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My family's first visit to Disneyland: Part Four

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Published: November 5, 2013 at 7:15 PM

[Editor's note: We're enjoying Part Four today of James' trip report. If you came to the party late, here are Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Go ahead and catch up, and we'll wait for you here.]

After a couple re-rides on Tower of Terror we headed to the attraction formerly known as Superstar Limo (one of the worst attractions WDI ever imagined): Monsters Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue. What a pleasant surprise this dark ride turned out to be! Visually stunning, well imagined, paced, and presented, Mike and Sully to the Rescue is a hidden gem. Even the queue area (once you get inside the building) is creative and fun. Along the ride I found the doors room to be especially interesting which leads me to expect big things from the oft rumored flying doors coaster that will eventually make it to DCA as part of the upcoming Monstropolis expansion.

Side note: it strikes me that Disneyland Resort's Imagineers are very good at second chances. First they built the debacle that was Superstar Limo, but realizing their error, they rebuilt it into a Monsters Inc. dark ride that is pretty amazing. Similarly, the first incarnation of DCA was like a clean version of a basic Six Flags park, but the rebirth, $1.2b later, has catapulted the park to be in the top five of all the North American parks, which should make any theme park operator proud! Once these guys own up to their mistakes, they produce amazing stuff! Anyway….

From Monsters Inc., we headed back to Paradise Pier and rode the Little Mermaid dark ride. It was okay. The ride itself is definitely too short, the narrative stilted, and while the animatronics may be superb, to me they just looked a little bit creepy. Maybe the inclusion of another scene or two would really help things out, but as it is, I can see why some folks are disappointed in this attraction. The Little Mermaid is definitely not an E-Ticket, and probably not much more than a C-Ticket in my humble opinion.

After the Mermaid letdown, we visited the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This playground is very well done. I have always felt that Camp Jurassic at Islands of Adventure was the best attraction of this type but Redwood Creek sets the bar even higher. Rope bridges, slides, rock walls, caves, this play area has it all. I was thoroughly impressed. And for the younger kids the cast members hand out a list of things for which they can search and when they have completed their searching the kids earn Wilderness Explorer Badges as a reward. Even my kids, a little older than the target crowd, had fun running around and burning off steam. I highly recommend the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail to families with kids of all ages.

DCA's Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Today was our wet day, so our next stop was Grizzly River Run, DCA's much-vaunted white water raft ride. Now, I have long considered Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges to be the king of white water rides, but after riding GRR several times in a row, I can boldly state the king is dead and a new king occupies the throne. GRR's watery course is absolutely beautiful and quite stunning (although it would be so cool if there were a few animatronic bears along the course). The raft winds around and though Grizzly Peak, passing though dark caverns and along the peak's edge before it takes its final plunge (there are two) spinning down a 22-foot drop to a big splash down. GRR is a heart thumping ride, easily the best of its genre, and I believe it has set a new standard that won't be bested in the near term future.

After a couple re-rides on GRR we were thoroughly soaked, so we skipped out the back exit of DCA, passed through the Grand Californian and went back to the Paradise Pier Hotel to clean up, dry off, and change. Thirty minutes later, we were back in the park and on our way to Radiator Springs, the gem of DCA's $1.2B crown.

Cars Land VIA the Pacific Wharf

Being Theme Park Insiders, we have long known that the best "reveal" for Radiator Springs is when you enter through the Pacific Wharf section of the park, which is the dining center of California Adventure. Think of it as a fancy, outdoor food court. Choices at the Wharf range from Ghirardelli's to Boudin Sourdough Bread, plus some Mexican and Chinese food, and a pretty fancy Italian restaurant to boot. The Wharf also houses the Blue Sky Cellar which features a look at some of the Imaginers' upcoming attractions (although currently it's closed). Lastly, and most importantly, the Pacific Wharf features a back door into Cars Land with an unbelievable view of Ornament Valley. I highly recommend first time visitors to DCA use this approach as it is truly amazing.

After many pictures, we proceeded into the packed streets of Radiator Springs. WOW. Cars Land is truly a state of the art example of Disney Imagineering at its finest. A place that makes visitors feel as though they have been transported to another place and time. Only the most jaded haters would have anything bad to say about this part of DCA. Cars Land is just amazing, even better than I anticipated and expected.

