Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Flying Carpets to a Storybook Voyage

I love nighttime at the Arabian Coast for a number of reasons, but photographically, the biggest is the lush lighting that is cast all through this Middle Eastern area.  It's as though the designers took the palette from Aladdin's Agrabah and employed it liberally.  The deep purples and blues create a cool backdrop, while warm tones create a golden and sandy contrast.  It creates for a very evocative atmosphere, and it does not ever get old.

Nighttime at the entrance to Sindbad's Storybook Voyage.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The House of Mystic Hill

The first time I visited Hong Kong Disneyland, I understood that Mystic Manor was an evolution of the Haunted Mansion with a wholly unique aesthetic, but at the time, I may not have fully understood the architectural references.  Mostly, I was fascinated by the onion dome atop the tower to the left of the front entry of the house.  It felt very Orthodox architecture to me... like something out of Russia or somewhere in that area.  Since then, however, I've also had a chance to visit the Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, and now, the similarities really abound.  From a colorfully Victorian aesthetic to sweeping and sprawling forms, Mystic Manor definitely provides a bit of homage.  But as interesting as the exterior looks, Mystic's Manor interior is even better.  It's the total package--my favorite Disney ride in all of the Disney theme parks!

The eccentric home of Lord Henry Mystic.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Tomorrowland in Context

With photo framing, you can hone in on a photo in order to get a nice tight view that can make an area seem more sprawling or massive than it really is.  At Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland there's one main view that is a pretty popular target for photographers and also helps heighten the scale of this land of the future.  Most photos of the show building for TRON Lightcycle Power Run give Tomorrowland a feeling of endless expanse, but in reality, the area is much smaller than imagined.  The shot below shows off most of the attractions, with only a Star Wars Launch bay on the lower level to the left and the Jet Packs spinning rocket attraction behind this angle rounding out the land.  You can actually see that beyond the building itself, there's not much more in terms of spatial forms within Tomorrowland.  But what's present is most certainly impressive, and this angle makes for an incredibly great photo.

Another glowing and colorful scene from Shanghai's Tomorrowland!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Old Mill

The Old Mill is one of Walt Disney's animated short masterpieces--a stirring and incredibly beautiful piece of film making that chart an emotional and visual journey through one stormy and dramatic night.  But to most contemporary fans, this animated short is far less popular than titans of Disney's empire like The Lion King or The Little Mermaid or Tangled or a host of others. 

So seeing a reference to this at Disneyland Paris was a real delight for me.  Though it's just a food stand, its form is special, and I was so pleased to see early Disney maintaining a presence in this French Magic Kingdom.  It's unique details like this that make me enjoy visiting Disney parks around the world so much!

The day slowly shifts to dusk by the Old Mill snack shack in Disneyland Paris' Fantasyland.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Goodnight, Gulch

Nighttime at Grizzly Gulch feels like nighttime at an amalgamation of different other themed lands.  There's the bear-shaped peak that recalls Disney California Adventure's Grizzly Peak, paired with more extensive rockwork reminiscent of Cars Land.  There's charming blue and purple hues that give a Mysterious Island feel, and the mine train roller coaster and western mining town calls to mind Frontierland.  It's all mixed together and honestly better explored in person than captured in one money shot.  But influences definitely seem to be pretty open in this Hong Kong Disneyland wilderness, and it's interesting to see how various Disney elements can come together to form something new!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Jungle Cruising Through the Day

It's always a fun and jokes-filled experience through the Jungle Cruise.  Amidst the overgrown tropical wilderness, where exotic creatures roam, guests must duck poisonous puns and stealthy wordplay to survive a trip through the rainforests and veldts and rivers of the world.  Someone, the skipper always navigates the way through, and it ends up being so exciting that they go back for another round!  And another... and another...

This 500 lb Bengal tiger can leap over 25 feet in the air, so stay 20 feet away from it.
Seeing a herd of bathing Indian elephants is practically unherd of!
A fellow Jungle Cruise boat navigates the treacherous waterways of Adventureland.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Castle Beyond the Mall

I think it's kind of cool that Tokyo Disneyland has its own version of Main Street that's charmingly familiar but also noticeably different--in the form of the elegant and sweeping glass canopy that crests over the middle of the main thoroughfare.  The World Bazaar has a covered canopy to help protect against the winter weather in Japan, which can sometimes receive torrential rain, heavy monsoons, or blanketing snow.  But for the rest of the time when weather is far friendlier, the glass roof structure allows plenty of natural daylight to filter through and provide an atmosphere just like any other Magic Kingdom.  And of course, it makes for a beautiful backdrop in photographs!

