Today was moving day so we woke up 6am for our 7am luggage pickup. Breakfast was at the hotel – they offered us a buffet at the Twist restaurant/lounge, which included breakfast quesadillas, bacon, sausage, potatoes, omelettes to order, a variety of fruits, pastries, yogurt and cereals, and (be still my heart) Starbucks coffee (yay!).

Above: Breakfast buffet. Below: Almost all of us, waiting to go on the bus

We loaded the bus at 8:15ish and our first stop was Imagineering. We were not allowed to take any pictures at Imagineering and, in fact, had to leave our cameras on the bus (Quinn and Julie were allowed to take some select pictures, which will be made available to us in a few weeks). Dave was our tour guide and, with the use of audio and visual aids, he explained how Walt used imagination and technology to the best of his abilities and how Disneyland and Walt Disney World came to be because of that vision. He also explained exactly what Imagineering does and how their 140 divisions fit into the Disney mold. Next was a short film that gave some background information of the imagination technologies involved in Expedition Everest, Toy Story Mania, Lucky the Dinosaur and the new DVC slated for Hawaii (less technology and more imagination for that latter one). As a special surprise when the movie was over, they opened a curtain that was next to Dave and there was Lucky the Dinosaur! AWEsome! We all got to meet, touch and talk with Lucky, as well as have Quinn & Julie take pictures of us with him. VERY cool!

We next split up into our Mickey and Minnie groups again. Our group got “Frank” added to our team, who explained a new photo opportunity they were working on for the parks: you stand in a designated photo spot, call a special phone number, a Disney camera takes your picture and sends it to your phone, where you can download it to your computer. For a price, of course, hehehe. They’re still working out the kinks (they had a few of us pose for a pic and Frank dialed the phone number (ahem, on his iPhone – only first generation – mine is better, bwahaha) but it took way too many seconds to take the shot) but we should see the technology in the parks sooner or later.

Next we went to the Sculpture Studio, where they stored many of the maquettes they use for reference for the theme parks. He explained how the original maquettes are small but can be scanned and then scaled for bigger models as needed. They also had the original marble Snow White and the 7 Dwarf statues from Disneyland housed in this room (they were removed from the park several years ago and replaced with “stunt doubles” because of the acid rain problem). Frank said that the “Snow White is the same size as the dwarfs” story is actually a myth invented by Walt Disney and John Hench, merely to save face. The statues were actually commissioned by Walt but when the designs were sent to Italy, the Dwarfs’ designs were in inches while Snow White’s were in centimeters, which caused her to be roughly the same height as the Dwarfs. When they received the statues and saw the mistake, they asked how much it would cost to just redo Snow White to the right proportions and it was much more than they were willing to spend. So they made up the story about the “gift from an anonymous donor in Italy”. It wasn’t until John Hench died and they were going through his papers that they found the file with the receipts and hand-written notes about the incident. Or at least that’s what they say. It’s Disney, so who knows what the REAL, true story us.

Anyway, the Sculpture Room had hundreds of heads and body maquettes including familiar ones from the Haunted Mansion, Country Bears, Dreamfinder, American Adventure, America Sings and The Mickey Mouse Revue. They had all of the Hall of President sculptures as well…all have been done by the same man, who is now in his 90’s. This new President will be the first one done by a “new guy” (but with the “old guy” supervising all the way).

Next up was one of the audio rooms (Studio C), where Steve, a sound guy, explained how they make binaural sound (they make a head with the same density and dimensions as a human head, complete with sinus cavities, and put microphones where they ear drums would be) and and how it plays into making an experience as realistic-sounding as possible. They has headphone for all of us and we got to hear what was one of their first public showcases of binaural sound, from the sound booths at MGM (where RJ is introduced to Flabio, gets a haircut and meets MM). They also gave us some private, behind-the-scenes info about the upcoming changes to a certain, well-loved attraction (sorry I can’t write about them – they told us not to).

We next walked to the area where they do scale models for attractions and showed us the mock-up of DCA’s upcoming Cars Land. It looks like it’s going to be a very cool land. It’s also nice to see that they are actually putting some thought into the reworking of this park and are doing things the “right” way (read: the way they should have done it in the first place), like making sure to pay attention to sight lines by planning to hide the high tension wires that are visible in the not-so-far distance right now. Joe said he saw a full-size Cars Land car a few feet away from where we were, but I must’ve missed it.

We next got to see a working audioanimatronic of Joe Cocker (skinless, so you could see all the inner workings of the figure. His eyes and mouth were the only things that looked humanesque), which was made in 1986 (it’s an A100 figure, for all you geeks out there). He was built to show how high tech the AA’s of that time could be and was the predecessor of (and is the same generation as) the Wicked Witch AA at MGM. Joe Cocker himself has never seen the AA but his manager has and said JC never moved that smoothly (grin).

