24 May 2009

Of Mice and Jedi - Disneyland Vacation: Day 3 (Return of the Jedi)

We were pretty wiped out after visiting the entire Disneyland park during our first two days. We originally planned to hit California Adventure the third day, but opted to just casually stroll around Disneyland and ride any rides we'd missed and repeat any rides the kids wanted to ride. We ended up back in Fantasyland where we rode the Snow White and Pinocchio rides, then headed back to Tomorrowland for one more Buzz Lightyear ride and some souvenir shopping.

So you've probably been wondering why I entitled this series of posts "Of Mice and Jedi"... today it will finally make sense.

Brennan really wanted to see the Jedi Training Academy show in Tomorrowland, and we saw the end of it before the Space Mountain trauma on the first day; so we decided to catch the whole thing.

Disneyland - Jedi Training Academy

Disneyland - Master Jedi

Mandi and Kimmie both really wanted to get trained, so Brennan and I tried to hold them up to get noticed in the crowds of screaming kids all trying to get their chance to master the ways of the Force.

Finally, on the Master Jedi's third pass, he called on our "levitating princess" (Mandi) to join them. Unfortunately, Kimmie didn't get picked, and there was much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. I'm surprised she didn't go full Sith before the show was over.

Nevertheless, the rest of us had a great time watching as Mandi and her fellow Padawan younglings learned how to use a lightsaber.

Disneyland - Padawan Mandi

Disneyland - Mandi wielding her lightsaber

Disneyland - Mandi executing a duck maneuver

In the middle of their training, two Stormtroopers invaded the scene, and raised a platform with Darth Maul and Darth Vader on it. After Lord Vader failed to convince the strong minds of the young Jedi to come over to the Dark Side, each Padawan had the opportunity to engage one of the Sith Lords.

Disneyland - Darth Maul and Darth Vader

Mandi engaged in a duel with Darth Maul and successfully executed her training, rivaling the sabersmanship (is that a word?) of the red-faced Sith.

(High Quality ~49MB) Right-click .. Save-As

After successfully defeating the Sith and inviting those of the Empire to leave the training grounds, the younglings all went up on the stage and were pronounced official Jedi. Go Mandi!

Disneyland - Mandi the Triumphant Jedi

Afterwards, the kids just HAD to have a lightsaber, so we went to the nearby souvenir shop and let them build their own. We bought a few more items, then headed to Downtown Disney on our way back to the hotel, so we could rest up for Fantasmic later that night.

We stopped in the Lego store in Downtown Disney and had fun seeing all of the huge creations they made from legos, including a 15-foot tall (maybe taller) giraffe. The kids favorite, of course, was the Lego Darth Vader, in front of which they proudly activated their lightsabers and posed for a picture.

Downtown Disney - Kids at the Lego store

We took the long walk back to the hotel, and were glad we did, because we saw another cool Disney structure and some fun Disney gardening on the way back. When we returned to the Hotel, the kids watched Disney Channel while mom and dad took a nap. (We're old...)

Disneyland Hotel hat and stars

Disneyland - Pluto, Mickey and Minnie bushes

The highlight of our day/night was seeing Fantasmic. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it on your next trip to Disneyland; it's amazing and magical. They do some fun effects with water, fire, lasers and more; and have a really fun scene with the Jolly Roger floating around the riverbend of the Rivers of America, loaded with characters from Peter Pan... including a fight scene with Peter Pan and Captain Hook up in the sails. It ends with a fantastic curtain call of a boat-load of Disney characters. It's literally a boat-load, as it is the Mark Twain Riverboat, piloted by Steamboat Willie Mickey. I tried to capture a good picture of it, but failed miserably, so you're stuck with the best one out of the bunch.

The music lived up to its name, fantasmic. I loved it so much I came home and ordered the CD (which included the Main Street Electrical Parade music... double bonus!)

Disneyland - Fantasmic steamboat curtain call

Not only was Fantasmic enjoyable, but we paid the ghastly fee to get preferred seating, which offered us the ability to not have to waste several hours holding our spot for the show, as well as treats and free drinks through the production. The treats were some of the tastiest gourmet goodies I've ever eaten. Soooooo yummy!

Disneyland - Fantasmic Treats!

