There were a lot of unusual things about this trip to Disneyland. First, we were actually the shortest people in the entire group. This has never, ever happened before. At least not since, like, sixth grade. It was kind of strange. Second, a lot of the time when we go to Disneyland lately, we feel like at least one person in the group is one of those people who doesn't really like Disney--they're just coming along because that's what all their friends are doing and it's supposed to be fun, and it Better Be Fun. So we usually get the feeling we could very easily alienate people by forcing our love of Disney on them if we're not careful. But in this case, everyone in the group had an annual passport (meaning they like Disney(land) enough to want to visit the park several times a year), and we weren't even the ones who turned on the Disney music in the car.
The people we were with were our former home teacher, a single friend of his, and a married friend of his (sans wife, who works and got kind of burned out on Disneyland after her husband dragged her there so many times; but he mentioned her frequently and fondly, so we're not too worried about their marriage). For clarification's sake, I will refer to them as Anton (former home teacher), Vang (single friend), and Gaston (married friend, who's an actor whose favorite role ever is Gaston from Beauty and the Beast).
Anyway, Vang had brought his iPod, on which he had five discs of 25 Disney songs, which he hooked up to the car stereo and played on shuffle. And that leads to another unusual thing--he had songs we didn't know. That's just not fair. But it was neat to hear Ludwig von Drake's song.
Also on the way there, we discussed our agony at having to deal with people getting tired all the time at Disneyland, at which point Vang started talking about how nobody ever realizes that they need to eat more when they're spending a day at an amusement park. Although come to think of it, Sarah's job involves a lot of moving around, so she probably could go around with the same amount of food, but it's possible that when we went with her, she ate less than usual.
We met up with Gaston at California Adventure. There were a bunch of rides of course, and then we went to the Blue Sky Cellar thing that just opened up. It used to be some vineyard tour or something that we never went to because we're not interested in alcohol, but come to think of it, it might have been interesting anyway. But we're too late and now it's the Blue Sky Cellar, which is much cooler anyway, because it's basically a showcase of what the Imagineers are planning for the future of California Adventure. And man, is it awesome. See, they've come to the conclusion that people don't go to Disney's California Adventure because it doesn't have the same nostalgia factor Disneyland proper does. They've also figured that people going to Disney's California Adventure might be interested in more Disney-related attractions. That was a big part of the problem with DCA all this time--it's a Disney park, but it's not very Disney. Gaston says it's because it was built under Eisner, the man who un-Disneyed Disney.
So what they're going to do now is make all the non-Disney stuff Disney-related. For example, there's one of those rides with the swings that go around in a circle. Right now, it's just an orange with bees in it, but they're going to change it to make it related to that old Mickey cartoon, The Band Concert. They're also making a Little Mermaid ride, and a Cars Land (which they should just call Radiator Springs), and! a fancy water show! It's like way super fancy-looking, but we'll have to see it before we can say if it beats Fantasmic!. (And that reminds us of another unusual thing--the ocean at Paradise Pier had been drained so they could build stuff for the show. It was weeeeird.)
We tried going on Toy Story, but it broke down while we were in line. They told us it would take longer for them to get everybody out and even start fixing the ride than it would for us to find another ride and come back (lines were very short yesterday; that's another unusual thing--we literally just walked on to Space Mountain. Space Mountain! There was nobody in line! Nobody! For Space Mountain! Okay, so there were people, but few enough that we didn't have to stop until we got to the ride. I wanted to ask if we could just go again, but when we got back, a line had formed.). When we tried again later, they were still broken down, but it looked like they were almost done, so the boys went on California Screamin' while we ate churros. Then Toy Story was running, and we got to hear Vang and Gaston talking about some of the tricks they've found to getting more points.
We went to the animation building because there was something we wanted to buy, but they didn't have the right one, so we ended up not buying it, and then the boys wanted to go learn how to draw a Disney character. This was another unusual thing--we didn't have to make all the decisions. But they weren't teaching another character for twenty minutes, so it was time for Tower of Terror.
Now, when we got the invitation to go to Disneyland, it was soon enough after our terrifying experience phone banking that we thought, "Hey, we might even be able to go on a big scary ride at California Adventure!" So when Tower of Terror got brought up, we thought maybe we could go on it. I knew that as soon as we got in line, I would be a wreck, though, which is why I chose not to go on Screamin', especially because the really scary part would probably last longer for that one. We'd been in line to Tower of Terror before, because we wanted to see how they developed the show in the line, and actually we thought it was a little bit half-hearted and kind of dumb, but that was when we went with the attitude of "we're not going on this ride." So this time, the little movie they show you to tell you the story behind the ride was A Lot scarier.
For those of you who don't know, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror story is that the Hollywood Tower hotel was running all happily and nicely until one night it got zapped by lightning and everyone in it vanished mysteriously. (Incidentally, Gaston tells us the Hollywood Tower was a real hotel but is now a bunch of real condos.) And there's one service elevator that's still working and they're going to take us on it because they're so nice? I don't see the appeal, personally, but I guess it's the kind of thing for people who go on real haunted house tours.
Now for a brief interlude. Speaking of the Twilight Zone, another unusual thing happened I forgot to mention. Before we met up with Gaston, we went on Grizzly River Run with Anton. (Vang didn't want to get wet.) It's one of those white water rapids rides, and it was pretty fun. The rafts seat eight, but there were so few people in the park, it was just the three of us and two kids. It was really nice, and we got just the right amount of wet, but the weird thing was the big waterfall you ride down at the end. Normally, that's where somebody gets pretty wet, but this time, there was no splash at the bottom. It was like in Peter Pan when Wendy walks the plank but Peter caught her so there was no splash, only we did make it to the bottom and there still wasn't a splash. Okay, there was, but it was small.
