Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Splash of Color

Last month, after a special annual passholder viewing of World of Color with the Glow with the Show ears tossed in for free, the park did something rather magical. They kept the colorful fountains of World of Color running for a good twenty minutes after the post-show mini-performance had ended.  This is not an occurrence that happens regularly, and it drew gasps and many, many photos from the members of the audience that had remained.

World of Color's post-show fountains.
What was stunning was the simple, pristine beauty of the show's concept: color and waters.  Sure, that sounds tame, but when executed with cutting edge LED's and finely tuned fountain jets, the results were simply spectacular.  It was an appreciated little gift to the fans from the designers, who may be the biggest fans of all.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Court des Anges

Perhaps the most well-known "secret spot" among Disneyland regulars, the Court of Angels is a special little nook in the back alleys of New Orleans Square.  Around the corner from Club 33, but not quite next to the New Orleans Square train station, this lovely little courtyard is an oasis of peace and quiet within an otherwise typically bustling land.  And at night, it takes on a ethereal ambiance, befitting of its name.  It's yet another one of many little gems at the Happiest Place on Earth!

Court of Angels, serene and calm at night.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Different Doom Buggy

Disney fans are well aware of the "doom" buggies over at the Haunted Mansion. But over in the queue for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, there's another buggy of sorts.  This off-road vehicle was the very same 2.5 ton Mercedes-Benz troop transport truck used in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Now it sits in line. All the time. Which is a shame, since that means it'll never get to ride Indy.  Indy's a pretty good ride.

A temple transport at Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bearly Dry

The cool, calm atmosphere of Grizzly River Run is nothing like the wild, wet, adventurous ride it is during the day.  A popular spot to be on warm summer days, GRR (see what they did there?) is also guaranteed to be a splashy experience for all, and a drenching experience for some!  And when all is done for the day, that giant grizzly stands guard over the evening serenity.  I almost imagine him smiling, looking forward to the next day's excitement.

A lone, giant grizzly gives watch, late at night after Grizzly River Rapids has closed.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Carnation Cafe Dining

Last month, after a moderately lengthy renovation and expansion, the Carnation Cafe reopened, to little fanfare. Mostly because across the street, a little thing called DCA 2.0 was unfurling.  Still, that's not to say that this was insignificant.  Long a staple of Main Street, the Carnation Cafe was also the only sit-down restaurant inside Disneyland that I had yet to ever patronize.  Thus, I was pretty excited to have dinner there a few weeks later with a couple of friends and sample a few of the offerings.

Fried Pickles, a fan favorite appetizer--at least among most of my friends!
I started off the meal by splitting an appetizer of Fried Pickles.  Dill pickle spears dipped in parmesan, with what looked like a panko breaded crust, these decadent cucumbers were deep fried--enhancing the sweetness--and served with a zesty house sauce.  They were absolutely fantastic, and my only regret was that each serving didn't come with more.

The Romaine Salad with Shrimp, a nice savory salad.
As her main course, one of my friends opted for the Romaine Salad with Shrimp.  This salad comes with chunks of blue cheese, avocado, red and yellow tomatoes, and a creamy ranch sauce.  It's a lighter but still tasty dish, balanced by the smoky goodness of the grilled shrimp.  Quite nice for pescetarians. Or whatever the word is but for shrimp, not fish.

Green Chile Cheeseburger, incredibly wonderful and gourmet.
My other companion elected to try the Green Chile Cheeseburger, which was like something out of a gourmet burger joint.  A third-pound Angus patty, laden with manchego cheese, roasted poblano chile, tomato, lettuce, a fried egg, and house sauce--all on toasted brioche bun... this was mouth watering from first bite to last.  Served with house fries, it made for a delicious (though slightly-pricey-for-a-burger) dinner.

Home-Made Meatloaf, rich and delicious, and quite filling.
I opted for the Home-Made Meatloaf, served in a ketchup glaze with some fluffy mashed potatoes in mushroom gravy, an edamame succotash, and a surprisingly soft but crisp dinner roll.  The meatloaf was full of flavor, and the succtash was a nice balance to the filling protein and carbs (I wish they included more, though--it was very good).  This dish will definitely feed a hungry diner, and unless you just don't enjoy meatloafs in general, I would certainly recommend it!

