Okay, so on Monday, Gaston called and said he was thinking about driving down that night so we could all go to Disneyland on Tuesday. He decided not to do that, but did start driving on Tuesday morning. It was just as well, because we lost enough sleep even with the extra sleep we got from not trying to get into Disneyland at opening on Tuesday. We had three things we wanted to do most: see Farley, check out the new train stuff (since the grand circle tour reopened while we were blocked out), and check out the new Fantasmic. (It doesn't get exclamation points from me anymore, but if I were to accurately convey the amount of sensory stimulation provided by the show, it should probably be more like "Fantasmic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!")
It seemed like a simple enough plan, but as chance would have it, Facebook revealed the Disneyland presence of Gaston's estranged cousin and her family, so we met up with them. It wasn't the first time we happened to be at Disneyland at the same time as one of Gaston's cousins and his family, so this wasn't really anything new. The new part is that nobody ever introduced us to the kids, so by the end of the day, we only knew the names of half of them from hearing parents and siblings yell at them. Despite leaving a good enough impression on the girl during Pirates of the Caribbean to get her to want to share a doom buggy with us on the Haunted Mansion, we never knew her name until we were leaving the park and asked Gaston about it. Of course, if it really bothered us, we would have asked, but the only times it really mattered was when, as tends to happen with children, one of them got distracted by something and the group kept wandering off without them. I wanted to shout, "Hey! [child's name]!" but it was impossible.
Aaaanyway. The kind of odd thing is that we didn't actually get to do any of the things we wanted to do until we broke away from the family. Not that they didn't want to do those things (except for Fantasmic; they felt "sleep" was more important). When we visited with Farley, another one of his regulars was there, and that gentleman happened to be a writer, who had written a theme song for Farley! I don't remember the lyrics, though, so I won't type them here. They're working on getting it recorded. Oooohhh.
As for the train, we had a false start when we tried to get on at Toon Town Station. The sign said trains departed every five minutes, so we waited and waited and waited and waited, and there had only been one train to go by, and we waited and waited and waited and waited, and then people started leaving the line en masse, informing us that they checked the app and it said the train was down. Boo! Boo, I say! Somehow we found out from our visit with Farley that the train engines weren't doing so well because apparently, when you leave an old train engine lying around for a year and a half, it has a hard time getting back up to speed. I kind of feel like somebody should have been aware of that. The other problem I had is that there were no cast members at Toon Town Station to let us know that the train had broken down. The only way to find out was to check the app, and it's not like the app has an alert to let you know, "Hey, the ride you're waiting in line for is broken." People had to be like, "Wow, it's been a super long time since the line has moved. Maybe I should check the app." And I know this is a really bizarre concept, but not everyone has the app, either. If all the train cast members have to be at a certain station (when not on a train), could they maybe hook up the train PA system so they could make an announcement at all the stations from, say, Main Street?
It was just as well for the two of us, though, because we wanted to get on the train at Main Street. Gaston couldn't seem to understand this concept--it's a circle, all you have to do is stay on for the whole circle and you get to see everything. This is true, but the finale is between Tomorrowland and Main Street, and we wanted to do the finale last. The stretch between Main Street and New Orleans Square isn't super exciting, so going through the Grand Canyon and then doing that...it just seemed like watching a series out of order. Of course, these days, it seems like order doesn't matter anymore, like they don't realize that stories are supposed to build to a climax or something.
Anyway, we did get to go on the train at Main Street. The first thing we noticed is that they rerecorded the train announcements. Maybe it's just that we're resistant to change, but we didn't much care for the new guy. He didn't seem to have the "friendly train conductor" image so much. On the stretch from Main Street to New Orleans Square, you pass through Adventureland, and for the longest time, there wasn't anything exciting on this part of the journey. They had had a stuffed panther (or jaguar?), posed like it was ready to pounce, but it got removed for some reason. So we were happy to see that they had replaced it. It doesn't have any fur now (it's very statuesque, we'll say), but it does look very intense.
