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Disneyland Resort California (2005)

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Sleeping Beauty's Castle
I could never get over how small the castle was!

"To all who come to this happy place, welcome..." -- Walter Elias Disney

In 1953, Walt wanted to open a park. Not like the dirty, sometimes unsafe parks of the day, but a clean, family environment in a controlled area. He and his creative team (WED Enterprises), put together some ideas on what Walt wanted. He sent a team from WED to Chicago to an amusement park operators convention with his concept, where the "experts" of the day told Disney that he should "Save his money." The park would be too expensive to build and operate, and he should leave the amusement park business to those people who know it.

In September of that year, Walt talked Herb Ryman (who wasn't even in Walt's employ at the time), to come into the studios, and create what we'd call concept art of Disneyland's design. That, according to Herb, was at 10am on Saturday. It had to be done in time for a meeting Roy (Walt's brother) was going to have with the bankers to back a 17 million dollar loan to start Disneyland on Monday. They got the loan.

Buzz Price located the property in Orange County, where Disney purchased 160 acres from 17 land owners for $720,000, and construction began in 1954. The population of Anaheim at the time was about 15,000, which today would be a very bad attendance day at Disneyland.

The park opened on July 17, 1955, to great fanfare, but with an enormous number of birthing problems. They still refer to opening day as Black Sunday. (You can look up the reference and Disneyland Resort's history in general on other sites. It's origins and growth go far beyond the scope of this page...)

You can find a year one map here.

That, however, was 60 years ago. Today, Disneyland Resort spans 456 acres, with a second theme park (California Adventure), three hotels which would be classified as "Deluxe" hotels at Walt Disney World, and a shopping district, Downtown Disney. Disneyland is second in U.S. park attendance only to Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. (California Adventure ranks 6, behind the other three Walt Disney World parks.)

July 1969

It was a hot, sunny day in July of 1969. Armstrong and Aldrin had just landed on the moon a couple days before, so it was probably around July 23rd. My family didn't have a lot of money back then, but a particular circumstance has us in California to see relatives that year.

It was an eventful day for me. Not only was I going to go to Disneyland, but I was going for my first ride in a Mustang Coupe. (Hey, I was 12 years old, and the 'Stang was still a hot car in '69. Cut me some slack.)

Disneyland was *the* ultimate destination for me, especially after watching Uncle Walt every Sunday evening. The Mickey Mouse club was also on WGN every school day afternoon. I'd seen Disney's cartoons and animated features at the theaters. I'd even seen Disney's Nature and Science films at school.

So why don't I remember more of that trip? I remember snippets of riding the Matterhorn, Mission to Mars (if indeed that was the one where the seats inflated and deflated), a circle vision film of some sort (I remember the format of the movie, but not the movie itself), Carousel of Progress, and even small parts of Toad and that insidious tune from small world. And the Monorail and the People Mover.

But not a whole lot else.

(There are more pictures from this trip that my Dad took here.)

Disneyland 1969
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And here's an interesting overlay of the size of Walt Disney World versus Disneyland Resort. (189KB)

400px Map
Map of Disneyland Resort. Click on the map for a larger view... Map ©Disney

September 2005

Fast forward 36 years, give or take. I'm on my 2005 Desert Southwest road trip, which just happened to get routed through Anaheim. It's almost the halfway point of my trip, and it's definitely the farthest West I'm going.

So, it's like, my mid-trip break. And I'm going to do this right. I'm booked in the Grand Californian for three nights. (Hand over credit card. Pretend it's not your card. That's using your imagination...) We'll be in the parks 2 and 1/2 days, and I'm armed with a three-day park hopper. I've done Disneyworld in 4 days, this should be a piece of cake.

I check in, I'm upgraded to a park view. Magic. Okay, it's not a great park view, but it certainly is better than seeing if you can pick out your car in the parking lot. (Of course, they were doing some work on the front of the hotel, the side that faces the parking lot, and had a half-dozen cranes there. But I'd rather think I was special...)

A quick pizza (in the Storyteller Cafe), and I get a call from my mom... There's a huge power blackout that's spreading in Southern California. But no problems here. Power better stay on at least until I get my pizza...

Disneyland Park

The plan is to go into Disneyland, fastpass Indiana Jones, take a look around, then do the same in California Adventure. (Except for the Indiana Jones part.) So, off to Disneyland. We walk there. The distance is probably shorter than the walk from a resort bus stop at Epcot to Spaceship Earth. Wow. This place is small.

As soon as I'm in the gate, the inevitable comparison to the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld begins. It seems like the same place that's familiar to you, but different. It's a surrealistic experience of a surreal experience. We get on the horse drawn streetcar.

Main Street sorta looks the same, but it's not the same. As you reach the hub, there's the statue of Walt and Mickey, but the castle's shrunk...I mean *really* shrunk, and turned pink. Over to the right is Tomorrowland, but there's a mountain where Cosmic Ray's should be. Adventureland is right where it should be, but it's nothing like the one you know, and instead of turning right into Frontierland, you end up in a place called New Orleans Square. If you keep going, you find yourself in Critter Country, where you find Splash Mountain, but no Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (And it's after I couldn't find another way out of Critter country that I actually looked a map of the park. Arrogance, no?)

And Toontown is on the wrong side of the tracks...

It's like in 'It's A Wonderful Life' where George Bailey goes back into town and finds Pottersville rather than Bedford Falls.

No, Disneylandophiles (if that's a word), save the hate mail. I don't think Disneyland is the dark side of the Magic Kingdom, and I'm fully aware that without Disneyland, Walt Disney World wouldn't exist. It's what you know, if you know what I mean.

