Sunday, May 31, 2015

Disneyland Forever

Last Monday, I took a visit to Disneyland Park to check out the Disneyland Forever fireworks show.  I had missed it during my 24-hr day experience, so I wanted to see this exciting new addition to Disney park entertainment.

As expected, the show was delightful, though I'm not sure if I like this better or the Remember... Dreams Come True show still.  I'll need to see this a few more times.  My friends and I saw the fireworks immediately after the 8:50pm Paint the Night viewing, and our position at the south end of The Hub afforded us a nice view of everything. Unfortunately, being in the middle of a giant crowd, I couldn't really set up a tripod, so these photos are shot freehand and relatively sub-par, by my expectations.  Still, they offer a glimpse to the show, and I intend on going back to the park to get more and better shots in the near future!

Like shows in the other parks' Magic Kingdoms, there are now projections on the castle.

The Finding Nemo scene turns the Matterhorn into Mount Wannahockaloogie, and it is fantastic!
Some streamers toward the end of the show.
Big, puffy fireworks to close things out.

It's a great show, but viewings will be packed for a while, especially since there's so much to see, from the projects all the way up and down Main Street to projections on Small World, and different experiences depending on the vantagepoint!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Rambler

Vintage vehicle enthusiasts at Disney California Adventure now have a new subject to enjoy.  Following the Buena Vista Street Packard, and the Park Service truck over by Grizzly River Run, the new Grizzly Peak Airfield now features a 1950s-era Rambler station wagon parked for vacation.  This is part of the area formerly known as Condor Flats, now converted into a part of the Grizzly peak themed land.  The ambiance is much more rustic now, with added trees, a wilderness color palette, and new foresty air tower adding intimacy and beauty to this area.  The shops and attractions remain the same, just with new names and paint jobs, but I think the improvement is still substantial.  Now, this corner of the park is much more cohesive, and I have more subjects for photos!

The Rambler is parked with a canoe on top.

Looks like someone is stocked and fully loaded for an adventure!

The station wagon provides a great nostalgia feel to the old documentary style movies of trips to America's national parks.

It's a lovely addition to Disney California Adventure.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Paint the Night

Exactly one week ago, Disneyland publicly debuted it's new nighttime spectacular, the Paint the Night Electrical Parade.  Billed as the successor to the Main Street Electrical Parade (Disney will have you forget about the Light Magic debacle), it is a truly stunning achievement of lighting and color and wonder and whimsy.  Paired with a catchy soundtrack and floats from some of Disney's most popular movies and franchises, Paint the Night is a great part of the Disneyland 60th Anniversary celebration.

For now, I recommend staying for the later 11:00pm show, which is easier to get seats for, if you don't want to wait for a good spot for the 8:50pm earlier show.  Here are a few photos from the parade, which has already proven so popular that people have been camping out for hours just to get a prime viewing spot.

The parade kicks off with dancing fairies harkening the coming of colorful illumination.

As will be a common theme, their costumes are embedded with lights that change color.
Next are Tinkerbell and her fairy friends, Rosetta, Iridessa, and Silvermist.

The light cast in this parade makes for some great photographic opportunities!

Rosetta greets a guest.
Tinkerbell soars up Main Street, trumpeting the arrival of the parade.

Yes, it's the Paint the Night Electrical Parade!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

World of Color: Celebrate!

Last week was the debut of a brand new version of World of Color, a show celebrating Disneyland's 60th anniversary by way of a whole new storyline devoted to the history of Walt Disney and Disneyland.  Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse, it's a rousing show with spectacular new effects, and I loved how it turned out.  Here are some photos from the show, shot last Friday evening during the 24-hr day.

Things kick off with a noticeable change as the entire backdrop is lit with color. The lights added to the structure of California Screamin' really do a dazzling job engaging the audience!

A new opening quote for a new World of Color.

It's Mickey Mouse! He's a star in this show.

The first part focuses on the movie successes of Walt Disney, starting with that fateful premiere at Carthay Circle Theater.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Blue Diamond Hour at Carthay Circle

Being "trapped" inside Disney California Adventure last Friday evening was a bit of a frustrating experience, since I had really wanted to see the public premiere of the Paint the Night parade and Disneyland Forever fireworks inside Disneyland park, but I tried to make the best of the circumstances.  The sunlight (or lack thereof) didn't quite cooperate during daytime hours, though, so I didn't really start taking pictures until the evening.  Fortunately, the heavy clouds lent themselves to a nice blue hour, and with the decorated Carthay Circle Restaurant tower as a back drop, this street scene of Carthay Circle ended up being a rather nice result.