Cozy Cone Motel at Disney California Adventure

Our first stop was the Cozy Cone Motel. I had one thing on my mind: Red's Apple Freeze. Remembering how much my family liked the Boysen Apple Freeze I was anxious to get my hands on the DCA version of this frozen concoction with its toasted marshmallow flavor in place of the boysenberry flavor used in the Disneyland version. Red's Freeze was equally compelling, though much sweeter and less refreshing. Tip: ask for an extra shot or two of the marshmallow flavoring, as it really sets the beverage off and makes it quite addictive. In my mind, it is a toss-up between the two signature drinks, but if push came to shove I would probably prefer the more refreshing Boysen Apple Freeze to its sweeter DCA counterpart. While at the Cones, we tried several other drinks and snacks, and despite all of them being good, Red's Apple Freeze was the standout.

Red's Apple Freeze at Disney California Adventure

Drinks in hand we headed across the street to Flo's V8 Café for dinner. Another well executed restaurant, Flo's is one part table service dining (real silverware), one part counter service, and all old school diner. Quite a unique eatery for a theme park! We ordered several entrees and shared. The Pork Loin with Coca-Cola BBQ Sauce was quite good, but so was the Citrus Turkey Breast with Old Fashioned Turkey Gravy. The surprise of the meal was the Veggie Tater Bake (roasted veggies, bulgur wheat, soy crumbles, and smashed red skin potatoes topped with cheddar cheese) which was very good despite the absence of the meat we all love so darn much! Still nursing our collection of beverages from the Cozy Cone Motel, we skipped dessert, though the offerings looked very good. I recommend a stop at Flo's for anyone not happy with standard theme park fare and willing to try something a little bit different. Flo's is great.

Bellies full, it was time for a spin on Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. This take on the traditional whip ride is actually a very good family attraction. The ambiance of the ride is great, the songs a lot of fun, and the motion of the whip is exciting but not forceful enough to cause anyone to lose their lunch (or dinner, in this case). I was also impressed by the number of ride vehicles, turning a typically slow loading attraction into a real people eater. While not worth a long wait, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is a fun diversion for the whole family.

Next up, we went to the infamous Luigi's Flying Tires, which, even with no wait, was lousy. Sorry, John Lasseter, but this concept and this ride just need to go away. We rode the darn thing twice to make sure we gave it a fair shake, but it really is not fun. I mean, even when you do get your tire moving, it goes SO SLOW there is no thrill. And once you hit someone else, it takes another 10 -15 seconds to get moving again. Full disclosure, I hate bumper cars, but I would rather ride bumper cars than Luigi's Flying Tires. This attraction is just a waste of a time – pretty and well decorated, but a waste nonetheless. I am not sure what Disney should put in its place, but something needs to be done, and soon.

About this time, dusk was setting in so we stationed ourselves at the center of Radiator Springs to catch the evening lighting ceremony. Remember in the movie Cars when Lightning McQueen arranges to turn on all the neon lights and make Sally's wish come true? Disney California Adventure has captured that excellent moment in a neon lighting ceremony set to the song "Shh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)". Attraction by attraction the neon lights come on as the town of Radiator Springs is brought to vibrant life. We watched it live, and it was very cool.

Radiator Springs Racers Entrance

Finally, the moment of truth had arrived – it was time to experience the crown jewel of Cars Land, Radiator Springs Racers. We used our Fastpasses and sped past the waiting throngs up to the point where four lines merge: Fastpass users, single riders, those who need special assistance, and the outcast stand by riders. Disney cast members did an AMAZING job of managing all these lines. It was impressive to watch. These folks must have been the best of the best as they were efficient, fair, and completely cool under the pressure of thousands of folks waiting to visit this signature attraction.

About 10 minutes after getting in line, as darkness swept over the park, we boarded a red, six person convertible, and began our scenic tour of stunning Ornament Valley. As the music swells, the car rolls past massive rock formations and a stunning waterfall, then proceeds into the show building where we encountered the residents of Radiator Springs. While the show scenes were not the same type of expansive, awe inspiring sets you find in Pirates of the Caribbean, they were impressive nonetheless. And on this particular ride, it looked like everything was working, including the tipping tractors. We then moved on to the next section of the ride where your car is prepped for today's big race. Paint job or new tires? For us, it was the paint job, then after some advice from Doc Hudson we lined up opposite another carload of guests and waited for Luigi's countdown. The last third of the attraction is a race over camelback hills, under outcrops, and around banked curves where a randomly chosen car wins the race. It was an exhilarating rush, and while not as fast as Test Track at Epcot, the close quarters of the rock wall, those sharp turns, the air time humps, and that nearby competing car, all combine for an amazingly fun and thrilling ride. Everyone in our car was cheering, "Go Go Go!" and pumped their fists high in the sky when our car blasted through the finish line first. What a rush! Just amazing. Sometimes you experience an attraction that reminds you why you like theme parks in the first place, and Radiator Springs Racers is that type of ride. It renews your faith in Imagineering and gets you excited for great things to come. WDI may have been down, but they were not out, and they proved with RSR that they still have it when they need it. Wonderful. Radiator Springs Racers is a poster child for an E-Ticket attraction. If you don't have plans to visit DCA and experience Radiator Springs Racers first hand – why not? It is an absolute must do. Wow.