But Disneyland seemed...almost claustrophobic, and just too densely packed. Attractions over attractions. I went over the bridge twice trying to find Pirates, only to finally realize that Pirates was down a level *under* the bridge. (Yes, the Pirates at Disneyland beats the snot out of the one in Magic Kingdom.) Having attractions like Alice on two levels was interesting, though.

Main Street U.S.A.
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So where was I? Oh yeah. Go and get a fastpass for IJ, and see the original Tiki Room. I guess I have no preference here, it's fun to watch the room come to life in either version. We still have time, let's go see Pirates. Once I finally find Pirates, the line is short enough. How interesting. The opening scene is a restaurant, ala "Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros" (could they think of a longer name?) the new and improved boat ride in Mexico, Epcot. I admit Pirates at Disneyland is better than the one at Magic Kingdom, but I swear some of the scenes, though duplicated at MK, were in smaller rooms, and didn't have the depth of MK's.

We walk around looking at the Rivers of America, and I can't figure out how they show Fantasmic! here. Wish I could see it. Oh well.

The line queue to Indiana Jones is interesting. It's a corridor next to Jungle Cruise that leads you to the edge of the park, since they had to build the ride on the other side of the Disneyland Railroad. (The Disneyland Railroad passenger cars, btw, are like the ones at Conservation Sta... Rafiki's Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom, and face inward toward the park. And I enjoyed the Grand Canyon... :-)

Is Indiana Jones better than Dinosaur? Hard to say. Like Dinosaur, I'm sure you have to ride IJ a half dozen times before you know what you're looking at. The first time you ride IJ, you're just hanging on at times, since you don't know the story or the vehicle behavior.

Jungle Cruise, right next door was a walk on. An excellent CM, maybe better than the ones at MK.

From there, we did Pooh (MK wins there), Pinocchio, Toad, Alice, and then I'm reminded the original plan was to Fastpass Indiana Jones and head to California Adventure. Oh right. Just got a little sidetracked.

Fantasyland
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Mickey's Toontown Morning Madness
I'm an Honorary Citizen, and here's my button to prove it!
The next morning was Disneyland. I was doing a VISA package, and had entry to Mickey's Toontown Morning Madness, where I could get in and see Toontown before everyone else. Wow. Lots of packages sold by Visa, I guess.

Small World was next, and it's really obvious that all the queue lines are outdoor and usually unprotected from the elements. It seemed odd until I remembered I was in a desert. Never rains in Southern California, after all. Makes small world look way different, though.

Hopper's Brother-in-law
I suspect the VIP was Hopper's Brother...
I was also sorta bummed that the three nights I was going to be there, there wasn't any showings of the Main Stre...uh...Disney's Electrical Parade, nor Fantasmic, nor the 'Remember...Dreams Come True Fireworks Spectacular' fireworks show. Did I mention they closed 'Haunted Mansion' the day I got there? (They were facelifting it for 'Nightmare'.)

The second night I'm there, however, there's going to be a fireworks show. Some big shot showed up, according to a CM I was talking to. I don't know how big of a shot you have to be to get Disney to throw a fireworks show like that, but I do appreciate it. :-) (Video of the fireworks show can be found here.)

Disneyland
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The Grand Californian:

Grand Californian Postcard
Checking the stationary folder can sometimes yield a Disney Postcard...
The Grand Californian was described to me as a cross between the Grand Floridian and Wilderness Lodge in Disney World. It's neither. It is, however, in the style of all of Disney's Atrium resorts, (Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and Animal Kingdom Lodge at WDW), supposedly themed to The AhWahNee Hotel in the Yosemite Valley. It's certainly priced like the Ahwahnee. (No, I didn't stay there, I opted to say down in Wawona. But I digress.) I can say that it's the newest, high-end hotel at Disneyland California. It even has its own entrance to California Adventure.

Expensive? Well yes, but so are all the other on-site hotels here. In that respect, Disneyland is more like Universal Orlando, leaving the "cheaper" lodging to the local hotel chains.

How high-end? I don't know. Once they start putting oatmeal in the soap, and robes in the closet, they're all the same to me. (I did steal the pen...) Grand Californian Pen (Stolen) Don't get me wrong, it was a nice place. Given the right discounts if I ever go back, I'd consider staying there again...

Sea Kelp & Oatmeal Soap
Sea Kelp and Oatmeal soap? Do I eat it? A shower and snack at the same time?
Disney's Grand Californian
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Disney's California Adventure:

[Note: This was written in 2005, before the billion dollar makeover of DCA...]

California Adventure is the newest Disney park in the US. It's an interesting park, part Disney's Hollywood studios, part Pro-California propaganda. (Well, okay, the name of the park *is* California Adventure...) I think Disney missed a chance here, they could have shaped the park like the state of California, (it's close, it wouldn't have been hard) with attractions themed to that part of the state.

A lot of this park had a Chester and Hester feel to it, and the park has too many dead ends. (I think simply opening a path between "a bug's land" and where Tower of Terror is would improve the "flow" of the park, but the crowds around Tower of Terror and Aladdin might overwhelm what is really a kid's area... (Yeah, okay, I rode Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, what's your point?)

I do have to say that grabbing a Downtown After Dark Brown Ale at the Pacific Wharf Distribution Co, then getting a freshly made tortilla at the Mission Tortilla Factory, and some sourdough at The Bakery Tour, and finally hanging around Sunshine Plaza as a 60's surfin' band played for the crowd was a wonderful experience...

Disney's California Adventure
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Revisions:
  • 05/02/2010 - Entire page re-imaged, pictures added
  • 01/14/2011 - Minor Updates, standards update
  • 09/09/2012 - Update to v3
  • 12/30/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 08/31/2014 - Update to v3.2