Next was the most looked-forward-to part of the journey, because the stretch from New Orleans Square to Toon Town goes by the Rivers of America, which have been drastically changed thanks in part to Star Wars Land. To make room for it, Tom Sawyer's Island has been cut in half, and the rivers had to be re-landscaped. It may be worth pointing out that the concept art for the makeover was revealed around the time we went to Japan in January of last year. When we got home and showed Gaston our pictures of Tokyo Disneyland's riverfront, he was like, "Wait, that looks just like the new concept art." Before, we went over some forested slopes; now we go by a rocky cliff. There are supposed to be waterfalls, but they weren't working on Tuesday. They added some more animals, and now, since the tracks aren't on a slope, they're held up by stilts...several important-looking of which have been completely gnawed through by beavers, and yet when the train goes over the bridge, the pillars seem to hold up just fine.
The animals all look pretty cute but not entirely full of life. That's kind of how the animals have always been on the Rivers of America, though, so I'm not going to complain too much about that. There are a couple of foxes, however, that seem somewhat mismatched. But that could just be because I don't know much about foxes in the wild.
The foxes are by the part of the track featuring the legendary left turn. I had to mention it, because every time Disney mentioned the renovated railroad, they would say, "Now featuring for the first time ever, a left turn!" Can you imagine how hard it was to contain the excitement.
The main thing I noticed on the road between Toon Town and Tomorrowland was the new narration. I only remember thinking it wasn't very good, but I can't remember it exactly, so I couldn't say why. There was a joke that both of us were like, "Ugh." And I don't think that was because of our bias, but like I said, I don't remember it. And then we went to the Grand Canyon.
So of course the Grand Canyon has been "enhanced." The first thing I noticed was a bunch of birds projected on the wall. For those of you unfamiliar with the Grand Canyon experience, it's a big diorama of the Grand Canyon. I know this is ruining the illusion, but it really is just a big room with the Grand Canyon painted on the back wall, and trees and rocks and things set up to look like the near edge, on the side of the room closest to the train. It sounds really lame when you put it like that, but Walt Disney and his Imagineers knew what they were doing; it looks great. Although it does not stop some of our friends from joking about how the animals are scared stiff, maybe it's after dinner and they're all stuffed, etc. And now there are projections on the back wall. The first set is of birds, and I just...I understand that the background is painted and so the whole thing is flat, but I think that stands out more when the flatness is moving. Disney's been using their beloved projection technology on everything lately, and I just don't like it because I'm like, "Hey, some of us still have depth perception." And also, "I didn't come to Disneyland so I could stare at more screens." And also, "I thought I came to Disneyland so I could see some of the magic jump off of the screen. Like, wasn't that part of Walt's whole vision?" So I was annoyed.
I will admit, though, that as you go on through the diorama and get to the thunderstorm part, the projections work extremely well for portraying lightning. I think it's because lightning and projections are both light. But of course, lightning is the one thing they added that was 3D. We were a little bit past it when it went off, so I will refrain from offering my own critique (Athena says it was pretty cool), but there was a giant lightning bolt that struck right in front of the train. (Or beside the train; the seating is such that you're looking to the train's side.) Of course, then the pedantic scientists in us start saying, "But if the train is going by, why is the lightning striking the ground and not the train...or, like, the trees that are surrounding the spot where it struck?" It's possible that we saw it wrong and it did strike a tree and the 3D thing we saw was the tree lighting up (we were past it, so the angle was bad). I guess we'll have to check it out again to be sure.
Next, you go back in time to the primordial Grand Canyon, before it was a canyon, and there's a diorama with dinosaurs! Only these are audio-animatronics, so they actually move. They all seemed to have gotten a new paint job, with extra glowy paint (black light), and if you guess that there were projections of pterodactyls in the background, you are absolutely right. And of course, they're moving faster than any of the physical dinosaurs in the display, because whenever they add projections to rides, the animation moves so much faster than the robots that it looks spastic. Why can't they get everything to blend better?
The finale of the dinosaur situation comes when you ride by an erupting volcano where a t-rex is battling it out with a stegosaurus a la the Rite of Spring sequence in Fantasia. We may have mentioned in the past that the eruption is a little bit more spectacular in the Japanese version of the ride, because in the California version, originally it was one of those slow eruptions, where the lava is just oozing out. In Japan it was a more violent eruption, with sparks coming out of the volcano and everything. Well, you can guess that of course they had to have that here, too. Only now it's done with the magic of projections! (I don't remember how they did it in Japan, but I don't remember it looking so flat. We may have to check.) (Also, that exclamation point was sarcastic.)