A bustling crowd passes through Carthay Circle on the Diamond Celebration 24-Hour Kickoff.
Bit of self-criticism: I should have stepped out to the left just a bit to get the overhead Red Car Trolley lines out of obstructing the top of the Carthay Circle Restaurant tower.  Ah well--next time!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hello, Harold

The Disneyland 60th Anniversary celebration brings with it many new and enhanced offerings and attractions. One of them is an upgraded Matterhorn Bobsleds experience with brand new effects and animatronics.  Yesterday, I took several rides to capture these impressive new additions. 

It goes with out saying: SPOILERS AHEAD!!

The first new things riders will notice occurs going up the lift hill.

This used to be dark and relatively uneventful, passing only a mysterious ice cave with rather unimpressive visuals.

But now, the Abominable Snowman stalks the sledders, roaring intimately closely.

For those not expecting it, the effect is jolting and kind of scary!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tranquility on the Bay

The scene below belies the crowds and bustling rest of the park during last Friday night and Saturday morning's 24-hr Disney Day.  At this point in the early morning, Disneyland had been closed to all guests for nearly 9 hours, and Disney California Adventure had filled to capacity at times as well.  But you wouldn't have guessed it with this crop below, which goes to show how the right composition can communicate a certain message that may not even be generally accurate.  But there's also something kind of interesting in that, don't you think?

A quiet evening on Paradise Bay (except it wasn't actually that quiet).

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Golden Hour Down Radiator Springs

The winter skies are very conducive toward great, dramatic landscapes.  In Southern California, this seems to be the only time that we get any consistent sort of weather for those wispy clouds that bring interest to a scene.  By the time summer comes around, the days are typically blue sky and rather cloudless--which is gorgeous for sure--but not quite as visually suspenseful.  At least in my opinion.  Here are some shots from Cars Land, taken earlier this year in January, to illustrate my point!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A 24 Hour Diamond

Diamonds are marvels of nature, rare and pristine, and are prized in part because of the mighty forces and expanse of time required to create them.  Well, for Disneyland's Diamond Celebration 24-Hour Kickoff--which just concluded a little over two and a half hours ago--there was certainly some ugliness that many guests had to endure before the prize of reaching the 6:00am hour arrived.

The combination of this being the start of Disneyland's 60th Anniversary celebrations, the debut of three brand new nighttime entertainment spectaculars, a Friday to Saturday event, and the start to a major holiday weekend meant that this 24-hour day was the busiest on record.  Attendance records were shattered, as Disneyland closed its gates to new entrants before 2pm and completely locked down shortly after 5pm, and even Disney California Adventure saw maximum capacity and actual gate closure for possibly the first time in its history.  Lines outside the Esplanade stretched all the way through Downtown Disney and out onto Harbor Blvd, and many guests literally waited for several hours just for the chance to get in.  It wasn't until 3:00am that both parks resumed normal operations, and that was after Disneyland Park enjoyed a very quiet period between 10:00pm and 3:00am, when no one new was being admitted, but many guests were leaving following the Paint the Night parade and Disneyland Forever fireworks show.

Disneyland stands quiet at the ending morning of a turbulent 24-hour day.

I didn't arrive until 4:00pm yesterday, and though I was fortunately able to enter Disney California Adventure after "only" a 35 minute wait (two of my friends were not as lucky; they literally waited in great excess of two hours), it was clear that this was an extraordinary attendance day.  Guests being turned away from Disneyland were being funneled to DCA, and guests held up outside of the security bag check quickly built up frustration.  As reports filtered from eyewitness accounts, social media photos and videos, and observations from Disneyland's own live web feeds, outrage spread at the apparent mass chaos of the event.  I personally witnessed several instances of tense standoffs, as irritated guests went off on the poor Disney Cast Members who, while admitted were being given conflicting information, nonetheless were trying their hardest on an already stressful day.  And while I agree that anyone who was ambitious enough to come to Disneyland on a day like today should have expected a lot of complications, crowds, and strained operations, I think that the degree to which things unfolded, especially late at night, exceeded reasonable expectation.

Fortunately, for those willing to wait long enough, things seemed to eventually get resolved late into the event, after the mid-early morning resumption of normal park operations.  But I can certainly understand the frustrations of the guests who had to endure these inconveniences.  For me, the disorganization was enough to prevent me from riding the newly refurbished Matterhorn (which was closed as scheduled at 2:15am) and seeing Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever.  While I wished I could have experienced these attractions, at the end of the day, I'm fortunate enough to be able to return. Not all the guests are so privileged to have Annual Passes, so I do feel bad for people coming to have a good time, only to be denied that very goal.  Even worse, to see this happening hours after Disneyland had clearly quieted down must have been quite frustrating.