Radiator Springs Racers!

Coming down from our high, we headed laughing and cheering to our last stop of the night, World of Color. And as much as we had enjoyed everything about DCA on this our first visit to the park, and as excited as we were after winning our race just a few moments before, there was no end to the disappointment we felt when we experienced Disney's handling of the World of Color viewing area. It was just a total mess of gridlock and lost people wandering without direction or clue into an area far too small to comfortably support the large number of people who wanted to see the show. What a debacle of unbelievably bad planning, and un-Disney-like customer service. I was shocked and for a moment, just a moment, I thought I was in a Six Flags park. Ugh. Horrid.

Thankfully, I had completed my research before ever stepping into the park, and I already had a plan in place. So I gathered up my family and quickly worked my way to a centrally located spot at the top of a flight of stairs where we waited, unmoving for the next 45 minutes as the masses swelled around us. We had a great, central view, and we were up high enough that people in front of us could not block our line of sight. While there is no doubt the World of Color viewing area would be a nightmare for people with claustrophobia, my family does not suffer from that ailment. We waited patiently, chatted with some nearby Disney fans, and bided our time.

Crowding Issues at World of Color

Once World of Color started, the disappointment of the viewing area, and the total lack of Disney-quality customer service and people moving management, was forgotten. World of Color is simply breathtaking. The technology of the show is stunning with more than 1,200 fountains spanning the length of Paradise Bay that shoot bursts of water upwards of 200 feet in the air and showcase a 50-foot-high water screen that stretches out to almost 400 feet wide. Additionally, dozens of flame cannons are used judiciously throughout the proceedings, with lasers and lights bringing the vibrant colors alive per the shows moniker.

However, as the show unfolds, the technology of World of Color fades into the distance and the audience is immersed in the timeless sights and sounds of Disney Magic from films past and present (and sometimes future, though not on this occasion). And while the presentation is a series of unconnected vignettes instead of a linear story, the transitions are smooth, flawless, and transparent. The viewer is caught in a gentle wave of emotions that ebb and flow just as the fountains ebb and flow, raising to plateaus of complete delight (the Pirates scene) and falling into the depths of sadness (the Lion King death scene). World of Color is an awesome spectacle, unlike anything my family has ever seen before. It is majestic, inspiring, thrilling, and quite simply the best way I can think of to end a day at a park. To say World of Color is better than Fantasmic or Illuminations is like saying chocolate is better than mud. It is an understatement of Biblical proportions. While Disney may have a crowd control nightmare on its hands, and while fans may get irritated at the completely unorganized mess that is the viewing area, the show certainly does not disappoint. And as you watch, all your frustration and irritation will fade as you realize World of Color is exactly what we expect from Disney: pure magic. Furthermore it is a show I am certain no other theme park could produce. It is exactly the kind of attraction that makes Disney the King of the Hill, and leaves everyone else following in their wake. Do not miss World of Color when you visit DCA, no matter how much of a pain it is to navigate to a good spot in the viewing area. It is worth the frustration, I promise.

Once World of Color ended and we figuratively descended back down to earth, it was time to go back to the hotel. How could we ever top such a wonderful day? To be honest, we couldn't. But we could certainly match it if we tried, and try we would. We had three more days on this vacation, and while we had obviously reached a peak of sorts, there was still a lot of fun to be had.

We visited DCA one more time on this trip, two days later on Thursday, September 26th. It was essentially a "best of day" for us since we are not completists and we saw no reason to waste time riding attractions like the Silly Symphony Swings that are common at iron ride parks across the nation. Instead we revisited favorites like Radiator Springs Racers (we rode a total of six times thanks to the single rider line and won 50% of the time), California Screamin' (we sat in a variety of seats in a variety of different colored trains), Tower of Terror (ah, those amazing cast members just kept us coming back for more) , Soarin' (we finally got the top row for once – and to be honest I think the middle row, center offers the best ride), and Monsters Inc. (wow, what a pleasant surprise). We also visited It's Tough To Be A Bug (identical to the excellent 3D show in Orlando), and rode in the swinging cars on Mickey's Fun Wheel (quite a neat feeling as your swinging car falls, weightless during the spin, but sadly it only happens once per cycle which makes the attraction a complete waste of time). And while we enjoyed our best of day it did not include another show of World of Color so there is no way it could beat our initial visit (however, we did watch World of Color from our hotel, which was quite an amazing view in its own right).

