The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 24, 2014

More Disneyland Facts That Are Not True

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:50 am

 

When you spend as much time at Disneyland, you start to learn a few facts about the place (you also have people that start wondering about you, but that’s another story for another post.)  Just about everywhere you look, there’s a story lurking around somewhere.  Perhaps it’s rooted somewhere in the past, telling a tale of rides and attractions long gone, but still remembered today.  Perhaps it’s somewhere in the future, whether an imagined future that probably never will be, or a very real future soon to come.  Perhaps it’s a story of fairies, magic and happily ever afters, or a tale of adventure in a time long forgotten.   And sometimes the stories just pop out of thin air for no apparent reason at all.

Those are the types of stores I deal with.  As you might know if you read my Facebook posts or have read my previous compilation of these from previous visits, when me and my friends go to Disneyland we tend to make up little stories along the way.  Sometimes it’s just little throwaway one-liners here and there to explain away some minor inconsistency.  Other times we’ll just decide something isn’t quite what it seems, and we’ll need something to explain it.  Other times, it’s just more amusing to make something up.  One way or another, we end up with these little stories and completely made-up facts, and somehow they just stick.

If that’s not clear enough, I’ll throw in this disclaimer:  ALL OF THIS IS COMPLETELY MADE UP.  That’s why they’re Facts that are Not True.  If they were true, Disneyland would probably be either a far more magical place or a much weirder place, and I’m not sure which.  Probably a bit of both.  Anyway, without further ado, some more Disneyland Facts that are Not True.

 


  • Most Disneyland visitors are aware of Disneyland’s practice of honoring Disney legends with windows on Main Street USA. What most people don’t know about is that cast members in Adventureland have established their own similar practice with the pile of skulls found in the canoe in front of the headhunters’ camp on the Jungle Cruise. Over the years, a number of notable cast members have been honored with skulls added to the pile in their honor. In recent years, advances in medical imaging technology have allowed Disney Imagineering to now create anatomically accurate representations of the skulls of the cast members being honored.
  • In 1967, following a number of notable incidents of bad driving on the Tomorrowland Autopia, Disney briefly experimented with adding several “police officers” hiding behind billboards on the ride to pull over misbehaving drivers and issue them “tickets” for their infractions. This move proved to be unpopular as almost immediately a number of children claimed to be traumatized by the experience, thinking they were about to go to jail. Finally, the experiment came to an end about a week later, after the Anaheim Police Department claimed jurisdiction over the Autopia.
  • In recent years, Disneyland has sought a number of different ways to put special overlays on existing rides, which has resulted in such favorites as Haunted Mansion Holiday. In addition to Rockin’ Space Mountain (which has been run primarily during Grad Nites) and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy during Halloweentime, Disney also briefly experimented with running Space Mountain with the cars placed backwards on the track. Although the ride functioned surprisingly well in this configuration, ultimately the concept was sunk by difficulties in loading passengers and the fact that people tend not to buy photos of the back of their head, No formal name was ever decided on for the concept, but in testing, Disney Imagineering generally referred to this as “Backspace Mountain”.
  • For over 20 years now, the Brotherhood of Mechanical Performers and Artists (BMPA) has been attempting to unionize the animatronics at Disneyland following successful efforts in a number of smaller parks throughout California. In spite of a campaign promising shorter working hours, more breaks during the day and upgraded mechanical components, a vote among the animatronics in 2011 went overwhelmingly against unionization, with 88% voting no. Since this time, the BMPA has filed grievances against Disneyland with the NLRB, claiming that they somehow manipulated their animatronics to vote against them.
  • Most people know about the popular RunDisney events that take place at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but in recent years, Disney has explored the possibility of expanding to swimming events as well. Last year, RunDisney extended invitations to a select few runners from the Tinkerbell Half Marathon to a special before-hours event where the Storybook Land canal in Fantasyland was opened for swimming. Although the participants were enthusiastic about the opportunity, it was ultimately determined that a large-scale event would be impractical. Although the Rivers of America seems like the most obvious place for an event like this, Coast Guard regulations designate it as a navigable waterway, which prohibits swimming.
  • (Note:  This one was posted on April 10th, the 50th anniversary of It’s a Small World.)  Today Disneyland is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of It’s a Small World at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City.  Although the ride as it is currently designed promotes global friendship and harmony, what most people don’t know is that design of the ride is based off of an early rejected concept for the Haunted Mansion where creepy looking animatronic dolls would have filled the roles now taken by the various ghosts within the Mansion. This design was quickly rejected for being too scary, but only minor modifications were required to transform the original concept into the It’s a Small World ride we know today.
  • The fleet of parking lot trams that services the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure at Disneyland cumulatively travels over 150,000 miles in a year, a half mile at a time. This is enough to make a trip at least halfway to the Moon, leaving a trail of lost hats, glasses or other loose possessions that may fall from the tram in its wake.
  • It is well known that parrots and many other types of birds commonly kept as pets have the ability to learn how to mimic human speech and other sounds if exposed to them often enough. What is less well known is that crows and other Corvids have a similar ability. In 2012 a pair of resourceful crows found a prime spot to build a nest just inside the entrance to Star Tours. They went undetected for quite some time, and by the time a cast member spotted them several months after they had established a nest, they were able to make sounds that almost exactly matched those of the R2-D2 animatronic in that portion of the queue.

  • In spite of the fact that the mailbox in front of the Haunted Mansion does not have an actual mailing address, this does not stop people from sending over 75,000 pieces of mail to the Haunted Mansion every year, mostly containing death certificates and other applications. Although Disney originally responded with a form letter about the high volume of applications for the coveted 1000th Happy Haunt position, eventually they just had to start marking all the letters as “Return to Sender: Deceased”.  In an attempt to try to stem the tide of mail, Team Disney Anaheim has reportedly given consideration to creating a website to accept online applications for this position.  Which will promptly be ignored, of course, but at least it might save some paper.