Near the end of the show, Gwen had to take the girls to the restroom, and they weren't back when the fireworks were finished. Brennan and I hit the restrooms after and started looking for them. It took us all about a half-hour or more of searching for and missing each other before we finally reunited. We're thankful that was the only bit of "lost" drama we had during the trip... It wouldn't have been a problem, 'cept Gwen's cell phone had been left in her purse (which was still with me) instead of being in her pocket. Lesson learned. heh

Pooped again, we headed home to rest up for our Character Breakfast in the PCH Grill on the main floor of the Paradise Pier the next morning. We thought that would be a fun way to end the trip and still have a little of the Disney experience before our return home.

I'll post those pictures in the next entry... along with our final thoughts of our first-ever big family vacation.

Of Mice and Jedi - Disneyland Vacation: Day 2 (Magical Morning - Meet the Characters)

Disneyland - head of Main Street

After an exhausting first day at Disneyland, we had a pleasant night's sleep at the hotel (which is rare) and woke up early and had breakfast delivered to our room so we could hit the park the instant they let the "Magical Morning" guests in.

Despite the fact that we already covered the two sections of the park that were open early, we still got to maximize the extra hour.

We weren't first in line to get into the park, but it actually served advantageous. The minute we stepped into the park and were came around to Main Street, we saw 6-8 Disney characters coming out to sign autographs and let people take pictures with them. We happened to be right there when Minnie Mouse came out and were 2nd in line to see her. Likewise, as soon as we were finished with her, we were able to get autographs and pictures with Pluto, Goofy, Chip and Dale.

Disneyland - Litsters and Minnie Mouse

The characters were a blast. Pluto signed all of the kids' books on his nose; and Goofy, well, he was true-to-form.

Disneyland - Gwen and the kids with Pluto

Brennan handed his book to Goofy. He promptly put it on Brennan's head and began signing. Then it was Mandi's turn, so she handed her book over. Mandi was wearing her Mickey ears that morning, so for Goofy to sign the book on her head, naturally he would need the ears removed. With great finesse, he swiftly knocked her ears down over her face... then straightway put Mandi's book on BRENNAN'S head and commenced signing. *CACKLE!* It was hilarious and the kids loved it.

Disneyland - Goofy being... goofy

After the autographs, we headed over to TomorrowLand again to let the kids ride the Buzz Lightyear ride and the rockets again. Then we realized we had a shot at being first in the Princess Faire line, so we hauled butt over in that direction. Crew members were standing guard near "It's a Small World" to keep guests from going further into the park since they hadn't opened those sections yet. There was already a plethora of people present, so we were bummed that we missed that boat. However, we soon discovered that some were there for the Small World ride, and others were there for Toon Town. The crew member asked us to form distinct lines and we were fortunate enough to be third or fourth in the Princess Faire line. Booya!

This was one of the most important factors in our Disneyland adventure, as Mandi and Kimmie are quite fond of the Princesses. You'll remember from Day 1 that we were told the line was a 2.5 to 3 hour wait, so we averted that crisis. The other catch was to get there when the "right" princesses were present. They rotate Disney Princesses every 45 minutes. We were hoping that Mandi and Kimmie's favorites were there, cause there was no way in a-place-very-much-opposite-of-the-Magical-Kingdom we were going to torture ourselves with a return trip to the longest line in Disneyland.

The heavens were smiling down on us that day... As the girls got to visit Snow White, Aurora and Cinderella; their three favorites. This was the most magical of the character encounters for us, because it wasn't as rushed as the other autograph/photo moments with other characters. They actually got to chit-chat with each princess for a couple of minutes before moving on to the next. Magical.

Disneyland - Snow White and the Two Litster Princesses

Disneyland - Aurora and the Litster Princesses

Disneyland - Cinderella hugging the Litster Princesses

We ran back to ToonTown (since it's next-door to the Princess Fantasy Faire) to get Mickey's autograph, since we hadn't had books the day before; and we wanted to beat the crowds there. Of course he had to hug on Gwen, because, you know, she is his 2nd-to-Minnie. After ToonTown, we stopped for a treat near the Princess Faire and made our plan-of-attack for the rest of the day, as we still had a lot of park to cover.

Disneyland - Gwennie and Mickey

We headed over to New Orleans Square where the Pirates of the Carribean is. That is one of my favorite rides and it was cooler than I remembered it. For those that don't know (or don't remember...) it's a boat ride, and it starts by floating you around the back of the Blue Bayou restaurant, then up a hill and down into the main parts of the ride, what feels like deep below New Orleans square. The ride was longer and cooler than I remember, and has been updated to reflect characters from the movies.