There were moments were the sunrise seems promising, but overall, the clouds ended up dulling it out.

All of that said, once I was able to get into Disneyland, I was still able to have a great time. And when morning came, I met up with several photographer friends and photographers I admire and follow online, and we photographed the coming of the light.  Sunrise once again proved to be somewhat underwhelming, with the sun never really showing up.  But this was the best May 24-hour day sunrise thusfar.  So after all of that work and an undeniably rough night, I still have to say... I had a good time.  I was ultimately able to hang out with great friends, and I ended the experience with some nice photos of the 60th Anniversary decorations.  Within all that pressure, I still had a gem of a time.  And so even if there are the occasional headaches (migraines in this case), I'll still keep coming back.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Kicking Off the 60th

Today's the day!  We have yet another 24-hour day ahead of us, with Disneyland and Disney California Adventure open from 6am Friday till 6am Saturday.  I haven't made it to the park recently enough to capture the final touches put on both parks, but I will be there tomorrow. And hopefully I'll make it within the gates before capacity is reached.  If you'll be there, bring your patience and your tolerance for crowds.  But this is the kickoff to Disneyland's 60th Anniversary celebration.  With revitalized attractions and new shows and sparkling new decorations, it will be quite a year, and there will be plenty of content for this blog.  I'm certainly excited.  So hang on... we're in for one diamond of a ride!

A 95% decorated Sleeping Beauty Castle from earlier this month.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pan Pacific Gates, Part 2

Sometimes, when looking for a shot to take, inspiration strikes in the form of inverts.  One evening, after leaving Disneyland Park, I was staring across the Esplanade and marveling at how, for once, there was absolutely no one walking across or in the shot or in the way of a pure, empty nighttime photograph.  But having taken a straight on shot or two before, I wanted to try something different.  Then I realized that a more wide angle side perspective could be visually intriguing as well, especially since I'd taken one from the opposite side during the daytime before.  So I set up my tripod with a low perspective, fired off a few shots, and voila... a few months later, this emerged!

The closed entrance of DCA at night, a month ago.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Castle of Dreams

Disneyland has been busy decorating its own castle in preparation for the upcoming 60th anniversary festivities, but lets take a moment to return to Europe and check out what I still consider the most beautiful Disney castle, Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty Castle, in English).

This castle was designed to come out of a storybook.  Because of France's (and Europe's) rich history of having real castles, the designers at Walt Disney Imagineering knew that they couldn't construct a regular, rigid palace like they had at Disneyland or Disney World.  This had to be something that look ethereal... something out of a fantasy.  Something that couldn't be similarly visited just by hopping on a high speed train for a few hours. 

The result was pretty spectacular.  Disneyland Paris' castle is towering and elegant, beautifully slim and structurally imposing at the same time.  It's a wonderful backdrop for Disney Dreams at night, deceivingly cheerful cover for La Tanière du Dragon beneath, and splendid icon for the park.  Oh, how I wish I could go back already!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Going to Flight School

When Paradise Pier was being refurbished as part of the 5-year expansion plan for Disney California Adventure, Mulholland Madness was converted to Goofy's Sky School, bringing a more familiar Disney face to a DCA attraction, with the hopes that the emotional equity of the classic and clumsily lovable character would increase the attraction's popularity and connect better with the guests.  There was no real change to the actual ride itself.  It remains a typical wild mouse roller coaster--family friendly with tight hairpin turns and a few sudden drops toward the end to add some thrills. But the theming and paint job was adjusted. 

It was a cosmetic change, to be sure, and a nice one.  I'm not sure if it's really done much over the long term to alter the ride's popularity, but it certainly fits in better with the rest of Paradise Pier!

Goofy's Sky School can be found just beyond the water tower, to the right.

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Spy with My Photographer's Eye least four photographers up late, trying to get their magical nighttime Disneyland shots.

People sometimes ask me how I get those photos devoid of people, and though I've mentioned it before on this blog, I'll repeat it: I wait.  Stay long enough, and people leave.  Everyone.  And then it's just you and security waiting for you to finish taking your empty person shot so that you can also leave.  This culminates along Main Street, the last land to close.  So it's not uncommon to see people strolling around even after the 1-hour-after-park-closing time of the shops.

Thus, we photographers wait.

Photographers line Main Street for those late night [almost] empty shots.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Golden Station

Once upon a time, before I had a Disneyland Annual Passport, I would habitually make sure to take a ride on the Disneyland Railroad at the end of a full-day visit to the park.  To me, the Railroad was the perfect way to unwind after a long and exciting day.  A tour through Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom, with stops in several of its lands and a dramatic sojourn through Primeval World, the Disneyland Railroad served as the cap of what was always a wonderful time at the Happiest Place on Earth. 

