Monday, November 30, 2015


"Kitty" is the nickname my friends termed for the lava monster audio-animatronic found on Journey to the Center of the Earth, Tokyo Disney Sea's landmark E-Ticket attraction found inside its Mysterious Island area.  It's an ironic nickname, of course, because this creature is anything but cute and cuddly and furry.  He appears after guests have descended deep into the core of the earth and boarded steam powered mine cars and explored a fascinating and bizarre subterranean world that has been discovered by Captain Nemo (tied in from the nearby 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction and the prominent character of the Mysterious Island mythology at the park). 

Now, this climactic moment is scary to some, as the monster roars and lunges right before a volcanic eruption rescues riders by sending them back to the surface and out of Mount Prometheus, but I think the lava monster is misunderstood.  In the deep, dark recesses of the earth, Kitty has probably just been lonely all this time, and all he really wants is a hug.  Unfortunately, people keep running away.  So alas, Kitty gets no hug.

The lava monster confronts riders at the climactic moment of Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Painting on a Different Continent

Notice anything "off" about this photo?  It's a snapshot of the Paint the Night parade, yes, but the composition of the images isn't exactly something that is possible at Disneyland.  Sure, there's the Tinker Bell float, and the lit up dancers, and Sleeping Beauty Castle in the background, but wait a minute, the parade doesn't ever actually pass in front of the castle in Anaheim!

No, this is not a Photoshop.  Instead, it's a picture of the Paint the Night parade from Hong Kong Disneyland.  In fact, Paint the Night originated here before it came to Walt Disney's Original Magic Kingdom earlier this year.  The Hong Kong version is shorter than ours, and with the exception of a few character costumes, contains everything that ours does.  But that it lacks is this amazing photo op that allows photos of the floats directly in front of the castle.

I actually kind of just lucked into this shot when I visted Hong Kong Disneyland two weeks ago.  Thanks to the low crowds that day (an incredible sight for a Southern California native like me used to crowds constantly at the Disneyland Resort), I was able to pop into this area along the parade route just minutes before the parade began, and with my telephoto lens, over seated guests, I was able to capture some great and unobstructed images of this parade.  Expect more photos in the future, of course, but for now, may this photo below whet your appetite!

Paint the Night at Hong Kong Disneyland features a unique backdrop during one portion of the parade route.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

In the Shadow of the Mountain

At Tokyo Disney Sea, Mount Prometheus dominates the park skyline.  Visible from anywhere around the park, it marks an iconic monument is a gorgeous subject to photograph.  Standing as exactly the same height as Cinderella Castle in neighboring Tokyo Disneyland, this volcano is constantly showing signs of geological activity, be it ominous smoke wafting out or actual fiery eruptions.  It is undoubtedly a symbol of the park, and I loved capturing it in compositions during my visit to Tokyo Disney Sea last weekend!

Mysterious Island's Mount Prometheus looms over the Mediterranean Harbor and American Waterfront.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Mysterious Island

I recently went on a vacation to Asia and came back with a loaded trove of photos from both the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort as well as the Tokyo Disneyland Resort.  This trip represented the accomplishment of a bucket list item I've had for a long time--to visit every single Disney theme park around the world.  That bucket list item has now been achieved--until Shanghai Disneyland opens next year, anyway.  But for the next while, expect a barrage of Asia Disney park photos.

We'll start this off with an image from Mysterious Island, the centerpiece of Tokyo Disney Sea, a park opened in 2001 nautically themed to seven ports of call.  It's not a water park; it's a park about water.  And Mysterious Island may be the most dramatic.  Marked by the towering "weenie" (Disney term for iconic monument in a park that draws guests' attention) of Mount Prometheus, an actual erupting volcano (well, not real volcano, but you know...), this fictional locale is themed to the explorations of Jules Verne.  Housing two of the best Disney rides anywhere--Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea--it is an incredible, immersive, detail rich land unlike any other.

Below, inside the area, you can see a queue spiralling down to 20,000 Leagues on the left, the dominant figure of Mount Prometheus in the background, and a prop submarine, the Nautilus on the right, which serves purely as a theming element for the Nautilus Galley quick serve.  It's an epic scene that only gets better as guests explore the details and up close theming elements that are everywhere.  I'll rave more about Disney Sea in future posts, but for now, enjoy this image.

