lot of sleep before I ran 6.2 miles the next day!

Watch Paint the Night below, and click here for my recap of the 10K!



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