And then the circle tour came to an end, and we were...satisfied at having seen it, I guess. I would say it wasn't much more magical than before, but it wasn't less magical, so it was just like, "...Okay."
And then there was the matter of Fantasmic. I will admit we were expecting to hate it. But can you blame us? The original Fantasmic was so perfect! And we were already so disappointed by the one in Tokyo, and we've been suspecting our Disneyland of trying to copy Tokyo Disneyland on everything lately, so we didn't have high hopes for this, especially because they haven't had a great track record with impressing us in the last several years, so now if they're trying to make something more impressive by copying the less impressive version of it...
And we just took some time out to read our report of Tokyo Disneyland's Fantasmic, and just sigh about everything. Anyway, it had this helpful summary of the best Fantasmic!
The idea is you're inside Mickey Mouse's imagination, so the show starts with him in his regular park outfit (a black coat with tails and red pants) and he starts directing beautiful images like an orchestra conductor. There are fountains and fireworks, and then he goes offstage so you can see the really big stuff. First, there's a jungle scene with more flowers, and a giant Kaa comes out with spotlights for eyes and King Louie and some of his monkeys dance on barges that float along the rivers. They're in fluorescent costumes, so they glow in the black light. They have a really cool arrangement of Pink Elephants with trumpets and electric guitars while they show scenes from Dumbo on their giant water screens and have fluorescent elephants appear and disappear in time with the music. There's a little bit with Pinocchio and some can-can dancing marionettes, and then Monstro attacks, and when they show Monstro splashing into the ocean on the water screens, they splash the audience! Then the screens show a ship in a storm (from The Little Mermaid), and then BANG! the lights go up on the Jolly Roger (which is actually the Columbia Sailing Ship), which sails by with Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and a bunch of pirates all fighting over Wendy, and it's a really cool stunt scene with real actors. Then the lights go down again, and three princesses (Snow White, Belle, and Ariel) float by, taking turns singing their signature songs on light-up barges.
Then the Wicked Queen comes and is all jealous that she's not more beautiful, only the stakes are higher because in Mickey's imagination, beauty and love are the most powerful. So she summons Ursula, Chernabog, and Maleficent to come help her take over Mickey's mind. So there's an Ursula scene and a Chernabog scene, and then FWOOM! everything goes all red (thanks to some extremely bright fireworks) and there's Mickey (in his Brave Little Tailor costume) and Maleficent, and Maleficent says, "Now you will deal with me! And all the powers of MY imagination!!!!!" And she starts rising up into the sky, and the water screens come up and show the dragon transformation scene from Sleeping Beauty, then a bunch of animated fire. When the screens come down, there's a dragon! Right there on the stage!! And it blows fire, and the river lights on fire!!!
...And suddenly I'm wondering if I'm lessening the potential impact this could have on anybody who has future plans to see Fantasmic! with us. It won't be available again for at least a year anyway, though, so maybe the details will be fuzzy by then. Besides, we've seen it a million times and it's still awesome.
Anyway, Mickey uses his sword to zap the dragon, and then they go into the finale, which involves a lot of sparkles, Disney characters dancing on every deck of the Mark Twain, and finally, at the very end, Mickey comes out again at the very top of the stage wearing his Sorcerer's Apprentice costume, and conducts fireworks perfectly in time with the music, and it's just like his dream from The Sorcerer's Apprentice and it's beautiful and magical and the best thing ever. And then all the fireworks die down and the music gets quiet and Mickey disappears, only to appear at the bottom of the stage in his regular outfit one last time to say, "Some imagination, huh?" Then one last blast of fireworks, and the show is over. I'm tearing up just thinking about it. *sniffle*
And that's probably a lot to read already, so maybe I should save my report of the new version for tomorrow.
Today I'm thankful for getting to see the new train stuff at Disneyland, getting to board the train at Main Street, Uniqlo having a sale on exactly what we wanted to buy, having a hotel booked for our Japan trip, and taking it easy today (whether or not that's a good idea).