The dramatic and moody Mysterious Island glows with intrigue at night!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Liberty Arcade

At Disneyland Paris, there are two arcades on either side of Main Street, U.S.A. that serve as crowd relief bypasses during especially busy days or during parade times.  However, rather than be simple emergency relief routes, these are actually elaborately themed indoor promenades that lead into backside entrances for the shops and restaurants of Main Street. 

Today, we take a look at some scenes from the Liberty Arcade, which features a World's Fair feel and is reminiscent of turn of the century America.  I love the concept of this thoroughfare and wish Disneyland Park could have something like this.  Of course, this was more of a lesson learned from previous park designed, something the Imagineers developed as a result of dealing with crowd control in older Magic Kingdoms.  And it's absolutely beautiful.  Take a look at these photos, and you'll see yet another reason why Disneyland Paris is my favorite Magic Kingdom!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Grave Present

It's almost Thanksgiving, and you know what that means...  We've actually already been in Christmas season for 1-3 months (depending on the retailer).

I'm a believer in taking one holiday at a time, and it's always jarring each year to see Halloween pass and immediately change from spooks and frights to warm fuzzies and noel joy--especially since it seems like Thanksgiving just gets shafted, but I get why this happens from an economic standpoint.  Still, you'll notice that I've refrained from posting Christmas photos before Thanksgiving for the past couple of years.  The Nightmare Before Christmas is the closest thing, and that's because it starts during Halloween season! 

This graveyard is certainly more festive than the average one!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Memories in the Boiler Room

There are a lot of creepy little details inside the Tower of Terror, if you know where to look.  In the example below from the boiler room, we encounter a desk with memorability from decades past, frozen in time, a haunting reminder of what once was. 

I love little setups like this.  This might be a small part of the scene, but the attention of the detail really enhances the immersive nature of the attraction.  Plus, anything with a spooky vibe makes me happy, although maybe I'm just still not quite over Halloween, even though it's been nearly a month!

Details inside the Tower of Terror queue.

Monday, November 23, 2015

L'Auberge de Cendrillon

L'Auberge de Cendrillon, or "Cinderella's Inn," is a table service sit-down restaurant at Disneyland Paris that features traditional multi-course French cuisine.  Set inside a beautiful building reminiscent of fairy tale architecture, this eatery also features character meet-and-greets.  It's definitely an experience that requires a slower pace, and given my limited time during my two past visits to Disneyland Paris, I have never actually dined inside.  But the outside is just lovely, and perhaps one day, I'll do the park a little more slowly and actually be able to savor experiences such as dining here!

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Light Painting with More Jellyfish

I've talked about the interesting compositions I can make via play with long exposure photography in Paradise Pier, especially at the Jumpin' Jellyfish, so I'll keep today's post short and sweet.  Here's another angle of the colorful attraction.  It's amazing just how beautifully the colors pop, and of course, the long exposure enables the cool motion blur effect to just happen.

A fun long exposure with the Jumpin' Jellyfish.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Captain's Organ

The Mysteries of the Nautilus is a fun walk-through attraction next to Space Mountain: Mission 2, in Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris.  Intended as a recreation of Captain Nemo's submarine, it offers a look at life living in the mysterious waters of the ocean deep. 

The French iteration is actually an update of the old Disneyland version that occupied Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom in the 1950s.  Of course, the detail and quality is improved thanks to higher modern day standards.  The climactic scene occurs in the Main Salon, where Captain Nemo's organ stands front and center.  Nemo's face actually appears like a ghostly apparition in the center, and to the side, a porthole to the ocean outside reveals a potentially horrifying sight (more on this in a future post).  It's a fun attraction that routinely has minimal weights.  I consider it one of Disneyland Paris' hidden treats, and I definitely encourage guests to take a visit.  It doesn't take that long to explore, and it's a cool experience!

The final room of The Mysteries of the Nautilus, featuring the iconic organ from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Assailed by the Wicked Wench

For the longest time, I always dreamed of being able to photographically capture that thrilling seafaring battle between the attacking pirate ship, the Wicked Wench, and the seaside fortress on Isla Tesoro (i.e. the town where Carlos gets dunked, wenches get auctioned, and that yo-ho pirate's life is for everyone).  Of course, it's a very dim space, so most cameras don't do the scene justice.  Fortunately, a quality full frame DSLR equipped with a fast lens does not have this issue, and now, I can capture this exciting approach that more accurately captures the actual feel of the scene.  That's exciting to me at least, and if that isn't to you, well, hopefully the scene itself is!

Approaching Captain Barbosa's ship.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Alpine Foxtails

I am terrible with plants, so forgive me if I've completely misidentified this flower.  I believe they are foxtails, and a Google search doesn't immediately disprove me, so I'm running with it. 