Corn Dog Castle Perfection!

Our second trip to DCA included a few different dining choices as well. We visited the Paradise Garden Grill with its wonderful, open, spacious courtyard and had beef gyros with rice pilaf which were made to order fresh and very flavorful. We also stopped by the Corn Dog Castle and shared a Hot Link Corn Dog and a Cheddar Cheese Corn Dog (the hot link was delicious, but I wasn't crazy about the cheese dog). For dinner we ate a variety of soup bread bowls at the Pacific Wharf Café. Again, fresh, flavorful, and totally unexpected from a theme park venue. And of course, we couldn't resist more of Red's Apple Freeze, or some Churro Bites with cinnamon spiced chocolate sauce. Finally, we closed the night by sharing a couple sundaes from the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. My favorite was the Gold Rush which was basically a peanut butter hot fudge sundae (reminiscent of the No Way Jose at Beaches and Cream at WDW), but the Sea Cliff, essentially a hot fudge sundae served over a warm chocolate chip cookie, was no slouch. Overall, the food at DCA is really very good. I was impressed. Sure, the food is expensive, but no more than at any other theme park. Haters can complain all they want, but as long as theme park companies provide variety, high quality, and great flavor, I don't mind paying a little extra to eat on site. Disney has obviously invested a lot of time, research, and effort into its food offerings at the California resort and it shows.

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop at DCA

So, my closing thoughts on DCA are that it is a wonderful theme park, reflecting Disney's high standards in most everything it presents. However, the park is not perfect. As I wrote previously, more work needs to be accomplished in the Paradise Pier area by removing common midway rides and replacing them with world class attractions. The World of Color viewing area situation needs to improve. Bugs Land needs to disappear forever (but keep It's Tough To Be A Bug, if possible). Monstropolis must go forward to flesh out the Hollywood Land area and provide another headliner to take some pressure off of RSR. Luigi's Flying Tires needs to be slashed and removed, replaced with something worthy of the rest of this amazing new land. And Grizzly River Run needs some animatronic grizzly bears to flesh out the story. But, even if none of these changes ever happen I can whole heartedly recommend a visit to DCA to any fan of theme parks. You will not be disappointed. When DCA's attendance climbs into the North American top five by the end of 2013, I for one will not be surprised. It is a great park, one of my favorites, to be sure.

Tomorrow: The finale, with a visit to Mickey's Halloween Party

Readers' Opinions

From Jack Hammond on November 5, 2013 at 7:28 PM
Other than being slightly offended by comparing Fantasmic to mud.... ;) (I still like Fantasmic more than WOC)
I love your review of California Adventure. You fairly point out the positives and negatives of the park. I agree with almost all of your points. Except of course, WOC being better than Fantasmic, :)
From 75.20.231.56 on November 5, 2013 at 8:33 PM
I stayed at the same hotel sevreal years ago and they had an entrance to DCA for resort guests by the Corn dog place. Is that entrance gone?
From 75.141.200.37 on November 5, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Thank you so much for adding to my continuing tirade about the creepiness of the Little Mermaid. If you recall "The Goofy Movie" and the part where they go to that campground with the Disney-styled audio animatronic oppossums (hilarious), this ride gives me that feel. Ariel at the end of the ride has an almost winking problem with her eye and they don't say anything. You are lucky that you didn't have to witness the "ice cream cone" hair she used to sport. Ursula is outstanding but the rest of the ride is "meh". DCA has become a more complete park for me. Also glad to hear that the flying carpet at the Aladdin show was working. There was a cast injury a long while back and it had not been operating for almost a year! Next time, try to eat at Carthay Circle or sit at the bar. A very nice throw back to the 1920s...Expensive but good food.

When we talk about the quality of food in California vs. Florida, I receive so many sneers from people. I cannot stand traditional theme park food (hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken strips) and was so thrilled to read your review of the food. It made me finally feel like I wasn't crazy to feel this way. DLR and DCA have the best theme park food in the Disney group IMHO.

From Kenny Vee on November 6, 2013 at 12:50 AM
I just saw World of Color for the first time yesterday (Monday), and I must agree that the setup for viewing is a complete nightmare. I got a fastpass first thing in the morning and was assigned to the Blue section, whatever that means. The fastpass doesn't say, nor does the park map.

I lucked into finding a sign for the Blue section as showtime approached, where a cast member directed a large group of us to another area closer to the water where she said there was more room. We arrived at the destination to which we were directed, much to the befuddlement and frustration of the cast member in that area, who had no room for us and sent us up another path leading to the "wet zone," where guests get sprayed by the fallout of the fountains.

