Posts from the ‘California’ Category

Backstage Magic ’08: Reflections of Tour

This was our second Adventures by Disney trip and although we had a good time, I don’t think this trip can even begin to compare to the Southwest Splendor trip that we took in 2007.

Part of that was our own fault, because of our past experiences…we’re Disney fans and (speaking more for myself – Joey may or may not have other feelings) used to be BIG Disney fans. So we’ve done lots of behind-the-scenes tours. And I mean LOTS. Innovations in Action. Architheming. Epcot East and West. The 8-hour tour (twice). A watered-down version of Traditions. Some that don’t exist anymore and some that I don’t even remember. I mean, at WDW I’ve been to Central Shops and Costuming and the Christmas warehouse and Company D more than once, been in the Utilidors on several occasions and, when I worked at The Disney Store, went backstage as often as I could, simply because I could. I’ve also gone backstage in other areas thanks to some kind-hearted, helpful friends. So the concept of “going backstage” is not a big deal to me. Not that seeing how they made the Indy cars move, or watching Soaring Over California from “the back” wasn’t cool, because it was. But, well, I’ve seen many other “backstage” things in my time that were cooler.

Another issue was what the trip WAS. Hollywood and Disneyland Resort. We’ve been to both. More than once. Hell, we’ve both been to Disneyland at least a half-dozen times. So whereas Southwest Splendor, with visits to Sedona, the Grand Canyon and Moab UT were generally new and exciting, both locations on this trip always had a “ho hum, been there, done that” sort of feeling, be it being on the set of a TV show or seeing them take fake snow off a parade float.

Although we were 12 couples, we never got really close to anyone this time around. Granted, neither Joe nor I are very comfortable when it comes to socializing with strangers – it takes a while to size people up and them decide if you’re going to warm up to them. And it’s not like we had 5-hour stretches of riding in a bus where you almost HAD to make friends, like with Southwest Splendors. There was also quite a lot of “on your own time” incorporated into this tour so you could go to the parks, at which time people tended to split up or, when we tried to go together in  small group, some people wanted to go here and some there, or you’d get the group where no one could make decisions so we’d wind up splitting up anyway. But whereas we got along well with nearly all of the 7 other couples last year, there was no one who we felt any strong ties with this time around. Moderate ties, yes – but not until maybe the next-to-last day of the tour. Part of that was the Disney Geek thing…some of the people on the tour were, for lack of a better word, Foamers (the Disney equivalent of militant Fanboys or Fangirls – people who foam at the mouth for All Things Disney), and they’re not the kind of people we tend to hang out with (lord knows we spent enough years isolating ourselves from the AdvClub freaks, we certainly weren’t going to start becoming buddy buddy with someone who acted as if going into Walt’s train barn was some sort of religious experience). Some others were obviously making an effort to keep to themselves, some were loud know-it-alls, and others turned out to be whiners…and that latter group was the most annoying to me.

This tour had been going on for months and, because it was based around Disneyland, which is in a constant state of flux, there was no way that everything on one tour could be duplicated in another. Case in point, some of the Backstage Magic tours in the not-so-distant past apparently got to go backstage at the Haunted Mansion. Well, that sure would be fun to do (OK yeah, I’ve already done it at WDW once or twice, but even so…), except HM was down for refurbishment and wasn’t available while we were there. Same thing went for the reserved seating for Fantasmic…but Fantasmic was not running that 3rd week of September. And some of the people who had read about past tours on DIS Boards and WDW Magic and whatever else, made it a point to complain to anyone who would listen about how we “weren’t doing this” or how “the tour in early August got to do that, but we don’t” and then half-wondered, half-demanded to Quinn & Julie how they were going to “make up” for what we weren’t getting. Q&J handled the situation beautifully but really, give me a break! I made it a point to mention to one of the whiners that I purposely hadn’t read about past trips because, because of the nature of the destination, I knew everything was subject to change, based on availability…that I came on the tour without expectations and was glad I did, so I would be grateful for everything we DID get to do, instead of being upset about what we didn’t get to do. Of course, that went in one ear and out the other, but I felt better for saying it.

I also couldn’t help but compare Quinn & Julie to Chris & Mike (our guides from last year). Adventures by Disney originally hired people who were “tour guides” for a living…obviously ones who could fit the Disney mold, but still and all, they were tour guides first, Disney CMs second. For Backstage Magic though, they hired Disneyland Cast Members (Quinn came from Cast Communications, Julie is a lead at Toy Story Mania) who they could train to act like tour guides, because it would be easier to teach them that than to teach tour guides the ins and outs and rules of all the hush-hush backstage park stuff and how to handle last-minute-changes and emergencies at The Disneyland Resort. Makes perfect sense. But Mike & Chris had, for lack of better words, “tour guide mentality”. They had a better idea of group dynamics and knew how to get people to talk to each other, instead of just interacting with the people who happened to approach them. They got us the best rooms possible at our hotels (for this trip, in Hollywood we were on the 8th floor of an 18-story hotel – they couldn’t have gotten us a higher floor? And at the Grand Californian, we were on the 3rd floor and had a view of gravel, trees, other rooms and a bit of the monorail – I’m not saying we should have gotten Concierge level – although, funny, the last time we stayed at the GC with DVC points, we DID…and we paid for this trip with DVC points as well), but they didn’t have pull at Disneyland to give us better rooms?). And in general, Chris & Mike seemed more…”polished” as tour guides? I’m not sure if those are the exact word I’m searching for. Julie was young. She was very Disney friendly but acted a little inexperienced here and there. Quinn was better and more of a leader and problem solver (and was also a good 10 years older than Julie) but he was still a CM first. And CMs often seem to have a “I know what’s going on but I’m not allowed to tell you because my company is all about image and they’d probably fire me if I told you something I shouldn’t” mentality. So I always felt a “I wonder what they know but can’t tell us” undercurrent that I didn’t feel with Mike & Chris. But that, I think, was more from me and my expectations of and interactions with CMs in general, plus the fact that we were at Disneyland, which has a bezillion “secrets” they feel the need to maintain, as opposed to the Grand Canyon or the Colorado River, which aren’t under their jurisdiction, if that makes any sense.