Strolling up the World Bazaar.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Pet Cemetery II

The Haunted Mansion has plenty of grim grinning ghosts, but not all of them are the human kind. As guests can see from tombs passed by in the queue, there are plenty of animal spirits who call the mansion home.  From dogs to frogs to pigs to other things, the supernatural pets seem to follow their masters into the afterlife.  I suppose that is what makes them happy haunts.  Who wouldn't want to find one's four-limbed best friend in the great beyond?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A New Settlement on the River

When news first broke that the Rivers of America would be getting shortened to accommodate the new "Star Wars" Land expansion, there was a lot of uproar over the audacity to change an attraction with Walt Disney's literal fingerprints upon it.  Neverminding that the Rivers had actually been touched previously, the general sentiment was that any opening day attraction was sacred.  Plus, what would become of key, beloved sites along the land, such as the burning cabin or the Native American village?

Well, the Rivers of America alteration ended up being significantly less than what was originally rumored, and it's brought upon a lovely new riverfront ambiance to the area.  And it has retained recognizable features--mostly notably the Indian Village located on the far side of the Rivers.  Still present is the Indian Chief giving a sign of peace, though he is joined by two scouts along the river bank below.  The actual village itself has been relocated a bit further down the river.  The shaman who tells the story of how the flute was made now occupies a tall stage of rock well above the water, and just past him, the tribe of Plains Indians has settled in for the next several months.

The result is a respectful and fitting renovation of a classic scene in Disneyland lore.  I think the entire renovation of the Rivers of America has been quite nicely done, and the backdrop will only become more dramatic once Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is complete.  Imagine the legends that will be told once that happens!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sunset at Tiki Time

The Enchanted Tiki Room is a classic at Disneyland Park. Home to the first Disney audio animatronics, it's a lush and charming tribute to all things Pacific Islands, especially the Hawaiian Islands.  Outside, the ambiance is particularly tropical.  Between the deliciousness-dispensing Dole Whip stand across the waiting area and the animatronic figures of famous Hawaiian deities, the waiting area for the show is filled with flourishes to our nation's 50th state and its beautiful nature.  And whenever I'm here, I always feel a strong yearning to go back and visit Hawaii.

I suppose that's the point, isn't it?  Paradise sure is alluring!

Sunset behind the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Another Sunset over the Pier

It's #SunsetSunday, and today, we bring a familiar view.  But really, does this ever get old?  Because this is actually a photo taken several years ago, but frankly, I don't really tire of the scene.  I imagine there are plenty of Paradise Pier fans who would agree.  For it's quite a calm and golden sight to see!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Club's Court

My visit to Club 33 a few months ago was my first daytime trip to the venerable club in years.  So it was nice to be able to see this beautiful courtyard in bright, beaming sunshine, friendly and inviting as always.  Those charming, blue stairs, the leafy plants arranged about and strung over a balcony, the romantic shutters and arches, the dormer up above all come together in a nostalgic composition.  It's still a shame that this courtyard has been transferred to the exclusive access of Club 33 members and guests, but it's nice to see that it remains as lovely as ever. 

The stair in the Court of Angels, now leading up to Club 33.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Beware the Gates of the Crystal Skull

It's always a challenge shooting an Indiana Jones Adventure ride.  The bumpy and jerking motions make still shots practically impossible, which means one needs to have camera that can take dark shots with relatively quick speed and focus in a cinch.  The result, most of the time, seems to be a lot of blur, with an occasional shot in focus.  Well, here is one such occasional lucky shot, where Dr. Indiana Jones tries to hold back the gates of an unknown force.  Turns out temple spirits don't like it when you trudge into their domain.  Who'da thunk?

Indiana Jones tries to prevent supernatural forces from escaping the Temple of the Crystal Skull.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Big Thunder Island II

It's the only Big Thunder Mountain located on its own island, and it is almost universally regarded as the best Big Thunder among all the Disney parks.  Disneyland Paris' runaway mine train roller coaster is most certainly a unique E-Ticket at the pinnacle of its class.  The attraction begins on the mainland side of Frontierland's Thunder Mesa, but it soon dives literally under the Rivers of the Far West to navigate most of its circuit.  Given that Big Thunder Mountain plays a role in the mythology of Thunder Mesa in general, it's appropriate that this attraction should be given a spotlight status.  So across hills and turns and tunnels and helices it goes.  A fantastic ride, Paris' Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is, and a beautiful one too!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad hurtles around the tracks at Disneyland Paris.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Patisserie in China