I don't understand why you have to get a FastPass to stand behind a bunch of tall people, only able to see bits and pieces of the show (mostly the parts that take place way up high).

Maybe that's why I don't think that World of Color holds a candle to Fantasmic. I was at Fantasmic on Sunday night, and even with the dancing monkeys starting to remove their costumes while still in full view of the crowd, and Peter Pan and Captain Hook only shouting at each other from halfway across the ship (I don't know when they cancelled the pirates climbing up in the rigging, the stunts, and the actual confrontations between Peter and Hook but I watched the show twice and that segment didn't even have a taste of what used to make it one of the best and most memorable parts of the show), Fantasmic is, to me, still far superior to World of Color.

World of Color, from what I was able to see of it with my useless fastpass, was disjointed -- with no logical flow, no progression of emotions evoked; it was just one random clip from a movie to another random clip from another movie with no rhyme nor reason. I will be the first to admit that there are some very amazing effects in the show, but they seemed wasted -- like when a movie studio puts out a special effects-heavy picture at the expense of story, I feel like Disney squandered an opportunity to do something amazing with some truly state-of-the-art technology, instead putting out a mediocre show that can't even handle the crowds of a slow day.

I can only imagine how much worse the experience would have been if DCA had actually been busy.

From AJ Hummel on November 6, 2013 at 1:36 AM
I finally got a chance to read the whole trip report and it sounds like this ended up being an outstanding trip. I've never thought it would be possible to spend 5 or 6 days at Disneyland without running out of stuff to do, but perhaps that comes from being a local and visiting once a month or so. Either way, I always like seeing the reactions of first-time or very infrequent visitors to my local parks.

Random comments (from all four parts):

-It's a shame you couldn't have visited some of the other So Cal parks, but it makes sense you didn't. Still, I think it would be worth it to have spent a day at Knott's as it is very close and the short hours don't matter (on off-season weekdays, there are often under 2000 people in the park and lines are non-existent).

-I-5 really is the worst stretch of highway ever. There are only two times you can drive it and reliably avoid traffic: between 2 and 6 a.m. on Saturday or Sunday morning.

-In my opinion, Indiana Jones Adventure is the best dark ride out there. I cannot imagine how anyone could ride it and not consider it a top ten dark ride (well, unless everything was broken I guess, which happens occasionally). Glad to see you enjoyed it, as that is the one E-ticket at Disneyland that has no true equivalent attraction at WDW.

-Disneyland does not handle crowds well at all. I've been on days where nothing had more than a 20 minute line yet the park still had several bottlenecks (Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland are notorious for it), and getting out after the fireworks can be a real nightmare unless you position yourself right.

-Disneyland does seem to have a large number of breakdowns, but downtime is low. It is rare that I've seen a ride down for more than 30 minutes. At SFMM, sometimes it's been almost this long before a mechanic even shows up. Perhaps that is what everyone means by good maintenance record.

-The quality of Matterhorn Bobsleds took a big hit when the new trains were put on a year or two ago. They have no padding and you sit on the floor, so you really feel every bump in the track. With the old sleds, I would consider the ride an absolute must ride, but now I wouldn't recommend it if the wait is more than 20 minutes (even to first time visitors). Kind of surprised you didn't like Splash Mountain, although if it was primarily due to show quality that makes sense (on my mid-September visit that ride had what I would consider unacceptable show quality and I'm not very picky).

-Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is one of Disneyland's most overlooked attractions. While it isn't something to do every visit, every visitor should do it at least once at some point.

-California Screamin' is outstanding. In fact, I'd say it's one of the best coasters anywhere, and is the ideal transition coaster as it has many elements found on larger thrill coasters but doesn't have the same level of intensity. Fun Fact: Due to the extremely high capacity of this attraction, it is not connected to the Fastpass system and therefore won't count against you. I once exploited this to get 10 rides on it in a single day when the line averaged 60 minutes.

-Good thing the Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass worked out for you. It is rare that they are available beyond an hour after park opening, even on low crowd days. I'm a little surprised you risked it twice, but whatever.

-Great strategy getting Tower of Terror Fastpasses, seeing Aladdin, and then riding Tower. I use this a lot and it is especially helpful when everyone goes straight to Tower (I've seen the line increase 400% after an Aladdin showing). Tower does seem to have the best operators out of any attraction at the resort for some reason.

-Aladdin. Really glad you saw this. A lot of people I know pass it off as just another theme park show, but it's not; It's a mini Broadway musical inside a theme park, and is easily the best theme park show I've seen anywhere. I'm not much of a show person, but I see it multiple times per year and have never got bored watching it, so that must say something.