  • Recently, Disney Imagineering has been working on a secret project to develop a set of fairy wings that will allow performers to actually fly for short distances. Early prototypes have proven surprisingly effective, but many logistical challenges have hindered their integration into performances. The project was nearly derailed when one of the prototypes was accidentally sold to a young child in a gift shop. They eventually caught up with the child and brought her down safely, but she had made it nearly to Irvine before they did. The FAA is still investigating the incident.
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November 3, 2013

A Concise Guide to Surviving Disneyland: Dubious Advice From a (Somewhat) Seasoned Disneyland Veteran

Filed under: travel — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 9:42 pm

It was in January of 2006 that I took my first trip to Disneyland.  Well, actually not my first trip, but the first one I could remember more than vague details of.  My mother took me and my siblings there for one day back in 1987 when my Dad was in Los Angeles on business.  Although I do remember some stuff, particularly the Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Railroad, as well as Star Tours (which was new at the time) and the construction site for Splash Mountain, for the most part it was all a blur.  It wasn’t until I was able to visit on my own as an adult that I was able to gain a greater appreciation of the place, and it wasn’t long before I became a frequent visitor.  I have now been an annual passholder at Disneyland since 2011, and me and my friends now make frequent trips to the parks, typically weekend getaways.  Not to say that I’m any sort of expert on the subject or anything like that, but we’ve definitely picked up some tips along the way.

Given the fact that I occasionally get asked for advice by people who may be planning trips of their own, I thought it might be a good idea to put together some of the general advice that I pass on most frequently into one convenient place.  If nothing else, it might save me some typing later on.  As enjoyable as a trip to Disneyland can be, it’s about as far as you can possibly get from being a relaxing vacation, and it’s also the type of thing you don’t want to just charge into unprepared.  I apologize in advance if some of these tips don’t necessarily apply to everyone After all, when me and my friends go to Disneyland we’re flying down there and generally spending three days or more in the parks.  Although from my perspective this might be the most common scenario I see when people make Disney trips, your approach may and will vary.  Some people are stopping in for one day on the way to somewhere else or when they have some extra time.  Other people might decide to make a whole week out of it and go from rope drop to park closing every day (which sounds like a great recipe for epic meltdowns if you ask me, but that’s beside the point.)  Regardless of the approach you’re taking to your trip, you still want to be prepared.

That said, don’t take any of this as anything more than advice.  I am not trying to tell people that there’s one specific way to do things, only give advice on what has worked for me and my friends in the past.  It is also likely that as I figure out new things and as things change (as they tend to frequently do) I will periodically update and add to this guide.  You will find my list of tips and tricks after the jump.

(more…)

October 25, 2013

Disneyland Facts that are Not True: The Complete Collection (so far)

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:01 am

Update 4/24/14:  A few more of these have been posted from other recent visits to Disneyland.  Please see this post for some more Disneyland Facts that are Not True.

Yes, I am aware that posting has been light again recently.  I’ve actually got a more substantial post on the way soon, but it’s looking at this point like that will be coming sometime next week.  In the meantime, I’ve been meaning to consolidate all of my various Disneyland Facts that are Not True into one place, which will be this post.  For a bit of explanation of what you’re reading here, when me and my friends make trips to Disneyland (which happens quite a bit these days, since we have Annual Passes now and a place to stay when we go down, which makes it relatively inexpensive for us to go)  I try to post one of these for each day we spend in the parks.  As the title says, none of these are actually true, but as we go through the parks we have a tendency to make up our own little stories about things, and over time a sort of improvised fiction comes out of it, and occasionally even manages to stick (whenever we go on Pirates of the Caribbean we still debate whether the real-water version or the fake-water version was better, for example.)  Sometimes these come out of various incidents that might occur.  Sometimes they just sound ridiculous enough to be vaguely plausible.  Other times I just decide to make things up out of thin air in a (usually futile) effort to sound like I know what I’m doing.  Either way, sometimes it’s just more fun to make things up than to talk about real ones, so here you go.

And yes, you may have seen some of these before, either in earlier Blog Posts or on my Facebook feed if you happen to be on that.  Mostly I just wanted to consolidate all of them into one place for future reference (although I have no idea why the heck I’d ever need to refer back to any of these.)  Anyway, without further ado…

Disneyland Facts That Are Not True:

  • Due to declining bird population, most birds in the skies over Disneyland are now animatronics that fly around the park on pre-programmed flight paths throughout the day. Occasionally one wanders away from the park; if you find one and return it, you will be rewarded with a free churro on your next visit to the parks.
  • In order to avoid having to put a State of California Proposition 65 warning on the ride, in 2007 all of the water in Pirates of the Caribbean was removed and replaced with an innovative new nitrogen-based substitute fluid. Most people do not notice any difference between regular water and N-273 (the less-than-inspiring code name of the new substance), but Disney junkies endlessly debate whether the real-water version is better than the fake water version on Internet forums. Ironically, if water gets into the “water”, they have to take the ride offline for cleanup. Real boats would sink in this substance, so the boats had to be specially modified.
  • As a show of Disney’s commitment to alternative energy, King Arthur’s Carrousel has recently been converted to be powered by four oxen.  A herd of twenty-four oxen have recently joined the horses, goats, sheep and other livestock that live at the Circle D Ranch just outside the park’s outer perimeter.  Teams of oxen work three-hour shifts during the day to power the Carrousel,  A recent report cited a reduction in energy usage by the ride of nearly 40% since this was implemented, prompting Disney to consider the use of similar animal-powered propulsion systems for the Mad Tea Party ride.
  • In order to move the phases of the Moon to a more convenient time for photo-taking opportunities within the parks, Disney has created an artificial moon over California Adventure which keeps its phases eight days out of alignment from the real moon, but can also be modified on the fly as necessary. On October 27th 2005, the fake moon malfunctioned, and for roughly three hours there were two separate moons over the park.
  • Although many theories have been made about the origins of the name of Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33, the club received its name from the fact that when it opened in 1967, the cost of a meal at the club was $33. Among the many special benefits that Club 33 members enjoy is the fact that they are each allowed to bring home up to six of the park’s feral cats each year.
  • For a number of years, among Disney Cast Members there has been an underground “scene” devoted to tuning and customizing Autopia cars. Twice a year after hours, they hold races on the Autopia to determine whose car is fastest. The current record was set in 2008 with a time of 2 minutes 28 seconds, with a top speed of 11.78 miles per hour. Unofficially, a car in 2003 reached a blistering 18 miles per hour on the main straightaway, but was disqualified when an illegal nitrous system was discovered.
  • As a cost saving measure, several of the floats used in the parks’ iconic daily parades are built on top of riding lawnmowers. This allows them to be repurposed to mow lawns throughout the park when Disney creates a new parade. In order to make sure guests do not find out about this, they only mow lawns in the parks late at night.
  • In 2009, the American Chiropractic Association honored the Matterhorn Bobsleds with their coveted Amusement Ride of the Year award, in recognition of its 50 years of exemplary contributions to the Chiropractic profession.

