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Brian Bennett -- March 2001 -- Disneyland

I arrived in Anaheim, after a business trip to Santa Barbara, on Friday the 16th.  I only had a few days at the resort, and much of that time was taken up dealing with MousePlanet-related business issues.  Nevertheless, here's a summary-style discussion of what happened:

Friday, March 16th

Before I even got to Anaheim, I broke my glasses frames.  I tried to superglue them back together, but I wasn't very successful.  So, for the entire time I spent at the Disneyland Resort, I was either in sunglasses (even during some attractions) or partially blind.  It was too bad...I think I missed out on full enjoyment of the parks as a result.

I didn't get into the Anaheim area until later afternoon.  As soon as I arrived, I checked in at the Park Inn International.  I'd hoped, originally, to stay at the Best Western Park Place Inn where Barb and Allan and I stayed last Spring, but the Park Place Inn was sold out when I called.  As it turned out, the Park Inn International was a few hundred yards further North on Harbor, but the walk wasn't bad and it was still nice not to have to wait for a shuttle bus to go back to the hotel mid-day.

After checking in, I called up some of the MousePlanet crew, and we agreed to meet over at the ESPN club at 7:00pm.  When I arrived, Al Lutz (MousePlanet's "Publisher") was the only other person there.  Al and I talked for quite a while about several MousePlanet issues as well as the new Downtown Disney area (new since I'd last been in Anaheim, anyway).  After making some calls on the mobile phone, Al arranged for everyone else to meet up with us at the White Water Snacks shop in the Grand Californian.  Then Al and I made our way there ourselves.  Eventually, we met up with the rest of the crew:  Ian Parkinson (who handles much of MousePlanet's Disneyland Paris coverage), Karl Buiter (CEO), Pat Edaburn (Paris and Tokyo coverage, FansPlanet, and newly named-VP of Business Development).  I'm not sure where I really fit into all of that brass, but I guess I have enough WDW traffic on my pages to be invited to sit with the big boys.  ;)

I lobbied for dinner at Storyteller's Cafe, as I was interested in a nicer meal...and not a burger and fries kind of thing.  No one had any strong objections, so we made our way over there.

Storyteller's is a lot like Chef Mickey's or 1900 Park Fair in terms of the food.  It offers a great buffet (for about $25), although ala carte options are available, too.  I must admit that I pigged out on the prime rib.  It was delicious, and all-you-can-eat...and I ate a lot of it!  I must have been really hungry from the drive down from Santa Barbara.  The rest of the buffet was great too, and the deserts were spectacular.

After dinner some of the crew (those with tickets) spent some time in California Adventure.  I strolled around Downtown Disney a bit, then went on back to the room to crash.

Saturday, March 17th

I met up with Pat Edaburn and Ian Parkinson at 7:30am.  I think the three of us ended up buying the first of the two-park hopper passes that went on sale that very morning.  I'm not sure if I'll get back to Anaheim in the next year or so, but the price wasn't much worse than the flex passes...and I was able to park hop with this pass...and not with the flex passes.

Pat and Ian were wonderful travel mates.  I thoroughly enjoyed Ian's dry, English sense of humor.  More than once this weekend he caught me by pulling my leg with some ridiculous comment -- which I bought hook, line, and sinker...not thinking that he would have any reason to lie to me.

I was wrong.  :)

In any case, the three of us visited the old park today since Ian had spent quite a bit of time in California Adventure the day before.  We hit the mountains and Jungle Cruise and several other attractions before it was too late in the morning.

Eventually, we made our way back out to the new park and stopped for lunch at Wolfgang Puck's Avalon Cove restaurant.  There were only a handful of other parties eating when we did, with plenty of tables open.  I really enjoyed my grilled swordfish, but the desert I ordered, a bread pudding, was quite plain for the $6.50 I dropped on it.

After lunch, I abandoned the others for my ritual afternoon break and walked back to the Park Inn International.  I was quickly finding out that the walk was a long one, but still beat waiting for a bus.