My favorite part was when we rode past the pirate ship attacking the fort, cannon fire being exchanged back-and-forth. I was sitting in just the right seat, as I felt a cannon blast whoosh through my hair! That, by itself, made the whole trip worth it... dang that was a cool effect. :)

We were fairly close to the Indiana Jones ride at that point, so I dragged the family in that direction, and we made a short stop through Tarzan's Treehouse. When we got to the Indiana Jones ride, Brennan and Mandi were too jaded to ride (Space Mountain trauma from Day 1), and we found out Kimmie was too short. So I was denied the ride I wanted to ride most while we were there; as it wasn't there when I was a kid.

Disneyland does a special pass for parents that have to stay behind with kids to be able to immediately board the ride after the other parent goes first... Unfortunately, we learned about this AFTER we came home... anger ensues.

In my angered state... we wandered over near Aladdin's Oasis, and happened to see Aladdin and Jasmine signing autographs, so we jumped in line. We fortunately were the last to get autographs/pictures before they had to leave... but unfortunately, they were very apparently in a hurried state and rushed the kids' signing and picture. That was the only thing close to a bad experience our entire trip (and it wasn't even a bad experience, really) so I was very thankful for that.

Since the kids weren't too into wanting to rides in Adventureland, we decided to head over to Critter Country and nabbed some lunch. After lunch, we hit Splash Mountain. Dang that is a cool ride. It was much longer than I remembered it and just as fun. We hit it just before the line got REALLY long. The kids said they enjoyed it, but when I recommended using the Fast Pass to do it again, they're all "no, my tummy needs a rest... blah blah blah." Repeat goodness denied.

We saw Winnie the Pooh and Rabbit signing autographs, so we figured that was something mellow the kids could handle... besides, we were on an autograph frenzy today, so why not fill the books! We jumped in line; and met a cast member from Salt Lake City who had fun talking to the crowd as they waited in line. He was a walking databank of Disney trivia. Meanwhile, in the not-so-hundred-acre-wood, time came for the characters to rotate, so instead of getting a picture of Winnie-the-Pooh with Gwennie-the-Pooh, we got to meet and take pics with Tigger and Eeyore. Not a bad trade.

Disneyland - Tiggerific

We wandered over to Frontierland, where any hope of riding any "scary" rides for Brennan and Mandi had past. Gwen and I both wanted to hit "Big Thunder Railroad", but Kimmie was the only child brave enough to ride it. Gwen told me to take Kimmie and she'd go after me (wish I'd known about the "No Parent Left-Behind" pass! Anger ensues again...) By the time Kimmie and I got off the ride, Gwen, Brennan and Mandi had wandered over by the Mark Twain Riverboat. When we met up with them, who was to appear, but Woody and Jessie from Toy Story 2! More autographs, more pics... uh booya!

Disneyland - Woody and Jessie with the kids

By then we were getting tired, and I wanted to have the kids see Disneyland lit up at night, so we decided to return to the hotel for some rest. I, of course, was half-tempted to let the kids stay at the hotel and watch Disney Channel while Gwen and I returned to the park ourselves and rode the rides we were denied earlier. :) But, being a good parent, we brought them back with us... heh.

Now, the first night we were there, we heard the fireworks show, but hadn't seen it... and I figured, "It's just another fireworks show, so I won't have my feelings hurt if we don't see it; plus, we'll see it after Fantasmic tomorrow..." So the original plan was not to worry about making sure we saw it. However, one of the cast members told us that if we wanted to see the fireworks show, we had to do it from Main Street, or we would miss some of the effects and fun of the show.

Well, we happened to re-enter the park just-in-time for the fireworks show; so we decided to stay with the masses gathered in front of the Castle. We're glad we did; the show is amazing. Narrated by Julie Andrews, the fireworks are put to music and the narration walks through some of the history of Disney and his vision for creating magical memories for all. There are also tie-ins with George Lucas stuff that appears at Disneyland (like Indiana Jones and Star Wars.) At one point we saw Tinkerbell fly around the castle and wave her wand to make fireworks, see huge flames shoot out the tops of the Castle during the Indiana Jones part, and see green lasers firing all around you during the Star Wars part. It's quite cool, and I'm glad we didn't miss that.

It was wonderful way to end Day 2... (except getting out of the park, carrying a sleeping 4-year-old.)

Stay tuned for Day 3!!! (And my apologies for no pics of the rides... I wish I'd snapped some of Pirates, but I was having too much fun to think about it.)