Of course, the other issue was the fact that we (well, I think moreso I) had other places I wanted to be. This wasn’t our first choice for an Adventures by Disney vacation. Ireland was. Germany/Austria was our second choice. But we wanted to go on an Adults Only tour and because of the weird way Joe’s vacation requests work, we were already locked into that “3rd week of September” time frame…so when the Ireland and Germany trips turned out to already be sold out, we didn’t have very many choices of where we could go that was Adults Only and still be home in plenty of time for Rob & Scott’s wedding on the 28th. On top of that, the Adventurers Club was closing on the 27th and being THERE was my Number One Priority. So although the vacation was nice and we had a good time, I really wanted to be HOME more than anything else.

Next year we’re not doing any Adventures by Disney trips. We’re already locked in to 2 weeks in Japan in late January/early February (love that country, plus we want to see the Tokyo Disneyland 25th Anniversary stuff before it’s done), plus I’m looking at a cruise to Alaska with Sing Live in August (most likely Joe-less) and to England with Sing Live (hello, Royal Albert Hall!) in September (Joe will meet us for part of that trip). Who knows what will happen in 2010, but I’d like to think that we’re going to look at Ireland or South Africa.

Don’t get me wrong…I still think that Adventures by Disney rocks. However in the future, I think it would be wiser to use them for locations we’ve never visited, rather than as a different way to re-visit places we’ve seen before.

09-20-08: Backstage Magic: Last Hours at Disneyland and Going Home

It was “Going Home Day” but we really had almost all day to play, since we were taking the Red Eye home. Even with the luxury of time, we still had a 6:30am wake-up call because we had some more people to say goodbye to, at breakfast.

Our 7am breakfast was at Storyteller’s and, of course, it was a character meal. Have I mentioned how much I detest character meals? And have you noticed that we have done character breakfasts for the past. Three. Days. In. A. Row? Really, just kill me now. Anyway, this one had Koda, Kenai, Chip, Dale (they ARE busy little chipmunks), Meeko and Turk. Whatever. The happy news was that they had Kashi cereal! Hooray for healthy breakfast food, for a change!

ABOVE & BELOW: Storyteller’s restaurant

Quinn & Julie had thoughtfully arranged for us to have late check-out so our stuff didn’t have to be ready to go until 1pm instead of 11am, So after breakfast we decided to play for a little while. The park hopper passes arranged by ABD included Sunday, so off we went to the park. Every time we had gone on Nemo, it had been nighttime so we went on it once more, this time in the daylight. I think I like it better in the daytime. We went on Space Mountain (it so rocks! I SO want it at WDW!) and then took the round-trip ride on the new Monorail Red.

ABOVE & BELOW: Nemo/Monorail Red with the Matterhorn in the background

We still had to finish our packing so after the monorail, we went back to the hotel, did what we had to do, and called Bell Services to hold our stuff for a few hours.

By this time it was nearly lunchtime and we were getting hungry. We decided to eat at Wine Country Trattoria, in DCA, since it was never open during any of our previous visits. He had the chicken panini while I decided to be decadent and got the lasagna, which, surprisingly, wasn’t bad.

As long as we were in DCA, we went back to Toy Story Mania (Joe really liked it and he never gets to go on it at home because we so rarely go to the parks or because the lines are so long), then went into the “lobby” of the Animation Building to sit and rest for a while. Finally we went back on Monsters Inc. Cuz we could.

We still had time to waste so we decided to go back to MK. Although we had gone on the Lilly Belle the other day, we hadn’t ridden the train proper, so we did that – I slept through 75% of it (grin). We next tried to go on Indy but it was down so we went on the nearby POTC again.

By this time I think we were both “Disneylanded out” so we went to Downtown Disney and walked around for a little while. We meandered through World of Disney (nothing decent to get – both WDW and DL suffer from “all we sell is crap” syndrome) and grabbed a Jamba Juice (cuz we could. Still no Jamba Juice in the Orlando area), then just sat in the lobby, seeing Quinn & Julie in the distance (they can’t leave until everyone from the tour is on their way), waiting for our Town Car to arrive.

Our plane wasn’t until 10 or 11pm but we had plans to eat at Encounter so we had a 6:15pm Town Car pickup. We said our goodbyes to Quinn & Julie and slept most of the way to LAX (grin).

