Wednesday, November 30, 2016

From Mickey to the Tree

This is a lovely, beautiful sight, with Mickey looking on toward the great Christmas tree at the head of Main Street, and the nighttime scene is full of Christmas spirit and beauty--AND THERE'S THAT DAMN BALLOON IN THE WAY, FLOATING RIGHT INTO THE FRAME, NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT, AND NOT REALLY ABLE TO CALL FOR THEM TO LOWER THE BALLOON OUT OF THE FRAME WITHOUT SOUNDING LIKE A JERK, SO I JUST HAVE TO MAKE DO AND BE ANNOYED--and one looks upon this composition, with the night winding down at the Merriest Place on Earth, and one feels a sense of tranquility, imagining Mickey (and Walt) approving of the holiday tidings for peace on earth and good will toward men.

Mickey looks on toward an evening Main Street and the Town Square Christmas tree.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jingle Cruising All the Way

Take a trip into a surprisingly festive jungle aboard the Jingle Cruise, a ride that involves the Jungle Cruise skippers discovering that their holiday decorations have instead been scattered all over the jungle, resulting in all the animals covered in Christmas gaudiness.  It's a zany ride filled with absurd jokes--even more than the regular Jungle Cruise--especially at night, when an already off-the-wall holiday setting gets a little more wild.

The mystery unwraps itself in the ancient Cambodian shrine, though at least the tiger gets plenty of presents!

Oh no, the monkeys have gone ape.

They're making banana bread!
Or monkey bread, depending on the skipper.
The mess around camp is the yeast of their worries.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Focused for a World of Holiday

It always catches you from a distance--those glowing colors and dazzling lights scream at your eyeballs all the way from the back of Fantasyland, beckoning you to come near.  And that initial glimpse consistently feels visually overwhelming, as though all the saturation in the world was thrust forth all at once.

I tried to capture the memory of the approach to It's a Small World Holiday in this shot, compressing the shot with a telephoto lens and really honing in on the facade.  This gives a different feel than most of my other shots, which are wide angle and actually make the building seem farther away, despite the camera being positioned closer (a reflection of how a telephoto compresses perspective).  So what do you think?  Is this framing a more spectacular composition, or do you prefer the wide angle view?

It's a Small World Holiday never fails to look spectacular during the holidays.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Silent Night on Main Street

During the Christmas season, what's better than Main Street aglow in holiday decorations and lights?  Not much in my opinion.  The beautiful sight makes for some warm fuzzies and stirrings of the spirit of the season.  Here are some snapshots I took a couple of weeks ago, making use of my telephoto lens to compress perspectives and offer more tightly focused shots, while at the same time blending multiple exposures together to bring out the range of light in the scene.  Gotta love those late nights at the Happiest Place on Earth!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Haunting the Holidays

If you love the Haunted Mansion Holiday--and many people do--then today is a treat for you.  Mostly because I'm posting more photos taken from aboard the ride.  It's a dual holiday treat when Jack and Sally take over the Mansion and wreck the halls.  Familiar scenes take on a twisted feel, and everything feels both spooky and jolly.  It all adds up to some great holiday fun!

Treats for Zero?  Plenty this Christmas!
We can't open the coffin yet? Fine, if you insist.
Madame Leota offers some thoughts on the 13 Days of Christmas.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Christmas in Frontierland

What does Frontierland look like during the holidays? Well, warm, rustic, red and green, and inviting.  Glowy wreaths adorn the facades, and they offer and welcoming and cozy appeal.  Here are a few photos of the decorations fit for the Old West.

The Pioneer Mercantile is aglow with Christmas decorations.
So is Silver Spur Supplies, which features luminous holly and trimmings.

Likewise, across the way, the Shooting Exposition offers some Christmas flair.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Return of ¡Viva Navidad!