Over by the Matterhorn, there is some lovely landscape beside the queue filled with plants and wildflowers evocative of a Swiss countryside.  In the warm light of the afternoon, these become especially vibrant, and I feel like a close-up provides a nice, naturalistic composition.  Never mind the people in line or the lamppost on the left or the Matterhorn station in the background, I suppose.  But focus on the flowers and the lighting, close your eyes, and you can almost imagine being in Switzerland!

Foxtail flowers bloom near the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wild Around the Turn

I haven't posted a black and white (or almost black and white, in this case) photo in a while, but while I was editing this focused shot of the turn after the splashdown at Disneyland Paris' Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I found that this processing created a more dramatic scene than the color version, which was drab due to the cloudy day and the lack of dramatic sky due to the zoomed in framing.  It feels thematically appropriate.  One can easily imagine being back in the 1800s and seeing this runaway mine train careen around a sharp turn--a thrilling ride, though probably not so safe for its occupants as its modern day equivalent provides!

The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness in monochrome, and in Paris!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Buttes of Big Thunder II

Disneyland is full of a variety of pretty perspectives.  Many are obvious--open panoramas with iconic scenery and beautiful theming.  Others are more fleeting--a window here or a frame there, and it's gone if you move just a bit.  And then there are the angles that are only possible while riding other attractions.  For a photographer, it's these more unique views that I search for when I'm at the parks, especially given my exhaustion of the typical money shots. 

That's why I find a snapshot like this picture of Big Thunder Mountain sort of intriguing.  It feels like a glance from a moment, and there's a bit of a uniqueness in this. 

Or maybe I'm just overthinking it.

A glimpse of the buttes of Big Thunder, as seen from the Mark Twain traversing the Rivers of America.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Les Véhicules de Main Street

The morning of my visit to Disneyland Paris last year contrasted greatly with the rest of the day.  Rather than cheery blue skies, ominous clouds and gray, French gloom seemed to be more predominant.  Fortunately, thanks to the weather patterns in Europe in general, even a more monochrome day featured some drama in the skies.  So I went about snapping photos anyway, putting greater care in composition in some cases to offset the subpar light.  In Main Street, I found that this made scenes appear more exceptionally Parisian, meaning that the character still shone through the drab lighting.  It doesn't hurt that Disneyland Paris has the most beautiful Magic Kingdom in the world.  So from Europe to your screen, enjoy this edition of "Main Street Monday!"

The Main Street Vehicles in Paris are just as charming as in the States.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Rainy Neon Night

This winter promises to be a wet one, with a massive and record El Niño promised by meteorologists.  Goodness knows California needs it, given our multi-year drought.  That's what makes moments like last year's April showers even more special--especially since I was actually in the park to capture some rainy evening photos.  At the risk of moisture to my camera, I ran around trying to capture scenes accentuated by the reflective puddles.  Naturally, Radiator Springs was one of my targets, and the results were certainly worth the trouble.  With nary a person in sight but all the colors reflecting off the damp surfaces, I had quite my pick of compositions.  Perhaps this winter will provide similarly soggy opportunities.

A rainy evening in Cars Land is one of the most luminously beautiful sights that the Disneyland Resort offers.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Scenes Along the River

As I mentioned last week, with the upcoming Star Wars Land expansion, the Rivers of America will be irreversibly altered, changing a piece of the original Disneyland Park fabric.  Now, this isn't the atrocity that some may claim it is.  The change affects primarily the back half of the river, will not substantially shorten an excursion around the waters, and shouldn't change the experience on Tom Sawyer Island.  But it will be something different.

So with that thought, lets take a look at some of the sights that can currently be found along the Rivers of America!

An old keel boat harkens back to the days when such vessels traversed the Rivers of America.

A friendly Native American brave greets cruisers as they approach an Indian village.

A young Native American waits for a bite along the Rivers of America.

Young tribesmen listen to an elder narrate a piece of Native American lore.

Moose and other "wildlife" are spotted along the second half of the river, on the return to Frontier Landing.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sinister Spirits at the Manor

It's Friday the 13th again (the third such occurrence this year--a rare event!), and on this traditionally superstitious day associated with less than fortunate events, I thought it would be appropriate to feature some photos inside Phantom Manor, Disneyland Paris' spooky and sinister take on the Haunted Mansion series.  This is my favorite version, primarily because it is darker than its cousins around the world.  Although there are many similarities to the other Haunted Mansions, Phantom Manor carries a more sinister backstory and a more macabre ambiance via the turn into Phantom Canyon.  And I love all of it!