Mickey Avenue is full of eclectic storefronts and a menagerie of sourced themes, combined together into a sort of melding of Main Street, U.S.A. and Mickey's Toontown.  That can make for some interesting combinations, like Remy's Patisserie, located at the corner of this entry land, facing the Gardens of Imagination.  It's a lovely little facade with an amorphously styled facade, named after something French, but located in China, placed across the street from an icon that hails from Southern California.  This speaks to the intent of removing any traditional Smalltown, America reference as an act of cultural and political sensitivity while maintaining the feel of a charming neighborhood.  The result may not be thematic consistency, but it's definitely visually intriguing!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Grand Canyon Diorama

Yesterday, we took a tour through Primeval World as part of our look at the reopened Disneyland Railroad.  Today, we jump one segment earlier, to the Grand Canyon Diorama.  Like Primeval World, this part of the Disneyland Railroad was not original to the attraction, but it has been around for a long time--even longer than Primeval World by eight years, in fact.  Debuting in 1958, it shows a long, beautifully painted, rolling panorama of the Grand Canyon in the background, while model wildlife, vegetation, and historic structures pass by in the foreground. 

It's a beautiful scene, and this reopening has brought subtle and tasteful enhancements with video projection mapping in the background to bring a bit of life to the scenes.  Birds fly through the sky, lightning flashes in the background, and a double rainbow appears as skies clear.  The effects are integrated in such a way that most guests probably won't even realize they're new.  It's a prime example of refreshing the old with technology of the new while respecting the legacy of what has come before.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Return to Primeval World

With the return of the Disneyland Railroad has come the reopening of Primeval World, that dramatic, life-like diorama of life back in the age of the dinosaurs.  Primeval World has become synonymous with the Disneyland Railroad, but it wasn't always with this attraction.  In fact, it wasn't added until 1966, incorporating animatronics and figures from the 1964 New York World's Fair.  But since then, it has provided an exciting leg of the Disneyland Railroad between Tomorrowland and Main Street stations, and it's great to have it back!

Brachiosaurs bathe and munch on plants in Primeval World.
Pteradons perch around a rock, keeping eyes around.
Two triceratops watch over their newly hatched children.
The scene turns more dire, as drought sweeps across the land, rendering water scarce.
A Stegosaurus confronts a Tyrannosaurus Rex next to an erupting volcano in Primeval World's climax.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Golden Grizzly Hour

I've posted many pictures before of Grizzly Peak during golden hour--that hour or hour and a half before sunset when the sun angle is low and the lighting is warm and lusciously golden.  But I can't help it.  Grizzly Peak is literally radiant during this time of day.  It is when the naturalistic setting is at its most magical, and the ambiance most reminds me of real, verdant, wilderness.  And even though details like a full on rapids ride don't exactly support the motif of representing nature, the spirit of the setting is there, and it never gets old!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

In the Hall of the Pumpkin King

The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland are nearly identical versions of each other--except during the Halloween through Christmas season, when Tokyo's version transforms in the Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare, a Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired jaunt through Jack Skellington's holiday crossover imagination.  The interior is laden with beautiful overlays of the classic Tim Burton film, but the outside has its spooky charm too!  This "pumpkin tree" outside the queue is a lovely example.  It's positively adorable, and a lovely photographic subject with the Haunted Mansion building looming in the background!  And alright, this photo isn't actually "in" any hall, but I couldn't resist a punny reference.

Halloween takes over the Haunted Mansion at Tokyo Disneyland.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Midnight at Toyville Trolley Park

The American Waterfront section of Tokyo Disney Sea is quite an extensive and diverse land.  Generically themed to the seaports of the United States, it weaves together ambiance from New York, New England, and San Francisco into one charmingly spectacular land with a bundle of attractions.  One of the more recent additions (relatively speaking) is Toyville Trolley Park, an expansion next to the Tower of Terror that houses Tokyo's Toy Story Midway Mania.  By day, this section of the park is exceedingly busy, with waits often exceeding four hours for a video-based shooting attraction identical to versions in Anaheim and Florida! But by night, after the park is closed, it's a scene of tranquility, reflecting the grandeur and romance of the classic Victorian seaside amusement piers that thrived in the golden age of the early 1900s.  If you've ever wondered what places like Coney Island and Luna Park were in their heyday, Toyville Trolley Park imparts a nice idea. 

Mark it up as reason #5,291 that Tokyo Disney Sea is the Sea of Dreams!

Toy Story Mania is the pinnacle of Tokyo Disney Sea's Toyville Trolley Park, in the American Waterfront section of the park.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Enchantment Reflected

The Shanghai Disneyland Enchanted Storybook Castle seems best viewed from an angle, when the boxiness of its massing is less prominent.  Around the park, there are plenty of places to glean such angles, a majority of them from around the Gardens of Imagination, where the ponds and little waterways also provide an added bonus of some nice reflections in which to capture double the castle.  And unlike a certain local castle, the lighting and ambiance all around the park focal point is pretty even, such that I don't always actually need multiple exposures to capture a relatively thorough dynamic range.  What a pleasant surprise for post processing!