I met up with Pat, Ian, and Karl (who joined us this time around) for the evening and we enjoyed catching the Parade of Stars Parade.  We did a few other things in the area, too, before stopping on Main Street to see Believe!, which I think is the best fireworks show ever at a Disney park.

After Believe, we walked over to the new park (DCA didn't close until midnight this whole weekend) and rode Screamin' and Soarin' besides taking a walking tour of Paradise Cove (where Ian and Pat regaled me with their complaints about the area...this became quite the topic of discussion this weekend -- but both guys promised me a trip report that will give their versions in more detail).

Screamin' is a great coaster, I will admit, but it's nothing more than that.  I generally expect some great themeing with my Disney attractions...and there's none of that here.  The soundtrack, the magnetic induction propulsion, and the quick, smooth ride make this a great ride...but it's nothing I wouldn't expect to enjoy at Cedarpoint or King's Island, frankly.  [Editor's Note:  I also must admit that I felt quite a bit queasy after riding Screamin'.  I really think that it was due, not so much to the motion of ride, as to the fact that I hadn't eaten in several hours (the swordfish and bread pudding were seven hours or so in the past by now, without anything since).  In any case, beware.]

Soarin', on the other hand, is an attraction that is VERY unique.  The "hang glider" technology along with the wind in your face, the Imax film, and the smellerizer combine to create a really fun and unique ride.  This is an attraction I could see at any Disney park...with appropriate films, of course.  Epcot's World Showcase, for example, could use this to give us a tour of any of the nations that do not currently have attractions in that park.

Sandwiched between Screamin' and Soarin', we also we rode the Sun Wheel, which is a VERY high Ferris wheel, but not really exceptional otherwise.

After Soarin' I skipped out on the others and made my way back to the hotel for the night.

Sunday, March 18th

Today was mostly a business meeting day.  I didn't even make it over to the park until after 10:00am, when I met up with several MousePlaneteers (several of whom I was meeting for the first time) for an operations meeting.  After that, we met up at the hub for the typical noon ADD meet.

For lunch we ended up at Rancho del Zocalo, which I was pleased with since I really enjoyed Casa Mexicana.  The new Tex-Mex restaurant is good, but the large crowds really overwhelmed the facilities.  By the time I'd gotten my food, there weren't any seats left with the ADD folks (I really enjoy that acronym, can I tell you that?) so I sat at the next table over and dug in.  A few minutes later, when I got up to find some dressing to wet down my tostado a big, I returned to find that my meal had vanished.  I was starting to get concerned that some super-efficient cast member had tossed my meal away, when I realized that some of the ADDers had conspired to move my tray to the end of the table where there really WAS some space.  As it turned out, I was able to meet another MousePlaneteer (Todd Regan, who handles our Universal park coverage) and some other ADD folks that I didn't know.

After lunch, it was yet another series of meetings.  This time, a business development meeting followed by a meeting with just Al and Karl and I.  Both were quite profitable, I think, and I'm really looking forward to the results of all of the things we put in motion.  I think MousePlanet's readers will really enjoy what's coming down the pike, too.  Hang on to your hats, folks, the best is yet to come!

After that, we met up Ian and Pat again.  We split into a couple of different groups...mine (Pat and Karl and I) rode on Grizzly River Run (excellent ride!) and saw Eureka!, California Adventure's rather unmemorable parade.  After that, we also saw the infamous Steps in Time show at the Hyperion.

Sue Kruse was right about this show.  Sorry Mr. Hill.

Speaking of which... I must say that I'm very disappointed that Michelle Smith and Jim Hill have both left MousePlanet in recent weeks.  I do wish them well, and I have to admit, I'll be reading their stuff...even if they're working with the "other guys" now.  ;)  One of my disappointments of this trip was not meeting Jim.  We'd talked about it before the trip (he was in Anaheim this same weekend, quite by coincidence), but we just never had a chance to hook up.