  • Since the mid Nineties, Disney has had a genetic engineering program devoted to creating topiary bushes that grow into and maintain specified shapes (programmed into the plants’ DNA) with little to no maintenance. A number of the simpler topiaries on It’s a Small World have now been replaced by these modified bushes.  Disney has been tight-lipped about the program, but current rumors suggest that maintenance costs of the plants in Fantasyland have been reduced by at least 27% through the use of the self-shaping shrubs.  The topiary buffalo found near the ride, planted in 2008, represents the current state of the art in self-shaping bushes, and has been replaced on at least three occasions with newer (and more advanced) versions since the program began.
  • Anyone who has been visiting Disneyland for long enough knows that the old Mine Train ride Through Nature’s Wonderland was replaced in 1979 by the much more thrilling Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but few people know that the creation of BTMRR was prompted by an accidental discovery of a significant deposit of rare earth minerals underneath Nature’s Wonderland in 1975. As the ride was being built, a small but productive mining operation was commenced several hundred feet below the attraction, and continues to this day. For most of the past year the ride has been closed, ostensibly to facilitate a replacement of the tracks, but in addition to the work above ground, an exploratory shaft is currently being dug toward the Matterhorn in hopes of finding even larger deposits.
  • Although the Haunted Mansion is widely advertised to house 999 Happy Haunts (with room for 1,000,) in reality Disney’s internal standards allow for a variance of plus or minus two percent on any given day to account for scheduling conflicts or other issues that might arise among the attraction’s spook population. Although they do manage an exact count of 999 on most days, the Mansion can be considered to be operating normally with as few as 980 Happy Haunts or as many as 1,019. On March 14th 2009, a mishap in scheduling resulted in a record 1,143 Happy Haunts inside the Mansion for a short period of time before the problem was discovered by cast members and the ride brought down to rectify the problem.
  • In July of 2009, the Captain Jack Sparrow animatronic in the final scene of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride suffered a major malfunction. Rather than risk extended downtime to the ride during one of the busiest parts of the year to make repairs, Disney hired Johnny Depp to replace the broken animatronic in the ride for three days. He did such a good job of staying in character that the ruse was not discovered until several weeks later by Disneyphiles reviewing YouTube videos of the ride and noticing discrepancies in the motions compared to the existing figure.  To this day, Disney denies that this ever happened.
  • Although it is rarely seen by park guests, there is in fact an alternate path on the Indiana Jones Adventure ride that does not lead you to the Gates of Doom. Naturally, you get there by not looking into the Eye of Mara, which is nearly impossible to get 12 tourists on a ride car to cooperate on at once. If you are fortunate enough to reach this alternate path there will not be untold riches or eternal youth, but you may get free t-shirts, snacks, Disney gift cards or possibly even free admission to the park. Naturally, the ride is considerably shorter than normal along this alternate path.  In order to minimize operating costs, Disney does not advertise the existence of this alternate path, and swears all who manage to find it to secrecy.
  • In spite of the fact that the new version of Star Tours has been running since 2011, this has had little effect on protracted litigation that has been ongoing since at least 1992 between the Walt Disney Company and Reubens Robotic Systems, manufacturers of the notoriously unreliable RX-series pilot droids that led to numerous incidents in the original version of the ride. Although this has become a well known case study in many prestigious law schools, no resolution to the ongoing case is expected anytime soon.
  • A recent deal between Disney and Starbucks has recently resulted in a brand new Starbucks location being opened in the former Market House on Main Street USA, as well as the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe which opened along with Buena Vista Street in California Adventure last year. In keeping with Starbucks’ standard expansion strategies, there are currently plans for at least 12-18 more locations within Disneyland Park to be opened by 2016, and another eight planned for California Adventure.

  • Visitors to the Disneyland Resort soon become aware of the green tape is used by cast members to make improvised queues as needed for rides, shows and other various purposes. What they may not be aware of is that this tape is the product of years of research by Disney Imagineering. The current version in use in the parks was introduced in 2011, and represents some the very latest innovations in adhesive technology. Shortly after the new version of the tape was introduced, a cast member on his last day on the job decided to randomly create a queue out of the green tape in the middle of Fantasyland. Such is the power of the green tape that the improvised queue attracted as many as 300 visitors, some of whom spent nearly an hour  waiting before they finally managed to figure out that they weren’t actually in line for anything.
  • As a result of the recent government shutdown for lack of a budget, the National Parks Service advised Disney that they must shut down the Grand Canyon diorama along the Disneyland Railroad between Tomorrowland and Main Street USA until the government was back in operation. Orange cones were hastily placed along the route, and during the shutdown guests were being advised to look in the opposite direction as the train passed by the diorama. Naturally, little actual enforcement of this edict happened, and most visitors just assumed that the cones were there for maintenance purposes.
  • Although haunting duties at the Haunted Mansion are typically handled by a team of roughly 1,550 rotating Happy Haunts (typically 999 at a time, give or take a handful,) for three months out of the year the Haunted Mansion becomes the Haunted Mansion Holiday, a Nightmare Before Christmas version of the mansion that requires far fewer spooks to operate than the standard version. During this time of year, several hundred Happy Haunts are assigned to other attractions throughout the park, including It’s a Small World, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and even the Matterhorn on occasion. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of this policy takes place on the Autopia, where during HalloweenTime you can opt to let a ghost do the driving for you by controlling only the gas pedal in the car. Naturally, the ghost drivers aren’t very good at it.

September 5, 2013

Just a Little Bit of Pixie Dust…

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:21 am

Even though I have been known to make occasional attempts to pass myself off as being a mature responsible adult in recent years, to be perfectly honest I’ve never really been all that good at it.  Sure I’ve managed to tick off a reasonable number of the items on the big checklist, but there’s still quite a few that I haven’t figured out yet, and a few of them I’ve never been all that inclined to really bother with.  As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been reading this Blog for any length of time, one of the items in the “not going to bother growing up” category would be my little Disney habit.  Since my first trip to Disneyland as an adult back in early 2006, I’ve taken seven more trips to Disneyland for 3-5 days at a time (with another trip with my friends coming up next month), one trip to Disney World,  and I’ve now had an Annual Pass since 2011.

