Archive for February, 2011

Disneyland Tour: Show schedule

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Disneyland Tour: Show schedule

Although most attractions at Disneyland operate continuously from park opening (a notable exception being whatever attraction it is that your child has his or her heart set on riding, which is closed for refurbishment), some shows and special events are available only at certain times during the day. Without a show schedule you will not know when to arrive at the Golden Horseshoe to not find a seat for Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, what the best time is to begin listening to your children complain about sitting at the curb and asking when the parade is going to start, or whether you should stake out a place for fireworks and fight the crowd to see Fantasmic!, or set out a blanket along the river and leave Fantasmic! half way through the climax to battle for a good fireworks-viewing spot.

Show schedules can also tell you when and where high-school bands and musical groups you’ve never heard of are playing, how much earlier the park will be closing than you realized, and where to stand for an hour waiting for your child’s thirty seconds of quality time with a beloved character who will leave for a break just as you reach the front of the line.

Coming up next: Attraction posters

Disneyland Tour: Map

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Disneyland Tour: Map

Maps are an indispensable resource for guests, particularly those who are visiting the park for the first time. Some annual passholders poke fun at guests who are using maps, often going so far as to turn up their mouse ears at such people, call them names (“lost boys,” “Princess Wanderound,” “mapadopeys”), or go out of their way to give them bad advice (“The nearest restroom? Just hop on the train, get off at Adventureland station, and it’s to your right.”) What these mean-spirited passholders are forgetting is just how intimidating a place like Disneyland can be for someone who isn’t used to it. One guidebook asks passholders to gain a little empathy by imagining what it would be like to visit Disneyland blindfolded, wrapped in iron chains, covered in pine sap, seasick, and having been recently eaten by a lion.

Coming up next: Show schedule

Disneyland Tour: Maps in many languages

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Disneyland Tour: Maps in many languages

Next to the left entrance tunnel, there is a rack providing guests with park maps in a wide variety of languages (including Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Korean, Toonspeak, Legalese, Braille, sign language for the deaf, and pictographs for the illiterate and babies). If you do not remember to pick up a map here, didn’t purchase a travel package that included a map with its paperwork, are morbidly afraid of speaking with cast members, and neglected to get a map at the entrance turnstile, they are available at City Hall, at the Guided Tour Pavilion on the way to City Hall, in a dispenser in front of City Hall, or in a stroller left outside by someone visiting City Hall. Maintenance cast members also pick up maps that they find scattered around the park, re-fold them, and keep them in a “map holster,” ready to be given to a new guest.

Interestingly, some of these foreign-language maps have not been updated in years (they indicate the location of Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen and remind guests that they will not be admitted if they have “hippie hair”). Even so, guest services reports that not a single overseas visitor has asked to fill out a map complaint form (available in English only).

Coming up next: Map

Disneyland Tour: Left entrance tunnel

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Disneyland Tour: Left entrance tunnel

There are two entrance tunnels into Disneyland: a left tunnel, through which all honest, upstanding, true Disney fans enter, and the lesser, more disreputable, right-hand tunnel, which we aren’t even going to lower ourselves to talk about.

The entrance tunnels are necessary because Disneyland is surrounded by a berm some twenty feet tall (60 if you include the subterranean portions) that is intended to keep the outside world hidden from within the park. Walt Disney realized that guests would have to get past the berm if they wanted to visit his park, which left six options:

  1. Lower the berm to ground level (which would kind of defeat the purpose),
  2. Let guests climb the berm and run across the train tracks, giving them the thrill of possibly having to avoid a hurtling hunk of impending steam-powered death and discouraging the use of strollers,
  3. Build a bridge over the berm, and then a second, taller berm to hide the bridge,
  4. Install windows on the berm so guests could at least see what they were missing,
  5. Put a crocodile filled moat, barbed wire, and perhaps a mine field outside the berm just to make sure nobody got in so Disney and his friends could always have the park to themselves, or
  6. Build a couple of tunnels through the berm.

For a variety of reasons, Disney eventually chose the latter option.

A bit of trivia: as a cost-cutting measure, the berm was not built up around Disneyland. Instead, the park and the city surrounding it were lowered.

Coming up next: Maps in many languages

Disneyland Tour: Newsstand

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Disneyland Tour: Newsstand

The newsstand on the left of the park entrance, just inside the gates, complements the stroller rental location that is no longer to the entrance’s right. This location is notable because it is the only Disneyland structure that is guest accessible from both within and without the park. Originally the building was entirely behind the park gates, but when the Monorail was built, Imagineers had to choose between moving the gates and bisecting the newsstand or placing the Monorail pylons in the middle of the parking lot, both crating a road hazard and potentially crushing guests’ cars if they didn’t move them before the pylons were airdropped.

At one time, Disneyland offered Package Express service, by which guests who purchased items anywhere in the park could have them sent to the front of the park to be picked up at the Newsstand at the end of the day. This freed guests to enjoy their day without being overburdened by purchases, and had the added bonus of giving Disneyland a large supply of merchandise that was forgotten at the end of the day and therefore could be returned to shop shelves and sold again. Eventually, the work involved in delivering the packages became too much for busy cast members, and the service was modified and renamed Package Convenience (by which guests still could have a package delivered to the newsstand for later pickup, but it had to be delivered by someone in their party or, perhaps, a friendly stranger). But even this was an occasional logistical nightmare, and when guests began depositing their sleeping, exhausted children at the newsstand, overworked cast members were pushed almost to the edge. The final straw came when guests realized that they could just check their cars at the Newsstand instead of trying to find a parking space in the Disneyland lot. This led to the immediate demise of the Newsstand as a place to leave packages, and ruined the fun for everyone, which is why we can’t have nice things.

