A return visit to Disneyland is meaningful on a couple of levels. I've been made the pilgrimage dozens of times since first going as a child and returning causes a wealth of emotions to reemerge. This past was a chance to marvel at a company that has mastered brand marketing.
The consistency of the interactions, the attention to every detail and the ability to deliver happiness as a commodity are truly enviable.
While some publications rate colleges or restaurants, I've maintained a personal top ten list of Disney Rides. The criteria for the perfect ride is as follows:
A bit of magic
A bit of humor
An interesting line experience
The only recent change to this criteria over the years is that now a ride can't make me feel sick either! For over 20 years the top slot has been solidly held by Indiana Jones. I often ask people what they think the best ride is and if they didn't say Indian Jones, I would question their mental faculties. But all that has changed. Here's my new top 10.
Radiator Springs Racers
Soarin’ Around the World
Toy Story Midway Mania
Buzz Light Year
Pirates of the Caribbean
Mr Toad’s Wild Ride
Enchanted Tiki Room
The formula for Disney's success is not just the best rides in the world, but the entertainment, the characters and the food are all an important part of the experience.
No one does a better firework show. No one does a better parade.
The fireworks are part of a story that includes live action, music, naration and thematic projections on buildings from one end of main street to the other.
Fireworks and LED lighting on the Castle up close and the big bang of fireworks high above.
The ability to prevent human gridlock and give everyone access to the show is a well choreographed dance by the employees.
Here's a list of thoughts from this reporter's notebook:
Disneyland is known for huge crowds but with a handful of “apps” we were able to see in real time the length of different lines. “Hurry the Toy Story line is down from 45 minutes to 25 minutes…let’s move!” The bad news is that we covered lots more ground repeatedly traversing the park on both days.
By staying at the Disneyland Hotel we were allowed to enter the park an hour earlier (at 7am). They advised that to clear security and get to the park we arrive no later than 6:45. That meant a 6AM alarm both days. The good news was that we had covered about 12 rides by 10AM and our longest wait the entire weekend was just under 40 minutes but we walked on more than we waited.
As we age our love of rides evolve. Gone are the days when I will do rides that go around in circles. The feeling of vertigo doesn’t seem to shake off like it did in the old days. Eve has her own set of do’s and don’t. At the top of the “don’t list” are rides that free fall for 100’s of feet. And yet somehow Kevin never had to suffer without a companion in Scott’s absence.
The chocolate covered frozen banana is maybe the world’s most perfect snack.
The Bobsled ride should always be ridden at night.
We were the only ones on It’s a Small World as we rode it at about 8am on a Saturday. I tried out “live streaming” for part of the ride to the delight of very few. But then when I realized that we had the place to ourselves I belted at full Greg volume my version of It’s a Small World from the seat behind Kevin and Eve. They turned horrified at that horrible noise and the wave of embarrassment that would quickly hit, but when they realized that we had the ride to ourselves everybody joined in for the sing along.
Rides that involve scoring points are a Disney creation and are perfect for the overly competitive Harris Family. Two rides in particular one that involves lasers and a second that involves small toy cannons both with Toy Story themes were the only rides we doubled up on. Interestingly Kevin crushed all opponents on the Buzz Light Year (laser beam) ride while coming in third place twice on the Toy Story (toy cannons).
I can't answer the question about why I get excited to see someone dressed up in a character costume. But I did. And I do!
I miss the America Sings ride.
I wondered once if it would be possible to hide a coin somewhere in Disneyland and then return to find it later. I finally acted on this wonder and have placed a coin somewhere in Disneyland. To anyone who visits next ask me how to retrieve that coin to complete my test.
As we walked around we saw more SF Giants gear on park goers than either Angels or Dodgers gear. Sadly they decided to stop winning during our visit.
We took a class in California Adventure’s Animation studio and learned how to draw the star of Steamboat Willy. The class was taught by a real Disney artist and we all had professional drawing tablets as we followed our instructor. Because the “ride design” seems to encompass all possible outcomes, we were not provided with erasers. Clearly that would have slowed down the room and we simply kept drawing mistakes and all. I enjoyed this “ride” a little too much.
It seems like every “theater” experience we sat through included wind and moisture being hurled at the audience.
What used to be Soarin’ Over California is now Soarin’ Around the World. And it's just as awesome.
We came home at midnight and were stunned by how many people were just "hanging" out with their nose in their phone. Not just young people. There were hundreds of people! Upon closer inspection we realized that they were all playing Pokemon Go which had only been released days earlier.
When we discussed going to Disneyland I voted “no.” Not only did I lose the vote but I wasn’t even told about the trip until 48 hours before we departed. I don’t do spontaneous well or even “at all.” So it took enormous restraint for me to appear to be in a Disney mood throughout the journey. While this was very hard for me the one upside is that Eve and Kevin colluded to prevent me from seeing the price of anything related to the trip. It’s amazing how much more fun a trip like this can be when one is oblivious to the cost.
Certainly Disneyland is the happiest place on earth.
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July 16, 2016
© Greg Harris, 2016
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