Nowadays, my trips on the Disneyland Railroad are less frequent, since I go more casually. But when I do take a ride, the nostalgia of childhood visits always comes flooding back.  I think it's fitting that the Railroad, symbolic of Walt's own love for machinations and transports, takes me back on my own historic and emotional journey.  It just makes sense.

The Disneyland Railroad during golden hour.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Going Zoom

Sometimes, you just want to go fast.  And on Radiator Springs Racers, you do go fast (by Disney standards).  Sure, the first half of the attraction is leisurely and relaxed, but once the race starts, the action picks up, and the fantastic second half is full of high speed thrills, turns, hills, and rubber burns.  There might be one winner, but everyone has fun.

Racing along Radiator Springs Racers.

Friday, May 15, 2015

From Earth to the Stars

When you've made over a thousand posts, eventually, shots start getting old, and you get bored and start looking for something unique to do.  That was the impetus behind this "Photoshop Phantasy" I created, depicting Disneyland Paris' Space Mountain actually set out in the cosmos. 

In real life, the blatant brightness of everything around makes the stars quite difficult to see, but what if the light pollution was severely reduced--even though the scene itself was still bright?  What if the Columbiad really did launch rockets into interstellar travel?  Wouldn't that be pretty cool?  Well, to create the photo below, I took a nighttime shot of Disneyland Paris (a couple of them, actually), did a manual HDR, then overlaid them onto a picture I took earlier this year from Joshua Tree National Park.  I masked the stars in in layers to avoid a jarring effect where the sky met the subject.  What do you think?

A Photoshop edit of Disneyland's Space Mountain, if it really was a space port!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

More from the Mansion

It's a Double Mansion week!  I typically try to avoid successful similar posts, preferring to rotate among the parks in my photo collection and diversifying the themed lands featured each month, but since the Haunted Mansion did just get its beloved Hatbox Ghost back, I figured I'd showcase some more dark ride photography taken the same past Saturday evening that I took Monday's Hatbox Ghost photos.

All the mansion's ghosts have been dying to meet you; this one can hardly contain himself.

Woe to any man to whom Constance is led...

...they all seem to end up losing their heads.
Doom Buggies nearby this haunted ghoul stalks; a laugh and a flash, and his head's in a box.
The spirits have escaped out to the night, giving this poor caretaker a most spiritual fright!

As always, Grim Grinning Ghosts come out to socialize.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Uva Bar

Linked to Catal Restaurant in the middle of Downtown Disney, Uva Bar is a nice, trendy styled outdoor cafe and bar featuring dapper drinks and scrumptious bar food.  The setting is great for an after work happy hour, evening lounging, or late night unwinding.  This center of the district is frequently buzzing with activity, even late into the night, and I always enjoy the energy that comes from this brightly, colorful, and fun drinking hole!

The Uva Bar in the central courtyard of Downtown Disney.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Tower Hotel

You'd think that the Tower of Terror wouldn't seem as menacing if viewed from a higher elevation.  After all, the higher you are, the less the tower looms over you.  And yet, I think this angle of the iconic Hollywood Tower Hotel seems even more intimidating, because it emphasizes how much it towers over the trees and surrounding environment.  The building seems to have its own personality--a sinister sentinel standing guard over the rest of Hollywood Land.

Well, at least it's a very pretty sight on a wonderful Southern Californian afternoon below.

A beautiful afternoon sets on the Tower of Terror.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Hatbox Ghost

This past Saturday, a legend made its long awaited and triumphant return to the Haunted Mansion.  Yes, the famed Hatbox Ghost took its place back among the 999 Happy Haunts that call the mansion home.  This was a momentous occasion for Disney park fans and Walt Disney Imagineering, because it marked the successful execution of one of Disney's oldest unimagined concepts.

The Hatbox Ghost can be found immediately leaving the Attic, on the right side, diagonally opposite Constance, the murderous hatchet-wielding Bride.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Clouds in Cars Land

Friday was mostly a gloomy day, but the pattern of clouds drifting through was constantly changing throughout the day, and as I drove to Disneyland after work in the afternoon, I held some hope that I might be able to capture some sort of dramatic sunset photo. 

As it turned out, I was not. But the sorta-post-sunset did end up pretty nice.  Knowing that the most striking image would be facing west, I wandered around the Resort trying to come up with a good location before finally settling in Cars Land, shooting toward the archway from Pacific Wharf and Willy's Butte.  The photo ended up turning out pretty well!  Now, if only I could have eliminated those pesky people from the foreground of the composition!  But of course, that's how a photographer thinks.

Dramatic clouds creep into Cars Land at dusk.

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