There are many other tasty-looking items on the menu, so I will be making a return soon. Plus, the new interiors of the restaurant, which has taken up residence in the area formerly occupied by the Blue Ribbon Bakery, is warm, inviting, and very classy.  What a wonderful facelift to a classic Disneyland dining establishment!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Coney Carsland

There's a theme going on here, I know it.  Everywhere I look, there are orange tapering cylindrical shapes.  Those food shacks?  Tapering cylinders.  The base light fixtures? Same thing--only glowing.  Wait, they're replicated up above too!  The flower pots?  They're tapering upside down!  Ditto with the pole stands! And up and down all the accents--orange, orange orange!

If only they had a shorter name for these things. "Tapering cylindrical shapes" is a bit of a mouth-full.

The Cozy Cone at night, with its many coney elements.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Citizens of Buena Vista Street: Phiphi the Photographer

This is the second in a series that will focus on the characters of Buena Vista Street.

Over on Buena Vista Street, there's a character I can relate to--a lot!  Her name is Phiphi, and she is a photographer. And what a fabulous photog she is!  She spends much of her time looking for her next great subject, and she will not hesitate to stop guests in their tracks so that they can be captured in photographic glory!  It's quite interesting too, since Phiphi herself is dressed to the nines.

Beyond that, Phiphi is a friendly lady to boot and is always quite engaging and interested in how you are doing and how you're enjoying the day.  And if you are a fellow photographer, she may even inquire into your equipment and your work.  Of course, she's not quite as familiar with the newer models, but not to worry. Her vintage camera does the job well!

And as such, it's always a pleasure to run into a most welcoming citizen of Buena Vista Street! 
Phiphi strikes a pose and gives a wave.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Racing Through Wonderland

At the very beginning of the Radiator Springs Racer's ride, Sheriff comes on the radio, provides final safety instructions, and wishes you well on a great ride through "nature's wonderland."  And indeed, it very much is a wonderland.  The rich, red rocks echoing the American Southwest, the desert greenery, and the blazing blue skies all create a sense of beautiful bewilderment for those first setting foot in the incredible Ornament Valley.  As I've said repeatedly, the atmosphere is wholly immersive.

The rockwork of Ornament Valley.

It's still incredible when zipping around at 45 MPH too.  Even during its racing part, Radiator Springs Racers does not fail to surround riders with beauty.  Around every high banked turn is a fantastic angle, and it all adds up to a magnificent themed land--among the best the Imagineers have ever produced!

Going through the final turn of the ride, after the finish line.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gateway to Paradise

Here's the first post from Disney California Adventure that is NOT about Cars Land or Buena Vista Street!

The warm glow of Paradise Pier sparkles at night.  Reminiscent of old beachside amusement resorts of lore, Paradise Pier beckons with the magic of warm summer nights and the freedom of youth.  And though this land has evolved into a more elegant, Victorian story with the Disney California Adventure's recent expansion and remodel, it remains a lively, luminous wonder.

The entrance to Paradise Pier, glowing at night.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Leaving Ornament Valley

It's not really something you want to do... leave Ornament Valley. The majesty and grandeur that surrounds guests as they come to this place is truly monumental.  It's magical Disney transplantation at its best.  In this stunning desert landscape, the rugged West is conjured to its romantic finest. And only the zip of the Radiator Springs Racer cars takes away from the feeling of being in a genuine nature's wonderland.

Exiting out of the Radiator Springs Racers.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Your Fortune Awaits

Located right inside the Penny Arcade, on Main Street, U.S.A., is Esmeralda, one of Disneyland's opening day residents.  For 57 years, she has dispensed fortunes and advice and provided many a set of lucky numbers.  She's a girl who works hard for her money-- only 25 cents per fortune--and patiently resides in her cubicle all day and night.  What fortunes for the future does she have for you?