Next up was shopping at Imagineering! We had 30 minutes and, well, let’s just say I did a decent amount of damage in such a short period of time. We were nowhere near the record though…one ABD group, combined, managed to spend about $15K in their allotted 30 minutes!

We had lunch at Imagineering’s cafeteria because there was an “issue” (we never found out what it was) and we had to eat there instead of at the Disney Studios, as originally planned. We were told it was the same food, different location. Shrug. That actually worked to our advantage though, because it gave us some extra shopping time after eating (the cafeteria was just on the other side of the courtyard),

Next was the Disney Studios. The good news was that whereas we were not allowed to take pictures at Imagineering, we could take as many as we wanted at the Studios. However we also saw very little of the insides of the Studios, so there was very little of interest to take pictures of.

Above: the ABC Building is connected to the WD Studios via a bridge. Below: As close to the Animation Building as we got (from the street, on the bus. Considering we were still moving when this shot was taken, I can’t complain.)

Anyway Quinn and Julie explained that Walt and Roy originally had a different studio but needed room to grow after the success of Snow White, hence buying the current property around 1939. He brought over 3 buildings from the original studio site. As I said, we didn’t enter many of the buildings but our walk brought us past nearly all of them and they explained what their purpose was in Walt’s time, as well as what they’re used for nowadays (mainly offices since operations are in several other cities, states and countries now).

Walking in the Studios

Entry to what had been the Animation Building

Entry to what used to be the Inking & Painting Building

Bad photo of the walkway that is above a tunnel that runs between Animation and Ink & Paint – made to protect the information from the weather , as well as from peering eyes

We saw the “Disney Walk of Fame” where the hand prints and signatures of significant people in Disney history line the walkway, as well as the newer area where the prints and signatures are embedded into pillars.

The massive Michael Eisner Building, with the newer “walk of Fame” on either side.

The significance of the 7 Dwarfs is that Disney earned their fortunes thanks to Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs – they’re what “held up” the company

Joe & I with the “Partners” statue. The original design, as shown to us at Imagineering, had Mickey Mouse holding an ice cream cone

Roy, Minnie, me and Joe

We also went into the Frank G. Wells building, which houses the Disney Archives (in fact, I saw Dave Smith going into the archives as we went past the area).

They also showed THE multiplane camera that was used for Snow White.

Us in front of the original famous sign (it was actually made for the sake of the fans, many of whom wanted to see the Studios. Since all of the requests couldn’t all be accommodated, Walt made a movie that showcased the Studios and had the sign made to be part of it).

“The” sign is now a part of Pluto’s Corner, which includes a fire hydrant and Pluto’s 3 paw prints (he’s using the fire hydrant so there’s only 3 prints, not 4)

We had about 20 minutes for shopping in the Studio Store (which was more than enough – not a whole lot to be had) and then were on our way to Disneyland!

When we arrived at the Resort, Brian introduced himself as the Guest Services Manager while Quinn checked us into our rooms at the Grand Californian.

Above and Below: Our room at the Grand Californian

View from our window and 18″ wide patio

We had about an hour and change before dinner so, with 4-day park hoppers in hand (part of the package), we went to California Adventure. Since Joe had never been on Toy Story Midway Mania at home yet (lines were too long the few times we’ve been to MGM since it opened), we went on it here. He liked it and I have the same opinion of this one as the one at home – myeh – it’s nothing more than a repetitive, state-of-the-art Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster or Men In Black attraction. It’s done well but certainly not worth all the Hoopla peolpe give it, AFAIC.

Dinner was scheduled to be at Hook’s Point, with a wine reception down in the wine cellar beforehand. So we met in the lobby of the Grand California and, once we were all gathered, walked through Downtown Disney to the Disneyland Hotel. We had 3 wines (or Martinelli’s or soft drinks) to choose from during this “welcome to Disneyland” reception, along with a variety of crudite veggies, dips, breads/ crackers and cheeses. We were introduced to one of Disneyland’s 2008 Ambassadors, who went to most of the tables to shmooze with us. Finally, we went upstairs for dinner at Hook’s Pointe, a sit-down full service restaurant. Joe and I both had the salmon, which was pretty good.

Above: Reception at Wine Cellar. Below: Dinner at Hook’s Pointe

After dinner, we went back to Disneyland via the monorail station at Downtown Disney. We went in with about a half-dozen of our fellow adventurers but the group eventually split up as people wanted to do different things. Joe and I wound up going on the Nemo attraction (which totally ROCKED!) and then Space Mountain (which, again, ROCKED!). By this time it was about 10:30pm and we were starting to get sleepy so even though the park was scheduled to be open for another 30 minutes, we hoofed it back to our hotel room and went to bed.