-There is a reason Little Mermaid rarely has a line even on busy days. There is also a reason Monsters Inc. rarely has a line even on busy days. One just isn't that good, and the other is just in a bad location. While I'd still take it over Winnie the Pooh, Little Mermaid is about on par with the worst Fantasyland dark ride. Monsters Inc. is about on par with the best Fantasyland dark ride, and if it were where Playhouse Disney is it would probably be a lot more popular.

-Did you ride Luigi's Flying Tires single or double? If you ride by yourself, it is actually somewhat enjoyable (granted, still not worth more than a 5 minute wait). However, I've never seen anyone riding in pairs get the tire moving correctly.

-Radiator Springs Racers is the best ride at DCA, and while I personally don't think it's the best ride at the resort it is one of the not-to-be-missed attractions. I've gone to DCA and done nothing but this and California Screamin' and still felt like I had an enjoyable visit (granted, I spent most of the day over at Disneyland, but still).

-World of Color. I don't think there is a more polarizing attraction than World of Color. Everyone I know either praises the show like it is the best thing Disney has ever invented or rips it for being nothing but fountains. I will say this: If you have not seen it, the show is a must see, but it does not lend itself well to repeat viewings. I've seen it twice and I left halfway through the second performance because it started to feel like a movie trailer. Sure, it is technologically impressive, but most of the effects are present on a much smaller scale in Fantasmic (which I think is the better show) and the scenes are discontinuous and form no sort of story. Additionally, the hassle involved makes it almost not worth seeing, and the view is actually better outside the reserved viewing area unless you get there an hour or so ahead. To each their own, I guess.

Once again, great report. I can't wait to read the conclusion.

From 68.7.200.203 on November 6, 2013 at 3:14 AM
It bothers me when people want AA bears on grizzly. The mountain nothing to do with animals. The story of the mountain is presented on a rock engraving at the entrance of the cue, and is often overlooked. The mountain is protected by a bear deity which is why it has that shape. AA bears wouldn't add to the story and I think would just be overkill because the mountain already looks like a bear. I do, however, vouch for AA animals in the tracking portion of the wilderness explorer camp. Kids look for animal foot prints it'd be neat if they actually led to animals.
From 108.67.209.54 on November 6, 2013 at 4:34 AM
I don't see the issue with the WOC viewing areas. DCA places large signage at the entrance to each viewing section and the light posts are properly colored, either Yellow or Blue. You just have to look at the lights. No matter what, it's a tight space. People typically sit while they wait, which takes up much needed space. The area is sadly not meant for sitting. I've never had any problem viewing the show.
From Kelly Muggleton on November 6, 2013 at 6:46 AM
I am loving this series of reports. Planning a 2015 visit to California for Disneyland and am just as excited for DCA. I am actually getting goosebumps reading the posts. Thank you James and the Rao family for sharing your wonderful trip with us.
From Dan Heaton on November 6, 2013 at 9:04 AM
Awesome job with all these recaps of your amazing trip. I can't wait to get back to California so I can check out Radiator Springs Racers and so much more.
From Anon Mouse on November 6, 2013 at 9:21 AM
You liked the Monsters ride? I didn't think it was much of an improvement over the original. I blame the source material. They took the dullest part of the movie and make it the ride. I would have enjoyed it much more if they made a new interpretation.

So you felt The Little Mermaid ride was short? How could that be. The ride felt long by me because there was so many gaps throughout the ride. Much time is wasted sitting through dark scenes that didn't have anything going on. The story is condensed because it had no pacing.

There are still plenty of flaws with DCA, but it is a nicer park now than when it opened. I still haven't seen WOC. Being a local, sometimes you leave when you get tired and you must get up early the next day.

From James Rao on November 6, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Wow, great feedback. I hope people are reading the comments because you all are supplying a ton of good info, and some great opinions. You guys and gals are awesome!

@Jack Sorry about comparing, in a roundabout way, Fantasmic to mud. In my defense, I was trying to compare Fantasmic and Illuminations to World of Color and chocolate to mud, but I get your point. Fantasmic is much better than mud! ;)

@anon poster 75.20.231.56 The only entrance to DCA that I know of, besides the main entrance, is the one near the Grand Californian. I did not see anything near Corn Dog Castle. If there was an entrance there it appears to be gone or closed now.

@anon poster 75.141.200.37 Yep, the food at the Disneyland Resort was very, very good. Wanted to go to Carthay Circle (restaurant or lounge), but it was not in the budget. Next time! Also, in defense of WDW, their food is improving as well. It seems Disney is focused on upgrading the food across their resorts, which is great news.

