East vs. West: Fantasmic!

“Mysteries and magic, visions fantastic…”

Murphy the Dragon – the mascot of Fantasmic! at Disneyland Park.

Murphy the Dragon – the mascot of Fantasmic! at Disneyland Park.

In this season of villains, it only seems appropriate to shine a spotlight on one of the greatest villainous battles you can find at a Disney Park – the nighttime extravaganza Fantasmic! However, since there are somewhat different stagings of this show at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, let’s see how one stacks up against the other… at least in my personal opinion!

I remember that my overriding first impression of the Walt Disney World Resort was being blown away by the sheer SIZE and immensity of everything compared to the Disneyland Resort. I couldn’t stop saying “IT’S HUGE!!!”

I looked at Main Street, U.S.A. and said, “It’s HUGE!”

I looked at Cinderella Castle and said, “It’s HUGE!”

I looked at Spaceship Earth and said, “It’s HUGE!”

I looked at the Tree of Life and said, “It’s HUGE!”

So you can imagine the mindset I went in with to see Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ version of Fantasmic! – my absolute favorite Disney nighttime spectacular and one of the most thrilling, emotionally moving and magical experiences I think any guest can have at a Disney Park.

But I knew something was off as I approached the stadium bleacher seating under the bright lights, with Cast Members peddling popcorn and snacks across the rows of people while a couple of other guys shouted bad jokes at the crowd and tried to get them to do “the wave”…

And then I saw the size of the waterway and the cave set that the show would be performed on… and I started to laugh… “but it’s all so small!”

And I didn’t stop laughing until long after the show ended.

So I’m going to give you the spoiler result right up front: Disneyland Resort wins this comparison hands (gloves?) down. And here’s why… Continue reading

East vs. West: Enchanted Tiki Room

“All the birds sing words and the flowers croon…”

This week, the Disneyland Resort showcased some of its heritage as part of the 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration with the “Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau” – a tribute to the gone-but-not-forgotten Tahitian Terrace restaurant formerly found in Adventureland.

So I thought it would be a good time to look at some of the wonderful entertainment and themed offerings born from and inspired by Adventureland – starting with the classic and still utterly enjoyable Enchanted Tiki Room!

Inside Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at the Magic Kingdom.

Inside Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at the Magic Kingdom.

Just because it’s an audio-animatronics performance, rather than featuring live entertainment, doesn’t mean it should be overlooked! It’s still one of the best musical shows at either Disneyland Park or Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

For several frustrating years, the Magic Kingdom version had a rather unpopular overlay (“Under New Management”) that involved Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King. Fortunately, a few years ago, these characters were removed and this attraction was finally returned to closer to its original state. Although the Disneyland version is still a longer iteration of the original show.

Inside the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland Park.

Inside the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland Park.

But it means you can once again enjoy the Enchanted Tiki Room show (more or less) on both coasts as it was originally envisioned and overseen by Walt Disney and his brilliant Imagineering team.

Some more blatant differences, however, can be seen outside the attraction. Continue reading

East vs. West: Patriotic Parks

In honor of Flag Day this weekend, I’m focusing on some of the more patriotic forms of entertainment that can be found at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, including yesterday’s article about Voices of Liberty at EPCOT.

But when I really started to think about what I’d like to feature for another patriotic themed article, I realized that both Resorts have some great opportunities to celebrate America in different ways.

At Disneyland, there is first and foremost the daily Flag Retreat ceremony, which I will cover separately later this week along with the Flag Retreat at Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom.

But one unique way to look back at our country’s history is through one of the first attractions you will encounter upon entering Main Street, U.S.A. and that is The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. This attraction has two parts – first, when you enter the beautiful Opera House building and walk past the Disney Gallery displays, you will find yourself in a room with a wonderful scale model of the United States Capitol Building before you proceed into the theater.

The U.S. Capitol Building scale model can be seen before you enter the theater to experience Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

This U.S. Capitol Building scale model can be seen before you enter the theater to watch Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

Once inside the theater, you will experience a powerful presentation by one of the most classic but still amazing audio-animatronic figures at a Disney park: President Abraham Lincoln. The show provides a background of his life as well as highlights of some of his greatest speeches.

But I think I’m going to have to concede early on that when it comes to patriotic celebrations, Walt Disney World Resort absolutely has Disneyland Resort beaten.

Although when it comes to gone but not forgotten entertainment, I would personally give the edge to the beloved and still missed America Sings show in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland over the recently retired Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps at EPCOT.  However, this group too is missed and were also quite inspiring to watch.

The Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps at The American Adventure in EPCOT.

The Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps at The American Adventure in EPCOT.

Really, both of these shows were memorable and I’d love the chance to see either of them again if I could. But sadly, America Sings ended years ago and the Fife & Drum Corps were part of the recent losses during changes made to EPCOT entertainment.

