Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ringing the New Year

Well, we've come to it again. Another end of a year.  2016 has been an interesting one, for sure. From a personal level, I had a largely fun and successful year, getting to go on an amazing vacation in Asia, making a couple of fun ski trips, seeing some great shows, and generally enjoying the company of great friends.  But the year has also seen tough times, especially among my friends--many of which have experienced some form of loss of a loved one or very challenging times, and some with multiple instances.  Of course, 2016 also felt like the year the Grim Reaper came for our most beloved celebrities--strangers with whom we still felt a personal connection. 

But at the end of the day, life and time continues.  So as we come upon the end of a year, we reflect and looking forward to new horizons, opportunities, and hopefully success in 2017.  Thanks to everyone who has continued reading this blog or interact on Instagram and other online avenues.  It means a lot to see that joy is being brought through this photography--people who aren't as fortunate as I to visit the Happiest Place on Earth regular being able to vicariously experience some of the Disney parks.  That's the reason for this, really.

As we move onto a new year, here's a look at last year's New Year's Eve.  It was a blustery evening, and the midnight fireworks actually ended up being cancelled.  But they also had 9pm fireworks for the east coast, and knowing that they were being broadcast live, I knew that Disney would have to shoot them off regardless of weather conditions.  So I gathered mid-evening and brought my camera with me.  New Year's Eve at Disneyland is a crowded affair, but the energy is also fantastic and positive.  So enjoy these snapshots of 2015 rolling into 2016.  And have a safe and splendid new year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Christmas Peek Up Main Street

Foreground, midground, background--these come together in two halves of a Christmas scene looking up Main Street U.S.A.  From the soaring Christmas tree in Town Square to the gleaming, icy lights of Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle, an entire holiday streetscape is compressed into single compositions.  Here, at the end of the night, we find serenity to balance out an otherwise incredibly busy day.  Here, at the end of the night, we find heavenly peace, and a parting look at that unique Disney magic!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Cape Cod Christmas

Christmas is incredibly charming in the Cape Cod part of American Waterfront--one of seven ports of call at Tokyo Disney Sea.  The cozy New England atmosphere coupled with a traditional holiday decor recalls the yuletide season of a bygone era... something out of Norman Rockwell Americana.  It's such a rich and nostalgic atmosphere that it is positively enchanting.  Here are a few shots of this little facet of Tokyo Disney Sea as we continue a run of winter holiday photography to round off the holiday season!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Westernland Holidays

At Tokyo Disneyland, holiday decorations extend more than just through the entrance area.  The festive spirit of Christmas makes its presence felt in multiple areas of the park.  Among the most rustic, however, is over in Westernland, where holly and garland line the Old West facades, and holiday charm feels rugged yet inviting and homey.  The decorations of the season are simple and lovely, and it's great wandering through and just taking in the ambiance.

Guests hustle and bustle by Town Hall and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

The scene is slightly quieter over by Western Wear, but mostly because everyone is lined up along the parade route.
Dramatic clouds push overhead.

The area over by Hungry Bear is especially festive.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Gardens of Christmas Imagination

It's after Christmas, but as always, it's still the holiday season at most Disney parks (really, everywhere except in Tokyo, which promptly ends its Christmas overlay after December 25), so I thought it would be two-bird-single-stone killer to present more photos of Shanghai Disneyland--during Christmastime. 

As I mentioned before, the vast majority of yuletide presence at Shanghai Disneyland occurs in the first two lands guests encounter when they enter the park--Mickey Avenue and Gardens of Imagination.  At the Gardens, the Christmas decorations are mainly limited to a towering Christmas tree that dominates the skyline alongside the Enchanted Storybook Castle and the Fantasia Carousel.  At night, the tree takes on a vibrant life with a diverse series of lighting schemes that seem to mimick the changing lights over the neighboring carousel.  It makes for quite a magical and peaceful scene, especially since the park clears out pretty quickly (thanks to a rather firm and expedient security sweep of everyone into Mickey Avenue).  Here are a few shots from various locations around the Gardens of Imagination for your holiday enjoyment.  Shanghai Disneyland certainly is pretty!

A flower bed of poinsettias anchors the foreground of this gaze straight toward the castle.

Holiday ornaments by a lamppost partially frame the soaring Shanghai Disneyland Christmas tree!

From along this railing, the Fantasia Carousel, Christmas tree, and Enchanted Storybook Castle unfold in sequence.

Finally, a parting shot from the entry signage archway for the Gardens of Imagination.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Welcome to Adventure Isle Shanghai

During my trip to Shanghai Disneyland earlier this month, Adventure Isle ended up being the land that of which I took the least amount of photos.  A large part of this is because its main attraction, Roaring Rapids, was closed for refurbishment.  In addition, I never got a chance to check out the Challenge Trails exploration area and playground due to time constraints and frequent long lines to enter.  Fortunately, a lot of the photos I did get coincided with those rare moments of blue skies and sunshine, so I guess the trade-off was quality for quantity?  I suppose I can't object to that.

