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|Grand Opening Report - Part Three|
Excellent (California) Adventure III
A Three-Day Diary of the Disney's California Adventure Press Event, as written by One Tired Chick at Midnight.
Part Three - The Park Opens
This is it, the day we had been waiting all these months for. A phone call from Mickey Mouse at 5:30 a.m. work me up enough to stumble in to the bathroom, where a VERY hot shower did the rest of the work. By 6:00, I was ready to meet our media host. We stopped through the media hospitality suite to grab something hot to drink - it was another very very cold morning. As we walked through Downtown Disney, we were passed by a golf cart carrying Art Linkletter to the ceremony. He asked the driver to stop at the coffee station just as we reached it, and I found myself pouring hot cocoa for Mr. Linkletter. Michelle remarked that he was here to witness the "Second Coming" of Disney to Anaheim. (Readers may remember Mr. Linkletter's interview with MousePlanet columnist Destiny, which helped launch the site.)
We reached the central plaza between the two parks, and made our way to the media area. We got separated here - cameras onto the riser, reporters down below, and media hosts off behind the crowd. I climbed into the riser and said hello to everyone I had come to know over this week. Most people were heading back home after the opening, and this was the grand finale to all of our work this week. We sat shivering in the cold, talking about nothing (Who's the first family? When is this thing going to start? Is that who I think that is? Do you think I should shoot wide?)
The staging for the opening ceremony featured a blue backdrop, made to look like waves. After close inspection, it was pretty much agreed that the performers would be coming out from spaces between the waves, so using the wide angle lens was a better choice. I'm glad to know even professional photographers have to get second opinions! The announcer came over the PA a few times to assure us that the ceremony would begin in just a few moments, and we watched as the remaining guests were seated. I found it interesting that Disney uses seat fillers, just like the award shows. Wherever there was a gap between groups, a CM was brought in to occupy that chair.
The music suddenly swelled, and the performers took the stage (above). A brief dance ensued, centered around a woman dressed in a golden sun costume. The show was very Cirque du Soleil in nature, with ethereal music and Lycra-clad dancers.
The sun-woman disappeared behind the waves, and reappeared high above the backdrop in an even larger costume. Suddenly, the dancers swept off stage, leaving behind an arched lectern and microphone.
Roy Disney, vice chairman of the board of The Walt Disney Company was introduced next. In his comments, he said:
Michael Eisner, chairman of The Walt Disney Company, was accompanied by Mickey Mouse to the podium, where Eisner read the official dedication to the new park:
(As you can tell, this speech was very much inspired by Walt Disney's dedication speech for Disneyland, which can be read in the Town Square.)
Another brief performance was staged, this time featuring exploding sun balloons, as the podium was quickly removed. The waves which had formed the backdrop were parted in the center, revealing the front gates of DCA and the waiting Cast Members at each turnstile.
A few celebrities were introduced at this point, all who had attended the opening of Disneyland 45 years ago. They included Mouseketeers Bobby Burgess, Sharon Baird and Tommy Cole; "Davy Crockett" co-star Buddy Ebsen, and TV host Art Linkletter. The first two official guests of Disneyland, Kristina Graef and Michael Schwartner, were also introduced.
John and Mika Klepper and their daughters, Nicci and Natasha, of Murrieta, California, were selected as the first family to enter the new park (above, and below). Nicci is a 20-year-old Special Olympics athlete, and appears in the video- montage at the end of the "Golden Dreams" movie attraction within DCA. As the family was led to the assembled group, Nicci rushed forward and threw her arms around Mickey.
As the ceremony ended, the announcer asked the audience to wait until they were escorted into DCA, "for the safety of those around you." The first family was led to the front gate, and entered the park with Cynthia Harriss. The press riser was quickly emptied, and we were funneled into the park through a side gate. As I walked in, I was pulled aside by a Disney press person, and advised that I should make my way to where the first family was going to be taken if I "wanted any chance to talk to them today" Grateful for the tip, I trotted past the throng of reporters back to the fountain area. As a result, I was there when Cynthia Harriss was introduced to Nicci again, as you can see in the publicity shot below.
Since I had completely lost Michelle, I looked all around to see if I could spot her and Christine. The hotel guests were just being allowed into the gates, and it was pandemonium. My cell phone couldn't get any reception where I was, so I gave up, and went to find a quieter spot. Of course, I also had to get up to Paradise Pier so I could choose my Opening Day merchandise. (You might take the girl from the Shoppe for a few days, but you'll never take the Shoppe from the girl...)
By the way, we found out that Roy Disney was over at Paradise Pier, taking a ride on the new California Screamin' coaster. In the video available below - watch him give the coaster, and the MousePlanet staff, a thumbs up.
When I got to Treasures of the Pier, the shop across from Avalon Cove, I found that many of my media cohorts had the same idea. "Aha - media with Ulterior Motives", I quipped as I joined the line. We chatted as we waited, and compared notes. I also got to talk with some of the merchandise team, and commended them again on the great merchandise offered inside DCA. CMs (cast members) came up and down the line with vouchers for the limited edition merchandise, and showed us samples of each piece. We were limited to one or two of each item. I passed on the $195 framed and matted lithograph, opting for the much more affordable "rolled and tubed" version. The watch was a must, as was the boxed pin set. Once inside the store, I selected a t-shirt for myself and my hubby, as well as a pair of coffee mugs, and the event coins. There was an opening day pin and button as well. These were pretty well nicked and scratched. The wait dragged on forever as people examined a dozen of each item, looking for one without major damage.
While I was waiting in line, our media host finally called me. She had still not found Michelle, and was going to continue to look for her. After I sent my purchases back to the room, I headed back into the park, looking for Christine looking for Michelle. I made my way back to the Hollywood area, and ran into a friend. We chatted for a bit about the week's activities, and then I finally heard from Christine, who had located Michelle. I walked over to meet them, then thanked Christine for putting up with us all week, and walked back over to the hotel to get my luggage and head home.
As I exited the park, I was handed a DCA souvenir wall map as a gift. Everyone who attended today should have received one. What a wonderful surprise. I'm going to have mine matted and framed, just as soon as I get it signed by a few people. I think I'm going to have to start carrying this thing around with me to press events.... "Mr. Braverman, can you please sign my map? Mr. Delaney? Ms. Harriss?" I'll forever be known as that odd photographer with the map.
The park was not all that crowded today. The people I talked with were alternately relieved, (Hooray, it's not a zoo), and concerned, (Where IS everyone?). Anaheim PD and the CHP were out in full force to deal with the non- existent crowds. When I left the resort at noon, the Timon parking lot was still open. There was a lot of speculation as to where everyone was. Of course, since the park opened on a school day, there were not going to be a lot of local families there. We think that a lot of tourists were scared off by the media attention. I know that I would not have chosen this week to visit the resort, based on the estimated attendance for the Grand Opening. Of course, this weekend will be busier, and next weekend is a holiday weekend. I think the crowds will be here all to soon. As for me, I was grateful to have a few more hours in a quiet, peaceful DCA.
I collected my bags from the hotel, trudged to the car, and drove home. After getting only 12 hours sleep in 4 days, I was looking forward to a long, long nap. But first, I had to get this report filed. This series was just meant to be a quick timeline of what we did and when we did it. There was no way to tell you about everything we did and saw in these three days. I'll be adding more details to this over the coming week, as there's still quite a lot to tell you about. And, yes, we'll finally be able to look to normal day guests for reaction to the park. Until then, though, I'm heading to sleep. Good night, DCA!
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