After checking our bags, we walked to Encounter, the groovy, space-age themed restaurant in LAX’s Theme Building. Designed by Imagineers, we had eaten there about 10 years ago. The food was not as glorious as I remembered it (it was delicious but I could have SWORN it was much more “artistic” when we went in 1998 or so) but the design of the place was just as cool as I remembered.

Sign outside the building

View from our table

ABOVE & BELOW: Shots of the restaurant

The vanities in the bathrooms have a freeform patchwork of cloisonné decoration

Our plane was, blissfully, on time and, even better, we had an empty seat between us, which allowed us to spread out a little. Vacation over, I fell asleep on the plane, happy to have gone and happy to be going home.

Backstage Magic ’08: Exploring Disney’s California Adventure

Today was our day to tour California Adventure. We woke up at 6am (ARGH!) in order to meet in the lobby of our hotel at 7am, After a quick walk to the Disneyland Hotel, we had breakfast at godforsaken Goofy’s Kitchen (AGAIN with the character meals!) at godforsaken 715am. Today’s characters were Goofy, Chip, Dale (those two get around!), Jasmine and, oddly enough IMHO, Brer Bear. The food was, as expected, typical Disney, and although the Peanut Butter & Jelly pie absolutely ROCKED, the rest of the meal was so-so at best.

Part of the food layout at Goofy’s Kitchen

Eating breakfast with Goofy & friends

With breakfast finished, we headed over to California Adventure and met up with Heather, who was a Lead at the Soaring Over California attraction. She explained the back story of the attraction – how it was designed by Mike Sumner with his Erector set. After the quick story, we again divided into Mickey & Minnie teams. The Minnies got to ride the attraction while the rest of us got to go backstage, behind the movie screen! We could see the movie ahead of us, along with the Minnies’ feet dangling above us – VERY fun! After their flight was done, we switched places and since we now knew where to look for the door, we saw the Minnies entering and exiting the backstage area.

Once our flights were over, we went back outside, where Heather gave us some random statistics about the attraction…there are 2 theaters and the ride holds 87 people per theater. Each screen is 27′ wide x 57′ high and you are lifted 40 feet into the air in order to view the Imax screen appropriately. There are 3 flavors of scent beads used during the show – pine, orange and a water smell (although a lot of people tend to remember the orange scent the most) – they are housed in a special compartment and are wafted to the Guests’ respective face areas by a blast of air at appropriate times. The scent beads are replaced every 3 to 6 months.

Walking towards the Animation Building – no one is in California Adventure. Picture taken at 3:00pm. OK not really (grin)

In front of the Animation Building at DCA

Next we walked over to the Animation Building, where we had an appointment for a private show with Crush, from Turtle Time. Nothing out of the ordinary and no backstage secrets revealed but chaw, it rocked, dude!

After our meeting with Crush, we met with Aliah, a Disney artist who taught us how to draw Mickey Mouse, step by step. Joe’s MM didn’t look too bad but mine looked more like Goofy. Yeah, an artist I’m not.

ABOVE & BELOW: Aliah teaching us how to draw Mickey Mouse

After we were done with Aliah, we had free time for the rest of the day. But not before Julie and Quinn (but especially Julie) did something very special and unusual that we all promised not to repeat on blogs or the boards. But let’s just say that they totally rock!

Anyway, before we broke up, we did a Group Do on the TZTOT. Well, most of us did – some of the group opted out. Chickenshits (grin).

THEN we had free time. There wasn’t much that we wanted to see in California Adventure but we made good use of our time there…we went on Monsters Inc. twice in a row, then walked to Paradise Pier so Joe could go on California Screaming (I didn’t go on – chickenshit!). After that we visited Toy Story Mania.

Paradise Pier

After we were done with TSM, we went back to the room because we were pooped (remember we woke up at 6am!). After we woke up, I went shopping while Joe decided to go back into the Magic Kingdom. As it turned out, total coincidence, we met up at the same turnstile, with Joe just 3 people behind me. Gee, with coincidences like that, it’s a good thing we’re married!

We had to meet in front of the Hyperion Theater at 5:55pm for a 6pm dinner buffet inside the Hollywood & Vine restaurant area. The food was decent, with catered salad, pasta, chicken, veggies, etc. Stacia Martin, a Disney historian, drew pictures of our favorite requested characters for us (except me – she’s never had a request for the Yo-Yo Flamingo from Fantasia and it wasn’t in her repertoire – but she promised to tell Eric Goldberg that someone actually requested him!) Quinn & Julie had been taking pictures of us throughout the vacation and turned the shots into a montage of memories (you may recall that Chris and Mike did the same thing for everyone last year. It’s a nice touch, especially when we get a copy of the video a few weeks later). Finally, towards the end, Mickey & Minnie came to visit and take pictures with us.

Eating dinner

Stacia drawing Joe’s requested character

Us with Mickey & Minnie

Minnie, Quinn, Julie, Mickey

The whole group of us

With dinner done, the only thing we had left was our VIP seating for the Wishes fireworks. We still had some time so a bunch of us went into The Enchanted Tiki Room first, then met at our private seating area, which was nearby.

Waiting for the fireworks

We all split up after the fireworks. Our last official event was tomorrow’s breakfast but not everyone was going to be there at the same time, since there were planes to catch, so we did unofficial goodbyes, in case we didn’t see each other in the morning. The park wasn’t closed yet and Joe and I still had some energy, so we went on POTC and Pooh before calling it a night.