The entrance to Adventure Isle (Shanghai; not to be confused with Disneyland Paris' land within a land) harkens to, well, adventure!
Adventure Isle takes the place of Adventureland in the other Disney Magic Kingdoms around the world--the first to lack the "Adventureland" monicker.  (This also means that Fantasyland is the only themed land that appears in all six Disney Magic Kingdoms around the world.)  But in terms of ambiance and story of attractions, the spirit is still there.  Adventure Isle sets guests into rugged wilderness and terrain and features attractions all dedicated to the excitement of exploration.  Whether it be an encounter with the mysterious (and unfortunately often non-functioning) Q’arĂ¡q, a fearsome crocodile-like creature, or a flight all around the world on Soaring Over the Horizon or some surprisingly exhausting calorie burning across the Challenge Trails courses, Adventure Isle celebrates the ideas of finding the hidden (and not so hidden) excitement out there. 

Here are a few shots that showcase some of what Adventure Isle has to offer!

There's a bit of an Animal Kingdom feel around these parts.
The Explorer Canoes are technically headquartered in neighboring Treasure Cove, but they feel right at home here in Adventure Isle, especially with the Roaring Mountain in the distance!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas at the Castle II

It's another Christmas, and another castle photo--my fourth year in a row.  But there's nothing as iconic at the Happiest Place on Earth, and there's nothing as overwhelmingly seasonal in your face as the Winter Castle.  It's the unison of the holidays and the Magic Kingdom, and it's always spectacularly lovely.

By many accounts, this has been a pretty crummy year.  We've lost an inordinate amount of beloved celebrities and public figures prematurely or to illness (and might be on our way to another loss as I write this).  We've had wacky and dramatically shocking world events.  For some people, the election was even a disastrous result.  On a personal front, I've seen literally dozens of friends this year deal with tragedy and loss and major battles.  It's all been monumentally challenging for a lot of people--even more than previous years.

But at the end of the day, there is still light and good and love in the world.  And while things may seem scary and uncertain, lets remember to focus on that which we can control--care for each other, thought and support for our neighbors, and consideration and love for our closest ones.  Disney paints the message of magic and pixie dust, and the ideals of dreams are very much desirable motivations to maintain.  Ultimately, it's the people who create the magic for each other.  So be good to one another, and have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

The Winter Castle at the end of the night.
Spotlights over the castle immediately after Believe... in Holiday Magic.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas on Mickey Avenue

It's the day before Christmas, and I bring you... more Shanghai Disney photos!  Granted, I've only posted one so far, because it was a Christmas scene.  Well, today brings more of both, and also the start of a more in-depth look at Disney's newest theme park (and also the wrapping up of a tour of the Asian Disney Magic Kingdom entrance areas, after Hong Kong and Tokyo earlier this week). 
Guests entering the turnstiles of Shanghai Disneyland are immediately greeted by this Mickey Mouse floral.
 At Shanghai Disneyland, there isn't a "Main Street" per se.  Instead, guests enter into "Mickey Avenue," an eclectic mix of slightly cartoon-y and slightly nostalgic architecture that can best be described as what would happen if Main Street and Toontown got together and had a baby.  This direction was intentional.  Disney designers had to be sensitive to the Chinese government's views on American cultural intrusion, and plopping an example of small town Americana unfortunately would have been unfavorable.  Instead, the Imagineers chose to craft a fantasized version of a hometown that related more to Disney characters and identities considered more politically neutral.

The Mickey floral is, of course, a popular photo op.

Although there is an arcade that suggests one, no Disneyland Railroad exists in Shanghai Disneyland.
The result is a bit of architectural cacophony and a garish mix of styles and colors when one looks at the facades side by side or composed within a shot.  Yet, in person, with the benefit of peripheral perception to take in the whole scene, Mickey Avenue actually kind of works.  Sure, there is a smorgasborg of aesthetics, but they come together in a vaguely familiar and sub-consciously comforting way, creating an entrance area that feels friendly and inviting.

Shanghai has its own Disneyland band performers.

Avenue M Arcade is a series of stores that runs the entire length of the west half of Mickey Avenue.

The exterior suggests multiple shops, but it's all one.

This frame is probably the one frame that makes Mickey Avenue seem most visually chaotic, especially with the rather outlandish feel of "Goofy's Toys."

A familiar icon anchors the end of Mickey Avenue.  The Carthay Circle Theater tower is mainly a facade here, not its own space like the Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure, but acts as an effective "weenie" (Disney-speak for a monument to help center guests as they walk around an area or the park).
One other major difference between Mickey Avenue and the Main Streets of the other Disney Magic Kingdoms (including Tokyo Disneyland's World Bazaar) is the fact that Mickey Avenue is surprisingly short--half or 2/3 the length of Main Street in Disneyland California, and about the length of Buena Vista Street at DCA.  A lot of this real estate is ceded to the Gardens of Imagination, the first Magic Kingdom hub area to be its own themed land (and thus the largest hub area of any Magic Kingdom).  But given that the Imagineers also wanted to minimize the American Main Street connotations, the reduced length of this area probably helps keep the layout efficient.  It's mainly stores and services.  The restaurants that would normally be a part of Main Street actually end up splayed to the sides of Mickey Avenue when it opens up at the Garden of Imagination.

