Almost 13 years after my first experience with a Disney park, and after seeing all the other Disney parks of the world, I finally got to see the original Disneyland and its second gate in California. There were two people with no experience with Disney parks in my group, so that added to the excitement. Personally I went into Disneyland with high expectations, as I had read a lot of positive comments (in a comparative perspective) from the Disney park fan base on the interwebs, but in a way I was even more excited for DCA 2.0 because both the theme and the attractions represented something completely new for me.
Anyway, arrived at the park in the morning a weekend in January, and the weather was very nice. Unfortunately (for us) the famous train station at the entrance was under maintenance, but as we entered the park we walked into a very nice main street and that Disney feeling started to creep in. The castle was maybe not that impressive compared to the Paris and Tokyo/Orlando version (and Hong Kongs looked notably fresher), but itís Walts original creation with all the nostalgia that brings. Didnít really like the snow effect on the roof that much, though, but back home I have to deal with real snow half the year, so maybe the decoration looks better for sun-spoiled Californians. Decided to start off with a Disney classic to show the newcomers what WDI is capable of, so we headed off to New Orleans square and Pirates. The area is really nice, and one of my favorites in the park, and after a 5 minute wait we sailed away into the huge show building. My friends seemed quite blown away by the experience. Really liked this version of the ride myself, although I can understand the argument that captain Sparrow looks a bit out of place with his detailed face in comparison to the older AAs.
We headed over to Critter Country and walked onto Splash Mountain. Great fun as always, but Iím glad I brought an extra sweater. The first-timers loved this one too, commenting on the craziness of the last riverboat scene and musical number popping up when they thought the ride was over.
Walked back to the hub (after heading up to Tarzans tree house) and into Tomorrowland. On the way we could see the closed down Haunted Mansion (sort of let down that the first-timers didnít get to see that gem), and also the closed down Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Frontierland and Adventureland looked quite small I think, but they looked nice of course. Unfortunately Rivers of America (?) was partially drained with some exposed hoses etc. Ė a reminder that Fantasmic was not showing. Had a run on Buzz, still quite fun, but I feel sort of done with that one myself. Didnít really like the look of parts of Tomorrowland that much, and I can see the need for an update. Still think Discoveryland in Paris is an a lot better take on the retro-futuristic theme. My memory is failing me, but I guess we might have walked around a bit before eating in Fantasyland and then decided to try the submarines. I found it unique and quite cool, but maybe better suited for smaller kids. The queues were getting longer, and we decided to accept the 45 min wait for Indy. We all loved it, although I think some effects didnít work properly. Iíve only tried it once before in Tokyo, and I know itís a bit different (and I think the queue through the temple was a tad more impressive in Tokyo), but there is supposed to be a light/laser effect coming from the stone heads eye and hitting the bridge, right? There were flames in one of the eyes, but nothing more happened (as far as I observed). Anyways, enjoyed the ride a lot, and I think itís up there among the best. Afterwards we headed over to Jungle Cruise, but I think we got one of the most uninspired guides. He talked monotone and low and while I guess they are supposed to be sort of cynical and sarcastic, this one seemed like he hated his job.
We used fastpasses for Space Mountain and enjoyed the ride (seemed to me a lot like the HK version, and I liked it better than what I remember of the Florida one). The original Space Mountain in Paris was more impressive though (although that one gave me a headache). We headed to Toon Town before watching the parade outside Itís a Small World (still in its holiday make up, looked quite crazy at night, btw). It was as cheesy as normal, but also a lot of fun, and the last float with Mary Poppins was pretty cool. Also liked the less frequent characters like the three Caballeros. Took the Car Toon Spin at some point and walked around eating popcorn and churros (awesome). Decided to try to get a table at the Blue Bayou, but as expected there was a long queue, so we settled with a Mexican place in Frontierland. I guess it was time for the fireworks show, and it blew me away once more. Really liked this particular show, might have been my favorite (although itís hard to be sure. It was actually four and a half years since my last Disney park experience). Anyways, it was classy, nostalgic and impressive. Loved that they used Walts voice and that the soundtrack also included some whimsical jazz and such. We had some trouble after the show as Matterhorn broke down and the queue dissolved, tried to do Peter Pan but the whole area was closed off due to the fireworks Ė as we finally was let in and started queuing Peter Pan broke down too and we gave up. Did Mr. Toad as itís unique to the park, but apart from some cool details it seemed quite cheap. Happily Matterhorn started running again, and it was a fun ride at night with a cool view over the park.
We did some shopping at the main street, and I loved all the cool places (like the cinema, that I canít remember having seen elsewhere, and the fantastic gallery to the right of the entrance. Bought the new Imagineering book in the book store; very interesting.
