Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Happiest Place on Earth

Our tour of public transportation in the state of California continued when in the evening we hopped back on the subway and got a GO-train-like commuter train to the Anaheim area. From there it was a short cab ride to – cue fanfare – Disneyland! Of course, it was the evening just before closing so we were not there to go into the park, but to get our tickets in anticipation of the next morning. By this point we felt as if our feet were about to fall off! We did a lot of walking that day, and we figured out we’d taken eight different forms of transportation!

We bought our tickets – two days’ worth of Disney for David, one for me. After that, we wandered over to our hotel, a short walk away. David had picked a great spot at a nice, clean Howard Johnson – sparing us the exorbitant Disney prices but still walkable to the park! We crashed in bed, David dreaming of all the magic to come in the morning... (ha ha)

For those who don’t know David that well, with him Disney is serious business. He loves it and knows how to plan a day there. His appreciation of Disney is not really about the movies and characters, but about the carefully planned and designed space with all things carefully fitted into an overall aesthetic plan. He’s read a lot about the parks in books and following online blogs, so he knows what rides fill up fast and how to cover a lot of ground in a day at the park.

True to this, we arrived at the gates about forty minutes before the park opened. We ended up at the front of the crowd waiting for the rope to be dropped at the end of Main Street. We enjoyed taking in the general Disney-ness of it all as we waited. Main Street is very pretty and quaint (per design) and there are even real gaslights lining the sidewalk.
In case there is any doubt that we truly were THE first in line that day!

Once they dropped the rope we hurried off to the Indiana Jones ride. It’s one of the most popular rides, and a great example of the all-pervasive design of Disney. Anticipating long wait times, the makers of the ride fashioned an entire themed passageway leading up to the cars that makes you feel like you are walking through the movie. It’s like the caves at the very beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, complete with eerie Polynesian looking masks, crumbling stone walls, pinholes in the walls where darts may shoot out at any second, and caches of 1930’s-looking safari supplies. It is awesome. However, we took it in at a gallop as there was almost no line at the time. The ride is a series of Jeeps that are also motion simulators on a track, so it is part roller coaster but more rumbly thrill ride. There are many awesome effects, such as air jets that make you feel like the wall darts are firing at you, creepy projections looking like thousands of bugs crawling on the wall, a bridge that shakes and threatens to collapse, and – of course – a near miss with a giant boulder. All this to the sound of the rousing Indy music. Awesome.

After that, we made short work of Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railway (twice), Roger Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and the Jungle Cruise. Then, we buckled our swash at Pirates of the Caribbean. Since the movie franchise hit, they have added an animatronic Johnny Depp character into the ride, complete with characteristic swagger. Also awesome.

Big Thunder Mountain Railway.

It's a Small World. It was closed for maintenance, unfortch. Note the themed construction boards.

In line for the Alice ride.

Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, where you can spin the car around crazily as it moves through the ride. I went easy on David.

On Big Thunder Mountain - still have drops of water on us from Splash Mountain.

We took a break from adventuring to have some lunch, and in the afternoon explored Toon Town. It’s adorable! It’s amazing how they’re able to build solid structures that look cartoonlike. It’s a zany place with random fanfares and sounds popping up all over. We wandered through Mickey’s house (I played his piano) and sat in front of the town fountain. They have a Toontown sign that looks like the Hollywood sign. Pretty funny to see – we went from Tinseltown to Toontown in less than 24 hours!

Mickey maintains a properties storeroom at his house. See the broom from The Sorcerer's Apprentice?

Fill 'er up.
I need to call Mickey and get his landscaper's number.

Wandering around some more, we passed an animal pen with a single turkey in it. This turned out to be the turkey who was “pardoned” by the president in an old American tradition at Thanksgiving. There is a very funny episode of the West Wing in which Martin Sheen delegates the choosing of the turkey to Alison Janney, who then can’t deal with choosing one turkey over the other and makes him pardon both. Ha ha. Anyways, this turkey has been spared being roasted with potatoes and eaten with cranberry sauce, and is therefore considered the happiest turkey on earth... and is now living in the Happiest Place on Earth. Get it? He looked pretty satisfied... though we asked him what it was like meeting President Bush and he definitely gave us an unimpressed look.

Not too impressed with Dubya. The next turkey will be pardoned by Obama!!

We recharged a bit in the afternoon and returned in the evening to catch a few rides that had had very long waits in the busy afternoon. (However, in general this was a great, low time of year to be there. It was also neat to see the Christmas decorations still up here and there; note that one panel of "snow" has already been taken down from the roof of the castle in my first photo.) We waited a while for the very popular Finding Nemo ride, which is a really cool one in a submarine that uses ingenious projections to bring the characters to life under water. After that, we sprinted over to the Indy ride five minutes before closing to catch one more ride – we made it! A great end to a fun day.

The next day, David went back to the park and also went over to Disney’s California Adventure, the (as David says) more boring park across from Disneyland. He also spent a good part of the day taking pictures. David is in charge of the artsy shots on our trip, while I take care of the more touristy “take my picture with Mickey!” pics. Not that we did get a picture with Mickey – you had to line up and it felt a little too pilgrimage-y to the both of us. I spent the morning shopping around “Downtown Disney,” which is Disney’s attempt to sanitize a downtown shopping experience. It actually is a very nice place, and I ended up getting a new school bag at Fossil – weee!

I spent the rest of the day relaxing in our nice hotel room and David Disneyed ‘til he dropped. All in all, a great couple of days.

As we left the park at night on the first day, the buildings were all lit up with beautiful Christmas lights. Main Street especially looked very festive. As all the patrons filed out of the entrance, the engineer of the real steam locomotive that runs on an elevated track stopped the train right over the entrance. He made the engine whistle and waved to us with a big smile as we departed. Not gonna lie - it was magical.

Next stop, San Francisco!

(P.S. – consider that, all this time, we have been in a state in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is Governor. Just putting it out there.)

Me and my Disney fan!

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