The Penny Arcade at night, with Esmeralda front and center.

(And you know how I said Tours Departing Daily has been of great inspriration and influence to me?  Yes, this photo is most definitely of inspiration for the one I posted above.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Grand Re-Entrance

You should recognize this photo. It's the basis for the not-really-that-subtle Photoshop job that composes the header and logo for this blog.  It's also, of course, the new entrance for Disney California Adventure.  Debuted last summer, this tribute to the old Pan Pacific Auditorium sets the tone for the reimagined entrance to DCA.  Much classier and more elegant (though perhaps less splashy) than the previous C A L I F O R N I A entrance, the new entrance gates take guests back to the days of 20's and 30's--the primary time period for the story of DCA 2.0--when Walt Disney was first starting to make his mark in Los Angeles.

The entrance to Disney California Adventure, well after the park has closed.
Speaking of making a mark... I wanted to call out and thank a few influential factors for the existence of this site.  Think of this as a #FollowFriday--in blog form!

Tours Departing Daily
If you follow both this blog and the folks over at TDD, then I think it's apparent how much of an inspiration Kevin, Matt, and Michaela have been.  In addition to being fine photographers--one of the few people who can do HDR photography exceptionally well--these folks are great people as well. And I'm very fortunate to be able to call them friends.  At the same time, their excellent photography has been a constant inspiration on me to push my own skillset and range.

Disney Tourist Blog
In my opinion, this is the place to find the finest Disney park photography there is.  You can always be sure to find stunningly clear and crisp photos that are usually better than those professionally shot.  At the same time, it's clear that Tom and Sarah Bricker enjoy what they do and have a lot of fun doing it--which is always important.  Disney is too happy of a place to take overly seriously.

And if there's a site that symbolizes "not taking it too seriously," it's Westcoaster.  Home to the silliest park updates on the interwebs, Jim Disney's domain is a foundation for those who believe amusement parks are just for that--amusement.  But there's a deeper appreciation lurking... without Jim's support and encouragement way back when, I would have never embraced my interest in photography, gotten myself a DSLR, and immersed myself into a hobby that I would get better and better at.  In a truer manner than most realize, without Westcoaster, this blog--or the way people know me as a photographer--would not exist today.

I should also mention Disneyland Live for their constant helpful coverage of the Happiest Place on Earth--along with some pretty snazzy photography of their own, as well as Stuck in Customs for their tutorial that finally showed me how to do HDR well--quite important in relation to this site at least.  They're great sites. You should check them out if you haven't already.

So thanks to the above for their roles in the formulation of all this--whether they know it or not--and thank you the readers and my friends for the support, encouragement, and enjoyment of this.  I do this blog for me, but really, I do it for you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Looking to Past and Future

One month.  I've actually kept this photo blog thing going regularly for a month!  There aren't that many things I've really been able to maintain on a day-to-day basis, so this has been a pretty good start.  To those of you who've visited the site, shared links, provided comments and support, or just told me how much you enjoy the site, thank you.  I hope to continue with the photographic eye candy.  Help me out by continuing to spread the word. After all, view counts are an awfully good motivation to continue with things like this!

Looking down Cars Land's main street at night.
I've chosen this picture for today because a dual symbolism.  Radiator Springs celebrates a bygone era of small town charm and friendship.  But for Disney California Adventure, Cars Land represents the future--a park that can no longer be labeled as incomplete or an ugly duckling.  Cars Land is the culmination of the park's five year expansion and refurbishment program aimed at wiping away the negative connotations of DCA 1.0, with the promise of a future that lives up to Disney's high and immersive standards.  In the same way, I'm celebrating a month of doing this with the expectation to continue to provide many more photos.  So thanks for sharing the ride so far, but we're just getting started!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Surplus of Neon

Sarge's Surplus Hut is one of Cars Land's three retail locations.  Though it has its fair share of general souvenirs, Sarge's main merchandise is toys, making it a hot spot for families with children.  Inside, guests can find a fine selection of Cars-related play things--not to mention those infamous tire hats.  This might seem a tad odd, given that in Cars, Sarge was strict and all-no-nonsense.  Then again, he was also a kind soul with a caring nature underneath that gruff, military personality.  One thing's for sure, at Sarge's, the surplus means one thing: lots more fun.

