A great destination and thorough preparation are what make a wonderful vacation, and The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland makes Disneyland one of the most accessible theme parks in the world. With advice that is direct, prescriptive, and detailed, it takes the guesswork out of the reader's vacation. Whether you are at Disneyland for a day or a week, there is a plan for your group or family. You can enjoy the rides, activities, and entertainment instead of spending your time in lines.
The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland authors Bob Sehlinger, Seth Kubersky, Len Testa, and Guy Selga, Jr. present the information in a comprehensive way that permits easy comparisons and facilitates decision making. There are detailed plans and profiles of hotels, restaurants, and attractions that are presented in "at-a-glance" formats that provide for near instant communication of the most salient information. Profiles are supplemented by indexes. In short, we've got a plan for every reader.
The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland's research team is a multi-disciplinary group consisting, among others, of data collectors, computer scientists, statisticians, and psychologists. Their singular goal is to provide a guide that will let you get it right the first time and every time. With their help, advice,
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About the Author
Seth Kubersky has worked for more than 20 years as a theatrical artist, culture critic, and travel journalist. He lives in downtown Orlando, FL.
Len Testa leads TouringPlans.com, the website and research arm of Unofficial Guides. He lives in Greensboro, NC.
Guy Selga, Jr. is a Long Beach, CA, native and a passionate Disney fan. Guy is a blogger and researcher at TouringPlans.com.
Read an Excerpt
Part 3 Disneyland with Kids - Disney Characters
For years the costumed, walking versions of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and others have been a colorful supporting cast at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Known unpretentiously as the Disney characters, these large and friendly figures help provide a link between Disney animated films and the Disney theme parks.
Audiences, it has been observed, cry during the sad parts of Disney animated films and cheer when the villain is vanquished. To the emotionally invested, the characters in these features are as real as next-door neighbors; never mind that they are simply cartoons. In recent years, the theme park personifications of Disney characters have likewise become real to us. For thousands of visitors, it is not just some person in a mouse costume they see--it is really Mickey. Similarly, running into Goofy or Snow White in Fantasyland is a memory to be treasured, an encounter with a real celebrity.
About 250 of the Disney animated-film characters have been brought to life in costume. Of these, a relatively small number (about 50) are greeters (the Disney term for characters who mix with the patrons). The remaining characters are relegated exclusively to performing in shows usually in holiday parades or Disney anniversary celebrations.
Character watching has developed into a pastime. Where families were once content to stumble across a character occasionally, they now pursue them armed with autograph books and cameras. For those who pay attention, some characters are more frequently encountered than others. Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy, for example, are seemingly everywhere, while Thumper rarely appears. Other characters are seen regularly but limit themselves to a specific location. The fact that some characters are seldom seen has turned character watching into character collecting. Mickey Mouse may be the best known and most-loved character, but from a collector's perspective, he is also the most common. To get an autograph from Mickey is no big deal, but Daisy Duck's signature is a real coup. Commercially tapping into the character-collecting movement, Disney sells autograph books throughout the parks. One Unofficial Guide reader offers this suggestion regarding character autographs:
Young children learn very quickly! If they see another child get an autograph, then they will want an autograph book as well. I recommend buying an autograph book right away. My 4-year-old daughter saw a child get Goofy's autograph, and right away she wanted to join the fun.
Preparing your children to meet the characters
Because most small children are not expecting Minnie Mouse to be the size of a forklift, it's best to discuss the characters with your kids before you go. Almost all of the characters are quite large, and several, such as Br'er Bear, are huge! All of them can be extremely intimidating to a preschooler.
On first encounter, it is important not to thrust your child upon the character. Allow the little one to come to terms with this big thing from whatever distance the child feels safe. If two adults are present, one should stay close to the youngster while the other approaches the character and demonstrates that the character is safe and friendly. Some kids warm to the characters immediately, while some never do. Most take a little time, and often require several different encounters.
Part 5 - Disneyland Park
Star Tours--The Adventures Continue
DESCRIPTION AND COMMENTS
When Disney's first modern flight simulator ride debuted in 1987, guests lined up for hours for their hyperspace voyage into a galaxy far, far away. But time and technology march on, and Star Tours received a top-to-bottom overhaul in 2011 with cutting-edge digital 3-D screens (the sharpest and clearest that we've ever seen) and in-cabin Audio-Animatronic figures of C-3P0, your golden droid pilot. During your inevitably turbulent travels, you'll bump, twist, and dive into a who's who of Star Wars icons, with heroes Master Yoda and Admiral "It's A Trap!" Akbar on your side, and villains Darth Vader and Boba Fett on your back. Jedi junkies will want to know that the ride takes place between episodes III and IV, so you'll be visiting planets from both the classic trilogy--such as icy Hot and arid Tatooine--and the not-so-classic prequels, including Geonosis (home of the dreaded Death Star) and Naboo (home of the equally dreaded Jar Jar Binks).
The big twist is that the six possible cosmic destinations and five celebrity cameos are randomly combined into 54 different story variations, giving the attraction unprecedented re-ridability (though you may see all 11 potential ride elements in as few as three voyages). Fans of the former ride will be thrilled to find a wealth of references (along with hidden Disney characters and Star Wars inside jokes) inside the detailed queue, and those made uncomfortable by the old ride's jerkiness will be surprised at how smooth and well-synchronized the reprogrammed experience now is.
Demand for the ride has died down since its grand reopening. But with only two-thirds the carrying capacity of Walt Disney World's version, Disneyland's Star Tours still sees hour-plus waits on busy days, so ride as early in the day as possible or grab a FastPass. If you have young children (or anyone) who are apprehensive about this attraction, ask the attendant about switching off (see page 145). You can track the ride combinations you've seen on your phone at startours passport.net.