Backstage Magic ’08: Backstage at Disneyland

We woke up in time to meet at the front lobby at 7:45am. After a quick jaunt to the Magic Kingdom, we walked up Main Street and got to take pictures in front of the Partners statue, as well as Sleeping Beauty Castle, without anyone else in the shots (grin).

Just us on Main Street

Nobody in the picture of the Partners statue

Big ass spiderweb (and spider) running from Walt’s face to his hand

Hey, it’s the castle! It’s so tiny…

All of us

Today’s breakfast was with Minnie & Friends at the Plaza Inn, in the MK. The food was on par with Crystal Palace at WDW (which doesn’t say much for the food). Anyway, besides Minnie, we also got to eat with Max, Chip, Dale, Tigger and The Fairy Godmother. Those of you who know my feelings about characters, especially eating with them, well, then you know why I have so few pictures of the meal (grin).

Joe and Minnie

More for Tyler and Lyne’s benefit than mine

Today was our day to go backstage at the Magic Kingdom. After breakfast we walked over to Adventureland and went through a Cast Member entrance by Indiana jones, to get a better idea of how the attraction works. That’s where we met Jerry, who was a Reliability Manager. He verbally described the ride, room by room. He said the ride has 1900 ft track and had 450 volts of electricity under the track. He showed us the computer that was in each car and explained how it was responsible for the variable sounds and movements of the car (it can choose from 3 different movement profiles and several more sound profiles, so the audio and car movement ride is randomized from ride to ride). The computer is also responsible for the vehicle not moving, if a safety belt is not fastened. The vehicles use hydraulics for movement and it is the same system that the Star Tours attraction “vehicles” use. All 17 vehicles are inspected every night and receive a complete teardown every 4 weeks to check for safety. Tires are replaced once a year (more often if needed) and each vehicles weighs about 10,000 pounds.

After some questions and answers with Jerry, we were backdoored onto the attraction so we didn’t have to wait on the 45 minute line.

We worked our way from Adventureland to Fantasyland, while Quinn and Julie gave us bits and pieces of information along the way. Walt decided to build the Matterhorn after being inspired from the film, “Third Man on the Mountain”. They are in the midst of introducing the new monorails at DL – Monorail Red was just added to the track not long ago, Monorail Blue will be next, followed by Monorail Orange. Walt wanted It’s A Small World to be trimmed in 23 karat gold but Roy said it would be too expensive. So Walt ordered the trim for it (as well as for Sleeping Beauty Castle and Dumbo) while Roy was on vacation.

We went back backstage through the Cast Member entrance to the right of Small World, where we walked to the roundhouse and met Bill, who worked on maintaining and repairing the steam trains on the Disneyland Railroad. He explained that Disneyland had a fleet of 4 trains, 2 of which Walt had built at 80% scale and were original to the park when it opened in 1955. The other 2 are authentic steam trains that were built in 1893 and 1924. The trains work on biodiesel and they are currently experimenting with using used food oil for fuel. Bill explained how the trains’ steam engine works, and used an engine currently under repair as a model. Finally, they brought out Train 4, named the Ernest S. Marsh, built in 1924. Bill explained how they blow sediment out of boiler at the Frontierland station every hour or so and how they often frequent subcontractors, as well as eBay for parts.. They also explained the system of training to become a DLRR engineer: First you must be a fireman (the person who maintains the fire to make the steam), which in itself requires five months of training. After a year of being a fireman, you can can train to be an engineer. After 6 months of training, THEN you can take the test to be an engineer. So as you can see, it’s a long, arduous process that not everyone completes successfully.

Our next stop was to see the fireworks launch for the Wishes pyrotechnics show. Quinn & Julie explained how Disneyland currently uses an air launch system, which increases accuracy while decreasing some of the need for gunpowder (therefore making it greener). Wishes, a 17-minute long show, uses 360 shells behind park and 260 inside the park 17 min long. There are 7 technicians who take care of it all, including getting unlaunched duds out of launching tubes. Needless to say, they are VERY well paid.

Next up was the building that houses the Parade floats. They’re preparing for the Christmas parade and are currently reflocking the floats (which are composed, for the most part, of fiberglass and plastic) with artificial snow – we got to see a CM using a hose to spray the old flocking off the artificial trees on the parade floats.

Our next stop was the area where they house Disneyland’s animals, where we were introduced to Christa, one of the people who take care of the animals. We stopped in front of the Pope House (formerly owned by Owen and Dolly Pope), which is the only building that is original to the property that eventually became Disneyland. After a quick trip inside the front room of the Pope House, Christa introduced us to Larry, who is the tamest feral cat you’ll ever meet (grin). Christa explained how Disneyland owns a variety of animals (horses, goats, sheep, donkeys, parrots, etc.) for different areas and locations (goats and sheep are in the petting zoo, the Clydesdales walk up and down Main Street, other horses are used for weddings, etc.). The animals lead an ideal life – generally 2 hours per day, 2-3 times per week, for about 2 weeks per month. We had to stay a good ten feet away from the horses for safety, but were able to pet the goats and sheep in their pens.

After some pictures in front of a vintage Disneyland Stagecoach, we walked back on stage for lunch at Cafe Orleans. We were saddened to hear that they only had 10 shrimp salad sandwiches left (I was lucky enough to get one of them) but they had bunches of Monte Cristo’s, so all was good. We had a Streetmosphere-type pirate interacting with us during the meal, stealing pocketbooks and picking pockets. It was very cute!