Sarge's Surplus Hut at night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happy 57th Birthday, Disneyland

Today, Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom turns 57 years old.  Yes, way back in 1955, after an amazing only-one-year of construction, Disneyland opened its gates to the public.  That day, forever known as "Black Sunday" in Disneyland lore, was not the smoothest of operations, but it was the start of something new, and magical, and never before done.  Heck, here was a park whose central icon--Sleeping Beauty's Castle--was based on a movie that wouldn't even be released in theaters for another three and a half years!

Today, with Disneyland so entrenched in Southern California history and popular lore, it's easy to forget that once upon a time, the park's success was far from guaranteed. Walt Disney leveraged a loan against his own home to help finance the park, and had it gone bust, Disney history would have been drastically altered for the worse.  Fortunately, the Happiest Place on Earth was an immediate hit, with each day seemingly setting new records in crowds.  And this castle, with its cozy and welcoming stature, would become the symbol of not only the park, but also the entire company.

So happy 57th birthday, Disneyland. And here's to another 57 more!

Sleeping Beauty's Castle on a beautiful, warm summer day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Citizens of Buena Vista Street: Officer Blue

This is the first in a series that will focus on the characters of Buena Vista Street.
Officer Blue flashes a smile. It's much more disarming than a badge!
It's not hard to spot Buena Vista Street's resident lawman. He's the one who's completely blue!  Don't worry, though, this policeman isn't sad.  In fact, quite the opposite--Officer Calvin Blue is perhaps the most jovial regular in the neighborhood!  Every day, he can be spotted patrolling the streets, riding the Red Car Trolley, and handing out good behavior citations.  In fact, not a day goes by where he's not almost running out of them!

Officer Blue strikes a pose.
Officer Blue is just one of several regulars around Buena Vista Street.  But in his blue pants and jacket, he is perhaps the most formal-looking of the bunch.  And he's always good natured and quite approachable.  So if you're looking to be ticketed for being a nice guy, just stop him for a chat.  Cuz it's good news for you, when you meet Officer Blue!

Officer Blue on the lookout.
Officer Blue writing a good citation.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Carthay Circle Dining

Last weekend, I unexpectedly had the pleasure of having lunch at the Carthay Circle Restaurant when a friend of a friend had to drop out.  I can happily report that this fine dining establishment easily ranks among the best food in the entire resort.  Consider it the DCA version of Blue Bayou--although the food may be even better, since it has been developed under the direction of Napa Rose executive chef Andrew Sutton. Here are a few pictures highlighting some delectable dishes!

Signature Fire Cracker Duck Wings.
These spicy duck wings were an item I had heard about before dining and had eagerly awaited.  Coated with a rich lathering of soy, lime, and Sriracha chili sauce, these appetizers packed a pretty good kick and are not for the faint of heart when it comes to spice tolerance.  There's fantastic crispiness to the skin as well that's absolutely joyful, and this may very well be the best item in the restaurant!

Carthay House Biscuits.
Accompanying the wings for appetizers were the house biscuits. But these weren't just any type of biscuit.  Stuffed with cheddar, bacon, and jalapeno and served with a honey apricot butter, these were savory complements to the duck wings.  The zingy cheese baked inside provided a liquid pop upon bite, and they were such a pleasure that my friend nicknamed them "God Balls."

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp.
I was able to try one of the six pictured here, courtesy of a member of our dining party.  They were absolutely delicious.  Bacon makes just about anything better, of course, but the bed of summer roasted corn, grilled zucchini, and basil salsa provided a light, refreshing almost-chowder that went quite well with the shrimp.  My only "criticism" is that this doesn't come with more shrimp--the dish is so fantastic you inevitably feel there's not enough food!