It seems like only yesterday that it was a brand new show on the block, but ¡Viva Navidad!, at Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure, has quickly become one of my favorite holiday traditions at the Disneyland Resort.  This lively and fun pop-up show brings Donald Duck, Panchitoo Pistoles, and José Carioca together for a spirited celebration of Christmas flavor from Mexico and Brazil.  With live musicians, dancers, giant puppet floats, and a drop-in appearance by friends Mickey and Minnie Mouse, it's a wonderful show to get people excited and energized into the Christmas spirit.

Here are some photos taken just a couple of weeks ago.  For a more complete description of the show, check out the link above from a previous post about this great little spectacle!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Partners with the Snow Castle II

The icicle lights of Sleeping Beauty Castle make a perfectly tranquil and soul-soothing backdrop for Walt and Mickey at the Hub at the end of the night.  The cool blues and purples of the castle contrast with the vibrant poinsettias planted all around the Partners Statue.  Framed by the street lamps that ring this heart of the park, this scene perfectly captures that restful holiday mood.  One might almost imagine Santa Claus riding across the sky just over the castle, reindeer guiding him over the night.

Standing before Walt and Disney, with the Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle behind them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Christmas at the Seaside Village

Tokyo Disney Sea is spectacular enough just on its own, but when you add in a festive mix of Christmas spirit? Well, it's positively divine.  And in several parts of the park, the holiday ambiance is felt very strongly.  Take American Waterfront.  Representative of New York, San Francisco, and Cape Cod, it imbues a sense of nostalgic Americana from a bygone era, and its holiday setting follows that trend, with simple red and white and green string lights draped in a simple but nicely accenting manner.  And even though it's really Japan, one can't help but feel swept away to the turn of the previous century, to something out of a Norman Rockwell scene.

Christmas serenity in the New England portion of American Waterfront.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Sparkling Christmas in Orleans

New Orleans Square has always had a moody and romantic ambiance that shines with an artistic nostalgia.  But during the Christmas season, it really dazzles.  The holiday decorations, lights, ornaments, and wreaths bring out a stunning environment, and late at night, after most people have left, it becomes positively magical strolling through those serene streets, just taking in the holiday atmosphere!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Beautiful Place to Be Headed

The Holidays at the Disneyland Resort is that magical time of the year when the Jungle Cruise undergoes a transformation and becomes even more corny and over the top in the form of the Jingle Cruise.  As the story goes, the skippes were expecting a shipment of holiday decorations, but they somehow got lost.  Turns out the shipment was dropped all over the jungle, draping everything with noel extravagance.  One of my favorite scenes involves nighttime at the dancing natives scene.  The Christmas lights are exceptionally photogenic, and the visual is certainly awe-inspiring. 

Just... try not to lose your head in wonder.

Headhunter territory sparkles with Christmas cheer during Jingle Cruise season.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Paint the Holiday Night

Last night, Paint the Night made an eagerly anticipated return to Disneyland after several months off for (I heard) refurbishment.  Naturally, I was compelled to take a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth--not only to watch it, but to grab some photos of the parade under a holiday setting.  The sequence of floats and events remains the same, but having Disneyland under Christmas dressing would provide a unique photographic opportunity for me.

That was the thought before I remembered that most of the lights are dimmed down Main Street during the parade itself, rendering most photos of the parade pretty similar to last year's regular evening operations.  Until the end... because as the kaleidoscopic Mickey Mouse float trailed the route, the lights on Main Street slowly returned to illumination, one by one, until I had the shot that I was looking for, even though I hadn't exactly imagined it just moments before.

With gusto, I rattled off a series of shots to increase my chances of nailing a winner--requiring Mickey to be lit and sharp, and the Christmas tree to be illuminated--and consistently colored.  Lo and behold, one of my photos actually fit the criteria.  I'm not going to lie--I'm pretty proud of this shot!  And I hope you enjoy it too.

Mickey Mouse conducts the end of the Paint the Night Parade, which made its return last night for the 2016 winter holiday season--and on Mickey's 88th birthday, no less!

