Monday, January 15, 2018

Kidnap the Magic: Another Themed Party Masterpost

(Continued from last week.)
In all my Kidnap the Magic posts, I haven't touched California Adventure once. So this should be interesting.

Disney California Adventure

The concept of a theme party celebrating California makes about as much sense as the concept of a theme park celebrating California...which is to say, it makes as much sense as you put into it. I have Definite Opinions about how California Adventure could have been a hit from the start, if only they'd kept in mind what they were actually building.* That said, California is still kind of a weird theme for a party...and a hard one to convey unless, like, you bake cookies in the shape of the state map or something. Making the theme of the party in fact a Disney theme park based on California just complicates matters further. There's no instantly recognizable set of icons comparable to the “Mickey Mouse + castle” I identified for Disneyland last week.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Kidnap the Magic: A Themed Party Masterpost

With a new year comes new calendars...and for many people, the activity of marking off portions of them for holidays and vacations. It is the former that concerns us today.
Under my Kidnap the Magic tag, I have offered several ideas for party themes based on Disneyland attractions, most of them keyed to specific holidays or seasonal events. It's been quite a while, because I ran out of suitably thematic holidays well before I ran out of possible themes. But I still want to fill in those gaps, hence this post: a one-stop shop for all your basic guidelines for planning themed parties based on the Happiest Place on Earth.
For each area in the resort, I'll outline a few different aspects. Themes refers to party themes, not park themes, and basically boils down to which section(s) of the big-box party store you should scour for decorations and the like. These are often seasonally specific, but no worries—it's not unusual to be loved by anyone for a large store to stock some of everything year-round, and a whole lot of whatever is coming up soon on the calendar. Food and Music should be pretty self-explanatory. And finally Disney Movies you can tap for imagery, party entertainment, or other inspiration, covering not just those movies which actually tie in to the local attractions, but also those with a similar setting or vibe. Unusually for me, I'll address both animated and live-action films, because not to do so...would be pretty silly, as we'll see.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Blogiversary Special!!! The Last Three Years in (Brief) Review

Today marks the third anniversary of the launch of the Disneyland Dilettante. I know, right? Looking back, this blog has certainly had its ups and downs…but then so has the Disneyland Resort.
Is it time to go year by year? I think it’s time to go year by year.


The big deal in 2015 was, of course, Disneyland’s Diamond Anniversary, which this blog celebrated with the 60 Diamonds project. My aim back then was to find something enjoyable that began at Disneyland each year it had been in operation, and—crucially—that was still there to be enjoyed in the present. I made it, even if I had to fudge the definition of “began” from time to time…but in pretty short order, some of my Diamonds started dropping off the map. Looking through the list now is a pretty sobering experience.
The Diamond Anniversary itself was…fine, I guess. I can give—no pun intended—glowing reviews to the Paint the Night parade and the new iteration of World of Color…but on the whole, it paled in comparison to the 50th Anniversary. It just didn’t get anywhere near the same level of celebratory spectacle. I was particularly disappointed with the new fireworks show, Disneyland Forever, which hardly had anything to do with Disneyland per se and deserved neither the title nor the auspicious release timing.
It’s worth noting, of course, that the Diamond Anniversary wasn’t the only thing going on in 2015. Two important rides received important upgrades. The Matterhorn’s Yeti was turbo-charged into a more state-of-the-art, scarier monster, complete with a sense of backstory. Even more momentous, the Haunted Mansion saw the re-introduction of its long-lost Hatbox Ghost…now with technology that, you know, works!
Sadly, at the end of the year, the wheels were set in motion for the construction of the Star Wars themed area (still in progress). I have made my peace with the fact that Galaxy’s Edge is going to be a thing, and I will even allow that it’s probably going to be a very cool thing. But dangit, the loss of Big Thunder Ranch still stings.


I'm going to go ahead and call 2016 The Year of Star Wars Harshing Our Disneyland Buzz. Not only did the aforementioned start of construction result in half of Frontierland shutting down and the Disneyland Railroad going on a long hiatus, but the supposedly temporary Season of the Force overlay in Tomorrowland just hung around for the entire year. Space Mountain became an X-Wing battle adventure, the Carousel Theater became a museum, the Magic Eye Theater started showing something called Path of the Jedi,* and the Jedi Training Academy...continued.
I didn't spend much time in Tomorrowland that year.
The Resort as a whole mostly just chugged along in 2016, but California Adventure finished strong by introducing the Festival of Holidays and World of Color: Season of Light, both of which came back for a second round this past holiday season.
And then they closed the Tower of Terror. It was as if millions of palms suddenly hit millions of faces in exasperation, and were just as suddenly ignored.


If 2015 was a net positive and 2016 an overall holding pattern, 2017 was a mixed bag. Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakfast Breakdance Breakout opened where the Tower of Terror once had been, and was an instant smash hit despite being one of the most pointless attraction revamps in theme park history. Also, John Lasseter announced plans to plaster Pixar characters over the entirety of Paradise Pier and pretend it's a “theme.”
But on the other hand, the Rivers of America and Disneyland Railroad re-opened, all shiny and new and not half bad considering the changes that had to be made to make room for Star Wars. And speaking of shiny...


