D23! Quint's Day 1 includes a nostalgic return to Disneyland, Star Tours and some video of Dick Van Dyke singing!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here, newly returned from a nice working vacation in New Zealand. I’ve been away from home for a solid month and miss my own bed, but I can’t complain. I’ve been to heaven on earth and then get to spend another 6 or so days in Southern California doing some cool shit.
First up on the cool shit schedule is Disney’s D23, their big fan even in Anaheim which began today. There wasn’t much on the schedule today except for a musical performance by Dick Van Dyke and his Vantastix, a barbershop quartet group led by Van Dyke that sing his classic Disney songs and other covers. How cool would that be?!?
With little going on at D23 today (tomorrow’s the big day with Pixar panels, Marvel movie panels, Disney movie panels and more) I decided there was no better way to start a weekend celebration than with my first trip to Disneyland in over a decade. So, bright an early, within minutes of the gates opening, I was cruising the park with my buddy Chris Speidel, an old hat at the park who knows the ins and outs of Disneyland like nobody’s business.
I’ve never been to Disneyworld, Epcot Center, California Adventure… But I’ve been to Disneyland as a kid and have amazing memories of those experiences. For all parents who may be reading this, forget an X-Box and PS3 for your kids, save up and do the Disneyland trip. There is no better Christmas gift and I should know. One Christmas my parents gave me a wrapped box, I opened it expecting some Ninja Turtles or something and found a cheesy construction paper with the words “When you wish upon a star…” on the front. I opened it and there were pictures of Mickey Mouse, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Minnie, etc glue-sticked inside around the words “We’re going to Disneyland!”
There was not a better gift for me and those memories I will have until my final days. It’s still a place of magic. I could see it in the eyes of the kids all around me. Sure, there were some annoying loud little shitheads, but for the most part it was just thousands of wide-eyed children from all walks of life that could still feel the magic of the Magic Kingdom.
Whether it was boarding the new Star Tours, seeing the room expand in the Haunted Mansion, following Goofy around like he was the Pied Piper or singing along to It’s A Small World After All I’ve never seen happier kids.
It’s enough to bring out the kid in me… Granted, as an adult geek I’m not that far removed from my inner-child, but still.
Here’s the final count for the day. I spent 9 hours in the park, did The Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain EO, Star Tours (3 times), The Haunted Mansion (twice), Space Mountain (twice), Splash Mountain, The Tiki Room, Big Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones Experience, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, ate a Dole Whip and a crazy awesome Monte Cristo sandwiche at Café Orleans and did some unique shopping on Main Street.
Let’s begin at Star Tours.
Throughout the day I was able to get two fast passes (you can pick up one every two hours for rides and they essentially act as front-of-line tickets for specific rides) for Star Tours. They don’t tell you this, but these say they can only be used over a specific 60 minute time period, but really they can be used anytime in the day after the beginning time. For instance, if these passes say 12:20pm-1:20pm you can use it anytime after 12:20pm, even if it’s that evening.
So, two Star Tours passes were saved for later and my first Star Tours experience since the original was opened (rest in peace the Pee-Wee Herman voiced REX) was but a short 15 minute wait. The original experience was awesome, the Death Star run and I had some Disneyland Star Tours gift store purchased Ralph McQuarrie art posters on my walls throughout my childhood because of this ride.
If you haven’t read up on the new and improved Star Tours it’s broken up into a few parts. You essentially visit two locations from the Star Wars universe (OT and PT) piloted by C-3PO (animatronic) and R2 (on the video screen). These two planets are alternated and there’s the possibility for a few different openings and special appearances mid-way through.
The most common opening for me had Darth Vader and a ton of Stormtroopers approach the shuttle and force push us around, demanding we release a rebel spy (whose face shows up on the screen and was one of the park-goers on the ride). R2 brings up the ships guns, Vader drops us, forced to pull out his lightsaber to deflect the laserblasts and we burst out, going into hyperspace, avoiding Star Destroyers and TIE fighters, ending up on one planet, get into some shenanigans and go to another, but not before a Rebel Alliance spokesperson holograms in saying we need to deliver the spy to them.
I’ve heard of Yoda and Obi-Wan appearing, but the two I got in my three trips were Admiral Ackbar and Princess Leia. Leia blew my mind. She holograms in in the “You’re my only hope” style, but it was Carrie Fisher. YOUNG Carrie Fisher, telling us we needed to deliver this spy safely. I mean, like they filmed it in 1976 Carrie Fisher. If they could make an animated movie using that kind of photorealism I’d be a happy geek.