So Ė even though there were some negative elements, we had a great day and the first-timers in my group seemed really impressed.
Day two; California Adventure. The weather was still pretty, and we headed over to the second gate after a short car and tram ride. Buena Vista Street was really great. Loved the architecture, and in many ways I like the art deco style better than the Victorian main street. Lots of great details and there was a great ďfeelĒ to the place. Actually; most of the places in the park and the theming seemed very nice, still not DisneySea level, but it was mostly quite classy (and judging from old photos that was not the case from the get-go). We started off with Tower of Terror as it was a mere 5 minute wait or something. Same version as in Paris, but with better surroundings. Apart from that one and the Bugs Life 3D-show, I guess all the attractions were new to me. The Bugs Life area was fun, as itís one of my favorite Pixar movies, and the show building for the 3D-show was great. Unfortunately the smell effect didnít seem to work, and two of my friends didnít feel the sting in their back (might have been their jackets). Apart from that the show was better than I remembered, and didnít feel outdated because of all the effects. Some small kids got very scared by the spiders, though. Walked through Cars Land, and I was afraid it would be mostly for kids, but the area was awesome. The rock work was incredible. The main ride had broken down, though, so we had to return later.
Went to Paradise Pier and took the Mermaid ride. It was good, but maybe a bit uninspired. The great music saves it I think, and the big party scene is a lot of fun, but it also seemed like a couple of the projections (or movie screens or whatever it was) didnít work. Paradise Pier was sort of fun, maybe a tad tacky, but the Victorian buildings around the pier saves it. California Screaming had broken down (!) as we got over to the other side of the harbor, so we tried the fun wheel for the view before battling a long queue to ride Toy Story Midway Mania. Feels like an upgrades Buzz, and it was a lot of fun (my mother actually loved this one). Screaming started to work again, so we decided to try it. Sort of daft queue line Ė they could have easily made it better by putting up some fun framed posters of Victorian era people taking the ride, newspaper articles from that era about the ride etc. The ride itself was fun, but actually a bit disappointing when it comes to speed and thrill. Next up we ate at Pacific Wharf and it was a nicely themed place (and a popular spot to eat apparently).
Radiator Spring Racers was back up and running, and as the cast members said the queue probably wouldnít get smaller we got in line for the 90 min wait. Nice theming and the ride was fun, but maybe a bit short and un-thrilling for it to be worth the 90 min waiting time. Took fastpass for Soariní before a short wait for Monsters Inc.. Not among the best, but an okay + dark ride. Next we headed for the Aladdin show, and it was really fun. My friends loved it. Missed the parade, but went on to try Soariní. Had quite high expectations, and although it wasnít bad, I felt like it was sort of outdated. Probably mostly because of the picture quality of the film, as we are all used to HD it felt a bit like an old VHS tape. Was also expecting more physical movement and maybe more wind effects etc.
Walked around the trail in the Grizzly peak area after dark, and it was very cool. Great place to bring your kids, I would imagine. Unfortunately the Grizzly River Run was down for refurbishments, but as far as I could see the area looked very nice. The first showing of World of Color was coming up, and we had taken fastpasses, but as we got there we didnít really need them. The show was fantastic though Ė and something different. Goosebumps moments when Scar/Jeremy Irons says ďLong live the king!Ē and when the Pirates soundtrack starts and the pyro effects go off. Great stuff. Ate a corndog for the first time before walking onto Goofys Sky School. Rode it two times in a row, and it was sort of fun. My friends liked that it was simple and ďBS-freeĒ. So, what-do-you-know. Iím a fan of the old Goofy cartoons, so I liked the idea of the homage at least. Bought some awesome Disney-coffee and walked around the animation building, Mad T-party (sort of weird with the apparently tipsy teenagers dancing two dance music in a Disney park) and Buena Vista Street before calling it a day.
Had a great day and I really liked the park. On the negative side I was actually a bit surprised that there were some dirty restrooms (partially in both parks). At the toilets in Paradise Pier there was quite a lot of paper lying around outside of full trash cans and such. And itís really true that people tend to keep throwing stuff around when itís not tidy to begin with. I remember visiting a Disney Park for the first time in Paris and become ďblown awayĒ by the tidiness, and although I might have higher expectations now, Iíve also read many times that the California resort was supposed to be among the best on tidiness. Also; relating to DLP (and TDL) the original seemed sort of small and with partially less elaborate theming (Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Fantasyland), but it was still great (and has a lot of great attractions) + that nostalgic feel from being the original creation that inspired all the rest. So thatís it. Guess I have to book future tickets to Shanghai now.