Naturally, this has led some people to ask just what it is that keeps me going back there so often.  And while I’m not sure I could truly answer that question, I generally tell them that it’s a nice convenient place to get away from things for a bit.  Getting there takes only about a 2-hour flight from here (and it’s reasonably easy to find cheap flights from here to LAX if you do a bit of looking and planning ahead.)  If I’m traveling with my friends, generally we don’t need a hotel since their parents own a condo about 25 miles away from the parks where they generously let us stay when we take our trips down.  This means that if we have annual passes to the parks (which are admittedly a fairly significant upfront cost,) we can generally do a trip to the parks for not much more than the cost of flights, a rental car and food.  Not that it will be a particularly relaxing getaway (it doesn’t matter how easy you’re taking it, there’s still no such thing as a relaxing Disneyland vacation)  but it will still provide plenty of opportunity to get away from things for a bit, and plenty to take your mind off of whatever it needs to be taken off of at the time.  And no matter when you go, it still seems like there’s always something new to see, be it a new show, a new ride (or a change to an existing ride) or even on occasion something as big as an entirely new land.  On the flip side, there’s also a good chance that for one reason or another you’re going to end up missing out on something along the way too (the trip me and my friend took in April happened to coincide with an unplanned closure of Space Mountain, and this trip saw both the Matterhorn and Big Thunder Mountain closed for various reasons.)  Naturally, this can be a disappointment, but if you know how to plan around things it generally shouldn’t end up being too big a deal.

Of course, if you happen to be making what you expect to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland, chances are your plans are going to be a lot different from they would be if you happen to be an annual passholder that makes several visits a year.  Gradually you learn the little tricks and the shortcuts  to get around things and out of the long lines.  We happen to be firm believers in going through the gift shops to get around crowds on Main Street and along other paths; it saves time, gets you out of the sun (which turned out to be a significant issue on our most recent trip, where temperatures reached well into the Nineties with high humidity) and only occasionally results in ill-advised impulse buys.  You also start to figure out where the best places to eat (and possibly save a few bucks) are, both inside and outside of the parks.  And you also start to learn other tricks to make things easier (for example, if you have a tendency to bring ridiculous props into the parks to take silly ride photos, it’s a good idea to rent a locker to store stuff in.)  Even though I’ve been coming to the parks for years now, this really feels like the first trip where I’ve really felt like we knew what we were doing.  I think I know the freeways around Los Angeles well enough now that I can (mostly) find my way around without needing to use the GPS on my phone, we were doing a good job of staying out of crowds, long lines and the sun, we weren’t really under any pressure to do anything, and (most of) our ride photos turned out reasonably well.  Unfortunately, we did have some problems with the excessive heat (who wouldn’t?) that did put as crimp on our plans for a couple of days, but that pretty much seems to come with the territory when you go down there during the Summer months.  We probably should have learned our lesson last year when we went in August, but apparently this time around the temperatures were well above average for this time of year, and the heat index was close to 106 degrees when the humidity is factored in.  I’m guessing things should be a little more tolerable when we go back in October, but with the way things are going these days, who knows?  Anyway, regardless of the ups and downs it was still an enjoyable trip with good company, and perhaps most importantly, it provided a nice little excuse to forget about work for a bit.

Oh, and another of the little traditions I’ve developed on our Disneyland trips is one of making up random Disney facts out of thin air and posting them over on my Facebook wall.  To bring this post to a close, here is a sampling of some of our Disneyland Facts that are Not True from the most recent trip:

  • Anyone who has been visiting Disneyland for long enough knows that the old Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland was replaced in 1979 by the much more thrilling Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but few people know that the creation of BTMRR was prompted by an accidental discovery of a significant deposit of rare earth minerals underneath Nature’s Wonderland in 1975. As the ride was being built, a small but productive mining operation was commenced several hundred feet below the attraction, and continues to this day. For most of the past year the ride has been closed, ostensibly to facilitate a replacement of the tracks, but in addition to the work above ground, an exploratory shaft is currently being dug toward the Matterhorn in hopes of finding even larger deposits.
  • Although the Haunted Mansion is advertised to have 999 Happy Haunts, in reality Disney’s internal standards allow for a variance of plus or minus two percent on any given day to account for scheduling conflicts or other issues that might arise. Although they do manage an exact count of 999 on most days, the Mansion can be considered to be operating normally with as few as 980 Happy Haunts or as many as 1,019. On March 14th 2009, a mishap in scheduling resulted in a record 1,143 Happy Haunts in the Mansion for a short time before the ride was brought down to rectify the problem.
  • In July of 2009, the Captain Jack Sparrow animatronic in the final scene of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride suffered a major malfunction. Rather than risk extended downtime to the ride during the busiest part of the year to make repairs, Disney hired Johnny Depp to replace the broken animatronic in the ride for three days. He did such a good job of staying in character that the ruse was not discovered until several weeks later by Disneyphiles reviewing YouTube videos of the ride and noticing discrepancies in the motions compared to the existing figure.
  • Although it is rarely seen by park guests, there is in fact an alternate path on the Indiana Jones Adventure ride that does not lead you to the Gates of Doom. Naturally, you get there by not looking into the Eye of Mara, which is nearly impossible to get 12 tourists on a ride car to cooperate on at once. If you are fortunate enough to reach this alternate path there will not be untold riches or eternal youth, but you may get free t-shirts, snacks, Disney gift cards or possibly even free admission to the park. Naturally, the ride is considerably shorter than normal along this alternate path.

April 18, 2013

Selling Out to the Mouse (Again!?)

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:10 am

Somehow, I suspect that these next couple of months are about to get really busy.

This evening, I have been simultaneously getting stuff in order for this weekend’s trip to Disneyland, while simultaneously trying to sort out details for another trip coming up late next month for my brother’s wedding.  This weekend’s trip is, fortunately, pretty easy to figure out.  Then again, with as much time as I’ve spent at Disneyland over the past few years, I’d say that I’ve got a pretty good handle on the place by now, although they really make the whole thing easy enough that I don’t know how you could even manage to complicate it.  In a nutshell, it’s pretty much an instant vacation; just add a few hundred bucks.  Of course, with at least one, possibly two more additional trips planned for this year with various people, I’m once again finding myself in annual pass territory.  This is a bit odd, since I was pretty sure that back when I bought the first one in September of 2011 that it would be a one-time thing to get it out of my system.  Apparently it didn’t quite work out that way.  The main problem with that is that I managed to inadvertently convince some of my other traveling companions that the annual pass was actually not a bad idea, which means that now there’s several of us buying them.