The menu we got to choose from

Eating lunch

When lunch was finally over, we were backdoored into POTC.

After POTC, we again divided into our Mickey & Minnie teams. Quinn led us to the Main St. Station of the DLRR and, after waiting 15 minutes or so for “our” train to arrive, we were invited to board the famed Lilly Belle car! Even I, a Disney fan-turned-cynic, was impressed with this! Quinn explained the history of the car, which was that it was an original observation car on the DLRR and, in the mid-1970’s, transformed it into a parlor car for VIPs. It was restored in the mid-1990s and let me tell you, it was just beautiful! We were able to ride the entire DLRR in the Lilly Belle, enjoying its (her?) Victorian-themed grandeur.

On the Lilly Belle

Empty Lilly Belle car

Next up was another super-special opportunity…to go to Walt’s Apartment. Under the supervision of Cindy, our guide, we went to the right of the firehouse, through the super-narrow CM entrance and, after about 10 feet, walked up a set of narrow stairs on our left. After getting up to the second floor, we walked a short (< 8′) hallway and there we were – in Walt Disney’s apartment. The one where he sometimes stayed overnight while Disneyland was being built and where he stayed even after the park was open to the public. COOL! It was a studio apartment, maybe about 25′ by 25′ in total. You walk into the living room (again, Victorian-themed – Lillian had control over the design of this one), which had 2 couches that opened into twin beds (Walt and Lilly slept separately). Behind each couch was a table with a picture of Walt or Lilly’s mother. There were also 2 cushy armchairs for sitting, footstools with embroidered tops, a Regina music box, an Edison Victrola. To your immediate right was a kitchenette with a sink and a refrigerator that still works. Above the sink were cabinets that held the Disneys’ original plates, glasses, ashtrays and Evenflo baby bottles (all 11 grandkids would some come over – they would sleep on the floor). Around back was a very utilitarian 1950’s-style bathroom and shower – how many people can say with certainty that they’ve seen where Walt Disney peed and pooped? (VBEG) – as well as a double closet. Cindy explained some stories – about the lamp in the window that rarely (not never) goes out (it’s part of her job description to check the lamp every day – on rare occasion the bulb burns out before its monthly automatic change), how the grandkids used to scare the crap out of the Jungle Cruise skippers by making themselves “part of the show” (“Hey Walt, better gather your grandkids…they’re terrorizing Jungle Cruise!”), the fireman’s pole that used to go from the firehouse up to the apartment (until someone managed to shimmy UP it and invade the apartment without permission). Some of the people in our tour were teary-eyed about visiting the apartment – I didn’t go that far (far from it) but yeah it was cool.

Outside view of Walt’s Apartment, over the DL Firehouse

Vintage shot of Walt’s apartment

Once we were done visiting the apartment, we went back to the Main Street Train Station for a debriefing. We had reserved seating for the 3pm parade so if we wanted to play for a little while and then come back, we could. Then we had a 4:45pm appointment for a reserved boat on the Jungle Cruise. After giving each of us 5 Fast Passes that we could use at whatever Fast Pass location we wished, we were on our way.

Joe and I decided to use our time by going on Indy again. We gave the CM our Fast Passes, he looked at them, let us through and then gave us back the passes. OoooooKay. Actually, that happened several times – apparently the FPs that Adventures by Disney give out look very much like the VIP “Re-use the same FP over and over” FPs. On top of that, it was off season and we hit hardly any lines. So although we got, ohgod, a good 10 or 15 FPs during the course of our vacation, I think we used 2. Maybe 3.

After Indy we went back to the Train Station to watch the parade. It wasn’t bad, as parade goes…the floats were pretty and the music was OK and very Disneyesque. Apparently I better get used to it because I heard WDW is getting this parade as a hand-me-down pretty soon.

Anyway, before we left the train station, Quinn & Julie gave each of us a commemorative ticket to the Lilly Belle, which will give us entry onto the car again, any time in the future, if we so please. Nice souvenir.

As a group walked to the Jungle Cruise and again were backdoored in. With so many people in the group, we had our own boat. Nothing special with the spiel. Then again, nothing really special about this attraction, period.

After the JC, we were on our own for the rest of the night. We focused on attractions that were either different from WDW’s or that simply didn’t exist there. So we did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (5 minute wait), Pinocchio’s Darling Journey, Snow White, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland and the Matterhorn in the course of about 2 hours.

Despite a huge breakfast and decent-sized lunch, now we were hungry. We wanted to eat a Napa Rose, but the first reservation they had available wasn’t until 8pm. That was a little too late for our plans so we agreed to eat at the bar. We shared an appetizer and then I had the filet mignon with brie, while Joe had the Alaskan halibut. Both were awesome.

We went back to Magic Kingdom after dinner – went on Buzz Lightyear (it was posted as a 20 minute wait but was really closer to 10 or 15 minutes) and then on Nemo, which had a 30 minute wait.

By this time we were getting tired and still had a full day ahead of us so we went back “home” and called it a night.

Backstage Magic ’08: Moving Day, Imagineering, Disney Studios, Disneyland

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.