Coming up next: Left entrance tunnel

Disneyland Tour: Lilly Belle private railcar

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Lilly Belle private railcar

A special car was added to one of the Disneyland Railroad trains in the early 1960s. It is described by the Disneyland experts on Wikipedia thus: “Observation Coach #106 — the ‘Disneyland Railroad Presidential Car- — was obsessively refitted by Disneyland cast members as a private ‘parlor’ car in blindingly shiny red lacquer, gold leaf filigree, and delicate pinstripe hardwoods. Its opulent interior had a red plush velvet floor, chairs and love seats delicately hand carved without the use of tools, fancy hand-stippled wallpaper, an ornate beveled glass ceiling, gold-fringed red-velvet teacups, antique marble books, and photos of the car’s namesake: Walt Disney’s wife Lillian’s favorite fairytale character Belle, from Beauty and the Beast.”

Although it once operated as an official car for entertaining heads of state (such as the Emperor of Japan and King Brian of the little people) and was used in such celebrations as Walt and Lillian Disney’s anniversary and various Mousketeer bar mitzvahs, today is is accessible only to certain Disney Corporation executives, select celebrities, and guests who just keep begging and whining and begging and whining and just won’t shut up to the point that conductors really have no choice but to give them a ride in the special car (after hog-tying and gagging them, of course).

Coming up next: Newsstand

Disneyland Tour: Handcar

Friday, February 18th, 2011


He handcar on display on a side track beside Main Street Station has quite a story behind it. The car was built by the Kalamazoo Company (better known for their patented musical instrument, the kalamazoo — later shortened to “kazoo”) and given as a gift to Disneyland in 1956 as a symbol of friendship and railroad ludditism.

At one time, guests could ride the Disneyland Railroad either in a steam engine or as a passenger on this authentic handcar. Because a cast member was required to pilot the vehicle, the handcar had a maximum capacity of one, and attempts to lower the wait for the attraction (by adding a single-rider queue, for example) were ineffective. The attraction was slated for closure, when one of the handcar operators, a cast member named Jonathan Henries, had an idea — they could build a set of trailers for the handcar to tow and he could pull whole groups of guests around the park. Park management was skeptical, but at Henries’ insistence they arranged a contest — he would load the handcar’s trailer up with guests and race a fully loaded Disneyland Railroad once around the berm.

Race day was beautiful. The sun shown down, the sky was clear, and people had gathered from miles around to see this epic battle between man and machine. Then the captain fired a starter pistol into the air and the race was on! The locomotive blew a big gust of steam, blasted its horn, and slowly, slowly began to turn its great iron wheels. But Henries, arms a thick with muscle as a paper cone is thick with cotton candy, flexed his mighty biceps, threw his full weight upon the arm, had a heart attack, fell over, and died.

The handcar has sat unused on the siding ever since.

Coming up next: Lilly Belle private railcar

Disneyland Tour: Park statistics

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Park statistics

Disneyland’s Main Street Station population sign displays the actual number of unique individuals who have passed through the park’s gates (using a paid admission or complimentary pass but excluding guests of cast members and including babies who entered free of charge with their parent(s) or legal guardian(s)) during either regular business hours or during non-private after-hours events, rounded to the nearest half a million. This statistic, painstakingly maintained by the park’s official statistician since opening day, has proven so popular that it was copied by record companies (“## million Elvis fans can’t be wrong), McDonalds (“## billion served”), and various delis (“Now serving number ##”).

The elevation figure listed on the sign is the elevation of the sign itself, not of the park.

Coming up next: Handcar

Disneyland Tour: Floral Mickey

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Floral Mickey

The “floral Mickey” in front of Disneyland is a popular photo spot for tourists in general and for fans of flowers, Mickey Mouse, disembodied heads, or paradolia in particular. The flowers change color through the seasons (with a little help from huge anthropomorphic cards with paint cans, experience with painting flowers, and a dead fear of the red queen), and if viewed from the railroad station are said to take on the form of Mickey Mouse standing on his head.

The fact that flowers grow here in the form of an iconic mouse was a strong factor in Walt Disney’s decision to choose this property for his new theme park.

Coming up next: Park statistics

Disneyland Tour: VIP entrance

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

VIP entrance

Disneyland has a separate VIP entrance for particularly important guests (heads of state, Medal of Honor recipients, bloggers, etc.) so that they don’t have to stand in line with the other guests. But other than its exclusivity and the fact that everyone passing through it receives a valuable gift basket, it operates like any other line.

Speaking of which, the cast members that run the entrance turnstiles must be particularly skilled individuals — constantly attentive, prodigiously knowledgeable, and gratuitously multilingual. They are versatile enough to scan tickets and identify guests from pixilated annual-pass photos at one minute, and turn around and stamp guest hands with weird green ink the next.

These cast members are also responsible for identifying guests whose appearance is not within park guidelines. This would include young people with obscene clothing (shirts that read “$*#! Smurfs”, for example), guests hold shopping bags full of food so they can avoid having to buy anything edible, the nude, and anyone whose stroller is filled with a ravenous adult panther. In years past, people whose hair was too long were denied entry to the park, and although this policy is no longer in force, tradition holds that security must be notified whenever a “hippie” enters the property.

Coming up next: Floral Mickey