@AJ Great comments. If anyone has a question about any of the parks in SoCal, you should be the primary contact. I know you were very helpful to me for this trip!
- As for having enough stuff to do… trust me AJ, I had several things in my touring plans that I still missed, even with six days of touring. Sure, one can complete a “best of” tour in just a few days, but to really experience the parks, honestly, I think you have to be a local. Once in a lifetime visitors like me and mine will never have that luxury.
- I-5 isn’t just filled with traffic, it is littered with trash and debris. Does anyone clean that highway, ever? I know California is out of money, but they just got a huge chunk of Kobe Byrant’s $24M payout in taxes… can’t some of that money go to cleaning I-5?
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye is easily one of the best attractions I have ever experienced.
- Regarding my comments about maintenance at DL… again, I only brought up the topic because Burbank is always touted as being far superior to Orlando. Maybe they are, but in my limited experience, I did not notice a significant difference. I think both coasts do a wonderful job, especially compared to other, lesser, theme/amusement park chains.
- In regard to Splash Mountain, my disappointment stemmed from the fact that everyone rips on the Florida version being broken all the time, but it was the Disneyland version that broke down twice during my four visits to Disneyland (including one time when we were on the ride, right before the big drop – which was really kind of fun cause we got to see the back stage areas as we were walked out of the attraction). Furthermore, it seems to me the Florida version is bigger, longer, and has more effects (does the Disneyland version even have the leapfrog fountains? If so, they were not working during this visit). Incidentally, Splash Mountain is my favorite attraction at the Magic Kingdom.
- Yes, we got lucky with my 6:30 – 7:30 Fastpass return time on Radiator Springs Racers that first night. And yes, we should not have pushed our luck in trying to time it just right twice. But, hey, who wants to wait in a 20 minute line just for Fastpasses when the single ride line works great?
- We rode the Flying Tires both single and double (sorry I did not mention that in my report). We were able to get the tire moving decently both ways, but it still wasn’t fast enough to be fun, or quick enough to be worth the trouble. If the cycle time was like 5:00 minutes, I could see some value in the ride, but at 90 seconds Luigi’s is not worth the trouble. The attraction may have been a great idea on paper, but does not seem to be practical in a park as busy as DCA.

@anon poster 68.7.200.203 Regarding Grizzly River Run, I am pretty sure I heard growling bears in the tunnels during the ride. So if there’s growling, why not include animatronics of bears making the sound as well? Are you saying the bear deity is making those growling noises? Either way, I stand by my opinion and think some animatronics would enhance the ride. Check out the bears at HK DL’s Big Grizzly Mountain and try to convince me you don’t agree they would be an awesome addition to GRR. ;)

@Anon Yep, I loved the Monsters Inc ride (and the two movies as well). Not sure I agree about designers taking the dullest parts of the movie since almost every part of the movie was covered briefly in the attraction. In particular, the door scene in the movie is simply breathtaking, and it translated well to the attraction. Plus, we were compelled to ride multiple times because there was more eye candy than one could capture in a single visit – which is good attraction design, IMHO.

@Kelly & Dan Thank you so much! I am glad you are enjoying these articles. I look forward to the trip reports from your future visits as well!

In response to all the feedback on World of Color and the varieties of experiences and opinions, I firmly believe that if Disney could solve the viewing area problems (which are very real regardless of the careful planning/luck my family and others have had at securing a good spot), few people would leave the show without being totally amazed. Sadly, Disney chose to construct a viewing area that only holds 10% of the people wanting to experience the spectacle. That decision has led to both customer service and operational nightmares which cannot be denied. My only advice is to plan ahead, know the layout, get there early, make sure to stand in a spot that makes you taller than the people in front of you (like at the top of a set of stairs), and do not waver from that spot no matter what anyone around you says. If you get that centered, unobstructed view of the action, you will love the show. I know we did.

From 24.127.233.152 on November 6, 2013 at 4:32 PM
James, your point about WOC is well taken. Better viewing capabilities means a lot for a show. This is why my favorite nighttime spectacular is actually Fantasmic at DHS. My parents are unable to stand for an extended period of time without feeling pain, the stadium for Fantasmic allows for a much easier experience. It also allows for everyone to have a good view of the show and a more relaxing experience. You can literally just sit back and enjoy the show.

People always say that besides seating, Disneyland's Fantasmic wins in almost every way. Well that seating is a major factor. All the other factors that go into the show are really minor things. The Peter Pan segment is not THAT much better than Pocahontas. Disneyland's dragon is not THAT much better than DHS's dragon. At DHS, you have a large space dedicated to this nighttime spectacular, unlike almost all the other ones that are squeezed into existing spaces.