Back at the Tower of Terror, we seriously contemplated getting out of line. We knew we could, since we'd gone all the way through the line before, but for some bizarre unknown reason, we didn't. I can say for sure that it wasn't a pride issue, because we'd already refused to go on California Screamin' and officially not gotten a hard time for it. But we told the usher there were five in our party, and he told us where to sit, and we sat there. And we buckled our seatbelts. And then the usher started his spiel, which was really well done and creepy but funny at the same time, and maybe I'd be able to remember more of what he said and how he delivered it if I wasn't still aghast at the fact that I'd fastened my seatbelt and it was too late to get off.
The ride actually had a bunch of cool effects, showing you the Twilight Zone door like your out in another dimension, and then taking you up a floor where you see all the people in the hotel disappearing and reappearing and being all ghostlike and stuff. And then it takes you up again, to a floor where the wall's gone, so you get to see a really nice view of the Disney parks. And then it drops you. Only it doesn't just drop you--it throws you downward. It's really an interesting sensation, because, and maybe this was because we're so skinny and so our seatbelts were just a little bit loose, but the seat drops out from under you, and you're floating until the seatbelt pulls you down with it. It was okay at first, because we only dropped one floor, and going faster than the speed of gravity, that only took about a second. But of course it doesn't stop there. It drops you again. And then it takes you up. And it drops you again. And it takes you up. And drops you again. I'm not sure how many times we went up and down, actually, because I was too busy clinging to the handhold on my left and Athena's hand on my right (it was really annoying that you have to share handholds), and screaming. Also, Anton and Gaston tell us it's based on an algorithm, so the ups and downs are different every time. I remember seeing a special about Disney World technology talking about how it's all magnets and computers, so that all makes sense now.
We were pretty shaken up afterward, so we were happy to go sit and learn how to draw Dopey. Yay!
Finally, it was off to Disneyland proper, where the first order of business was lunch. The second order of business turned out to be Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. We used to watch them all the time back when our whole family had annual passes and would go together. They're a bluegrass band that's really pretty fun. This time, though, two of the four Billies were different than we remembered. The lead Billy was the same guy, and when he saw us, he almost seemed to recognize us, although we very well could have been imagining it. See, the first time we saw the Billies was either while or right after Aurora was in a production of Bye Bye Birdie, and one of the things the Billies do is perform a medley of Elvis songs. So we thought it would be fun to play the screaming fangirls. The next time we saw them, we told Celeste we were going to do the screaming fangirl thing again, and she decided to take it to the extreme, and scream at everything. We got to be a bit distracting, I fear.
So this time, we did our usual "for everything" cheering, which, by this point, is actually quite a lot (Sarah says it's weird watching Fantasmic! without us, because nobody cheers), and when it got to the Elvis part, we took it up a notch. Apparently it was still a bit distracting (maybe because they'd gone without it for about eight years, and two of them hadn't encountered it at all yet), because we threw them off a little bit again. The guys with us thought it was the funniest thing ever, but I always worry. It was good fun, but a little sad, because it reminded us of old times now lost.
But we didn't dwell on that, because there's a lot to do at Disneyland. Although in retrospect, we should have bought some mozzarella sticks to eat during the show (unrelated). We found ourselves in Fantasyland, where another very unusual thing happened. Remember, we were with three guys, and no one else. We went on Storybook Land and It's a Small World, and neither of those were our idea. (Although we did do a little pushing for It's a Small World to make sure it happened.) And then we walked right on to Space Mountain, then over to New Orleans Square (I'm looking at the order of these things and wondering why we always did things that were so far away from each other). And then it was time for Fantasmic!. We were actually surprised Fantasmic! was showing, since the park closed at eight, and the first showing of Fantasmic! had always been at nine. So if the park closed before then, no Fantasmic!. But I guess recently they realized that, hey, it gets dark earlier in the winter. Er, autumn. Whatever, it's cold. Only it was unseasonably warm yesterday, so it was really a very nice day all around.
And then we did a little shopping, including going to the Lego Store in Downtown Disney, only we didn't actually make it as far as the Lego Store, because Gaston pulled us over to the Pearl Factory booth to show us the shiny chocolate... something chocolate? brownish pearls in rose-gold. It was really shiny and pretty. I wondered why a guy would be taking us to a jewelry stand; we found out afterwards that it was his evil plot to get us to go "pearl-diving," meaning they have a bucket of oysters, we pick one, and they cut it open and give us the pearl inside. Very fun for people like us who like grab-bag things. Apparently Gaston is addicted to it, but couldn't do it himself because it's expensive. See, part of why we didn't fall for his scheme is that we already knew this from visiting the same booth about a year ago. You get the pearl, but then what are you going to do with it? You have to buy a mounting. And those are expensive. But really pretty, so we definitely want to someday, but we were too tired to think about it yesterday.
Incidentally, the guy at the booth assured us that the oysters all lived full, pampered (if a little irritated) lives before they died, and so when you dive for a pearl, you're not killing anything; it was already dead.
The ride home was long and arduous; the guys were falling asleep, and Athena was sick from using too much energy walking on an injured toe. But eventually we made it home, and here we are.
And thus concludes another trip to Disneyland. I keep thinking I'll have less to write about each time, but new things happen every time. I didn't even go into our discussion about trying to pop the inside balloon of the astronaut Mickey balloons. (It's a Mickey-shaped balloon with a clear round balloon over it.)
Today I'm thankful for another fun trip to Disneyland with people who enjoy it as much as we do, having one more ride under our belt that we never have to go on again, cute holiday napkins, making it on Indiana Jones before the park closed (there were only a few minutes between the end of Fantasmic! and closing, and we hadn't been on it yet; when we got off, we got to see part of the ride changed so they could put the cars in storage), and spontaneous purchases of Heath bars.