Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Cadillac Range

To me, the most truly amazing aspect of Cars Land is how immersive everything is. And the purest example of this is the rockwork of the Cadillac Range.  Step into the line of Radiator Springs Racers, and the rest of the park melts away.  You are IN the desert off Route 66 as portrayed in the movie Cars, with geology so realistic you'd swear you were actually in the rugged southwest.

The Cadillac Range, gateway to Ornament Valley.
Anyone who has followed the construction of this project knows that none of the rocks are real. But the fact that they're so convincing is a testament to the amazing prowess of the artisans, sculptors, and painters who worked so diligently on this project.  Their handiwork has created a themed land of utterly epic proportions, that transports guests to a completely different reality, without even signalling that it has done so.  When I walk through Cars Land, and I allow suspension of reality, I often find myself questioning whether I'm in Southern California surburbia, or out in the Great Outdoors, within the rugged Wild West.

So bravo to all the Imagineers and workers who've poured their heart, sweat, and soul into this project.  The culmination is truly an amazing product, and it's made Disney California Adventure a source of pride for all local park-goers.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tractors in the Pasture

I like this shot of Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. It reminds me of a group of cows grazing in a pasture, if only the cows were little tractors.  And that's the point, right?  In the world of Cars Land, everything carries a personification of things we see in real life--just in automotive form!  So when Mater has rounded up a herd of tractors, he's pretty much done just that.

It doesn't hurt that the ride itself is surprisingly fun.  Everything is set within a series of turntables, similar to the infrastructure for Francis' Ladybug Boogie in A Bug's Land. But rather than spinning riders to reckless abandon, these carriages whip them left and right, providing the glee-inducing fun of a scrambled eggs ride.  All the while, Mater croons a catchy tune to the whole jamboree.

Best of all, Mater's consistently has the shortest waits in Cars Land.  So if Racers and Luigi's have you discouraged with their lines, take a spin in Mater's Junkyard.  Just... no tipping please.

Mator's tractors waiting to square dance.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Oswald's Filling Station

If you were reading yesterday's post and wondering, 'What in the world is Oswald's?'  Well, here you go!

Oswald's Filling Station is a merchandise stand right next to the entrance gates, serving a purpose akin to the merchandise stands on either side of the Disneyland Railroad when you entire and leave the park.  With souvenirs, Mickey hats, and little goodies, it's a nice little spot to "fill up"... on Disney gear, that is!

Oswald refers to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney's first cartoon creation (created with Ub Iwerks), that was sold for Universal.  Disney's contributions to the characters lasted only two years before he quit his work with his distributor over pay cuts.  It ended up being okay, though, since that was the push that led Walt to dream up a little character named Mickey Mouse.  The rest, as they say, is history.

All in all, it's a nice homage to Walt Disney's early history and keeps in theme with Walt in the 1920s.  And it's not a bad looking set-up either!  Just another fantastic detail in Buena Vista Street!

Oswald's Filling Station, with the entrance gates behind, to the left and the Chamber of Commerce to the right.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Buena Vista Street's Chamber of Commerce

Main Street has its City Hall, so it stands that Buena Vista Street should have its own thematic guest relations office. And have one it does!  The Chamber of Commerce is tucked on the left side of the street, just inside the entrance, behind Oswald's.  This tidy little brick building is a charming little facade for guests in need of any sort of Disney assistance.  It's a nice little "hidden" gem among the many layers of fine, articulated detailing all along Disney California Adventure's redesigned entrance land!

Entrance to the Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Red Car Trolley

Once upon a time, Los Angeles had the best public transportation in the country.

No, that's not a statement from Fantasyland. It was actual reality.  Way back in the 1920s, the Southern California light rail system was one of the most extensive in the world, connecting Los Angeles to Orange County and what we today call the Inland Empire.  At the heart of it all were the Red Cars, which shuttled folks around and about town.