The Enchanted Storybook Castle, reflected at night.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Open Skies on the Cadillac Range

Cars Land as a whole is pretty darn spectacular, but there are parts that feel particularly enveloping and even more thoroughly immersive.  The exit out of Radiator Springs Racers is one of them.  Here, guests stroll along beautiful red rocks and desert cacti set against the backdrop of the Cadillac Range, a peculiarly automotive-looking set of peaks.  On a beautiful, lightly cloudy blue sky day, this scene could almost be mistaken for the rugged Old West, perhaps somewhere in the canyon lands of Utah, out in the open sprawl of magnificent nature.  Of course, details like the handrails give the scene away, but if you focus on the naturalistic parts, it honestly does lend a pretty convincing air of authenticity!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Voyage to the Crystal Grotto

When it was initially announced as the first Disney ride that would take guests inside a Disney castle, the attraction that would eventually be known as the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto was met with a lot of excitement and anticipation.  Given Shanghai Disneyland's lofty goals and expectations, this had the potential to be a charming and entrancing classic.

Unfortunately, real life doesn't always shape out to expectations.  Creative and logistical struggles with how to exactly bring this ride's concept to reality resulted in a much more ordinary attraction that is simply nice, but nowhere near incredible.  At the end of the day, that's fine--provided one's expectations are tempered.

Instead of cutting edge technology, the ride is mostly a cruise through various static Disney scenes.  It's almost like the inverse of the Storybook Canal Boats, wherein a narrator talks about the various Disney backdrops, but with full size scenes instead of miniature architecture.  The ride culminates in the actual Crystal Grotto, where projection mapping shows a chamber of jewels and riches--but not much more than that. 

I ended up taking one ride on this attraction during my time at Shanghai Disneyland, because other attractions became greater priorities.  The high guardrails in the boat and inward-facing seating arrangement makes this ride a little more challenging to shoot, simply because of people in the way and the position of one's body when shooting outward.  Nevertheless, here are some snapshots of what people can see on this Fantasyland ride.

Aladdin finds a magic lamp and frees Genie.
This results in endless riches.
Abu is certainly pleased.

Monday, July 31, 2017

French Market Canopies

The French Market is my favorite quick serve restaurant in Disneyland for many reasons.  The food is consistently delicious, there's live music at intervals, and the ambiance is wonderful.  The New Orleans Square vibe really creates a romantic environment, and one of things that I've always found interesting were the fabric canopies draped across the outdoor dining area.  They offer some nice shade on sunny days and also carve a sense of space in what would otherwise be a more nondescript outdoor area.  Sure, they do collect leaves, but the architectural effect they add is an overall net plus.  My only wish is that they'd string lights underneath to provide some illumination at night!  Ah well, perhaps in a future improvement.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Discoveryland Lagoon at Night

If you haven't been able to tell through most of the lifetime of this blog, I love Disneyland Paris' Discoveryland.  This different play on the traditional Tomorrowland is vibrant, actually futuristic, and absolutely spectacular.  Whether by day or by night, it always features gorgeous views.  But at night, it really seems to carry an electric energy that's reminisicent of the optimism and movement of the future.  I love shooting from here, because it feels like anything photographed will look great.  Just editing a photo like this makes me want to go back!

Nighttime is beautiful in Discoveryland.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fantasy Faire Rainfall

It feels like a long time ago now that summer has provided those typical warm temperatures and bright, sunny Southern California days, but this past winter was one of the wettest in recent history, which provided several opportunities for me to actually get those rare rainy evening photos that I previously had never seemed to get.  On one particular evening in February, conditions were especially ripe, after a steady drizzle near park closing slickened the ground with a nice reflective layer of rain, then stopped just in time to allow park close-out photography without having to fight those drops of moisture.  The result?  Pretty, romantic scenes like the on below, from Fantasy Faire!

A drizzly evening at the Fantasy Faire.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Avenue M for Midnight

Earlier this month, I posted a daytime photo from a familiar site in Shanghai that wasn't quite what it appeared to be.  Well, here's a nighttime shot from the corner of Mickey Avenue, with the Carthay Circle Restaurant-esque tower anchoring Shanghai Disneyland's entry land and marking the location of the Avenue M Arcade shops.  It's one part of an eclectic style of facades along Mickey Avenue and probably one of the more elegant styles.  At night, it looks even more regal.

The beacon of Mickey Avenue lights up at night.

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