Sunday, January 31, 2016

Flo's Rainy Cafe

Flo's V8 Cafe is already so naturally photogenic and easily spectacular.  It doesn't really need any help on that end.  But catch it at night, after a rain storm, and the glamour increases tenfold.  The neon reflects off the wet pavement with a lovely glow, and the ever-vibrant colors feel even more amplified by the glistening ambiance.  It's so serenely magnificent, isn't it?

Flo's V8 Cafe glistens after a spring rainstorm.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Turn Around Tom Sawyer Island

By now, you have probably heard about the year-long closures that will be impacting the west side of Disneyland Park as part of the infrastructure and land-moving work required for the construction of "Star Wars" land.  The Disneyland Railroad will be closed to allow for re-tracking to occur around the back corner between Critter Country and Fantasyland, while the Rivers of America will be drained and reshaped to accommodate the large footprint of the new expansion.  This also means the Mark Twain, S.S. Columbia, and Tom Sawyer Island need to be shut down, plus the suspension of the ever-popular FANTASMIC! show until next year.

All of this is a lot swallow, and while these aren't high capacity attractions, they are still beloved.  Most painful will be the loss of FANTASMIC!--still my favorite Disney show of all time, for over a year.  But I believe "Star Wars" land will be worth it, and I can't wait for everything to reopen.  In the mean time, here's a look at Tom Sawyer Island at the very end of last year, shortly before its closure.

An almost head-on view of Tom Sawyer Island.

Rounding the front edge of the island on the way toward the back of the Rivers of America.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Horrific End of Harrison Hightower

At Tokyo Disney Sea, the Tower of Terror is not themed after the Twilight Zone.  No, Japanese audiences aren't as familiar with that series, so their Tower features an original story featuring one Harrison Hightower, member of the Society of Explorers & Adventurers (S.E.A.), a group that comprises a hidden storyline that runs throughout the park and has even spread to Hong Kong Disneyland (but more on that another time).

Harrison Hightower III was a greedy and ruthless "collector" of priceless artifacts from around the world.  And by "collector," he pretty much exploited and stole his way to these treasures.  Scoffing of local traditions and cultures, he used his wealth and power to take whatever he wanted, which ultimately led to his doom when he plundered the cursed idol Shiriki Utundu.  This story is relayed in the Tower of Terror pre-show at Tokyo Disney Sea...

Guests entering Harrison Hightower's study will encounter a stained glass window featuring the late Hightower's portrait, various articles and furnishings, and the statue of Shiriki Utundu himself.

After guests file in, the lights dim, and the window comes to life--with Hightower relaying his tale. (There are two pre-show rooms, which are mirrored, which is why some of these photos will feature Shiriki on opposite sides.)

Returning to New York after securing his latest prize, Hightower threw a grand party to show off Shiriki Utundu.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Tokyo Tower of Terror

The Tower of Terror calls itself home in four different Disney parks around the world.  Disney Hollywood Studios has the original, or "good Tower," as my friends and I like to call it.  Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios in France have what are essentially clones of each other (except for the building's structural system).  And in Tokyo Disney Sea, there is "Shiriki Tower," which might be the most mystifying and visually spectacular of them all.

The Tower of Terror at Tokyo Disney Sea shares the same skeleton and guts as its Anaheim and Paris counterparts, but the exterior is completely different, taking on a sort of Gothic Revival style that better suits its American Waterfront setting (particularly the New York-ish section).  The detail here is absolutely stunning, and pictures really can't do it justice.  There's a richness that grows more and more impressive the closer you zoom in, and that's already after starting from a rather spectacular overview!

I'll be posting plenty more photos from Tokyo's Tower of Terror in the future to prove my point, but here's an overview to whet your appetite.