...they brought back the actual, legitimate Main Street Electrical Parade for several months. As gifts to fans go, that's a pretty sweet one.
On the other other hand...Pirates. Ordinarily, the announcement that Pirates of the Caribbean's infamous wench auction scene would be redesigned to be less, um, human trafficky, would have me thinking “Well, let's wait and see.” But the changes have already taken place in Paris, and reports from discerning guests are that the new version is not only boring and nonsensical, but defeats its own purpose—sure, the redhead is no longer being sold at auction, but neither is she subtly, smugly in control of the situation. I have mixed feelings about the prospect of changing the scene to begin with, but...they damn well better figure out how to reconcile contemporary values with the needs of art before the finest theme park attraction ever built is irrevocably altered for the worse.

So where does all this leave us, as of 2018? Based on the reactions of some fans to the above plans for the parks...nowhere good. People are outright leaving the Disney theme park fandom over stuff like this. Once-prolific blogs are falling by the wayside. I don't want the Disneyland Dilettante to be one of them, but I have to admit that maintaining a weekly posting schedule is nowhere near as effortless as it once was.
That's why I am announcing a new offshoot of this blog: The Disneyland Dilettante on Tumblr! I will still do my best to bring you new content here every week, but whether I succeed or not, I'll be maintaining the conversation with other theme park fans over there.
Here's to the future!

* A retrospective on the film franchise, I think?

Monday, December 25, 2017

After-Action Report: Festival of Holidays

A short one this time—I'm still working on getting back on track, and you don't want to waste hours of your Christmas reading my barely-coherent ramblings.

Last year, our Christmastime Disneyland visit turned out to be more of Christmastime California Adventure visit, because the new Festival of Holidays event proved so engaging. We didn't even visit the food kiosks due to lack of funds, but I got a good review of World of Color: Season of Light out of it, so it wasn't a total loss.
This happened again. And this time we did try some of the food offerings. More on that in a bit, but for now, I want to focus on what a good idea the Festival of Holidays is in general. Guys? Management guys? This is how you leverage your California theme to provide quality entertainment while still pulling in the money you love so much. If there's one thing we Californians pride ourselves on, it's our multicultural savvy.* This state boasts an extremely high level of ethnic and cultural diversity, and by and large we embrace it.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Flipping the Script: Enchanted Tiki Room

Okay, so it wound up being two weeks instead. I'm still getting back up to speed in more ways than one.
For those of you in similar circumstances (getting up to speed, that is), Flipping the Script is my new post category addressing the wide (but perhaps not wide enough) world of Disney-attractions-turned-movies. Last time, I briefly examined the existing list of such movies to see what does and doesn't work about them. Now it's time to start proposing my own ideas for what Disney could do with this underserved concept in the future. And the first one is perhaps a little obvious, but I think it potentially has legs: the Enchanted Tiki Room!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Flipping the Script: Up Until This Point

They haven't been talking about it much, but from what I can tell, the Jungle Cruise movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” “Maui” Johnson is still going to be a thing. And that's pretty cool. There have been what, half a dozen Disney theme park attraction IPs adapted into movies at this point, of which only one has been financially successful (and boy howdy has it ever), yet they're still willing to tap this well for inspiration. That's actually...a bit heartening. It means the decision-makers actually recognize that a ride or attraction doesn't have to be based on a movie to be worthwhile in its own right. Here's hoping the Jungle Cruise flick is good enough to be enjoyable, but not so successful that they install a bunch of Dwayne Johnson animatronics in the actual Jungle.
But that gets me thinking...where to next for the ultimate trend in flipping the theme park script? What other attractions have decent film potential? Hence this new post category: Flipping the Script,* wherein I explore the possibilities! For this first installment, however, I'm going to briefly review the existing “theme park movies” and see if I can tease out a) Disney's methodology for producing them and b) patterns of success and failure in said methodology. How do ride concepts map onto things like film genre and themes? How much does the existing structure of a ride constrain its film adaptation? How much should it constrain it? And so on.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

After-Action Report: Disabled at Disneyland

Yes, the blog is still on hiatus due to Yours Truly's knee injury, but this topic intimately concerns said injury, so I figured I'd throw you a bone. (All, what, three of you?) I may do this from time to time until I'm properly back in the saddle and can commit to a weekly schedule again. The point is, a torn ACL, etc. is no excuse to cancel previously existing theme park plans, so the other day I got to undergo the Disneyland Wheelchair Experience.
My challenge was in fact twofold: 1) a complete inability to put weight on my left leg, and 2) this big honking immobilizing brace they're having me wear until further notice, additionally preventing me from bending said leg...unless I take it off, which is technically an option, but one I want to avoid as much as possible. I mention this because it serves as a contrast with my previous secondhand glimpses of the Disneyland Wheelchair Experience, with a party member who could walk, just not for hours at a time. No ride or attraction need be off-limits to such an individual. I knew from the outset that my situation was going to be a bit more dire than that.
So how did it work out? Here are some of the highlights. And lowlights.