In my experience, there’s no such thing as a cheap Disneyland trip, and even though we’re saving a pretty decent amount of money by not needing to pay for a hotel this time around, by the time I’m through paying for the plane ticket, the rental car and the annual passes, I think I’m looking at pretty close to $1,000, which is a little bit on the high side, but not far off what would be typical for when I go on a solo trip.  If I figure out how much I spent on the trip last June when I managed to get into Cars Land before it opened to the general public, I think even with the annual pass already paid for I still ended up spending at least $650 on that trip, not counting food and incidentals (around $200 in airfare, another $150 or so for four days of a rental car, and around $300 for three nights in a hotel.)  If I hadn’t had the annual pass, that would have been another $275 for the 4-day ParkHopper, plus I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit Cars Land early.  Even with the annual pass, that opportunity came only by sheer luck;  Only a relatively small number of annual passholders even got into this in the first place (last time I saw a statistic on it there were over 1 million people with Disneyland annual passes, although most have the cheaper Southern California resident passes) and I basically had to plan and book the trip without knowing whether or not I’d even get the chance at the preview.

I would have taken that particular trip regardless, but getting into the preview made for a nice bonus on that.  Since I don’t expect Disney to be doing a whole lot of billion-dollar overhauls of their parks in the next year or so I probably won’t be taking a trip like that again, but with at least one more big trip on the schedule (which would count as the de facto annual trip, currently planned for sometime in October) and a good excuse to sneak in at least a couple more weekend getaways, somehow I suspect I’ll be spending a decent amount of time there again over the next year or so.   Fortunately, I’ve got good traveling companions to keep things interesting  (especially the one I’ll be spending this trip with) and even though there’s no such thing as a relaxing Disney vacation, there should be no shortage of memories to be made along the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finalize plans for our silly ride photos and figure out another round of Disneyland Fact That are Not True…  Plenty more to come, and most likely a “bored on the plane ride down” Blog post coming up later this week as well.

 

August 31, 2012

Random Thoughts: Any Sufficiently Advanced Magic

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:26 am

Yes, I’m still alive over here.  Between vacation, assorted job-related uncertainty (which seems to have resolved itself for now, at least temporarily) and having spent the last weekend working, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for Blogging lately,  but with PAX coming up this weekend and a vacation to catch up from, I figure I better get a post or two out here before I start showing up on a milk carton or something like that (although I actually think it might be kind of cool to get your face on a milk carton in an odd sort of way.  If you could somehow manage to do it without mysteriously vanishing forever (which seems to be the best way to get yourself on a milk carton, but also seems to come with some annoying side effects) you’d probably end up with a cool story to tell.  Anyway, without further ado, a few random thoughts collected over the last couple of weeks:

  • Since it was opened in 1955, Disneyland has billed itself as the Happiest Place on Earth.  Somehow I get the sneaking suspicion that Walt Disney didn’t coin this now famous slogan after spending five days walking all over the parks and waiting in lines with relentless 90-degree weather beating down from above.  Thanks to the annual pass I purchased last September I have spent a total of fourteen days at the Disneyland Resort over the course of the past year, and in spite of my best efforts, it has become abundantly clear that there is no such thing as a relaxing Disney vacation.  This doesn’t mean you have to turn the whole thing into a manic three-day slog (something I’ve been guilty of on occasion) but I challenge anyone to find a way to get through three days at Disneyland without some seriously sore feet and a good dose of sensory overload at the end.  Some of the things that did help were, of course, taking the day off in the middle (more on that one later) and getting out of the sun and the crowds to go take a nice quiet break for an hour or so in the afternoons.  If you’re staying near the parks the best thing to do is go back to the hotel and do something like take a nap or hit the pool, but since that wasn’t an option (we were staying at a townhouse owned by my friends’ parents about 25 miles away from the parks)  we oped to go back to the car instead.  It’s not an ideal solution, but even so it made the evenings a whole lot more bearable than they would have otherwise been. 
  • Speaking of accommodations, having access to the above mentioned townhouse saved us quite a bit of money on this trip as a result of not having to spend the money on a hotel, but at the same time it wasn’t without its drawbacks, the biggest one being the distance from the parks.  Since we were going to need a rental car for this trip anyway we opted to fly into LAX instead of Orange County to save a bit on the airfare, but that came with a few headaches of its own.  For one thing, due to the vagaries of airline pricing we ended up having to book flights on separate airliners so my friend wouldn’t have to spend an extra $70 on her ticket (which she tried to book two minutes after I booked mine,) which caused a few headaches on the way down.  Her sister was flying in a couple of days later, also to LAX.  Originally this flight had been scheduled to get in around 10am, but ended up getting delayed three different times, ultimately requiring a 50-mile drive to LAX at Midnight (which fortunately seems to be just about the only time that the 405 isn’t a traffic nightmare) for a 1am pickup, then another 50 miles back to the townhouse…  Oh, and a 6am wake-up time the next morning.  Needless to say, I think I might be reconsidering the whole LAX thing for the next trip.
  • Speaking of traffic, this trip was the first time I ended up having to wade through the horrendous slog that is trying to get anywhere in the LA area during the day.  One day of the trip was designated as an “off day” from the parks, and we used that day to make a trip up to the Santa Monica pier, and then over to Downtown LA and Beverly Hills to wander around a bit.  Naturally, this put us through quite a bit of traffic on the 405 (which, unlike the 405 in front of my apartment, apparently requires a “the” in its name) and even the carpool lane did hardly anything to make it any easier to slog through.  I think I prefer the other version of California driving I had on the last trip where I was doing 80 on the I-5 and still getting passed on the right by pickup trucks full of furniture.  At least that way you’re actually getting somewhere most of the time…
  • All the time spent driving on this trip (or at least all that sitting around in motionless traffic) afforded us plenty of time to listen to the radio.  Most of the time when I’m driving around locally I tend to stick to one or two radio stations (mostly KZOK) and keep the radio off most of the time, but my friend is the type of person who needs to have some sort of background noise while in the car, so a lot of the time was spent flipping between the various stations on the dial.  Is it just me, or does it seem like Los Angeles has something like 50 radio stations on the dial, but they’ve only got something like 10 songs to play between all of them?  It may be just a case of me trying to listen to music I’m not familiar with (if you haven’t figured it out by now I’m more into classic rock than modern stuff) but it sure seemed like I was constantly hearing the same few songs played over and over on all the different stations.  I’ve actually managed to find a couple of stations on the dial down there that have a decent mix of the type of stuff I listen to (in particular KLOS seems to be a good fit) but left to my own devices I think I’d probably still prefer to keep the radio off most of the time.