However, you can still find our Founding Fathers’ vision for a new country of opportunity and a new form of representative government celebrated today in various locations in the Walt Disney World Resort. Continue reading

East vs. West: Star Tours Theming at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts

Since the attractions themselves are both the “Star Tours 2.0” or as it’s officially called – “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue” version, I’m going to focus this comparison on the exterior theming and I think you’ll find that this one is going to be an easy win.

First, let’s look to the West…

Star Tours at Disneyland can be found near the entrance to Tomorrowland. It is physically separate and out of eyesight from Tomorrowland Terrace where the related Jedi Training Academy is held daily.

And in fact, it’s in a building that you might miss was an attraction entirely if you didn’t happen to look up and notice the marquee:

It’s Star Tours, and if you don’t stop and look up once in a while, you could miss it.

It’s Star Tours, and if you don’t stop and look up once in a while, you could miss it.

Or the mural featuring StarSpeeders and planets:

IMG_9886 sm wm

But I’ll give extra bonus points for what can be found inside the shop next door, The Star Trader:

This X-Wing is HUGE!

This X-Wing is HUGE!

Not only is it an awesome X-Wing fighter replica, but written on one side using one of the languages from the films it says:

The Cheshire Cat
The Mad Hatter

Yay – “hidden” Wonderland reference – love it!

But a mural on a building and even an awesome X-Wing replica in a store nearby cannot beat what they have at Disney’s Hollywood Studios outside of their entrance to Star Tours: Continue reading

East vs. West: Captain Jack Sparrow in the Parks

It’s been far too long since Captain Jack Sparrow has been out regularly to Meet & Greet with guests at Disneyland. However, he does come out to visit for special occasions like Mickey’s Halloween Party or the “Limited Time Magic” week that celebrated pirates in the parks.

Captain Jack Sparrow meeting with guests on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland for “Limited Time Magic”.

Captain Jack Sparrow meeting with guests on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland for “Limited Time Magic”.

If you happen to be visiting Orlando, however, one can often find Jack Sparrow there at “Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial” in Adventureland!

Captain Jack Sparrow makes sure the coast is clear before starting his Pirate Tutorial at the Magic Kingdom.

Jack makes sure the coast is clear before starting his Pirate Tutorial at the Magic Kingdom.

Today I’d like to do a quick comparison between the two experiences.

At the Pirate Tutorial in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Captain Jack Sparrow and one of his shipmates teach members of the audience some survival tips for being a pirate – including the art of how to “distract and flee”! Lucky potential members of the crew (kids from the audience) are called up on stage for some spirited swordplay and more are allowed to join in taking a pirate oath. Even those back in the crowd are invited to shout out responses and sing along with the pirates. However, only a handful of the children brought onstage are lucky enough to interact with Jack directly.

The pros of the tutorial are that you get a much longer time to see the good Captain (the presentation lasts approximately 20 minutes) and you can enjoy a fun show with some comedic skullduggery. The cons are that not everyone gets to share a moment with Jack and he spends most of the time onstage rather than down amongst the crowd.

Yes, children, this is your tutor!

Yes, children, this is your tutor!

At a Meet & Greet such as they’ve had at Disneyland, Continue reading

East vs. West: The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom

“East Side, West Side, all around the town…”

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom in their patriotic best!

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom in their patriotic best!

The Dapper Dans are one of the few shows that both Florida’s Magic Kingdom and California’s Disneyland Park have in common. (Fantasmic! which will be covered here at another time, is one of the others.) This makes me happy on a lot of levels – I’m a big fan of the show and I consider the Dapper Dans a vital piece of what makes Main Street theming work; I think they’re absolutely necessary on both coasts. However, I really appreciate that the two Resorts otherwise offer different forms of entertainment for the different crowds each receives. I’m a big believer that each location should provide you with unique and special experiences to make it worth traveling there. But having a few classics like the Dapper Dans to tie both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom back to a time Walt Disney was nostalgic for just seems fitting and right.

In this entry, I’m going to make a few observations about what make the Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom similar and different to the Dapper Dans of Disneyland.

What’s the same?

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom can be found in most of the same places that their Disneyland counterparts inhabit: in front of the Firehouse, strolling up and down Main Street, and hitching a ride on the Main Street vehicles. They also participate in the Flag Retreat in Town Square.

Like their West Coast brethren, the Dappers Dans in Florida play the Deagan organ chimes. I was also happy to see some of the same choreography I know so well from Disneyland turn up at the Magic Kingdom. When I made a special request for “Sidewalks of New York”, I was thrilled to recognize the familiar hat-lifting and tap dancing routine making an appearance. And yes, it was just as much fun to watch this number with the Magic Kingdom Dapper Dans as with Disneyland’s group!

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom play the Deagan organ chimes too!

The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom play the Deagan organ chimes too!

What’s different? Continue reading