After Steps in Time, or maybe before -- I don't remember, we also rode the wonderfully executed (tongue firmly held in cheek here, folks) Superstar Limo, then we had a simple dinner at Hollywood and Dine food court.  After dinner, a few of us went to check out the Animation attraction.  I just enjoyed the lobby, which is spectacular in it's own right.  Ian had the energy to try out some of the other stuff...but when he was finished, the evening was shot...and so was I.

I crawled back to my bed and crashed.

By the way, I'd forgotten to mention so far that the blisters that I'd been plagued with on my last trip to WDW were back with a vengeance.  After now being convinced that it's due to the old shoes, I've ditched them and started breaking in a new pair for my upcoming trip to WDW.  I hope that solves the problem!

Monday, March 19th

Today was a very laid back day.  I met with Ian and Pat just before 9:00am, and we enjoyed the old park for the most part.  We did a lot of the Fantasyland attractions that I'd missed so far, and also checked out the new Autopia.  Good job on that one, by the way.  After seeing the Country Bears, Ian skipped out to meet up with an ADDer he'd met the day before, and Pat and I had one final business development conversation over lunch at Hungry Bear.  I'm really excited about Pat getting more involved.

After lunch, and my afternoon break, I met Pat and Ian again and we spent some more time in the old park.  None of us were really too hungry for dinner, but we walked out to Downtown Disney and scouted the restaurants...but none of the options fit our hunger and pocketbook combination.  Ian and Pat went back to the old park to see Fantasmic!, but I passed because my feet were killing me...and I was whipped after this weekend.

From there, I decided to spend some time shopping...looking to see if there was anything I could/should pick up for Allan, Michael, or Barb.  I didn't find anything, and decided instead to keep some money aside for us to buy some things at WDW in a few weeks.

Ending and Final Thoughts

This has to be the shortest trip report I've done in a long, long time.  I'm writing it here a week after I've returned from California, so the details are a bit fuzzy...but mostly the trip was a business-oriented one and there just isn't that much to tell about that stuff.

The new park?  Here's my thoughts:

  • It's ok, but it has some growing to do.
  • I'm not crazy about Paradise Pier, I must admit.
  • I think the mish-mash of the various areas is much more shocking, visually, than the carefully planned views at all of the other Disney parks.
  • Soarin' is great!
  • So is Grizzly River run.
  • Screamin' is a good coaster.
  • Steps in Time, Superstar Limo and bountiful farm are poorly executed... how's that for diplomatic?
  • Animation?  I'll have to give it an incomplete.  What I saw, I loved, but I didn't really experience the whole thing as much as I'd like to.
  • Food prices?  Sky high, just as they'd been reported.
  • Avalon Cove?  Two thumbs up, but expensive (even more than you'd expect from Wolfgang Puck)
  • Hollywood and Dine?  Decent food, very expensive...
  • Shopping?  Incomplete...I just didn't take the time to check things out in detail.

The Grand Californian and Downtown Disney are both top-notch hits!

The hotel is gorgeous, perfectly executed in an arts & crafts style.  The lobby area, especially, with its' stained-glass lamps and tiled floors look like Frank Lloyd Wright would have been right at home here.  If you want to know a LOT more about the hotel (and see a bunch of great pictures), check out Sue Kruse's article from her stay back in January!

Downtown Disney, likewise, is a very nicely designed area.  Each building is themed and beautifully constructed.  The World of Disney store, appeared to be only about half the size of the one at Walt Disney World, but it still is a great store.  One thing that's seriously lacking, though, are the smaller boutique shops that sell various Disney merchandise at the Downtown Disney in Florida.  Disney at Home, the Three R's, the Pantry, and so on...none of them exist in the California incarnation.  I suppose that's due to a lack of space, but in any case, I noticed the difference immediately.

Well, that's just about it.  The trip was busy, I spent much less time just enjoying the parks than normal.  I enjoyed the new additions to the resort.  And I left Anaheim with blisters on my feet (literally).  All in all, a successful visit.

Will I go back to the Disneyland Resort?  "Have you ever seen an elephant fly?"  ;)

Brian Bennett


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