A beautiful day by the Hightower Hotel belies a sinister force inside.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In the Streets of Agrabah

As I briefly touched upon in my first post about the Arabian Coast at Tokyo Disney Sea, there is a section of the area that really strikes me as something out of Disney's Aladdin.  The tight-knit streets and exotic architecture curving around each corner really reminds me of Agrabah, specifically the bustling city portion in which Aladdin originally called his home.  At night, the scene is a stark contrast to the bustling daytime pedestrian traffic, but the colors and ambiance make the scene even more evocative of the classic movie.  This is one of seemingly infinite ways Tokyo Disney Sea brings incredible fantasy into real life.

A portion of the Arabian Coast that is very reminiscent of a scene from Disney's Aladdin.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Panorama Along the Harbor

Mediterranean Harbor is as breath-taking of an entry land as I've seen at any theme park I've visited.  This stunning re-imagination of Portofino and Venice is ornate, grand, and romantically magnificent, and a large part of that has to due with its sweeping waterfront perimeter, which provides countless photo opportunities and beautiful angles from which to view the rest of the park.  The whole area is so vibrant and spectacular, it's hard to avoid being paralyzed with amazement (which happened to me often).  Here's a sweeping overview of the area, just to give an idea of what I mean.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sunset and Silhouettes at the Pier

It's back to back Paradise Pier posts, but this time, I wanted to feature a detail that hones in more on photographic texture and play of light.  A few weeks ago, I found myself upon Paradise Bay as the sun was setting. Though there weren't any clouds to allow for a dramatic sunset, the low golden light still made for a lovely ambiance, and I decided that it would be interesting to zoom in on a silhouette-ish shot through steel and supports and structure to give a photo that conveyed a nostalgic emotion of the setting day.  Unlike my normal wide open shots, this was a nice break that allowed me to concentrate a little more on the specific composition and nature of my shot.

Sunset through the latticework of Mickey's Fun Wheel and California Screamin'.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jumpin' Above Paradise Bay

In the never ending pursuit for unique perspectives around the Disneyland Resort, I'll sometimes go on rides I rarely visit in an attempt to get a different point of view.  This photo, taken on New Year's Day (or evening), was the result of a friend wanting to ride the Jumpin' Jellyfish to take acceleration data (for fun; she's a physicist and a Disney nerd), which made me realize I could get a shot I had never taken before.  Though the moving nature of the ride meant that I needed to use a high ISO and relatively fast shutter speed, I think it turned out okay.  At least it's a little unique!

A view of Mickey's Fun Wheel and Silly Symphony Swings from the top of Jumpin' Jellyfish.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Farewell to Big Thunder Ranch

A couple of weeks ago, Big Thunder Ranch closed its doors for the last time to make way for the new Star Wars themed land coming to the Happiest Place on Earth at some future date to be determined.  Though it may not have been a leading attraction for most guests, the Ranch was a great place to have some surprisingly delicious barbecue, pet some adorable goats, and spend a relaxing time away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the park.

To remember the retirement of this area, here's a photographic tour of Big Thunder Ranch.  "Star Wars" land will be amazing, but I'll miss this little hidden gem in the back corner of the park.

Big Thunder Ranch near the end of its operating day in the afternoon.

Christmas decorations were still up in the Ranch's final days.  Here is a little stage used for entertainment for diners having lunch or dinner at the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ buffet.

Taking a look around.

Holiday decorations abounded.

The view from the entrance.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel

The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel holds a special place in my heart, because once upon a time, I actually worked on the design of the hotel.  Now, back then, I was a simple architectural intern, and my tasks were pretty limited.  Nonetheless, during my time at world-renowned hospitality firm WATG, I had the good fortune to be a part of the architectural team working on the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel during design development, helping gather images, work on presentation boards, and even detail a couple of small decorative elements!

It may not be widely known that Disney sometimes outsources their resort work to other firms.  WATG has been a partner with Walt Disney Imagineering for a very long time, starting with its design of the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World.  Since then, the firm has also created the Disneyland Paris Hotel and provided conceptual support on the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.  The common theme among all of these places?  They are of a Victorian style, and the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is the biggest and grandest of them all.  Standing 9 stories tall, it overlooks the entrance of Tokyo Disneyland.

