Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Quick Bites

Come now—you didn't think you were going to get rid of me that easily, did you? I have no intention of abandoning this blog quite yet! Things are happening again, and I have things to say about them...I just don't have the brainspace to develop full posts about them. So here's a sampler platter.


After-Action Report: Star Wars Land/Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge/Batuu/Black Spire Outpost

What a mouthful! As Jenny Nicholson points out, the latest addition to the Disneyland map has no less than four names in common usage, representing, in this order: 1) An informal description of the area; 2) The official name of the area; 3) The fictitious planet represented by the area; and 4) The specific location on said fictitious planet. That's a lot of lore to absorb, just in what the place is called.
It kind of lets you know what you're in for with the land itself.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

50 Bad Ideas for the Haunted Mansion's 50th

Anniversaries creep up on you sometimes, don't they? At least in this case, the subject of the anniversary has the excuse of always being somewhat creepy. By most counts, the adored Haunted Mansion hits the big Five-Oh on August 9th of this year, and...people don't seem to be talking about it much. I suppose Galaxy's Edge is overshadowing it, both in the literal sense of Disney not doing much to promote it because they have this other thing going on, and Annual Passholders like myself (who would otherwise plan to turn up in droves to have our own promotion) having perused the park's calendar and found that our APs are blocked until at least mid-August in order to leave room for those massive Star Wars crowds.*
Or maybe people are talking about it, just not where I can hear them.
In any case, the chances that I will be able to properly celebrate this momentous event are looking pretty slim, so in lieu of that, here's a snarky list of 50 things that Disney and/or Doom Bugs** should definitely not do to mark the occasion.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Off-Brand: Universal Studios Hollywood and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

*carefully peeks inside the blog*
Wow, that dust built up faster than I thought it would. What has it been, six weeks? I'm going to need to get a crew in here. Or just rebrand it as a urban exploration/haunted house blog. But for now, this:

Geographically speaking, I should be a Universal gal. The house I grew up in is about a 25-minute drive from Universal Studios Hollywood, and nowadays I live even closer—if I could get up to the roof of my apartment building, I could probably see the park. But the pattern was established in my childhood and I am pretty ride-or-die for Disneyland.* I think I've been to You Ess Aitch about...ten times. In my life. Until very recently, all my trips preceded my theme park blogging life, which is why I have mentioned Universal only in passing.
Until now.
This past Memorial Day weekend, I finally went back in order to finally see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We probably could not have timed it better—we were anticipating insane crowds due to a) the holiday, and b) the fact that everyone was saving their Disneyland trips for the next weekend—but attendance was actually pretty light. Maybe the weather kept people away (it was the chilliest, dampest Memorial Sunday I can personally remember. I wore layers), or maybe the Universal fans were holding off until the Jurassic ride opens back up. We got to do everything we wanted to do, some of it more than once.
I shrieked at the top of my lungs in full view of an auditorium crowd. I had my reasons.

Monday, May 20, 2019

After-Action Report: The Fantasyland Dark Rides

Wow, how long has it been since I did an After-Action Report post? According to my records, it's been...oh. About three months. It seems longer. You know, when I first began this blog, right after the Bronze Age Collapse, I assumed the bulk of it would be me yammering on about existing attractions and other features, what I like and don't like about them and so forth. Funny, that.
This one has been a long time coming, I think. For some reason, theme park bloggers don't talk much about the Fantasyland dark rides as much as we probably should, considering they are in many ways the bread and butter of Disneyland's branding. The quintessential Disney theme park ride is one based on an animated movie, and these are the classic examples. Even I usually just bring them up in passing rather than applying any sort of analysis; on the rare occasions when I do devote an entire post to just one of them, it tends to be a shorter-than-usual example of its type. These rides just are not big enough to spark many deep and rambling thoughts.
And that's fine. They're bite-sized morsels of delight. So for this post, I'm not going to exhaustively list their individual features or even do much comparing and contrasting between them. I'm just going to highlight a few unique points of each—believe it or not, although they justifiably vary quite a bit in popularity, each of the five Fantasyland dark rides can claim to be the best at something.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Is Star Wars Even “Disney” Enough?

