Jack Hammond

Published: 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, :)

Published: 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?

Published: 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.

Kenny Vee

Published: 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.

AJ Hummel

Published: 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.

Published: 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.

Published: 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.
Kelly Muggleton

Published: 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.
Dan Heaton

Published: 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.
Anon Mouse

Published: 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.

James Rao

Published: 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 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 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 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.

Published: 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.

Published: 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.

Published: 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.

Jack Hammond

Published: November 6, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Anonymous at 4:32 was me by the way. Didn't realize I signed out.
James Rao

Published: November 6, 2013 at 9:54 PM

@Jack Understand completely. Your comments are spot on.

@anon poster 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 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.

Published: 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.
James Rao

Published: 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.