Now, I only got one Original Trilogy planet (Hoth and it was awesome), but even with my cynical prequel hatred in full force I still thought the Coruscant, Kashyyyk and Naboo levels were a ton of fun. Especially Naboo, which takes us over the hills, into the water and through the Gungan city (yes, Jar-Jar even makes an appearance) until we have to try to avoid underwater sea monsters and deliver our spy, ending the ride.
As much as I miss the Death Star Trench, I gotta say going into the ride not knowing what combination of elements you were going to get was a real treat and a brilliant way to keep people coming back to the park and returning to this particular ride time and time again.
I have three anecdotes to share about Star Tours… One, while waiting in line a Stormtrooper casually walks in, blaster up and everybody quieted down. They sell R2-D2 Mickey hats, where the cap part is R2’s dome and then the Mickey ears are normal. The Stormtrooper walks up to a kid of maybe 5 years old wearing this particular cap and grabs it, turning it around on his head as if inspecting it. The trooper shakes his head and wags his finger at the kid and walks away. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid grinning bigger. You can see the kid below in the green shirt.
The second is after exiting the ride and gift shop and seeing Boba Fett walk around. He looked great and a kid behind me enthusiastically screamed out “JANGO!!!” and my heart broke a little bit.
Thirdly, this cute Star Tours girl intro’d the ride and instructed us to find our seatbelts by declaring “It’s a strap!” Marry me, cute Star Tours girl!
With Star Tours done, my next priority was The Haunted Mansion, but my park-buddy Chris advised on riding Pirates of the Caribbean next door first because it’s a longer line later in the day, so I had my first run on the new Johnny Depp-ified Pirates. I greatly prefer the old version, but for the most part the movie stuff doesn’t get in the way. There’s a few Jack Sparrows around and an animatronic Geoffrey Rush (and Blackbeard projected onto mist), but other than that it was just the ride I remembered.
You know something strange, the smell of Pirates of the Caribbean triggers instant childhood feelings for me. The dank theme park-water smell takes me right back. While the awe of seeing the attraction has diminished a little bit, I have to say that wonderment was replaced with a completely different appreciation. The Imagineering team was legendary to the young teen version of myself, but at this age I found myself marveling at the sheer level of creativity on display with the ride.
And it’s a long ride. Well over 15 minutes and expansive. The stories being told with simple characterization (the infamous prisoners trying to tempt the dog with a key ring in his mouth with a bone springs to mind) are impressive as is the scope of imagination on display. Say what you will about Uncle Walt, but there’s nothing else like this place and it was his passion. And I’m saying this having never stepped foot into Epcot, which I hear is even more expansive.
As much as Pirates impresses me, I’m a Haunted Mansion guy through and through. Again, this stems from my childhood visits to the park. I grew up loving scary things and The Haunted Mansion was tops on my list. I remember my mom telling me that it was too scary for me and I protested, saying I wasn’t going to be scared.
Cut to me standing in the dark as the room elongates and that horrible voice tells me there’s no doors or windows and no way out… well, except for his way and we see the skeleton hanging from a noose above us. And boy did I cry my little eyes out. I screamed bloody murder.
The ride itself was fine and I was calm by the end of it, but that opening got me good. Now that I think about it that’s probably why image of a hanging body still gets under my skin even after decades of desensitization by the goriest, creepiest, scariest horror movies ever made.
What struck me about The Haunted Mansion on my adult run-through was how it is so well directed. And I mean directed. Like no other ride at the park, this one shows you what it wants you to see. The two-person cart you’re in (called Doombuggies) is on a rail and it points you at everything, twisting and turning through the Mansion and directs your gaze in much the same way a good movie director tells you what to focus on in a film.
On top of that you have the amazing physical effects, much of it done with projectors. On my second ride of the day the ride broke down for a minute overlooking the ghostly dining room, which has green ghosts dancing, balancing on the chandelier, popping out of paintings (a pair of duelists turn and fire at each other for all eternity) and having a merry old time. Because we were stopped over it for a bit I really got to take in some of the detail and it’s mind-boggling.
I know the big wigs like Guillermo del Toro (developing a Haunted Mansion movie that hopefully wipes away all traces of that piece of horseshit Eddie Murphy did) and Jon Favreau (doing Magic Kingdom, set in the park) have gotten the after hours VIP tour and have been able to walk around The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean… I would kill, KILL, to get the chance to do that. Who do you want dead, Disney? I’ll do it!
Space Mountain was also another pleasant childhood memory. Essentially the rollercoaster ride is done in pitch blackness, with you not being able to see the twists and turns. The only light in this room is simulated starlight and it’s incredible. I was about 45 people from the front of the line when the ride broke down and we were told it was going to be a wait that could be 10 minutes or 2 hours. We stuck around for a solid half hour as people gave up and ended up about a dozen people back when the ride opened up again.
The benefit was that word hadn’t gotten back to the rest of the park that the ride was up and running again, so after we got through our first run we returned to an empty platform. “Do you want to go again?” A resounding “Hell yeah!” came from everybody and again we went.
Space Mountain feels like the fastest rollercoaster I’ve ever been on and I’ll pass on a pro-tip I learned from Chris. Look up. Seriously, you can’t see the anything in front of you anyway. Look up and you’ll really have the sensation of flying through the galaxy as stars race by. It took a great ride to another level for me.
Another pro-tip learned was that the legendary Dole Whip (a soft serve made up of Dole Pineapples) available outside the Tiki Room is not only delicious and super awesome, but you can avoid the big line out front if you go into the Tiki Room patio and order from that side. Don’t say I never gave you nothin’!
A big reason for me wanting to revisit the park was the return of Captain EO in 70mm 3-D. Again, I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but I remember being blown away by the 3-D. I’m not sure if they just didn’t project it right or my adult brain is more discerning, but the 3-D was really wonky this time around. I’m guessing it was a projector issue because a couple minutes in the 3-D became much clearer.
The movie itself is bugnuts ridiculous. Michael Jackson is a great singer and dancer, but a rougish Space Captain he is not. Even though this time around I noticed he tried to look harder than he was by not shaving and having a few lonely whiskers stand out on his face. The whole thing is silly, but so infectious that I couldn’t help but love it all over again. Michael Jackson turns Borg-looking bad guys into partially clad ‘80s dancers with mullets and Jerry curls with magic love power from his fists and some Care Bear blasts from the rainbow on his tee-shirt! Directed by the man who gave us The Godfather. THE GODFATHER!
Before I left the park, I had to take advantage of a photo-op. I have a picture of me with Pluto as small kid and low and behold Pluto was outside taking pics with tourists. So I’m going to show you two images. One is me, older, uglier and fatter with Pluto, who is about the same except for a much smaller tongue, and other is the cute kid me with the dog.
I had a great time at the park, but booked it to D23 for the last hour of the floor being open. In a weird way D23 felt like Comic-Con for Disney nerds. It’s a bit more commercial than Comic-Con, believe it or not, since Disney runs it and has multiple, multiple stores just set up to be raided by Disneyana collectors. And if you thought Comic-Con crowds were thirsty for trinkets you’ve never met hardcore Disney fans. There were pins, Vinyl figures, toys, prints and every kind of collectible you can think of and they were selling out left and right.
Another thing that the Disney crowd is the Comic-Con crowd’s patience and determination, which I found out the hard way. I figured showing up for the Dick Van Dyke panel over an hour early would be safe. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. The line was already capped and I discovered that D23 had no press row (they do have them, just not for this panel) and I was turned away. The D23 guys were really nice about it, I just wish they were more clear with what panel has press access and what doesn’t.
Thankfully a Twitterer (@ollybishop) sent me a link to a YouTube page which has some of Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastix performing. Well, I say thankfully, but all the footage does is make me even sadder I couldn’t have been there to witness this. As a life-long Mary Poppins fan it would have been the perfect closer to a day already overflowing with nostalgic remembrances.
Tomorrow is the big news day, with massive Disney Studios presentations (I’m already covered for a seat there, so no worries about that) featuring The Avengers, The Muppets, John Carter, Brave and more surprises. There’s also a couple Pixar panels featuring John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, Jim Morris, Lee Unkrich, Dan Scanlon and Mark Andrews (not sure if I can make it from the Studios panel to the Pixar one, but will give it the good ol’ college try) and a Monsters University panel.
Look for updates tomorrow evening as I wrap up the day’s events. Hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane! Big news stuff tomorrow, for sure.
I’m going to leave you with a few more Disneyland pictures, including some Splash Mountain (which is apparently the only part of Disney not embarrassed by Song of the South) and other random park pictures. Why? Because I like ya’!
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Aug. 20, 2011, 7:40 a.m. CST
Aug. 20, 2011, 8:07 a.m. CST
Huh. Go figure. Preconceived notions shot to hell once again. Glad to hear you had a zippie-dee-doo-dah day.
Aug. 20, 2011, 8:24 a.m. CST
Didn't especially care for it then - I was 16 and far more interested in scifi movies and metal bands. Now that I've grown up a bit and mellowed out, I'm actually itching to go back there, or better still, Disneyworld. On another note, I wish they'd put in a proper Tron attraction (not just the painted up monorail). The two films are ripe for some thrill ride iteration, no?