Sorry about the clickbait-y title up there. What with the opening of Galaxy's Edge mere weeks away and May the Fourth having just been with us recently, I've been thinking about Star Wars a little more than usual. I've never made any secret of my misgivings about the union of the Lucasfilm franchise and Disneyland, but only recently have I started to put my finger on the cause(s) of them.
I just don't think Star Wars is very “Disney.” Not that the company hasn't done right by the franchise—for the most part, the new films are quite good—but it doesn't sit well alongside what you might call Disney's more traditional fare.* The Platonic ideal of “a Disney movie” is an animated fairy tale, or maybe an adventure story with animal characters. Obviously there are plenty of exceptions, but that's the baseline most people think of.
And that is not Star Wars. It may be a fantasy, but it's no fairy tale. The main difference is one of size. Disney fairy tales (and fairy tales in general) tend to be pretty small. The stakes are low, with the protagonists trying to save themselves, or their families, or at most a small kingdom (and not necessarily from something as dire as literal destruction). Their actions have little to no effect on the larger world and the larger world does not intrude upon their stories. Moreover, for most of them, the main plot takes place within a relatively small area and/or a compressed timeframe. And finally, they are self-contained stories. You start the movie, and 90 minutes or so later, they all live happily ever after, The End. What happened next is left to the realm of justly loathed direct-to-video sequels. Or fanfiction.**
None of this describes the Star Wars saga, a claim which can be handily proved by the fact that you aren't questioning my use of the word saga. The scale of it is huge—it's a story that spans generations and star systems, that's been being told for over forty years, via ten theatrical movies (and counting!), several TV series, and an inestimable number of novels, comic books, video games, and other supplemental media.
I mean, that is nuts. Do you have any idea how nuts that is?
My point is that Star Wars is vast. They could give it its own entire Epcot-sized theme park, and still only have room to explore a fraction of what makes it so compelling to audiences of all ages. And they decided the best thing to do with it is stick it on the back end of Frontierland? I'm sure Galaxy's Edge is going to be monstrously popular and remain so for the foreseeable future. I am also sure that it represents missed opportunities. A remote corner of Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA is not the optimal location for this sort of concept.
From the point of view of the park as a whole, Galaxy's Edge represents a major departure from the kinds of themes that have historically been assigned to lands. (Note here that I am talking about lands, not individual attractions. Nor am I talking about any other parks.) Better bloggers than I have spent hours and pages trying to pin down the overall theme of Disneyland Park, but however you choose to phrase it, there has always been a sense that no matter how wacky and wonderful the environment was, you can get there from here. This is our history, our future, our shared imagination, our world.
Star Wars is decidedly not our world. Does it take place a long time ago from where we sit, or from the perspective of someone even farther in the future? The answer is that it doesn't matter, because it takes place in a galaxy far, far away. We, ourselves, are entirely out of the picture. Earth might not even exist in the Star Wars setting, and the “human” characters might actually be aliens that look indistinguishable from humans à la Superman.
Is it just me, or is there something inherently...askew about this? Disneyland has always been about the best aspects of the world we know. The tropics are full of adventure! The Wild West was a time of heroes! Fairy tales can come true, and so can cartoons! The future is bright! Spinning Star Wars into its own land kind of feels like...giving up. Like saying “Actually, the world sucks and always has. Our history is full of irredeemable villains, our mythology is pointless, and it's only going to get worse from here no matter what we do. Our only possible comfort is in the prospect of running away to another universe entirely.”
And isn't that uncharacteristically bleak for the company that gave us “it's a small world”, the Carousel of Progress, and all those Happily Ever Afters?
Just some things to think about.


* The same is true of the MCU, for similar reasons. This is not meant as a knock against either film franchise in and of itself.
** This is why I feel that even though the trailer looks okay, Frozen 2 may be a mistake.

Monday, May 6, 2019

It Came From the Fandom: Disney Park Blueprints

As a rule, my ICFTF posts are, well, fun. “Here,” I say, tossing out my links in much the same manner that I skate a catnip mouse across the kitchen floor for the amusement of my cat, “this should entertain you for a while.” This one's a little different—still fun, immensely so, but also useful. We're talking bona-fide STEM content.
The Disney Park Blueprints website is an absolute treasure trove of dozens of images showing how individual attractions at the parks are laid out. Although aerial photos and fan-made images far outnumber actual blueprints/plans, the whole archive is still invaluable if you've ever wanted to recreate your favorite ride as part of a creative hobby, or just get a better feel for how a winding track fits into its show building. It can be difficult to perceive a track layout while you're riding and immersed in the scenery, but these images lay it all out for you.
Go, browse, enjoy!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Bragging Rights

I have literally been a regular Disneyland visitor as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my very earliest memories is of visiting Disneyland! With as many visits as I've racked up over the years—it must be in the hundreds by now—I've also picked up, well, some stories. Anyone with the money can walk in the front gate, ride some rides, and leave. That's a typical Disneyland experience. I've managed to have some fairly atypical experiences there—incidents that were enviable, or especially memorable, or just plain silly.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the Unusual Things I've Done At Disneyland: