Friday, August 31, 2012

The Fountain Maestro

I don't venture back to Mickey's Toontown often, but that doesn't mean it lacks its share of charm or beauty. Take this fountain, for example.  Situated in front of Mickey's House, this whimiscal, musically-inspired fountain feature a statue of Mickey himself, conducting water, presumably to the tune of some great jams, in a nod to his role at the Sorcerer's Apprentice.  This time around, things are far less destructive.  Instead, it's just good-natured fun, and a soothing place to sit by on a warm summer's day.

Mickey's Fountain, in front of Mickey's House, in Mickey's Toontown.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A New Icon Arises

Years ago, when the Imagineers were looking to revamp Disney California Adventure, someone made the decision to turn the park's most noticeable icon ("weenie," in Disney-speak) from the old Sunshine Plaza sun (derisively nicknamed the "hub cap" by non-fans) to the Carthay Circle Theater, in honor of the movie palace that housed the world premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  It wasn't a stretch to call this an improvement back when news of the DCA expansion and remodel first broke, but now that everything's been built, I can safely confirm that Disney made the right call.

The Carthay Circle Theater/Restaurant (actual theater not included) is grand, majestic, and visually striking.  It forms a regal icon for a reborn theme park and creates quite the backdrop for visitors entering or exiting the park.  So much so that it's hard to resist taking one more shot before leaving--even if it's an hour after the park has officially closed, and security is advancing in its nightly sweep of the park to make sure all guests have indeed left for the night!

The Carthay Circle Restaurant, after the park as closed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Night

Truth be told, I'm generally not a fan of water rides.  Mostly because I don't enjoy walking around while soggy. So unless it's very warm, I'm not apt to go on one.  That fact is multiplied when night falls, because I'm also generally not a fan of pneumonia.  Still, that doesn't stop other guests from braving the splish splash of Splash Mountain in the evening.  If you're a fan of the ride, nighttime is a great time to ride. The lines are short, so you don't have to wait the one or two hours that would normally be the case during daytime hours.

Then again, if you catch something from the briar patch besides a Laughing Place, don't complain to me!

The strobe of the camera captures a log going down Splash Mountain in the later hours of the night.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Pirate's Life's for Me

You'd never guess from this elegant facade what adventures lie within.  Plundering pirates, lascivious auction bidders, thrilling sea battles, boundless treasure, burning villages, and the ghosts of Davy Jones Locker all away inside.  And they all seem connected by a catchy central song about pilfering and drinking and just having a merry, town-sacking good time.  But outside.... outside, it's just a stately building, grandly crafted, glistening in the late afternoon sun.  But take a step in, and drink up, me hearties.  You might find that a pirate's life is quite suitable!

The entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean during magic hour.
I should also mention a few minor tweaks to the site.  I've been shuffling a few things around, as the sharp-eyed will have noticed, and encourage everyone who's been enjoying these photos to continue spreading the word.  Please take a moment to share this on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ via the shortcut buttons at the bottom of each post.  Leave a comment with feedback or even requests.  Publically recommend this on Google via the +1 button off to the side, or (available as of yesterday) pin a post on Pinterest via the icon on the sidebar!  Your support is greatly appreciated and will serve to only further motivate me to bring regularly scheduled photos from one of my favorite places in the world.

Thanks for your love and support!

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Orleans Square Fountain

Occasionally, I like experimenting with long exposure shots just to see what results.  I find it fun to overexpose a photo and come up with something more luminous than the human eye can normally see.  I suppose that's what owls feel like.

The scene below features the charming fountain near the New Orleans Square train station.  It's a beautiful and tranquil part of the park, and the Haunted Mansion beyond provides a great backdrop.  In the evening, the stillness reflects a nice eerie serenity.  Aided by the broad deciduous trees and the dim atmosphere, this setting creates an ethereal, quiet ambiance.  You might even say it's a pleasant place to rest... in peace.

The New Orleans Square Fountain in the evening.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Golden Zephyr

The Golden Zephyr recalls the classic spinning rocket ship rides of the early 20th century found on beachside boardwalks and amusement parks.  The Zephyr takes riders on a slow, leisurely spin over Paradise Bay, and is an attraction that both children and parents can enjoy.  Although it does occasionally suffer some downtime when the winds a little more blustery than preferred, it's definitely become a nice visual landmark over at Paradise Pier.  On a beautiful day, it's nice to sit back, relax, and really fly over the water!

The Golden Zephyr at rest.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Murphy the Dragon

Three years ago, after much fanfare, Disneyland unveiled its new and improved Maleficent dragon animatronic for FANTASMIC! Gone was the old "Dragon on a Stick" model.  This dragon was articulated, menacing, interacted with Mickey, and was state of the art advanced.

Maleficent making a dramatic entrance in dragon form.

So naturally, it promptly suffered breakdowns and malfunctions.  Pushing the animatronic past its specified technological limits created problems, and fans quickly dubbed the dragon "Murphy," after the man with the famous law.  If something could go wrong, it would, and it took about a year before Murphy came to operate smoothly and consistently, with all of its effects working properly.

The dragon breathes fire and sets the Rivers of America ablaze!

These days, Murphy is a smooth oiled machine.  The dragon has full range of motion, doesn't freeze up in the middle of a show, and consistently breathes fire onto the Rivers of America in FANTASMIC!'s climactic scene.  The only negative is that (s)he always seems to lose to that darned magic-conjuring mouse!

Maleficent/"Murphy" glares menacingly at Mickey, who prepares to do battle.

With a blast of energy from his sword, Mickey vanquishes the evil villain.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Wild Ride

Come along! Hop up here! We'll go for a jolly ride! The open road! The dusty highway! Come! I'll show you the world! Travel! Scene! Excitement! Ha ha ha!

But boy, when all that's said and done, we could sure use some rest and relaxation. Some peace and quiet to rest our tired selves.  And then, tomorrow will bring another day, and another driving spree!

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, closed until the next morning.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cap and Cadillacs: The Sequel

It's hard for me to resist posting pictures of Cars Land. It's so absolutely stunning and picturesque, especially once you make it out to Radiator Springs Racers and the grandeur of Ornament Valley.  The picture below comes from exiting the ride.  The first turnaround by the Radiator Cap swings on by, and the desert landscape completely surrounds you.  It's amazing and just further example of the immersive environment the Disney Imagineers have crafted.  I know I sound like a broken record, but if you've been following the photos I've posted, I think you'll agree that this place is truly special and deserves the praise.

The Radiator Cap at Radiator Springs Racers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pixie Hollow

Several years ago, Disneyland replaced the Ariel's Grotto meet-and-greet with a more immersive thematic environment that gave meet-and-greets with Tinker Bell and some of her friends from a movie that had been recently released.  It's an area that's primarily geared toward young girls and pre-teens, so I've never bothered to actually go in, but I must admit that the area around Pixie Hollow is pretty photogenic.  It's lush with greenery and is beautifully lit at night. And it has a nice little entry sign as well, so there's definitely that going for it!

The sign marking the boundary of Pixie Hollow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Castles in the Gallery

The Disney Gallery is one of my favorite spaces inside of Disneyland, if only because of the fantastic exhibits it regularly features.  Back when I first started making a point of visiting it, it was still housed above Pirates of the Caribbean, inside what is now the Disneyland Dream Suite.  I was disappointed when they closed that down several years ago and quite ecstatic when Disney announced they were relocating it to Main Street, next to the Opera House.

Currently, the Disney Gallery features an homage to the castles that grace the theme parks.  Plenty of concept art showing interior, facades, and even ideas that never made it past print are featured prominently. And in the middle is a pretty fantastic model of Le Ch√Ęteau de la Belle au Bois--Disneyland Paris' Sleeping Beauty Castle.  It's a great show and should run for at least several more months before the gallery is updated, so I encourage Disney fans to stop by and take a look!

The main exhibit room of the Disney Gallery.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Glee Club

In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room, in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room, all the birds sing words, and the flowers croon, in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room.  And then after Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz tweet their opening stanzas, they bring out hte love gals for a melodic song.  Mimi, Fifi, Gigi, Collette, Josephine, Susette, and the rest of the birds sing sweet music to everyone's ears and encourage everyone to sing like the birdies sing.

It's just one of many fun bits featuring the original audio animatronics that Walt Disney himself helped develop.

The female birdies sing at the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Secluded Temple

Deep within the mysterious jungles of Adventureland lies the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.  Oh, it may look like a precious archeological treasure from the outside, but more sinister features lurk within.  Falling stone pillars, rooms full of spikes, untouched caverns, and victims of past explorers all lie wait. And if you make it through, you still have to deal with the wrath of Mara, a none-too-forgiving diety.

Somehow, this never seems to deter the tourists that form hours-long lines to seek the riches within.  Ain't that intriguing?

The Temple of the Forbidden Eye, looking not quite so forbidding on a warm, summer day.
(Full Disclosure: Another Tours Departing Daily-inspired shot.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Down the Home Stretch

Cars come flying out of the race portion of Radiator Springs Racers tearing rubber and rounding the Radiator Cap. And then it's onto the hills of the straightaway, where Doc Hudson urges racers to power through those hills before they drift around Willy's Butte.  It's a fierce battle of positioning, as cars are neck and neck.  By the end of the night, all is quiet and still, but when the race is on, oh how exciting it is!

The final straightaway on Radiator Springs Racers, with the Cadillac Range beyond.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Glimmering Regal Carousel

There's been a theme this week, hasn't there? Still, picturesque night shots done in HDR.  But as I've mentioned before, wandering around Disneyland when hardly anyone else is around is one of my guilty pleasures.  It's like having the park to myself, and it's a special, rare time indeed, since the atmosphere is normally so busy and frenetic.

At the end of the night, one of the shining beacons of the park is the King Arthur Carrousel.  This grand and classic merry-go-round has been a mainstay at the park since opening day and was actually built in the 1800s.  It found its way at the heart of Fantasyland in part because Walt was inspired by the carousel he and his daughters visited at Griffith Park.  Today, it still carries gleeful children and adults, and is a beautiful crown in Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom!

Disneyland's feature carousel in the peaceful night.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Welcome, Foolish Mortals

This stately mansion first manifested itself on this land in 1963. But for six long years, it sat empty, a grave portrait of abandonment. Or so it seemed--for in reality, 999 happy haunts were quietly taking up residence inside, preparing and practicing their terror with ghoulish delight.  Eventually, in 1969, the Haunted Mansion opened its gates to beckon guests into "doom buggies," ready to be whisked off into the macabre (and melodic) world of the supernatural.

At the end of the night, though, when the merriment and hauntings are done, the mansion once again comes to quiet.  Resting... in eerie peace.

The Haunted Mansion after hours.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Astro Orbiter

Admittedly, I miss the days back when the Astro Orbiter was the rocket ships located above the loading station to the old Peoplemover. But I don't mind their current location in front of the entrance of Tomorrowland. It serves as a kind of beacon, and it's got a great backdrop behind it.  And in the quiet of the night, I find it to be a fitting symbol for soaring spirit and the hope of the future. 

The Astro Orbitor late at night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Midnight Sleeping Beauty

For me, in the late hours of the night, after most people have gone home, wandering around the Magic Kingdom is an absolute joy. Here, in the peace and quiet, it feels like having the entire park to myself.  The magical serenity creates an extra special ambiance, and it also enables shots like this one below, with no one remaining but the set that is Disneyland Park.  These moments are always worth cherishing, because they enable me to be one with one of my favorite places in the world.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle, in the middle of the night.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Alpine Roofs

Walt Disney was the consumate artist, concerned with all details, focused on providing the best experience to his guests. And at Disneyland, he was committed to bringing the same immersive experience that his films wrought into the three dimensional field.  That's why no view or nuance was left unexamined.  Items that might be overlooked by the average person were given careful scrutiny under Walt's direction toward his Imagineers.

And that is why when you stand in front of the Matterhorn's station, you realize that the mountain has been carefully tapered to match the shape of the roof.  ...Magic!!

The newly-reopened Matterhorn, behind its ride station.
(Of course, I may have made the previous statement up.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Boardwalk Bound

Last year, as part of Disney California Adventure's five year expansion and refurbishment initiative, the Mulholland Madness roller coaster and adjacent restaurants were transformed into Goofy's Sky School and the Boardwalk restaurants.  Removed were the kitschy giant animations, oversized hamburger, wild colors, and cartoonish atmosphere.  Taking their place was an elegant Victorian motif, reflecting the rest of Paradise Pier's retheme.  In this case, a seaside park atmosphere created a classy, beautiful area of great contrast to its predecessor. And come nightfall, this place truly shines!

Goofy's Sky School tower, with the entry to the Boardwalk restaurants behind.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Swinging the Night Away

Currently, the Carnation Plaza Gardens is undergoing a transformation that will turn it into a richly themed princess meet-and-greet area to be called Princess Fantasy Faire, but up until a few months ago, it was home to Saturday night swing dancing for a wide variety of dancers of all ages and experience.  Each and every Saturday night, guests would gather--some dressed in their Saturday evening finest, others more casually garbed--and dance the night away to the sounds of swing and jazz.

One of the swing jazz bands, playing on a Saturday evening.

Dancing at Disneyland dates back to 1956, and even Walt Disney enjoyed the toe tapping pleasures when he was at the park.  And though swing dancing in this location is currently on hiatus (it continues on at Downtown Disney), it will return when the area refurbishment is completed towards the end of this year.  Fear not, my friends, swing will continue to be in!

Dancers enjoying some fancy steps.
A row of trumpeteers play.

The tradition attracts guests of all ages.
Everyone has fun with everyone.
The singer in soulful moment.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Paseo del Zocalo

This HDR photo is a little older compared to the pictures I've published previously, but given the current hot August weather we're having in Southern California, I felt the sunny disposition was appropriate. 

The Rancho del Zocalo restaurant offers a variety of Mexican cuisines, from enchiladas to tacos to grilled platters--all quite tasty--and gives a bold, southwestern atmospheric flavor to Frontierland.  At the same time, it's also a bit of a respite from the hustle and bustle of the Old West.  The courtyard-esque space provides for a relaxing spot to dine or just relax, especially in the middle of a hot summer day!

Passageway leading to the Rancho del Zocalo restaurant.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Maui's Evening Glow

His name is Maui.  Natives call him the mighty one! He tamed the playful sun and gave his people time. Now they set their clocks by his, for he... is tropic standard time.

And standing guard in front of the Enchanted Tiki Room he remains, one of many enchanted tiki gods guests can meet while waiting in line for the original audio-animatronic attraction of Disneyland.

Maui, who is associated with time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Butte-iful Evening

Cars Land is beautiful enough during the day. But at night, it really comes alive.  The luminous buzz of neon along Radiator Springs' main drive is certainly astonishingly authentic to the movie, but away from the glitzy glow, Ornament Valley at night is an astonishing sight.  Warmly lit, with the beautiful red rocks on prominent display, the unfolding scene brings forth both incredible majesty and sweeping serenity.  Seems like it'd be pretty fun to camp out all night--if only that was allowed!

Willy's Butte at night, with the magnificent waterfall in the background.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jazzing It Up with Five and Dime

In addition to the Red Car Trolleys, Buena Vista Street also has a nice selection of entertainment. My favorite is the band Five and Dime, a fun, swinging jazz sextet that shows up every hour or so to jam out and sing classic Disney tunes in a groovy beat.  These folks are a lot of fun and always put on a fantastic show.  There is plenty of audience interaction too, which just adds to the lively 1920s atmosphere that Buena Vista Street purveys.  So if you're strolling through the main street of Disney California Adventure, and you're itching for some jazz, just keep an ear out for Five... and Dime!

Five and Dime, jazzing it up with 1920s Gangster Goofy.

There is lots of fun to be had.

The musicians are great, but Dime is the star.

Check out that trumpeteer!

The crowd enjoying the show.

The groovy guitarist.
Dime gives a wink.

The band swings away after another great show.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Elysian Arcade

One of the cues that Buena Vista Street has taken from the Main Streets of Disney's Magic Kingdoms is the concept of a continuous indoor walking path that allows guests to bypass the main outdoor thoroughfare during periods of high traffic, such as during a parade, or during bad weather.  At California Adventure, this has manifested in Elysian Arcade, a pedestrian avenue harkening back to the old shopping promenades of the 1920's--complete with its own store directory.

It's the friendly, inviting sheltering spaces of Buena Vista Street that make this new entrance area such a nice place to stroll through.  The cozy nooks and niches break down the exterior plan and provide a cozy scale that supports the theme of Disney California Adventure's new entrance area.  It beckon exploration, and believe me, there are plenty of details to find!

Glancing toward Elysian Arcade from near the Red Car Trolleys stop.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A World Famous Departing Tour

This is the 100th photograph I've posted to this blog, and I've chosen an image that means a lot to me.  The Jungle Cruise is one of my favorite rides in Disneyland. It's slapstick humor, silly fun, practical gags, and terrible, terrible puns make this an extremely enjoyable ride, especially when the skipper can really sell the jokes with timely delivery and enthusiasm.  Needless to say, this is an attraction I make sure to visit often when I'm in the park. 

This love sign marks the entrance into the world-famous Jungle Cruise.
And yes, if this image looks familiar, it's another photo inspired by Tours Departing Daily--and it's fairly evident where they derived their title!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Evening Station

Back before I used to have an Annual Pass, I would seize upon my full day visits to ride all of the major attractions, view all of the major shows, and fully immerse myself within the magic that is Disneyland.  With all of that came great excitement, adventure, glee, and revelry.  But I always saved a ride aboard the Disneyland Railroad for the very end of the night.  By the time park closing was around the corner, the energy of the day had faded away, leaving behind a calm and pleasant relaxation that was perfect for a grand circle tour around Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom.  For my friends and I, this was the perfect way to unwind and decompress from a busy day of fun.  I always felt it the most fitting way to end a wonderful trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Disneyland Railroad--Main Street Station.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Carthay Circle Dining: The Sequel

Last month, I wrote about my first visit to the Carthay Circle Restaurant, Disney California Adventure's home for high class dining.  A week after that visit, I was able to make a second trip to the restaurant with another group of friends and indulge in more fine cuisine.  Here's a look at some more offerings from DCA's signature restaurant.

Grilled Jamaican Jerked King Fish.
I went for seafood as my main fare this time around and grabbed the king fish.  Set in a bed of pineapple, mango, and black bean salsa, this dish provided a light but surprisingly filling lunchtime meal. The fish was firm but tender, and though not necessarily light, pretty tasty.  The "tropical salsa" provided a nice tangy complement to the fish itself, leading to a scrumptious meal.

Udon Noodle Bowl with a collection of seafood.
The Udon Noodle Bowl a friend ordered was not what I was personally picturing.  Served in a red Thai curry broth, with shrimp and mussels, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, and daikon, this dish provided a fusion of eastern and western sources.  The udon was more like spaghetti in a broth, and there was a nice little zing to the meal.  Pretty tasty for seafood lovers!
The Korean Pulled Pork Sandwich.
The Brown Derby Cocktail.
The Korean Pulled Pork Sandwich was another fusion creation.  Served with kimchi, topped with an egg sunny side up, and sandwiched within Sriracha mayo-lathered buns, this twist on the traditional barbeque fare was quite delectable.  The egg could get a little drippy, of course, but gave a nice touch to this gourmet sandwich. The house fries served alongside were pretty tasty as well. Nicely seasoned and relatively crispy, they proved to be popular around the table, as our group did not hesitate to pilfer a couple to sample.

And of course, I'd be remiss not to mention Carthay's excellent collection of wine, beer, and liquor.  This trip, I elected to try the Brown Derby, a bourbon concoction mixed with grapefruit juice and honey.  Definitely stiff, but quite tasty!

I'd like to try dinner at Carthay sometime soon.  The menu is slightly different, with enhanced entree options.  But lunch has been pretty good for me the two times I've gone.  Of course, the Fire Cracker Duck Wings and Carthay House Biscuits are can't-miss treats for appetizers.  We happily gorged on those before our main courses.  So take a trip out there if you can! I think you'll be pleasantly satisfied!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An Evening Oasis

On a warm summer's night, we are drawn to this cooling oasis, where yarns are spun and legendary tales come to life.  Where the sands of time are turned back, and bold adventures resurface.  And though meals are no longer served here as they once were, and though the storytelling is by spoken voice instead of performance art, Aladdin's Oasis still beckons.  What secrets might be found by exploring this old, wizened place?

Aladdin's Oasis in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Peeping Queen

High atop her perch, overlooking Fantasyland, she lurks, sneering over all beneath her.  Every once in a while, she'll even steal a glance upon her subjects, as though to bless them with the glimpse of her beauty.  But the Evil Queen shares neither love nor care for others.  She is narcissistic, cunning, and cruel, and a being to be feared.  And when she comes bearing gifts... well, best not be accepting them.

Queen Grimhilde, looking down upon her subjects.

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