Which brings me back to WOC, another major issue is its length. It is a 30 minute show with bad overall viewing areas. My parents would NOT be able to watch the entire show. They need to consider this, and develop more dedicated viewing areas.

From 75.22.44.185 on November 6, 2013 at 4:35 PM
If you are riding in a flying tire alone, you can actually get moving very fast. I know, I've done it.

And I for one, do NOT think that the animatronics in the Little Mermaid ride are "creepy." They look like the characters if they existed in real life. Ariel has big eyes, that's how she was drawn, so that's how the animatronics of her look.

From 64.136.206.195 on November 6, 2013 at 7:18 PM
Hate on me all you want, but having visited Hong Kong Disneyland this year in July as well as Cars Land at DCA in March, I thought the expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland is in several aspects superior to Cars Land.

Mystic Manor is the greatest attraction ever created for any theme park ever. Period. Better than RSR, Indy, Pirates, Pooh's Hunny Hunt, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, etc.

Big Grizzly Mountain is simply amazing. It is Disney's best roller coaster IMO.

Originality, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point use original characters created for those lands. Cars Land uses an existing franchise.

Food. The food at Explorers Club is the best counter service meal I have ever had. The food at Flo's V8 Cafe was good but nothing special, Cozy Cone was great, but Toy Story Land has pizza cones and frozen yogurt, Plus HKDL food as a whole is superior to the food in the American parks.

Iron Rides, RC Racer, Toy Soldier Parachute Drop, and Slinky Dog Spin might have an edge over Mater's and Luigi's for me.

Entertainment, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point have shows with original characters that add great character to the lands.

Extras, Garden of Wonders in Mystic Point is really cool, and the water play area Geyser Gulch is superior to the similar attraction with the same name at a certain non-Disney park in Branson, MO. Cars Land had no little things to equate to this.

Overall, Having three lands in the same area in terms of size as Cars Land with the same amount of money spent as Cars Land instead of one land definitely was the right move for HKDL and in the long-term.

Also, I went to Tokyo Disney, it is definitely the best Disney Resort by a long shot. Those parks are made to handle crowds, and Tokyo Disneyland's Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek! makes DCA's Mike and Sulley to the Rescue seem like a Six Flags Ride like Spee-Lunker Cave or Tales from the Okefenokee, and Ride and Go Seek is more addictive than Toy Story Mania.

From Jack Hammond on November 6, 2013 at 7:23 PM
Anonymous at 4:32 was me by the way. Didn't realize I signed out.
From James Rao on November 6, 2013 at 9:54 PM
@Jack Understand completely. Your comments are spot on.

@anon poster 75.22.44.185 Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Yours is just as valid for you as mine is for me. Somewhere between design and execution Luigi's blew a tire, and somewhere between the animated Little Mermaid and the animatronic Little Mermaid, things just got a little bit creepy. ;)

@anon poster 64.136.206.195 I harbor no hate for you, my friend. I am a bit jealous of your travels, but more than anything I just appreciate you sharing your opinion. And I am glad you enjoyed your time overseas. Perhaps one day, years from now, the Rao Family will be able to sample all those great Disney attractions and parks you mentioned. But for now, we'll rest in the certainty that the US Disney parks, whether they compare favorably to their overseas counterparts or not, are pretty spectacular as well.

From 71.194.255.2 on November 7, 2013 at 4:34 PM
My problem with The Little Mermaid was that the animatronics were simple and repetitive. The animatronics in Pirates, for example, are fairly complex and realistic looking. While Mermaid's animatronics just look odd and comes off as cheap. Especially in the Under the Sea room, which should be the showcase of the ride, the animatronics are just making simple back and forth repeated motions, and since the vehicles are moving through the ride so slowly, you have plenty of time to notice it. Ariel so often just looks plastic. It really takes you out of the ride and away from the aspects of the attractions that are done more successfully.
From James Rao on November 9, 2013 at 10:29 PM
I don't think the animatronics in Little Mermaid are simple by any means - in fact, I have heard they are some of the most complex animatronics to date. But what I think you mean is they seem simple because they just don't do much. To which I completely agree.

The real problem with the Little Mermaid dark ride is antisappointment - for the rumored $80m to $100M spent on the attraction I think most folks thought it would be pretty darn ground breaking. Instead it is middle of the road, and middle of the road should not cost so much money.

I do believe the attraction can be improved, as Anon Mouse mentioned, just by using more of the space available to tell more of the story. And it is not a horrible attraction, by any means, just a let down.

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