Backstage Magic ’08: Touring El Capitan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Jim Henson Studios and Walt’s Train Barn

6:30am came way too quickly…especially because Joe set the alarm for 6am by mistake (grin).

Our meeting time for breakfast was coming up but we left the hotel room early to get “real” coffee at Starbucks, in case the breakfast coffee (Disney could = Nescafe and Creamora, for all we knew) was nasty. After we got our liquid wake-up call, we went to the “walkway” level to meet everyone. We met for breakfast at 7:45am and once all 24 of us were assembled, Julie walked across the street to Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store. Alas, we were not offered any ice cream for breakfast but instead had choices of fruit in a sundae glass, assorted flavors of yogurt, bagels, english muffins, scrambled eggs, Mickey Mouse waffles, oatmeal, bacon sausage, orange juice, apple juice, coffee, milk, hot tea, iced tea and hot chocolate. I got the oatmeal (which was just OK) and Joe got the eggs (which he said weren’t very good at all). The coffee, FWIW, was strong but not bad. We had a special guest towards the end of the meal, in the form of a meet & greet/photo op with Sleeping Beauty.

Above and below: Eating breakfast at Disney’s Soda Fountain & Studio Store

Sleeping Beauty & I both got the “wear pink” memo

Our first stop of the day was next door for a tour of the El Capitan Theatre. Alex was our tour guide and we had the disinction of being his first tour ever. Anyway, he offered us the history of the theater, who had owned it in the past and the process of renovation ($14 mil, in 2 separate renovations, over the course of several years) when Disney bought the building. We went upstairs to the balcony to get a better idea of the detail in the architecture (keeping it true to its original design from the 192’0’s), and then down to he Orchestra level to learn more about the Wurlitzer organ they use (they also had a “Name that Tune” sort of game…I won a CD for guessing “When you Wish Upon A Star” in 3 notes). Next was teaching us about the sound system and finally, they brought us on stage to show us the house (that part didn’t impress me so much…I’ve been on the stage of the Ford Theater twice (42nd St. and Chitty), the Linda Chapin twice and the Bob Carr once (soon to be twice)…a stage is a stage).

The El Capitan:

Off the Main Lobby

Above and below: They hide the instruments and some pipes from the Wurlitzer behind the box seats

The Wurlitzer can play thousands upon thousands of different sounds

Some of the big pipes (as seen from the stage) are large enough for a full-grown person to fit in

A view from the stage

Next we went next-door to the studio where they tape Jimmy Kimmel Live. Kelly was the Operations Manager and he explained how the building, built in 1921, was originally the Hollywood Masonic temple and what Disney had done with the building since acquiring it in 1995. Next we got to meet “Uncle Frank”, the show’s security guard (an ex-NY cop, former Frank Sinatra bodyguard and Kimmel’s true-life uncle) – he was a complete character! We were walked around to see the Control Room, Tape Room, Makeup Room and Edit Bays. We also got to hear some ghost stories since the building is apparently haunted. Next up was the Green Room (it was very loungy and apparently has the reputation of being the site of some great parties. Baba Booey LOVES it). We also got to go into the sound stage where the show is actually taped, where we got to take pictures with Uncle Frank (this was the only place any pictures could be taken and only Quinn & Julie could take them). Finally we went back outside through the Stage Door to see the permanent outdoor concert stage they have set up behind the building.

Our Motor Coach was waiting for us as we exited the Jimmy Kimmel Live property, with Don the driver (the bus, BTW, was a Coach America bus, yay!). He took us on a roundabout route to get to the Henson Studios, spending lots of time on Sunset Blvd and pointing out the highlights as we passed them (site of Schwabs drugstore – which is now a 3 story strip mall, the HQ of the Directors Guild of America, Laugh Factory Comedy Club, Chateau Marmont (Lindsay Lohan currently lives there and John Belushi died there), the Sunset Tower Hotel (Marilyn Monroe used to stay there a lot), a Hyatt Hotel (nicknamed the “Hyatt Riot” because rap stars have a tendency to trash it), the original House of Blues restaurant, the original site of Spagos (the current location is in Beverly Hills but I ate in that original Spagos in 1989), the Viper Room (previously partially owned by Johnny Depp and was where River Phoenix died), The Whiskey a Go-Go and The Roxy. We made a left onto Doheny, which is he dividing line between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills (Marilyn Monroe owned a house on the Beverly Hills side of the street). Next we took a left onto Santa Monica Blvd (which used to be part of the legendary Rt. 66) and saw The Troubador and the original Palm restaurant.

The original “Crossroads of the World”

Finally we made a left onto LaBrea and, after seeing the storefront made famous by “L.A. Ink,” we stopped at the Jim Henson Studios on the right.

The entryway to the Jim Henson Studios, as seen from inside the Studios (you can’t get a decent picture from the front without going across he street and it’s a very busy street)

To make it easier to travel around the relatively small studio, we broke up into 2 teams – the Mickey Team went with with Quinn, while the Minnie team followed Julie. Joe and I were on the Mickey. We were told that we were allowed to take pictures everywhere we went at the Henson Studios, except for the Creature Shop.

Quinn explained how the property was originally the Charlie Chaplin studio. Then A&M Records records own it for a while. Then Henson purchased the building and when Disney bought Henson a few years ago, the Studio was part of the package. Several of the buildings on the property were original to Charlie Chaplin’s ownership (which I think impressed me more than then Henson or Disney ownership) and those building are registered as Historic Landmarks. Some of the sidewalks are also quite historic, with Charlie Chaplin’s footprints still in them, albeit a bit faded after nearly 100 years.