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Colorful World After All

Whenever I photograph It's a Small World during the holiday season, I inevitably return to this angle, with the open perspective encompassing all the colors in both the foreground and the show building, bursting in saturation, twinkling in their luminescent wonder.  It's a lovely scene, and even though I may do all that I can to avoid It's a Small World normally, I'll admit that during the holidays, even this attraction is kind of nice, with its warm winter cheer and world joy.  It reminds us of the innocence of the Christmas spirit, and it does so in an enchanting manner!

It's a Small World Holiday always dazzles during the Christmas season!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Presenting Elena of Avalor

One of the many (many... many...) entertainment options featured with the Festival of Holidays, at Disney California Adventure, is Princess Elena's Musical Grand Arrival, a sort of mini parade and pop-up show of shorts that introduces audiences to Disney's first Latina Princess.  Although she currently has a show on the Disney Channel that chronicles her backstory and adventures, Elena lacks the sweeping recognizability of other Disney Princesses who have been featured in their own full length animated films.  The Musical Grand Arrival, which takes place along the parade route in Paradise Pier next to the Boardwalk Restaurants, right by Goofy's Sky School, serves as an introduction of the character to an audience that might not be aware of the show.

Elena arrives on her own float.
 The ceremonies start with a royal arrival, complete with great fanfare.  Flanked by a royal court of dancers, Elena explains how her parents and kingdom were once taken from her.  To save her land and her loved ones, she confronted the evil sorceress, Shuriki (coincidentally named to almost match the demonic idol from Tokyo Disney Sea's Tower of Terror?).  During the great battle, her protective amulet pulled her inside of it, saving her life but trapping her within for over four decades.  Helpfully, her surviving family members and royal court were also frozen into a painting by the Avalor Royal Sorcerer to protect them.  Years later, after being freed, Elena defeated Shuriki and returned her realm to normal.  Now, she rules Avalor as Crown Princess.

It's festive and very colorful.
The show itself features Elena singing several songs ranging from ballads from the series to Christmas songs.  Mixed in between, she talks about how she is learning the importance of being a kind and fair leader as well as a devoted sister and committed granddaughter.  She has come to also celebrate the warm spirit of the season with all the guests, and together, the song and dance regale the audience in the Christmas joy.

Princess Elena tells her backstory.
Princess Elena's Musical Grand Arrival is a nice, enjoyable shows, complete with some uplifting songs and dance choreography.  While there's nothing spectacular here, the show does contribute to the range of diverse holiday celebrations that the Festival of Holidays puts on display.  It's worth checking out if one is in the area.

More photos from the show, which runs a good 15-20 minutes follow below.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

World of Color: Season of Light

As part of the Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure, World of Color has been transformed into a brand new holiday show called Season of Light.  And unlike the previous two years' Frozen-overladen World of Color: Winter Dreams show or even the disappointing 60th Anniversary World of Color: Celebrate production, this show is a fantastic, wonderfully put together, awe-inspiring spectacle that really does justice to the full capabilities of the show and brings a warm holiday spirit to the hearts of those who watch the show.

Firstly, a disclaimer: There is a bit of Frozen in this show.  But just a bit, and really, there is a lot of all sorts of Disney movies in Season of Light.  The show does a deep dive into the catalog at points, bringing in scenes from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lady and the Tramp, and other less massively popular franchises.  These scenes, however, are not really even the features of the show.  Instead, Season of Light weaves together various Christmas themes and scenes under the soundtrack of multiple classic (and some contemporary) Christmas songs, conveying motifs of family, love, care, and the holiday spirit.  "World of Color" doesn't even appear as a title card anywhere in the show.  It's just the vehicle for a wonderful and splendid winter holiday show.

Here are photos I took last Friday of basically the entire run.  Nearly five dozen pictures worth.  Enjoy!

The show opens with a flourish, immediately diving into seasonal choruses.