The resulting hotel is every bit as beautiful as imagined on computer and paper, and when I visited Tokyo Disney a couple of months ago, I just had to pay a visit to the hotel to see the reality of a project I worked on a long time ago!

The park-side entrance to the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel at night.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Hong Kong Disneyland MTR

I referenced the Hong Kong Disneyland MTR yesterday.  Well, here's a look at the grand station that makes up this terminus stop and gateway to the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort! As you can see, it's a beautiful structure, soaring and sleek, with arching steel trusses, beautiful greenery, and wide spaces.  At night, it's a quiet contrast to the hustle and bustle of guests coming and going during the busy hours of the day.  But then again, I love my architectural shots to be empty.  The less people, the better. Let the space speak for itself!

Descending the escalator down to the train platform.

Lovely steel trussed arches.

Looking back at the escalator.

Waiting for the train to arrive!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Approach to Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland is located on a corner of Lantau Island, away from the bustling city.  As such, the primary means of reaching the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is by train, taking Hong Kong's efficient, clean, and easy-to-use MTR light rail and subway system.  Once disembarking from the Hong Kong Disneyland stop, guests take a procession through a couple of wide pedestrian avenues before they come to the main promenade in front of the entrance of the park.  Here's a look at what that's like.

Here we are, at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort!

Behind us is the Hong Kong Disneyland MTR station, quite modern looking!

Walk up the wide pedestrian boulevard, and one reaches a fun fountain with a surfing Mickey!

Turn right, and guests are upon the entrance gates of the park!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Entering Tomorrow's Tomorrowland

The title of today's post requires a reference from the Pacific time zone.  Folks in Southern California are typically a day behind people in the far east during the typical waking day of a Californian.  So to someone in Anaheim, Hong Kong is literally in the future by an actual day!

Well, the thought sounded more interesting in my head, anyway. 

Hong Kong Disneyland's Tomorrowland sign evokes a bit of Mission Space's signage at EPCOT.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Hong Kong's Castle

The similarities between Hong Kong Disneyland and California's are numerous, but the most recognizable lies in the castle.  Both parks have a small sized Sleeping Beauty Castle that look pretty much identical.  The only difference lies in the details--at Hong Kong, everything is straighter, more crisp, more aligned, and more precise.  But the design is the same, and save some tweaks in the look of the bridge approach (and the hills in the background), one might not realize that they're different castles at a quick glance.  Take a look at this front shot and tell me what you think!

Hong Kong Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle is just like the original--only more perfect.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Toy Story Land

It doesn't really affect Disney guests who stick to one park or resort, but those who have traveled around the world to various Disney properties may realize something--there seems to be a love affair with Toy Story themed lands.  Over in Walt Disney Studios in Paris, there is Toy Story Playland.  Disney Hollywood Studios will soon be getting a Toy Story area of their own (though more developed than what's at Euro Disney).  And at Hong Kong Disneyland, there is a Toy Story Land that's basically a clone of what's in France.

Here's a look at what you can find in Hong Kong's.

Entering Toy Story Land.

RC Racer is an linear synchronous motor launched halfpipe shuttle roller coaster.

Slinky Dog Spin gives younger adventurers thrills.

Everything is scaled for toys.

There is a Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop here, just like in Paris, too!

The other entrance of Toy Story Land.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Down by the Gulch at Night

Grizzly Gulch is one of three new theme lands that opened in Hong Kong a few years ago, along with Mystic Point and Toy Story Land.  It's the park's equivalent of Frontierland, since Hong Kong Disneyland never actually opened with one, and it's also home to one of the most advanced rides Disney has ever created in the form of Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, a runaway mine train roller coaster that goes forwards, backwards, up lift hills, and even has a lift. 