The Red Cars ceased operation in 1961--victim of LA's emerging car culture, but at Disney California Adventure, they have been immortalized in the form of the Red Car Trolleys--two electric train cars that traverse Buena Vista Street and travel into Hollywood Land, stopping next to the Tower of Terror.  The park's two cars, 623 and 717, pay homage to a lost relic of Los Angeles history.  They're a fitting reminder of the nostalgic glamor of the L.A. of yesteryear, and certainly worth a hop-on for anyone looking for a slower, more relaxing venture through Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land.

Red Car 623 at the Carthay Circle stop.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Carthay Circle Fountain at Night

At the center of Carthay Circle is a pretty little (well, not that little) art deco fountain.  It's a beautiful place to psychologically cool down in the middle of the day, or rest during the evening.  The design of the fountain isn't overly elaborate, but it really doesn't have to be.  It blends in very well within its 1920s LA surroundings, and provides a wonderful water source around which people like to gather.

Juxtaposed against the Carthay Circle Restaurant, the scene makes a pretty convincing argument that you've been transplanted back to the era when Walt Disney first arrived in Southern California.  And on a warm, summer evening, it's a pretty blissful place to spend at least a few moments when you're in Buena Vista Street.

Carthay Circle Fountain, with California Adventure park's newest "weenie" (or park icon) in the back.

A closeup of the fountain, with the pretty tile work and intricate Art Deco detailing on display.

A close-up of the top of the fountain.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Early Morning Up Buena Vista Street

Some of my favorite moments at the Disneyland Resort are during off hours, when the park is calm and quiet, and most people have either left the park or have not yet come in.  This is a wonderful time to take in the atmosphere and really savor the beauty that Disney parks offer.  It's a time to admire little details and not get caught up in the bustling crowds that normally occupy the parks during the day.

Looking up Buena Vista Street from the entrance gates.
As I walked up Buena Vista Street yesterday before official park opening (thanks to Annual Passholder early admission), I couldn't help but think what a great setting the Disney Imagineers had crafted.  There may not have been a reality where such a serene, 1920s Los Angeles existed with such exquisite architecture and streetscapes, but the romanticism this captured could not be denied.  I love venturing up and down Buena Vista Street when it's hustling and bustling, because such energy never really existed in this area before DCA 2.0.  But the serenity of this early morning brought its own sense of absolute satisfaction.

Red Car Trolley drivers posing in front of Car 623 in the early morning.

One of my favorite Walt Disney photographs features him taking a leisurely stroll through the castle, one early morning in Disneyland, absorbing everything around him.  It's not hard to imagine him doing the same here, if he had ever had the chance.

An early morning stroll toward Carthay Circle, and its new icon.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Glimpse Down Route 66

This photo is literally from tonight!  I was over by Blue Sky Cellar, snapping a photo of the main drive of Cars Land, when a cast member stopped and asked if I'd gone up to Alfresco Lounge.  Shaking my head, I asked if I was even allowed to go up there just to take pictures.

"Of course!" she said.  "It's got a great aerial view of Cars Land!"

And without further encouragement, I headed up to the upstairs bar area at the Wine Country Trattoria.  What I found wasn't exactly the clear crisp vista down Radiator Springs that I was hoping for, but it still presented an interesting view--one that is not often captured.  So for tonight's photo, I give you an angle that you might not notice.  I know I wouldn't have, if it wasn't for the direction of that friendly cast member.  Just an example of the little things that make me enjoy my time at the Disneyland Resort!

Looking down Cars Land from Alfresco Lounge.

Friday, June 22, 2012


It's really amazing how Cars Land has completely recreated Radiator Springs.  The buildings, the signage, the lights... they all combine for an amazingly authentic space.  What's cool is finding angles that were not as prominent in the movie, but are just as unique.

While photographing the night away, I stumbled upon this angle.  In the distance, the bright neon of Flo's V8 Cafe and Ramone's.  In the foreground, the Cozy Cone Motel, where Lightning McQueen has retired for the evening.  Over the past several years, Lightning has been seen in many parts of the resort, from Condor Flats to behind Grizzly peak.  But now, truly and finally, he has a real home.  And it's pretty dang flashy.