Pan Roasted Lamb Rolitini.
The rolitini was like a tasteful gourmet sausage.  The lamb was not incredibly gamey, but there was certainly a lamb-like taste to it for those with experienced palate.  Accompanying the rolitini was baby artichokes, leeks, sun-dried tomatoes, green olives, and roasted garlic cloves.  It was quite tasty!

Cavatelli Pasta with a Tuscan-Style Braised Lamb.
Finally, what I had.  Pasta!  This pasta dish was cooked al dente to true perfection, and had sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, grana padana, and some very sweet and crisp peas, all in a fantastic lamb jus.  The portion was very appropriate--enough to fill me up (given the appetizers) without filling me up overly so.

All in all, the Carthay Circle Restaurant provided a wonderful meal, and I cannot wait to return!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Waiting for Doom

Disneyland's most recent E-Ticket (top tier) attraction remains the still-popular Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. It's always got a pretty good wait, and it's quite the thrilling attraction!

It takes a very late night to be able to produce a scene like this, though.  But in the quiet still of the line, it's kind of cool to imagine the terrors Mara has in store for those foolish enough to look into his eyes in the temple within.  With his snake guardians, Mara is not a diety to be messed with!  And Indy is not an attraction to take lightly.  It IS, however, unlike anything you have ever experienced, I assure you!

The extended queue, late at night, empty, revealing the entrance to the temple.

Mara's slithering guardians stand before the entrance to the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Junkyard Dreaming

I'd like to think that after a long day swinging around and twirling and whirling in a good old fashioned junkyard jamboree, those little tractors that Mater herds around get pretty tired.  So when I see Mater's Junkyard Jamboree quiet in still serenity after a day of whooping and hollering, I imagine those little guys dozed away, maybe a tongue hanging out, too little to tip over without feeling a little guity, and peacefully sound asleep.  After all, tomorrow will bring another jamboree, and bless those little tractors for never seeming to get tired of it!

Mator's Junkyard Jamboree, finally at rest, late at night.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Grand Department Store

Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure shares a lot of parallels to Main Street in Disneyland, and among them is the big, main shopping destination for Disney wares of all sorts.  Over on Main Street, it's the Emporium.  And over at Buena Vista Street, it's Elias & Company--a tribute to the great department stores of the day.

Named after Walt Disney's father, Elias, this department store features souvenirs of all sorts, from clothing to graphic media to dinnerware to accessories.  It's a one-stop shop for practically all the park has to offer.  And its intricate art deco facade celebrates the golden age of Los Angeles, during which Walt Disney made his trek out west.  Just one of many stories within the story of the reborn Disney California Adventure.

Elias & Company after hours.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

They're Not Junk, They're Curios

As told in "Time Travel Mater," and in the new Radiator Springs Museum inside Blue Sky Cellar, Radiator Springs Curios was Stanley's gift to his wife, Lizzie--a permanent place for her to sell her souvenirs and knick knacks to travelers and guests.  Through the up and down history of the town, it has persevered, presenting its random wares to all who take interest.

At Disney California Adventure's Cars Land, the Curios is a fitting souvenir shop, complete with toys and collectibles for guests to enjoy.  It is decorated with genuine artifacts found all over Route 66, including a variety of signs, and recreates the gritty charm that can be found in road stops all over the "Mother Road."  It may not look sleek and cool like some of its neighbors, but Radiator Springs Curios has character.  It's a tribute to a bygone era, and a memento in and of itself!

Radiator Springs Curios at night, with its many, many signs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Groovy Snack Shack

Fillmore's Taste-In is the main snack vendor at Cars Land and home to some of the healthier options in the area.  One of the first sights coming down the main street of Radiator Springs, Fillmore's offers fresh fruit, juices, chips, cookies, assorted beverages, and a variety of other snacks.  As Fillmore might say, it's some "organic fuel" for the road.

At night, though, this little stand undergoes a psychedelic transformation, lighting up with a series of gnarly and glowing color transitions.  It's kind of spacey, but it sure gives a natural high, just seeing the lighting slowly morph from one hue to the next.  What a groovy little spot along Disney's version of Route 66!