A few shops line the east side of Mickey Avenue too.

A snack shop called Chip & Dale's Treahouse Treats stands left of center here, while Sweethearts Confectionary comprises the right half and serves a variety of cookies, candies, baked goods, and assorted trinket-type souvenirs.
All in all, though, Mickey Avenue is a pretty and unique feature at Shanghai Disneyland, bridging a style that is authentically Disney but most certainly distinct in its own way.  It's the gateway to the rest of the park, and it's rather short and sweet, but it does its job and adds a bit of innocent and fun charm along the way.  Plus, it's rather lovely at night.  But we'll get into that on a future post.

Glancing toward Mickey Avenue from the Gardens of Imagination.

And enticement: somewhere behind there is rumored to be Shanghai's own Club 33!

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Holiday Paint the Night

With Paint the Night back for the holiday season, I thought it might be time to post a slew of photos from this most wonderful parade.  This time, though, there's a Christmas tree in the background (of some photos), which means this qualifies as a Christmas time set.  At the very least, it's a photo op that's not available the rest of the year.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy this holiday version of Disney's newest electrical parade!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Hong Kong Main Street Christmas II

We move today from Tokyo Disney's entrance area shrouded in Christmas to Hong Kong Disneyland's.  This Anaheim-mimicking Magic Kingdom has a Main Street that's uncannily familiar but also unique in some ways.  For one, the combination of stores an eateries is different than in California, even though they kind of look the same.  The Christmas decorations also seem less elaborate in Hong Kong than they do in other parks.  This may be in part to the park's growing pains.  If it's not the summer high season or weekends close to holidays and other peak periods, the park can be rather slow, and this may discourage the investment of more elaborate decorations that may not obtain much of a return. As a result, holiday trimmings are mostly limited to simple wreaths and holiday ornament balls.  Still, there's a subdued charm to the whole aesthetic, and here's a look at some of the scenes walking down Main Street at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Noel at Oswald's

The last sight guests see as they exit Disney California Adventure is Oswald's Filling Station, and during Christmas, this is also the last bit of colorful lights and old fashioned decorations.  They are understated here, accenting the feel of a cozy, bustling neighborhood but not standing out in an attention-hogging way.  It's just a quiet scene at the quiet end of the night.... no evidence of the pandemonium that cluttered the streets during daytime holiday hours.

Oswald's after hours during Christmas time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Buon Natale a Venezia

Tokyo Disney Sea is filled with breath-taking hyper-realism, and one of the most surreal areas is the Venice portion of Mediterranean Harbor.  Located to the left of the bay as guests enter, off to the side on the way to American Waterfront, this area is a meticulous and detailed romanticization of the city of canals.  With beautiful facades--many fronting rooms of the lavish Mira Costa Hotel--this part of Disney Sea is just spectacular.  And during the Christmas season, some of that haute culture Italian style mixes with the holiday decorations to lend an even more high class feel.

Here are some photos just wandering around the area, which is most peaceful during the earlier morning hours.  Regardless, this is a lovely scene with just enough Christmas spirit to qualify this post as a set of holiday photos too!

This bridge takes guests over to the Isola del Gondoliere, for those who wish to ride the gondolas.

Guests wait in that central building.

Looking out in the direction of the center of the park.

The architecture is exquisite.

Monday, December 19, 2016

More Christmas at the World Bazaar

Because both times I've visited the Tokyo Disney Resort have been during the winter holiday season, and the World Bazaar entry area is fully dressed up in yuletide trummings, by default, all of my World Bazaar photos are Christmastime photos.  So here's another batch of the area, the side streets, and the facades that make this "Tokyo Main Street" just as cozy and welcoming and nostalgic as any American version of a Magic Kingdom entrance themed land!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Dusk at the Dock

I've mentioned before that Tokyo Disney Sea offers spectacular photo ops every which direction one looks, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in American Waterfront, where three different areas and multiple paths and waterways allow for a prolific variety of photos to be had.  The photo below is taken close to the Ponte Vecchio part of Mediterranean Harbor, along the pathway just off the stairs on the Mount Prometheus side, a stone's throw away from the Cape Cod part of American Waterfront.  But here, the subject is the San Francisco Wharf type area, with Christmas-y boats tied up at the docks in front of the looming background of the Tower of Terror, which stands in the more New York style region of American Waterfront.  Paired with some textured clouds in the sky and a setting sun generating some cotton candy color, and the result is an alluring scene that hints at the magic that night will bring while still maintaining the warmth of the fleeting day.  I assure you, views like these do not ever get old!

An early evening Christmas scene in front of the Hotel Hightower in American Waterfront.

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