The spectacle of fountains and colors is openly on display.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire?  Quite dazzling.

The lighting effects off California Screamin' are incorporated too. 
As are the laser effects and projections onto the Screamin' loop and Mickey's Fun Wheel Mickey outline.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Good Eats at the Festival of Holidays

This year for the holiday season, Disney California Adventure has introduced the Festival of Holidays, an assortment of entertainment and dining experiences celebrating the customs and stylings of the holiday season around the world.

As part of that, the park has created a winter version of this past spring's Food and Wine Festival with an even broader menu of delicious items to tempt the taste buds.  There are 14 total booths for the Festival of Holidays, six more than during Food and Wine, and guests can find scrumptious savories, delectable sweets, wintery brews, wholesome wines, select snacks.  The small portions allow for a sampling of a variety of different dishes inspired by cuisines all around the world.  The only downside is the price--with most items in the $6-$8 range for relatively small sized offerings, one's wallet may not be full at the end of the experience.  But the food is pretty delicious, and it's well worth trying a couple of items on a visit.  Here are a few items that I checked out last weekend.

At the Heritage Cottage booth, the Braise Beef Short Rib with Smashed Potatoes and Sauerbraten Sauce ($8.75) provided probably my favorite dish of the afternoon.  The short rib was tender and flavorful, and the rich sauce was an appropriate amount of savory.  The couscous added a nice bit of texture to a dish that is worth the price.
The the Mistletoe Morsels booth, the Holiday Swedish Meatballs with Creamy Brown Gravy and Lingonberry Sauce ($7.00) amounted to the traditional Swedish meatballs offering.  The dish was quite tasty, with the tart lingonberry providing a nice balance.  It would have been nice to have a couple more meatballs in the serving, though.  I kept thinking of the value for taste of IKEA's Swedish meatballs in comparison.
The Chicken and Potato Curry with Kefir Cream and Grilled Naan ($6.50), at the Spice Salutations booth, offered one of the best "filling to cost" ratios.  The curry was rich with a bit of sweetness.  My serving could have used slightly more cooked potatoes, but the chicken was tender and balanced lightly with the Kefir cream.  The grilled naan bread complemented this carb-rich and hearty meal nicely.
The next three items all came from the Good Fortune's Feast booth.  This was the Adobo Pork Bao with Shaved Red Onion & Crispy Garlic Chicaron ($8.00).  It was similar to the bao dish from Food and Wine, with almost smokey adobo pork balanced with the sour pickled onions.  The garlic chicharon provided a nice crunch, but $8 seems pretty steep for a single steamed bun item, even by Disney standards.
Also rather shocking in price was the Smoked Duck and Vegetable Spring Roll with Cabbage and Sweet Plum Sauce ($8.75).  The roll itself was great--a great mix of meat and veggies with a sweet and sour finish from the plum sauce, but in my book (especially being Asian), there is absolutely no way to ever justify $9 for a single spring roll.  For that cost, you can get half a dozen at any authentic restaurant, and even at Disney prices, I would have expected two or three rolls to be included.
Finally, the trio of items from Good Fortune's Feast rounded out with the Chilled Papaya Shrimp Salad with Chili Garlic Vinaigrette and Crispy Noodles ($7.50).  I though the papaya salad would make for a lighter dish compared to the heavier stuff everywhere else, but the vinaigrette ended up being rather overwhelming and the consistency more like sweet chili sauce.  Don't get me wrong, I love sweet chili sauce--just not on salad.  This was probably the most disappointing dish I tried.
Finally, over at the Abuelita's Kitchen Booth, I had the Chicken Cilantro Tamale with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde ($7.50), which actually turned out pretty good!  Once I got into the mix of all ingredients, the flavor profile provided a nice mix of the soft, starchy corn dough, crisp and refreshing salsa verde, and a bit of heat with the chili verde sauce.  Although, again, $7.50 is pretty steep for a single tamale, at least it was tasty.

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