  • One of the little traditions my friends have developed over their various Disneyland trips they’ve taken over the years is to ride the rides that take photos (currently Splash Mountain and Space Mountain in Disneyland, and Tower of Terror, California Screamin’ and Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure)  and take goofy photos, occasionally involving elaborate props.  On this particular trip, I opted to purchase the Photopass Plus option that Disney now offers, which basically meant that we could take all the ride photos we wanted (as well as any other photos from the Photopass photographers, which is where the header photo for this post came from) and get them all on a CD at the end of the trip.  As a result of this, I think I ended up riding the Tower of Terror far more times than I had ever planned on, which resulted in the above photo, probably my favorite from the trip.  The ride kind of stops being suspenseful after you’ve been on it enough times that you know what to expect, although the Disney World version randomizes the drop sequences.  I still haven’t gone completely through all of the photos from the trip, but I actually didn’t even bother bringing a “real” camera into the parks this time around, opting to use the Photopass photos and occasional use of the camera in my phone for this trip.  I probably could have gotten some better photos if I did, but the ones I took with the phone turned out surprisingly well, plus it was one less thing to haul around the parks all day.
  • Finally, another of the things I like to do when I’m at Disneyland is to find some various interesting facts that people might not know about, and post them on my Facebook status.  Unfortunately, a lot of the good ones have been rehashed to death already, so I decided that I might as well just make up a few completely new ones off the top of my head and post those.  Of course, making stuff up off the top of my head is basically, well, lying, but why let that get in the way?  Anyway, here are a few of the Disneyland Facts that are Not True which I came up with while on my trip:

– Due to declining native bird populations, many of the birds in the skies over Disneyland are now animatronics. Although the latest in animatronic design has been applied to make these fake birds incredibly lifelike, they aren’t without their issues.  Occasionally one of the animatronic birds will be somehow diverted from its designated flight path, and may even wander away from the park.  If you happen to find one of these wayward birds and return it, you get a free churro.

– In order to avoid having to put a State of California Proposition 65 warning at the front entrance of the ride, in 2007 all of the water in Pirates of the Caribbean was replaced with a lifelike  nitrogen-based substitute. Most people do not notice the difference, but Disney junkies endlessly debate whether the real-water version is better than the fake water version on Internet forums. Ironically, if water gets into the “water”, it becomes necessary to take the ride offline for cleanup. Real boats would sink in this substance, so the boats had to be specially modified.

– As a show of Disney’s commitment to embracing alternative energy, King Arthur’s Carrousel has recently been converted to be powered by four oxen.  A total of thirty oxen live at the Circle D ranch located in the backstage area, and power the Carrousel in two-hour shifts. 

– In order to move the phases of the Moon to a more convenient time for photo-taking opportunities within the parks, Disney Imagineers have created an artificial moon over California Adventure which normally has its phases eight days out of alignment the real moon, but can also be modified as necessary. On October 27th 2005 the fake moon malfunctioned, and for roughly three hours there were two separate moons over the park.

– Although many theories have been made about the origins of the name of Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33, the club received its name from the fact that when it opened in 1967, the cost of a meal at the club was $33. Among the many special benefits that Club 33 members enjoy is the fact that they are each allowed to bring home up to six of the park’s feral cats each year.

  • When this trip was being planned, I had chosen this particular week for a couple of different reasons:  First of all, I wanted to get in while most of the Southern California annual passes (which contribute heavily to the crowds when people can use them) were still blocked out, and I also wanted to get in one last trip before the annual pass I bought last year expired.  At the time, I figured that this was going to be the last trip for a while, and that it was highly unlikely that I would be renewing my pass.  A funny thing happened along the way:  Somewhere in the process, I think I managed to inadvertently convince my friends to get annual passes whenever we make the next trip down to Disneyland.  Sure, the upfront cost of the annual pass is pretty steep (especially after the last round of price increases) but I’d definitely say I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it, even though I only ended up using it for fourteen days.  Mine was the premium annual pass with no blackout dates, included parking (whch by itself saves $15 a day) and 15-20% discounts on food and merchandise throughout the parks.  Between the parking costs and the discounts I have to figure that the annual pass saved at least $125 on this trip alone, and with the other trips I’ve taken this past year figured in I’d have to say I’ve easily made up the price difference between the deluxe and the premium annual pass in cost savings.  Ironically, one annual passholder over on the DISBoards pointed out that with the annual pass discount, a drink at the recently opened Starbucks in DCA (it’s found inside the Fiddler Fifer and Practical Cafe, part of the new Buena Vista Street) would actually cost less than it would at a local Starbucks around here.  Not that I’d recommend it for everyone, but I suspect I’m going to end up getting another one whenever I go down for the next trip.  Not quite sure when that’s going to be, but there’s nothing like having good friends who actually get it to make a Disneyland trip enjoyable.  And next time I sewar I’ll find a way to do  it without being completely wiped out at the end…

June 13, 2012

Reinventing Disney California Adventure: An Early Look at Cars Land

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 10:38 pm

Since it opened in 2001, the Disney Californa Adventure park located next door to Disneyland has been widely considered to be a disappointment.  Although the park was the 11th most visited theme park in the world in 2011 and does have a number of notable rides (particularly Soarin’ Over Californa and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror,) it has never quite been able to shake a longstanding reputation of being little more than a place to retreat to when Disneyland is too crowded.  Since 2007, a $1.1 billion expansion of the park has been underway, which so far has added such attractions to the park as Toy Story Midway Mania, the Little Mermaid Ariel’s Undersea Adventure dark ride and the World of Color nighttime show, and has resulted in major retheming efforts on a number of areas and rides (as well as some removals, most notably the Maliboomer drop tower in Paradise Pier), particularly in the Paradise Pier area.  This Friday, the five-year project to reinvent Disney California Adventure finally comes to an end as the two biggest pieces of the expansion open to the public:  The new Buena Vista Street entrance plaza and Cars Land, an event significant enough that it is being celebrated with a rededication of the entire park. 