This is a much less sympathetic canine than the original Haunted Mansion's dog.

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion features a corpse trapped in comical misfortune.  Disneyland Paris' seems to be trying to escape with more malicious intentions!

The scenes are a little gorier here than at the other Haunted Mansions.

But then again, other elements remain similar to the attraction series.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Blue Sky Dreaming

Today is a bit of a Throwback Thursday, if only because the photo below was quite evidently taken some time ago.  Not only are the blossoms present during springtime, not the fall, but Sleeping Beauty Castle is in its pre-60th Anniversary state.  Still, it's a pretty shot of a beautiful blue day without a cloud in the sky--the type with which Southern California is habitually associated.  The type that is perfect to spend at the Happiest Place on Earth!

The Hub at springtime in a previous year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

An Afternoon at the Wharf

This photo isn't one of my finest, but I like the ambiance and mood it projects.  I love spending golden afternoons wandering around the Disneyland Resort, and the light that filters through is always marvelously beautiful.  I find a great enjoyment in just taking in the quality of sunlight.  It warms the soul and soothes the heart, and I certainly recognize the blessing I have living in a climate where sunshine is so bountiful.  Maybe that's why I'm always chasing that light... to capture a bit of it and pass it on to anyone else who might be able to enjoy it.

The golden afternoon sun is beautiful anywhere at Disney California Adventure.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Parisian View of Fantasy

I promised more Disneyland Paris photos, so here's another one overlooking Fantasyland.  Unlike the original Disneyland Park, at EuroDisney, guests can go outside of the castle at an elevated level and gaze over the skyline of the park.  It's a unique vantagepoint that is probably unfamiliar to those used to domestic Disney park experiences, but it's still magical.  And if you want to see what the view looks like gazing back in the opposite direction, look at here and here!

An overview of Fantasyland at Disneyland Paris from the second floor backside of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant--aka Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Entering the Hyperion Cafe

I'm going on vacation this week, and I figured it was high time I get my butt back to editing photos from my vacation last year, a trip that included an excursion to Disneyland Paris.  So here's a photo from Discoveryland.  Expect many more Disneyland Paris photos this month--as well as photos from my upcoming trip (hint: Disney will obviously be involved).

The Hyperion Cafe has a most striking entrance facade.
At Disneyland Paris, Discoveryland easily stands as my favorite iteration of the Tomorrowlands of the Magic Kingdoms.  It's retro-futuristic style ensures a timelessness that has often been missing from other Tomorrowlands, and the scale and scope of Discoveryland is pretty impressive.  How many restaurants on Disney property have a freaking airship sticking out of their entrances?  I can't say I know of many, which is part of what makes the Hyperion Cafe quick serve area very cool.  It's a hangar bay in an imaginary city of the future, AND it offers burgers and American style fast food fare.  Pretty neat!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Nighttime Illumination at the Park

I have an extensive backlog of unprocessed photos from all of my trips to the Disneyland Resort, and sometimes, I forget to go back to shots that I initially meant to process because I really liked how they turned out in camera.  Thus, when I do rediscover these shots, they become a welcome surprise... a present to myself from myself that brings the joy of a beautiful moment capture and the idyllic ambiance preserved in photo form. 

I feel this way about the photo below, which is just a simple scene from Paradise Pier, but which turned out very nicely in my opinion.  There's a depth in composition and a smoothness and clarity to the exposure that I am always striving to attain but don't always reach.  Plus, the serenity emanating from this scene just makes me feel happy.  It's one of those photos I want to step into to relive that memory and tranquility, and I hope it's the same for you!

Paradise Park stands peacefully still at the end of the night under a bright full moon.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

An Afternoon Stroll Through Tinseltown

Hollywood Land has seen its fair share of changes and adjustments over the years--both in name, background story, and overlays.  These moves have transformed an area originally presented as more of a movie studio backlot (and Disney Hollywood Studios copy) to something that calls to mind the golden age of Tinsel Town--a more elegant setting that emphasizes the glitz and glamour of showbiz.  I've enjoyed this evolution to a more robust and weighted land, and although I think it can still benefit from another quality attraction, I do think that Hollywood Land definitely shines bright at DCA.