Retiring for the evening at the Cozy Cone Motel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Magical Disney Morning

If you're a Facebook friend, then you might have seen this already. If not... hey! Here are some pretty Sleeping Beauty Castle photos!

Early morning at The Hub.

Right now, all the excitement at the Disneyland Resort is over the new additions at Disney California Adventure, but nearly four months ago, all eyes were on Disneyland for their One More Magic Day special event.  On this very unique February 29th, Disneyland was open for 24 hour straight--a feat that had never been accomplished before!

A glimpse between foliage at the castle.
Though things were quiet during the day, by the evening, the park had become a madhouse, packed to the brim with eager guests committed to being part of a history-making event.  Crowds were huge, lines were long, and even as late night turned into early morning, the guests remained.  Unwilling to wait hours for rides that I could normally go on for a fraction of that time, I ended up just hanging out with friends.

The morning, though, brought forth a new magic.  When 6AM struck, those who'd stuck around gathered and cheered the closing of Disneyland park.  And as the crowds started to thin, I found myself with some incredible photo ops.

Its easy for me to get nighttime photos with no one in the shot--just stay late enough, and eventually people will leave. But I've never had the chance to do the same during the day. I never get to the resort early enough.  So when when this morning arose, I took advantage of quiet calm after park closing to take as many pictures as I could!

It probably speaks to how dorky I am as a photographer that this act immediately lifted my spirits and changed my outlook on the event from that slight disappointment to grateful jubilation.  You could make the argument that my quest for good photos might hamper my enjoyment of something. I'd like to think that getting good photos is a part of that enjoyment of something. The capturing of a memory in photographic form.  And when that occurs at the Happiest Place on Earth, well, it's just capturing happiness!

Sleeping Beauty's Castle on the morning of February 29th.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Flo's V8 Cafe

The weekend before DCA 2.0 officially opened up was the first weekend that Disneyland Annual Passholders were allowed to preview the upcoming Cars Land and Buena Vista Street. It was also the first time Disney's media ban was officially lifted, allowing guests to take pictures and post them onto whatever medium they wanted.

Naturally, the Twitterwebs exploded.

There were tons of photos posted over the weekend, but what struck me the most were the incredible photos of Cars Land at night, particularly at Flo's V8 Cafe.  Every single one of them looked like they had been lifted from a Pixar rendering cel.  No matter what camera or phone the photo came from, the result was always stunnng. Crisp neon, sleek chevrons, everything coming together to create a startling ultra-realistic representation of one of hot spots in Radiator Springs.

Incredibly, once I got to experience this for myself, it was even more amazing.  So let it be known that though photos certain do Cars Land some justice, they do not fully capture the amazing wonder that Disney has crafted here.  Then again, that's not to say I'm not going to try with the photos I take...

Flo's V8 Cafe in full neon at night.

Welcome to Disney Photoblography!

Hi, folks! I'm trying something revolutionary--an online journal where I share photos that I've taken.  They call it a photo blog, and I hear it's the new hot thing.  Well, I take photos, and I like to think they're pretty good. So why not?

This blog will be a showcase of two of my loves: Disney and photography.  I can't promise how regularly I'll keep this, but in the "photo-a-day" vein, I feel like posting one thing every day or two is something I might be able to manage.  So here goes nothing!

The entrance to Ornament Valley.
We'll start with something that's been in the news lately... Cars Land. Yeah, the pinnacle of Disney's $1 billlion+ makeover of its formerly decried California Adventure park.  I'm happy to report that DCA no longer merits decrying.  With the addition of Carsland and Buena Vista Street, Disneyland's former ugly duckling neighbor has grown into a beautiful and elegant swan. And some might say that it's now Disneyland that looks outdated and blase!

I won't go that far. But I will say this--Disney California Adventure is now stunning. And I encourage everyone to get out and take a look!
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