Aug. 20, 2011, 8:25 a.m. CST
This is a common misconception. When you ride the Haunted Mansion, and the ride stops, the Ghost Host then says something along the lines of "the spirits have temporarily delayed our journey, please stay seated". What is actually happening is this...the ride stops so that a disabled person can be helped into the buggy, or out of the the buggy. The ride hasn't broken down, the old 60's constantly-loading ride system simply isn't well-suited to assist those in wheelchairs or other serious physical impairments. So, Quint, your Doom Buggy didn't break down - it stopped so that an impaired person could enter or exit the ride vehicle. Same thing happens on Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, and I'm assuming the same thing happens on the new Little Mermaid ride, as they all use the Omnimover system.
Aug. 20, 2011, 8:39 a.m. CST
Seems faster but you're in a small car on a track with hairpin turns, in a dark closet.
Aug. 20, 2011, 8:40 a.m. CST
Kids must have just been yanking on it all day long, back in the day.
Aug. 20, 2011, 8:47 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
And is it me, or does our consummate professional look like he could be Harry's brother?
Aug. 20, 2011, 8:48 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Song of the South so it could be released to the entire world.
Aug. 20, 2011, 8:56 a.m. CST
I've always thought it strange that one of the most popular attractions, Splash Mountain, is based on characters and music from Song of the South, yet Disney won't let anyone see the movie itself! You can get Brear Rabbit stuffed toys at the park but not see where he came from. Fun article. I can't wait until November 2012 when my family is taking a week for Walt Disney World! Taking my then 11 year old and 5 year old will be an amazing time. November is the best time to go too because the park is all done up for Christmas and the Haunted Mansion becoomes all Noghtmare Before Christmas-afide!
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:03 a.m. CST
It's BOBBA! you stupid little cunt!............Then me and his Father would of had a fight no doubt.
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:11 a.m. CST
typical prequel hater
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:50 a.m. CST
...I'm @ollybishop by the way and I'm actually going to Disneyland Paris tomorrow for 6 days so if anyone wants to follow me i'm gonna be live-tweeting. Looking forward to EO myself, i never saw it first time myself, but also upset that i'll be having to go on old Star Tours and not the spanking brand new one (DLP is broke - fact). Oh yeah, you HAVE to make the Monsters University panel. Brave looks good but i'm jonesing for more Mike and Sulley!
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:51 a.m. CST
Aug. 20, 2011, 10:20 a.m. CST
by Bass Ackwards
Aug. 20, 2011, 10:29 a.m. CST
Noooo.... actually it's a lightsaber (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
Aug. 20, 2011, 11:33 a.m. CST
by Quake II
Adding Jack Sparrow to Pirates is "ok" and improving Star Tours for a new generation is understandable because 3-D technology has improved but changing the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse to the Tarzan treehouse (ugh!), getting rid of the amazing original Captain Nemo submarines and making tomorrowland look steampunk instead of 1950's retro-futurism is unacceptable and spits in the face of Uncle Walt. Guess what, sometimes things are best left unchanged The thing I used to love about Disneyland was that it was a step back in time. Now it reeks of corporate advertising to boost dvd sales.
Aug. 20, 2011, 11:36 a.m. CST
But unfortunately it's called moving with the times. Let's face it, Disneyland is for kids and todays kids are simply going to be more familiar with Finding Nemo than Captain Nemo.
Aug. 20, 2011, 11:38 a.m. CST
Aug. 20, 2011, 11:44 a.m. CST
Hopefully there will be some movie news for Magic Kingdom and Haunted Mansion
Aug. 20, 2011, 12:13 p.m. CST
Aug. 20, 2011, 12:15 p.m. CST
This post really makes me want to go to Disney World. It's only three hours away, but I haven't been in years.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1 p.m. CST
Kids love the Prequels. Get used to it.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1 p.m. CST
We get to see him and relive Childhood memories.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1:01 p.m. CST
I'm visiting for only the second time in my life (and the first was only 2 years ago) in December. The place is indeed magical; & I figure visiting around Christmas, with the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay of The Haunted Mansion & dressing up of the castle & It's A Small World, will make it even more so. But yes. Where is the photo of the cute Star Tours girl?!