There are also 2 slabs with his footprint and dated signature, but those are reproductions. The originals are housed at the alma mater of a former owner of the property.

We went inside several of the various buildings, many of which have 2 separate sets of signage…how the Henson Studios use them but also how the Chaplin Studios used each building.

“The Cottages” now house offices, including that of Brian Henson (one of Jim’s sons). Brian was at the Studio that day so we couldn’t go inside.

The (current) Reception building used to be “The Vault”. What is now an unused side door used to be where Charlie Chaplin stored his movie reels, as well as his signature hat, shoes and cane.

Inside the Reception building: some of the awards that the Jim Henson Company has won

We went into the “Theater” to see a movie (made especially for the Adventures by Disney tours) that explained the history of the studio, then the footprints, then into the Cafeteria (of all places) to watch a 50-year history time line of the Muppets (in 2.5 minutes). After that we went onto the sound stage and then into the Creature Shop.

Inside the Sound Stage.

The Creature Shop was COOL. It was where they design and build many of the Muppets you see today (many, but not all…they also have studios in NYC and London) and so there are Muppet pieces everywhere…boxes with “Gonzo-like” materials, ping pong ball noses, feathers and fur of every size and shape, you get the picture. There are also some Muppets out there for viewing, including the baby from “Dinosaurs” (“Not the Mama!”), Scooby Do, the moose and pig from the movie they had just shown us, plus several dozen I didn’t recognize. Our host in that building, Brian (not Henson), also explained how the Muppeteers do their work, aiming towards a camera that is high enough up so their heads don’t show. He explained how they make the Muppet look far away and close up and how he can make it look like it’s moving much faster than it actually is. Next he explained and showed their latest form of Muppetry…computer-animated Muppets. They use people (or dogs! The recently used a Great Dane “Hollywood dog”) wearing Spandex clothing with special markers on them that their computers pick up and translate into movement for a CGI character. Very interesting, high-tech stuff!

Above: Big, 3D Kermit. Below: Joe taking a picture of the big 3D Kermit, with “The Schoolhouse” behind him (the building was never used as a schoolhouse but it looked like one so that’s what they called it. Nowadays it’s offices.)

They had lunch ready for us by the time we got out of the Creature Shop – I had a chicken salad sandwich while Joe had a cheeseburger. After lunch we got to take some pictures with Brian and his friend, “Sweetheart”.

Next up was a special treat…after leaving the Henson Studios, we boarded the bus and headed to Griffith Park, so we could see Walt’s train barn and his (and others’) trains! As we arrived, we were greeted by a guy named Mike (ahem, Michael. Michael Broggie, founder of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society and son of Roger Broggie!). He handed us off to Doug, who told the story of how Walt always loved trains and how he wanted a train for their backyard and, after some negotiating with Lillian (she didn’t want the train to mess up her flower beds), got his wish with the 1/8 scale train set (hence one-upping his friends Ollie and Ward, who each had mere 1/12 scale trains in THEIR backyards).

Doug telling us stories

He eventually decided to put a train in the Disney Studios so the public could have access to it (he linked it to the old “Saturday was Daddy’s Day” story), but that plan was ditched when he decided to go for a grander theme and make an entire amusement park – hence the birth of Disneyland. Anyway, Lillian lived in that house until she died and although the new owner tried to keep the building, there was just too much dry rot and it had to be demolished. However Diane and Ron Miller paid to have Walt’s train barn (where he worked on his trains) moved to Griffith Park, where it stands, intact, today. After hearing the history, we were invited to ride on the train and visit the barn (which now houses some of the original artifacts, such as the sink, paper towel roll, cup dispenser and desk) Walt’s trains, as well as train (and a little bit of monorail) related memorabilia from Frank Thomas’ Ollie Johnson’s and Ward Kimball’s collections. VERY cool!

The train. I took a video of the whole ride – still need to upload it

Walt’s train barn

Walt’s sink & “stuff” inside the barn

Some of the memorabilia inside the barn

We re-boarded the bus and went back to the hotel. Quinn and Julie had managed to get all of us tickets to the taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live but (A) Joe and I only barely cared about one of the guests – Alyssa Milano, (B) meeting for the taping meant having to be back out in an hour – for a taping that would take several hours and (C) we had to wake up EARLY the next morning. So we decided to skip the taping and go off on our own.

The first order of business for us was, of course, a nap. We had woken up early and had done a lot of running around all day so a nap was just what we needed to recharge our batteries. After we woke up, we decided to eat at the Japanese restaurant at the H&H Complex, since we had eaten there 3 years ago and really liked their variation of Shabu Shabu. It definitely didn’t disappoint, nor did the Beard Papa we got for dessert. We went to bed soon after going back to our hotel room.

It had been a really fun day!

Backstage Magic ’08: Arrival & Hollywood on our own

We had had such a great time during our Adventures by Disney trip last year that it was a no-brainer we would travel with them again. We started planning our trip mid-to-late last year (right after we had gotten back from Southwest Splendors, actually) and were all ready to book the The Emerald Isle (Ireland, of course), except by the time Joe’s vacation time was finally approved, the Adults Only tour was sold out. So were the Germany/Austria/Czech Republic and the Spain tours we were considering as alternate choices. That led Joe to ask, “OK, what IS available for Adult Only tours during that 2-week time frame?” and that is how we wound up going on Backstage Magic.