Hollywood Blvd, golden against the retreating sun.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Queen Arises

It's the end of the week, and that means time for another alliterative theme post.  This time, it's "FANTASMIC Friday," and we take a look at a turning point in Disneyland's longest running and most epic nighttime extravaganza.

If you haven't heard yet, FANTASMIC! and the rest of the Rivers of America will be closed next year as work begins on the infrastructure related to Disneyland's massive "Star Wars Land" expansion.  The river will be re-routed and shortened, which of course affects the park's flagship show.  And while it's disappointing that my favorite Disney show will be on hiatus, I suppose I can hold onto photos and memories in the mean time!

The Evil Queen takes FANTASMIC! toward a dark turn when she reacts badly to three lovelier maiden the Magic Mirror sees.

"A magic spell in the black of night, with a scream of fright," she summons.

And with that, she transforms herself into a terrible old hag.

Now, she can turn Mickey's dream into a nightmare FANTASMIC! (seewhatshedidthere?).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Bustling Castle

I never get up early enough to get to Disneyland early enough to get an empty daytime castle photo (save on 24 hour days), so the afternoon golden hour is my next best bet.  Even though those "pesky people" are always in the shot, I still enjoy the view onto Sleeping Beauty Castle, draped in its 60th Anniversary decorations. 

I must admit that I've gotten used to the ornate and lavish decorations, and even though there are some pretty gaudy parts, they no longer appear quite as gaudy as before.  And there are some elegant and beautiful pieces, especially with the bunting, banners, medallion, and castle roof toppers.  I've got another ten months to enjoy this, until the 60th anniversary celebration concludes at the end of next summer.  So I suppose I shall!

Busy Sleeping Beauty Castle on a cloudy but golden afternoon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Midnight in the Valley

It's been a while since I've posted a photo of the majesty of Cars Land at night, here's one for hump day.  Cars Land remains breathtaking even now, three years after it opened.  The quality is among the best Disney has ever done in a theme park, and it really does wrap guests into the grandeur of the monumental Southwest.  I like to think of this scene as DCA's own little Route 66, winding through the desert on its way to Radiator Springs.  I'd certainly get my kicks along here!

An empty gateway to Ornament Valley is a rare sight, except late at night.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Relaxing by the Wharf

Halloween Time has passed for the year, so we return to "regular" photos during the brief moments between spooky time and holiday time.  Lets return to the day with a golden hour shot of Pacific Wharf.  Last year's repainting of the various buildings along the wharf have added a new sense of vibrance in this area and breathes new life.  I love the colorful facades, and they really glow on a beautifully sunny day.  Here, things just seem blissfully peaceful... don't you agree?

The sun casts a flare as it sets on Pacific Wharf (and Paradise Pier beyond).

Monday, November 2, 2015

Le Court des Anges

I don't get many chances to visit the Court of Angels anymore, not since Disneyland closed it off and made it an exclusive part of Club 33 during its New Orleans Square renovations.  Though I've mentioned before that I don't generally object to the changes as much as some more hardcore Disney fans might, I do still lament the public loss of the Court of Angels, which was always a lovely and quiet sanctuary providing peaceful respite just steps away from the bustling streets of the rest of New Orleans Square.  I definitely wish it could be made public again, but alas, not everything goes your way in life, and sometimes, you just have to accept it.

It does make the moments I do visit this space feel more special, though!

The Court of Angels sign, now closed off from public view.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Day of the Dead

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!  Today is the start of the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, a day of remembrance of ancestral family members for those of Mexican descent.  Although this holiday is pagan in origin and even originally observed in the summer, it was later moved to its present date to coincide with the Christian triduum of All Saint's Eve, All Saint's Day, and All Soul's Day.

Día de los Muertos is often connoted with Halloween, but the holidays aren't actually that similar, aside from the shared subject of the dead.  Whereas Halloween looks upon spirits in a scary and sometimes malevolent way, Día de los Muertos is more like a supernatural memorial day.  Observers traditionally bring food and offerings and build decorative altars to the grave sites of their deceased relatives to encouraged these souls to connect back with the world of the living.  The dead are not looked upon with fear, but rather welcome, and these festive occasions sometimes take on a humorous tone.

As such, Día de los Muertos has a far more playful feel than today's societal look at Halloween.  The two holidays are linked by proximity and general subject matter, and it's nice to see Disneyland acknowledging the indirect relationship.  But it's important to recognize that the Day of the Dead is not in fact "Mexican Halloween," as some might suggest.

And now you know (if you didn't already).

An oblique view of the other side of the Dia de los Muertos display at Zocalo Park.

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