Aug. 20, 2011, 1:22 p.m. CST
Be sure to get over to DCA and check out elecTRONica at night. There's an opening show, a rave, Laserman R3CONF1GUR3D (which is actually cooler than it sounds) and, best of all, Flynn's.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1:27 p.m. CST
The concept of having multiple missions chosen at random was posited way back in the 80s, soon after the ride opened, when I worked at Disneyland. The original six "Travel" posters (to Bespin, Tatooine, etc.) were supposed to be the possible destinations. It's nice to see that 20 years later, they finally did it.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1:28 p.m. CST
and when we rode Star Tours the first time, I was the rebel spy. It was awesome. If you really want to geek out, go down during Star Wars weekends some May. Fabulous geek fun.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1:31 p.m. CST
Couldn't see it.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1:33 p.m. CST
remain two of the greatest holidays i ever had. and of course universal studios. less so seaworld, which seems to fade in my memory as a holiday fave. could be the whole idea of large sea animals in pools doing tricks for the audiences. that thing now just makes me mad, despite what seaworld say. animals like that belong in that sea.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1:41 p.m. CST
is the american bruce forsythe.
Aug. 20, 2011, 1:50 p.m. CST
Who mistook janjo fett for boba fett. And slapped his father for not teaching the fundamentals. Other than that it sounds like you had a grand time. Never been to Disneyland. I'm a WDW feller myself.
Aug. 20, 2011, 2:17 p.m. CST
Aug. 20, 2011, 2:17 p.m. CST
Test Track at EPCOT and Space Mountain kick ass.
Aug. 20, 2011, 3:41 p.m. CST
Disney WORLD's Haunted Mansion doesn't make the transition.
Aug. 20, 2011, 3:48 p.m. CST
I hope that makes it cooler for you... I know that it's fashionable to hate him now. I'm glad you're having a good time at D23!
Aug. 20, 2011, 4:14 p.m. CST
Took a trip to Disney World this past May and the first thing I did was jump on "Pirates." As soon as I got on line and my nostrils took in that mildewy-axl grease smell I was 7 years old again. That ride never gets old.
Aug. 20, 2011, 4:59 p.m. CST
by puto tenax
Dude, aren't they great. By the way, Quint, get your butt to Orlando. Spend a week and a couple of days doing "the World" and Universal. You are missing out, friend. Glad you're having a good time.
Aug. 20, 2011, 5:43 p.m. CST
It's still a marvel of engineering and an absolutely vast place to explore but it's lost most of the magic it had in it's 80's heyday. Other than Spaceship Earth (which is still awesome) you don't really feel like you are in the future anymore. There are some great rides but nothing beats the "outdoor mountain" scene at the end of Spaceship Earth. It's absolutely wondrous.
Aug. 20, 2011, 6:06 p.m. CST
It's gotten a refurb inside and out and it's fricking amazing. The Mansion's new sound system is expansive, explosive and awesome, there's a brand new scene reminiscent of an M.C. Escher painting (crazy staircases and all), and at the ride's exit, where the hitchhiking "ghosts" appear to sit in the Doom Buggy with you...well, Disney has plussed the hell out of that scene. You gotta see it to believe it. Plus there's a new queue, with new mausoleums and so on, leading up to the Mansion and it's pretty sweet too. Someday you ought to travel to WDW and check it out. I think Disneyland's Pirates ride is better than WDW's, but WDW's mansion is the better house of horror.
Aug. 20, 2011, 8 p.m. CST
I thought they were making 3D. Is it not ? That would be a major change, you Grizzly Adams looking bastard.
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:25 p.m. CST
As a movie fan and a Disney geek, this column hit me with both barrels. Great job, Quint! I don't think I would appreciate actually being at D23 but do like the updates
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:33 p.m. CST
by Chris Moody
Good stuff. I am definitely making a trip this fall!!!
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:51 p.m. CST
by the Green Gargantua
Aug. 20, 2011, 11:41 p.m. CST
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTyOITQmpsg Good article, Quint.
Aug. 21, 2011, 1:19 a.m. CST
by Bob Loblaw Law Blog
And they're awesome. I bought a pair for myself as well. http://bit.ly/qKHbe8
Aug. 21, 2011, 2:20 a.m. CST
...a few years ago when I went to Disneyland. I got to take a piss in the Enchanted forest. Oh and my buddy and I got high on the small world ride...it was mostly empty...almost closing time.
Aug. 21, 2011, 2:35 a.m. CST
by Bob Loblaw Law Blog
... must not have been reading AICN articles for very long. This isn't the first time he's included photos of himself in his articles (or on Twitter). His identity isn't much of a secret... he's not Batman!
Aug. 22, 2011, 10 a.m. CST
THat sounds very lame and I cringe when I hear it. Fun, sure, but magical? Get a life, seriously.
Aug. 22, 2011, 10:01 a.m. CST
They have now become sheep-like. It's pathetic.
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