When the walls come down and Cars Land opens to the public, it is widely expected that record crowds will converge on Cars Land, but thanks to a bit of luck in a random drawing of Disneyland Annual Passholders, I was able to get the opportunity to preview Cars Land and Buena Vista Street a few days early.  This was a good thing, because I had already made my travel arrangements roughly a month in advance, not knowing whether or not I was going to make it into this (although I had planned to take this trip whether I got into the preview or not, so mostly it ended up being a nice little bonus. ) Naturally I took my camera along with me, and after the jump, you will find a tour of Cars Land.

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June 9, 2012

Fun With Three Hours of Sleep and Too Much Sugar

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 6:16 pm

(Note: Although I wrote this on the plane on the flight down this morning, thanks to some issues with the in-flight Wi-Fi I wasn’t able to post it until reaching the hotel much later. Needless to say, I am not exactly endorsing the sleep-deprived approach to theme park touring. Crowds are not too bad, and I actually managed to get quite a bit done (I doubt the same can be said of things a week from now.) Oh, and the rental car I got was so new that the odometer had less than three miles on it. Now I’m almost afraid to drive the thing…)

Although I don’t exactly live the kind of jet-setting lifestyle that you always seem to hear about allegedly cool people living, It occurs to me that I do travel a lot more these days than I used to. Then again, the last year or so has been a bit of an exception to my normal travel habits. Somehow I suspect I won’t be taking four (well, three-and-a-half if you want to be technical) cruises within a year again anytime soon. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t do so if the opportunity arose, but with a job that doesn’t allow nearly that much vacation time and what I suspect will be some pretty significant pending changes to my life situation, it isn’t looking likely these days.

Even so, I do take the opportunity to get away for a bit when I can, and as I write this I am on a Virgin America flight to Los Angeles, headed for a weekend getaway to Disneyland. And yes, it seems like I end up there a lot these days too. Once again, I am traveling solo (although if it wasn’t for the fact that I bought an Annual Pass last year I don’t think I would be taking this trip at all) but I am planning to take another trip in August with friends before the pass expires (and gets a heck of a lot more expensive to renew). Given the fact that I am back in a contract position at my job right now, vacation time has once again proven elusive, so I need to take these quick getaways where I can. I suspect (or at least hope) that my current situation will be temporary, and that I will be back into something a bit more stable soon, but for now I think it’s best to just go with the flow and let things happen how they will. Even so, I do still find time to sneak away for a long weekend every once in a while, although the relatively short time does mean my options for vacation destinations are a bit limited.

Unlike most of the Disneyland trips I take, I don’t intend to spend the whole time rushing around from ride to ride to try to cram in everything I can this time around. I’ve tried that approach many times, and mostly it just wears you out. When you are on your own you can usually just deal with it and soldier on, but trying to take that approach in a group (especially with kids) is just asking for trouble. In particular, Epcot over at Disney World has developed a bit of notoriety among the various Disney junkies on the boards I read as being the Meltdowniest Place on Earth, and I can see why. It’s a huge park, it takes forever to walk from one ride to another, and I suspect a lot of kids would be bored to tears by most of the stuff in the World Showcase. On this particular trip, I intend to take a more casual approach than I usually do, mostly trying to keep myself from needing a vacation to get away from my vacation. Knowing that I will most likely be back in August definitely helps with that one.

On the other hand, thanks to a bit of luck, on this trip I will actually be getting a rare chance to see all the new stuff at California Adventure just a little bit before the general public gets to. On Monday Disney is doing a preview of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street for a small group of Annual Passholders (well, apparently about 10,000 or so, but given the fact that over a million people have Annual Passes at Disneyland these days that’s comparatively tiny) and I was one of the ones who managed to actually get in. And yes, I intend to blog about it. So far, the reviews from the few people who have had a chance to see it have been pretty positive, and huge crowds are expected when it officially opens next Friday. Given the fact that people who entered the lottery for a spot in the preview didn’t get notified until just about a week and a half ago whether to not they got in (and from what I read over at DISBoards, most of them didn’t) I actually had to make my travel arrangements before I would find out whether I got in or not. I had intended to take this trip whether I made it into the preview or not (mostly because I just needed the excuse to get away for a bit) but being able to get into the preview does add a nice little bonus. Anyway, you will be seeing more about this next week when I get home,

In the meantime, I am currently running on about three hours of sleep last night, which means that I should be nice and loopy right around the time all the fun stuff starts happening in the parks this evening. Either that, or I’ll end up zonked out on a park bench in the middle of Adventureland while wearing a pair of Mickey ears with someone else’s name embroidered on them. I suppose that it would at least make for an interesting story….

September 13, 2011

It’s a Bigger World Than You Think: Thoughts From Labor Day Weekend at Disneyland

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 11:19 pm

Once again, I’ve been slacking off a bit recently on Blogging.  Since I spent a good portion of last week on vacation part 1, and I am now less than a week from embarking on Vacation Part 2.  I could probably claim to be busy, but I don’t think vacation really counts as “busy,” at least in the typical sense of the word.  As is usually the case with my travels, I’ll probably be Internet constrained for a decent portion of the trip, but I’ll try to post something (probably brief) when I get a chance, probably when I’m in San Francisco.  Apparently I’ve actually cruised enough now that I actually qualify for free Internet access while onboard the ship, but in my experience shipboard Internet tends to be more of a “hey look, we’ve got Internet on our ship!” thing than it is a useful tool, and I doubt it would allow for much blogging. I don’t think this particular trip (a cruise down the coast from Vancouver to Los Angeles with stops in Victoria and San Francisco along the way) warrants too much in the way of blogging, but I’ll probably come up with something when I get back from my trip. 

That said, this past Labor Day weekend found me once again at Disneyland, although instead of being one of my usual solo trips, this time I went with three friends, which certainly made for a much different trip than I most likely would have gone on by myself.  As usual, I will refrain from making a blow-by-blow account of the trip (I tried that back with my 2008 Disney World trip, not sure it’s all that useful, nor am I certain I have the attention span for it again in the first place) but after the jump you’ll find a number of random thoughts and photos from the past weekend’s Disneyland trip.