At night, Grizzly Gulch takes on a hybrid appearance that feels a little like the child of Cars Land and Grizzly Peak at Disney California Adventure.  The impressive rockwork (complete with bear profile) is light in romantic cool tones, which pervade a sense of serenity.  It gives me intrigue at how various lands across the Disney parks around the world develop their own personalities that are familiar yet unique.  Pretty interesting, right?

The nighttime colors of Grizzly Gulch are wonderful hues of blues and purples.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Along the Jungle River Cruise

Hong Kong Disneyland is an interesting park, similar to the original Disneyland in many ways, but differing in some peculiar details.  Perhaps the most significant "same but totally not" element is the Jungle River Cruise, a combination of the traditional slapstick Jungle Cruise and the Rivers of America.  It is a boat tour through the wilderness, and it is intended to be corny.  Told in three languages--English, Cantonese, and Mandarin, the Jungle River Cruise isn't as openly absurd as the regular Jungle Cruise, as the skippers make an effort to preserve an illusion of actual adventure, but it's also not entirely serious either.  I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, to be honest, but it is rather pretty along the river!

Walking along Adventureland in Hong Kong, and its main attraction, the Jungle River Cruise.

A view of the loading dock.

The wide waters of the River Cruise, with Tarzan's Treehouse on the island.

A boat ventures off to the wilderness.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Inside Star Wars Launch Bay

A couple of months ago, Innoventions reopened as the rebranded Tomorrowland Expo Center.  In addition to the old Marvel additions that have happened the past few years, this complex now included Disney's latest acquisition--the exciting world of Star Wars.  The Star Wars Launch Bay is a great museum of exhibits, costumes, props, and models, plus a couple of meet-and-greets.  So lets take a look at what will surely be sticking around the Happiest Place on Earth for a while!

Outside the Launch Bay.

Looking back toward the Observatron, in its nighttime beam-y glory.

Ah yes, those famous opening lines..

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Exploring the Arabian Coast

We finish up our Tokyo Disney run (for now) with a venture to the one port of call from which I have not yet posted a photo, Arabian Coast.  It may seem counter-intuitive to place a desert themed area in a park that's ultimately aquatic themed, but if you say that it happens to be set next to a sea, or is perhaps some bizarre (bazaar?) desert oasis, then the theme could work.  Besides, Arabian Coast is a beautiful exotic network of shops, stands, passageways, courtyards, and coastline that is a joy to explore.  It's kind of like the "Adventureland" of the park (in concert with Lost River Delta, I suppose).  A faraway place full of excitement.  And if the waterfront doesn't strike your fancy, the stroll through an Arabian town straight of out Aladdin--you'll feel like you've taken a magic carpet ride straight into Agrabah.

Yes, the Arabian Coast is absolutely lovely.  Then again, this statement redundantly applies to pretty much everything at Tokyo Disney Sea!

A sailing ship floats moored in a lagoon on Arabian Coast, with Mount Prometheus in the background.

There are streets and alleyways to be explored in Agrabah!

The architecture is quite charming.

And there are lush, verdant areas too!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Approaching Space Mountain

From the seaport of tomorrow to the spaceport of tomorrow, today, we continue our Tokyo Disney spree with a look at their Tomorrowland--or specifically, their Space Mountain show building at dusk.

Ride-wise, Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland is identical to that of Walt Disney's Original Magic Kingdom (as well as Hong Kong Disneyland's), but from a show building perspective, the approach and angles is more unique, since it serves as the prominent icon of the land.  Set back at the end of the long boulevard leading into Tomorrowland, Space Mountain is a majestic and lovely site.  Combined with a fantastic lighting package at night, and the attraction makes for a dazzling sight!

Looking at Space Mountain across the park from the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse in Adventureland.

Entering the main thoroughfare in Tomorrowland, with Space Mountain looming.

Finally, coming upon the iconic E-Ticket itself!

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