Paint the Night
Disneyland's newest nightly parade, Paint the Night (?????), is patterned after the processional that debuted at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2014 (with a few new additions) as part of Disneyland's Diamond Anniversary entertainment additions. Inspired in part by the original Main Street Electrical Parade, these brand-new floats are covered in 1.5 million LEDs. Each float represents a classic Disney or Pixar film, as scenes from Monsters Inc., Cars, Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and (wait for it . . . ) Frozen are brought to life by a cast of more than 75 performers, who bounce down the route to the upbeat sound track of Wreck-It Ralph's "When Can I See You Again?" by pop artist Owl City (your kids will know who that is). Keep an ear out for musical nods to "Baroque Hoedown," the old Electrical Parade's synth-tastic theme song.
These superbright displays go far beyond earlier nighttime pageants and include character puppets with digitally animated faces, a tractor-trailer full of floating 3-D designs, and a kinetic Sorcerer's Apprentice sculpture whose twisting motion defies description. In our opinion, Paint the Night is one of Disney's best nighttime parades ever--not to be missed.
On nights with two scheduled Paint the Night parades, the first performance will start at It's a Small World, travel past the west side of Matterhorn Bobsleds, go around the Tomorrowland side of Central Plaza, head down Main Street, and then circle Town Square counterclockwise. The second performance will begin at Town Square and run the route in the opposite direction. Most guests watch from Central Plaza or Main Street. The viewing area in front of It's a Small World will fill up last, so we recommend checking there if you need a spot. Keep in mind that this is a new parade for the 60th anniversary celebration and has already proven very popular with guests. On busy days, you may need to devote more than an hour of time to make sure you secure a good spot for the parade.
The parade route will fill up a couple of hours early for the first showing, so we recommend grabbing a spot for the fireworks, and then immediately getting a spot for the second performance of Paint the Night. Any spot along the parade route will offer the same experience, so you shouldn't worry if you can't see the parade on Main Street. Once the parade has started, count on gridlock all along the route, especially on Main Street. Due to aggressive crowd-control restrictions on the sidewalks, you're best off entering or exiting the park via the backstage breezeways (if open) or Emporium shops.
Part 6 - Disney California Adventure - Cars Land
Cars land is the crowning capst one on DCA's transformation, and the first major "land" in an American Disney theme park devoted solely to a single film franchise. Tucked in the park's southeast corner on 12 acres of repurposed parking lot, Cars Land's main entrance is across from the Golden Vine Winery, though there are secondary gateways in A Bug's Land and in Pacific Wharf (the vista through the latter's stone archway entrance is especially scenic). A massive mountainous backdrop topped with 125-foot high peaks patterned after 1950s Cadillac Pinnacle tail fins, known as the Cadillac Range, cradles Ornament Valley, home to a screen-accurate re-creation of Radiator Springs. That's the sleepy single-stoplight town along Route 66 populated by Pixar's anthropomorphized automobiles. Along its main drag, in addition to three rides, you'll find eateries themed to the film's minor characters and souvenir shops selling Cars-themed and Route 66 merchandise.
Cars Land represents a considerable investment in capital and creativity for the Disney company, resulting in a rare example of complete entertainment immersion. Walking through the aesthetically astounding area is uncannily like stepping into the cinematic universe, and well worth the wait even if you weren't particularly enamored of the merchandise-moving movies. Since opening, the area has attracted massive crowds all day and has dramatically increased DCA's overall attendance. As striking as Cars Land is by daylight, it is even more stunning after sunset; the nightly neon-lighting ceremony set to the doo-wop classic "Life Could Be a Dream" is a magical must-see (showtimes are not publicized but occur promptly at sundown, so ask a Cars Land cast member and arrive early). Finally, a word to the wise from a Dallas, Texas, family:
Tip: Cars Land has NO shade. Literally none. Wear a hat.
World of Color--Celebrate!
The Wonderful World of Walt Disney
DESCRIPTION AND COMMENTS
The 1,200 high-pressure water nozzles installed under the surface of DCA's Paradise Bay are the infrastructure for Disney's $75-million attempt to keep guests in the park (and spending money) until closing time. If you've seen or heard about the spectacular fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, World of Color--Celebrate! is similar but larger, with more special effects and themed to Disney movies.
Though the original version of World of Color was still wildly popular, in honor of Disneyland's Diamond Anniversary, it was completely overhauled and given the new subtitle Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney. This new special edition of World of Color is explicitly a tribute to Walt Disney, the man and his "dreams of Disneyland," and incorporates classic animated images with live-action footage of Uncle Walt and a new musical score, along with clips from dozens of Disney films, attractions, and character in its 22-minute performance.
The show's backdrop includes Mickey's Fun Wheel, fitted with special lighting effects for use in the show. Giant projection surfaces sculpted by sprayed water--even larger than those used in Fantasmic!--display custom-made animations, and flamethrowers spew almost enough heat to dry off guests standing in the splash zones. What's most remarkable about the show is how the flashing colored lights and pulsating fountains combine to look like low-level fireworks. The effects are astounding, and the colors are
vibrant and deep.
World of Color--Celebrate! is hosted by stage and screen star Neil Patrick Harris, and boy, did Disney get their money's worth with him. NPH (as he's known to his fans) is in almost every scene of the show. If we had to rank the top four things you'll see and hear in the show, it's 1) water, 2) color, 3) Neil Patrick Harris, and 4) the word celebrate. Unfortunately, even if you're a huge fan of his work as Doogie Howser, Barney Stinson, and/or Hedwig, Harris's presence crosses the line from conducive host to obtrusive interloper, as he's awkwardly inserted into stiffly animated sequences and made to sing a mediocre new theme song that isn't nearly as catchy as the old "Wonderful World of Color" tune.