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October 18, 2010

Just Remember That It’s a Grand Illusion

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:40 am

(Note:  I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts folder for quite a while now, as I had originally intended to post this shortly after returning from my Disneyland trip in May.  I just haven’t been able to figure out how to finish it up until now.)

Since its  disastrous (even by Disney’s own accounts) opening day in July of 1955,  Disneyland has seen over 600 million visitors cross through its turnstiles.  Sports stars with hastily constructed endorsement deals can’t wait to get there after major victories, but Soviet leaders can’t get there at all (Nikita Kruschev was famously denied a visit to Disneyland  when he visited the US in 1959.)  With nearly 17 million visitors in 2009, Disneyland is the second most visited theme park in the world, although in a somewhat ironic twist, #1 is the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, a park which is in many ways an imitation of Disneyland (although the Magic Kingdom does have its own merits as well.)  So what draws the people to these parks? 

As anyone who has been there can attest, as a pair of amusement parks, the Disneyland Resort isn’t the type of place people go expecting thrills.  Although it could be said that California Adventure has a couple of bonafide thrill rides in California Screamin’ and the Tower of Terror (and the case could probably be made for Space Mountain and  Splash Mountain over in Disneyland as well,) even those are relatively tame compared to the more extreme coaster offerings at a place like Magic Mountain or Cedar Point.  For that matter, even Wild Waves, the Seattle metro area’s token theme park offering, seems to rival the Disneyland Resort in quantity of thrill rides (although, to be fair, “Thrill” may be a generous assessment for some of the stuff there, as noted in my previous post on the subject.)  And yet, in spite of this, the Disney parks are constantly among the most attended parks in the world (as anyone who has ever had all those attendees in front of them in the line for Space Mountain can probably attest. )

So if people aren’t coming to Disneyland for the thrills, what are they coming for?  Well, the simple (and probably official answer if I bothered trying to acquire one) to that question would likely have something to do with “Magic.”  Surely by now half of the sentient creatures on this planet have spent much of their childhoods subjected to images of Tinkerbell flittering around Sleeping Beauty Castle wielding an enchanted magic wand of sparkleizing (+2 for the D&D nerds), but in most cases it’s a lot more subtle than that.  Where Disney truly stands out from the rest of the competition is in their theming.  Within the parks, it seems that they have found ways to theme even the most mundane of objects, and the attention paid to detail is far beyond what you’re going to find in most other parks.  At the same time this can also come across as being contrived (after all, no amount of fancy theming is going to convince anyone that McDonald’s food is anything besides McDonald’s food) but still, it’s undeniable that when Disney gets a hold of a concept, they’ll go as far as they possibly can.  

This doesn’t stop when a ride has been designed, built and opened either.  The Imagineers are constantly taking advantage of whatever new technologies they can to tweak and improve rides and shows throughout the parks.  Tn fact, they’ve got guys in Imagineering these days whose job consists entirely of adding little tweaks and enhancements to existing rides and shows.  Some of these changes are significant (like the recent additions of classic Disney characters to the It’s a Small World ride or the slightly dubious retconning of Jack Sparrow into the Pirates of the Caribbean ride)  but most of these changes are more subtle things like upgraded animatronic figures and improved effects that aren’t likely to get much attention, but still add to the experience.  Because of all these changes, most people who visit Disneyland on a relatively infrequent basis can expect to find significant changes between their visits.  But when all is said and done, what is the goal of all of this tweaking and tinkering ? To not be noticed, of course.

Obviously when one considers the people who make the investment of time and money required for a trip to Disneyland, there is an expectation that they will be bringing at least some degree of willing suspension of disbelief along with them.  After all, people generally go to a place like the Disneyland resort expecting to be entertained, and for most people (especially children) there’s an added (and largely tolerated) dimension of willing belief that comes from not knowing any better (a Santa Claus/Tooth Fairy situation, if you will.)  And as is inevitably the case with other such mythical creatures, eventually the realization comes that Mickey is, in fact, someone in a costume.  An incredibly elaborate costume, but a costume nonetheless.  Sure, most of us do a pretty good job of maintaining the illusion of the whole thing for the enjoyment of the children who may be along for the ride, but try as we might, there comes a point where you just can’t deny that it’s all fake.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it, but it does create an entirely different perspective on things.  For one thing, it tends to make flaws stand out a lot more than they would otherwise.  On my most recent Disneyland visit, I’d say the most glaringly obvious example I saw of this was on rides like the Haunted Mansion and Indiana Jones Adventure where DLP projectors are now used to show animations for things like Madame Leota’s face and the singing busts in the graveyard (these serve as replacements for older film-based projection systems for the same effects, presumably adding a lot more reliability in the long run.)  For the most part the effect works quite well, but there’s a well-known issue known in DLP systems known as the “Rainbow Effect” that, through a combination of spinning color wheels and persistence of vision, can cause an image to momentarily “split” into its red, green and blue components if the viewer’s eyes are moving quickly past it.  Most people who ride those particular rides probably wouldn’t be bothered by a little thing like that, but for someone with at least a basic understanding of the technology involved and knowledge of that specific issue in particular, it immediately turns into a major distraction and an immersion breaker.  Again, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it, but the tendency of the reticular activating system* in the Human brain is to focus inordinately on the flaws once it’s spotted one. 

If you happen to be an Imagineer, chances are that you’re well aware of this situation, and have probably spent plenty of time trying to work around it.  Obviously no amount of pixie dust is going to convince some people that they aren’t looking at a carefully devised illusion.  So what do you do?  In this case, the best you can hope for is to be able to create something and have people not be able to figure out how it was done.  And I do have to say that for at least the first time I rode it, this was true of the Tower of Terror.  The problem is that even if you can fool people once or twice, there’s just too many sources of information available to the general public these days, so it’s virtually impossible to maintain even that level of disbelief for long.  Even so, the ultimate measure of success or failure for a ride or a show is going to be one thing:  How much the guests enjoy it.

Then again, maybe there’s a completely different approach that would work here.  If you can’t convince people to suspend disbelief for your carefully devised fantasies, why not try giving them something they CAN believe in?  I’ll have more on this in the next post, coming (hopefully) later this week.

Update 11/12/10:  The promised followup to this post can be found here:

The Magic of Real Things

*One of the few things I can still remember from a college class on group communication that I think I mostly slept through.  And, as such, probably a case in point as well.

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