Fillmore's Taste-In at night, in all its glowy glory.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cap and Cadillacs

A little over a week ago, I remarked how, when standing in certain parts of Cars Land, the perception of being in a theme park dissolves away, and you start to feel like you're truly in the rugged Southwest.  Well, here's another shot that conveys the same feeling.

This one features part of the Radiator Cap--the first turnaround in the racing part of Radiator Springs Racers--and part of the Cadillac Range behind.  Once again, as the rockwork envelopes you, these immensely large theme rocks start to take on a more authentic feel, and if it wasn't for the thematic associations with the movie, Cars, it would be as though you were far, far away from Anaheim.

Stuff like this is exactly why I fell in love with Disney parks in the first place. But it's one thing to suspend disbelief as a child. To accomplish this for adults--that's truly magical.

Part of the Radiator Cap and the Cadillac Range beyond.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Tale of Two V8 Cafes

Flo's V8 Cafe is Cars Land's premiere dining destination, with delicious plated dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner based on cuisine inspired by the rugged westward cultures around Route 66.

By day, the restaurant is friendly and inviting, with cheerful colors and a bopping vibe, beckoning hungry guests like a roadstop gas station would beckon weary cars.  By night, Flo's transforms into a sleek melding of sexy neon and cool curves.  Brightly lit and impossible to miss, Flo's is abuzz with energy and atmosphere. It's the happening spot to be.

You've probably seen this view many times before, but I thought it would be interesting to compare the day and night shots next to each other.  Each is gorgeous in its own way. Which do you like better?

Looking toward the entrance of Flo's V8 Cafe during the daytime.
Flo's nighttime transformation.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Come to the Cozy Cone Motel

Tired and weary from your travels? Need a rest up on your way out west? Why not stop at the Cozy Cone Motel?  This convivial construction of coney cottages creates comfy care for cars craving calm cordiality.  With separate cones for each car, it provides privacy and home amenities away from home.  It doesn't matter where you're from, Sally Carrera will always welcome you with a smile. And you might even see celebrities Lightning McQueen or Tow Mater stop by!

Guests flocking to the Cozy Cone to spot some Cars cameos.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stanley's Oasis

In the movie Cars, Radiator Springs is seen in great detail. But what was never really touched upon (in the feature film) was how the "Gateway to Ornament Valley" was founded.  Cut from the movie was a snippet detailing the sojourn of Stanley, the town's founder, and how he came to found the town that eventually became home to Lightning McQueen, Mater, Sally, and the rest of the gang.

Fortunately, the Disney Imagineers were able to find a way to incorporate this left out detail within the design of Radiator Springs Racers.  Guests waiting to board will, at one point, pass by the original radiator spring.  Next to it is a sign, which reads:

On this site in the summer of 1909, Stanley, exploring out west, overheated as his radiator water boiled away. Coasting into the shade, he happened upon a life-saving natural spring. Upon this most fortunate discovery, Stanley founded the first settlement in Ornament Valley, and in honor of the oasis, christened it Radiator Springs.

It's a wonderful little detail that never made it into the movie, yet now has a home in 3D form.  Little pieces like this pretty little fountain area--a nice respite on a warm day--are part of what make Cars Land special, and one of the best works Walt Disney Imagineering has produced to date!

Guests in line stroll by Stanley's Oasis, home of the original Radiator Spring!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Bombs Bursting in Air

It's the 4th of July, and you know what that means... fireworks!  After all, the spirit of blowing things up is irrevocably linked to America's birthday.  So in that spirit, I present a few fireworks photos taken from Disneyland that are not completely terrible.  (For whatever reason, I've just never gotten good at taking fireworks photos!).

Keen readers will notice that these aren't actually from Disneyland's Fourth of July fireworks show, but hey... technically, Remember... Dreams Come True is better.  So enjoy, and have a safe holiday!

Now, if you want some truly amazing fireworks photos, check out Tom Bricker's work over at Disney Tourist Blog.  Some great pyrotechnic eye candy!
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