Our plane on Monday had a 7:25am departure time from MCO (the tour didn’t actually begin until Tuesday afternoon, but with the questionable reliability of the airline industry nowadays, we figures it would be in our best interest to arrive a day earlier). I had all intentions of closing the Club on Sunday night (ahem, mission accomplished) and, with a 5:30am pick up from “Dad’s limo and taxi service,” I just stayed up after getting home from the AC…finished packing, caught up on a few websites, etc.

The drive to the airport was uneventful (save for my once-a-minute yawns; I had woken up at 10am Sunday morning and it was now almost 20 hours later), as was takeoff. And once we were safely in the air, I crashed into a handful of 60-to-90-minute naps.

As we were landing, the pilot had a special greeting for those who were from “Disney”, who would be flying home that evening. Yep, we apparently got on one of “the” Disney flights where Suits from FL shuttle to CA for meetings and then go back to FL on the same day, via the Red Eye. How fucking ridiculous is that? I mean honestly, I realize business people have to travel sometimes but I know this process is a regular occurrence. In this day and age of teleconferencing, why on earth can’t they figure out a more efficient way to handle this situation? Idiots.

Although we were arriving early, Adventures by Disney still had us covered and had a greeter, Tony, waiting for us when we got to Baggage Claim. He took our carry ons and then got our big suitcases…I need to share that Little Miss Independence was DYING because she wasn’t “allowed” to get her own suitcase off the conveyor belt (grin). Anyway, he loaded us and our stuff into a Town Car at 9:45am and we arrived at our hotel, the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa, at 10:30am. Check-in was a breeze and our room, although only on the 8th floor, had a GREAT view of the “HOLLYWOOD” sign.

The Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa, as seen from the Hollywood & Highland complex. You can see the Hollywood sign through the breezeway of the building on the right

Above and below: our hotel’s lobby

Our room:

The view from our window

Breakfast has been paltry (Joe had a bagel, I had a half of a bagel) and we were both hungry, so we decided to get a snack at the Hollywood & Highland Center, which was connected to our hotel via walkway. We looked at the directory and HOLY CRAP, they had a Beard Papa!!! We fell in love with “that” style of cream puffs during our last trip to Japan, and then we discovered that Beard Papa was a worldwide chain that sold that very style of pastry treat. The closest one to us had been in NYC and we enjoyed ourselves during our last trip. But we had NO idea they had them in CA too (lots of them, actually – Check it out. Also notice the upcoming location in November! HAPPY DANCE!!!). So yeah, we ate dessert first. And THEN Joe got a sandwich (grin).

Beard Papa!!!

Naps notwithstanding, we were still VERY sleep deprived, so by 11:30am we were in bed and took a delicious 2.5-hour nap. When we woke up, I got the high speed access up and running and caught up on my computer-related stuff.

We left the room around 5pm to walk around for an hour or so and get a better idea of the stores and stops in the complex. Then, since it was starting to get a little dark out, we went back up to the room to drop off our sunglasses. A few minutes before 6pm, we got the call that my cousin and his family were in the lobby, so we could go out to dinner.

Eric (my mom’s sister’s eldest) is 4 days older than me and when we both lived in NY, we got along beautifully. Unfortunately, they moved to CA when we were 8 and although we kept in touch via letters for a few years, that sort of dropped off when we were 11 or so. We got back together when I visited L.A. in ’89 and it was like we picked up right where we left off. We keep in touch via IM nowadays and still try as hard as we can to get together every time Joe & I go to Southern California. This trip was no exception.

Since we had their 9-year-old and 12-year-old in tow, our eating options were a little limited but we agreed to go to a place Eric had visited in the past, uWink. Every table had 1 or more touch screens (our table sat 6 and had 3 such screens) and you ordered your meal and refills, as well as contacted your server through the screen menus. Once your food was served, there was also a variety of online games to play, movies previews to watch, etc. (not surprisingly, the founder of the restaurant also founded Chuck E. Cheese and Atari). The idea was novel, the food wasn’t bad and the company was great, so there was nothing to complain about.

When we were done eating, we walked around the complex some more, figuring out where to go for dessert. We finally agreed on Cold Stone (yay, twice in the same week for me!) and continued talking and catching up on old times. It was really nice to see them all again! The party broke up around 8:30pm, since the kids were getting a little slap happy, they had school tomorrow and they still had an hour-long drive home. So with hugs goodbye, we parted ways, them to the parking garage and us back to our room.

We had a VM on our phone when we got back to the room; “Quinn” from Adventures by Disney had heard we had checked in and waned to make sure everything was OK. He said he would be in the lobby tomorrow morning to meet people, starting at 10am. He also told us when and where our “welcome reception” was going to be. He said he also had some ABD gifts to give us (I’m assuming it’s the same suff we got last year…oh boy, another pin lanyard. Sigh.) and just needed our permission for him to enter our room to drop them off.

Welp, as of this writing it’s 9:10pm Pacific time, which means it’s 12:10am our time. And I’m still sleep deprived so I’m going to BED! So until tomorrow…