July 26, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER “Hey,” the kid said. “I can get you out of jail.” I politely said no. Standing in lockup, after all, was a rare photo opportunity. The kid shrugged and walked off, and there I stood alone in my cell, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in front of me, the Mark Twain Riverboat docked to my left. Welcome to the Legends of Frontierland, Disneyland’s wacky new live-action role-playing game running daily inside the theme park. Legends of Frontierland pits guest against guest in a battle for control of a fictional town — in this instance one that’s set inside Disneyland’s vision of the Old West. Or something sort of like that. Even for a resort with wench-auctioning pirates and hitchhiking ghosts, the recently launched Legends of Frontierland is often absurdly nonsensical. To play Legends of Frontierland is to partake in […]
March 16, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.
PERSPECTIVE My youngest son’s first roller coaster was Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. He had just turned four, proudly towered an inch or so over the 40-inch minimum, and jumped on with a wide smile. He loved it – as much for the excitement of the ride itself as for the realization that he had now passed an initiation of sorts, from toddler-hood to full-blown boyhood. While he may have been among its younger passengers at the time, his joyful experience was hardly unique for the beloved Frontierland ride, which after a lengthy refurbishment officially reopens St. Patrick’s Day. A cheers (with green beer) indeed! Actually it will be green tea for my son who is now 12 and whose roller coaster palette has broadened quite a bit since he first boarded the Disney train. Much to the horror of Disney […]
Nov. 28, 2013 | 11:01 a.m.
The scattered nature of Southern California’s expansive urban grid is never more noticeable than during the winter holidays. While lights festoon certain streets and artistically ambitious homeowners create over-the-top front-lawn tableaux, Los Angeles still lacks the central pedestrian thoroughfares that make Christmas so enchanting in cities like New York and Chicago, London and Paris. This means that, as with so many other things, we have to drive to Christmas. Or at least Anaheim. The new trend in open-plaza shopping may offer more local town-square seasonal activities — the Grove and the Americana have tree-lighting ceremonies and nightly “snow” fall, while Pershing Square and Nokia Plaza host skating rinks. But none of them beats the faux Main Street that started it all. At the resort the mouse built, Walt Disney’s nostalgic imagining of Americana has become more crazy festive with each […]
Nov. 24, 2013 | 9:00 a.m.
The holidays have finally wound their way into the deepest, darkest jungles … of Disneyland. So, you know, it’s not really that deep or dark. In fact, it’s one knee-slapper after another sprinkled with a bit of Christmas cheer. To help celebrate the holidays, the Happiest Place on Earth has for the first time temporarily rechristened the venerable Jungle Cruise the “Jingle Cruise.” Although not nearly as extensive as seasonal makeovers for rides such as It’s a Small World or Haunted Mansion, the popular Adventureland ride is one of a growing roster of Disneyland attractions that receive the Christmas treatment. The first Jingle Cruise vessel left the docks with a boatload of passengers and new corny holiday-themed jokes in mid-November. The ride, which has undergone minor redecorating — dangling Christmas lights and beige Santa hats for the skippers — will […]
Nov. 16, 2013 | 8:30 a.m.
The scattered nature of L.A.’s expansive urban grid is never more noticeable than during the winter holidays. While certain centers festoon the streets with lights and artistically ambitious homeowners create front lawn tableaux, Los Angeles simply lacks the central pedestrian thoroughfares that make Christmas so enchanting in cities like New York and Chicago, London and Paris. But if we don’t have Oxford Street, we do have the Disneyland resorts, where Walt Disney’s initial nostalgic imagining of Americana has become more festive with each passing holiday season. What began in 1956 with a Christmas tree on Main Street and a Santa hat on Mickey has become an increasingly dramatic, and dramatically marketable, Christmas-fication of Just About Everything. The Christmas fantasy parade, the holiday version of “It’s a Small World,” the sudsy snow falling in “Believe,” the Haunted Mansion gone all “Nightmare Before […]
Nov. 06, 2013 | 5:54 p.m.
In the late 2000s Walt Disney Imagineers were tasked with solving a problem that doesn’t typically crop up at Walt Disney World theme parks: How do you make the place more kid-friendly? Answer: Give it something that resembles a video game. That initial question led to what is now known as Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, a real-life game that dates to 2009 and has players traversing Epcot’s series of country-themed pavilions to trigger hidden interactions within the park environments. The Florida attraction, said designer Jonathan Ackley on Tuesday, was inspired by the narrative-driven LucasArts games of the ’80s and early- to mid-’90s. “There was the perception at the time that there wasn’t enough stuff for kids to do at Epcot,” said Ackley, a former LucasArts employee. The location-based game has a spy theme and deviates from the international flavors […]
Nov. 06, 2013 | 11:32 a.m.
In time for this weekend’s release of “Thor: The Dark World,” Marvel is bringing the magic of Asgard to Disneyland in a new exhibit fit for the gods. Thor: Treasures of Asgard is now open as part of the park’s Innoventions display. The exhibit features “artifacts” from Asgard, including the helmet of Loki, the swords of Heimdall and Lady Sif, the mask of a dark elf and even the book that contains the history of Yggdrisil, the world tree that unites the nine realms of Asgard. See photos of some of the artifacts in the gallery above. We assume that Thor needs his hammer Mjolnir, and other famous objects like the Casket of Ancient Winter may be too dangerous to be on display. As part of the experience, participants are told by Odin, ruler of Asgard, about the joint undertaking […]
Nov. 05, 2013 | 6:54 p.m.
Grumpy Cat was just one of about two dozen Internet stars that turned up at Disneyland in Anaheim Tuesday as part the company’s unveiling of its new marketing push, dubbed Disney Side, which is attempting to harness the power of social media “all stars” to promote the parks. The new campaign is designed to encourage people to express the “Disney side” of their personalities, and includes original contributions from stop-motion Vine animator Ian Padgham, Instagram photographer Lauren Randolph, wacky video personality Mark Malkoff, “CuteGirlsHairstyles” YouTube-r Mindy McKnight, singer Tiffany Alvord, fashionable dog Trotter Pup, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy Zeddie Little and “How to Be a Dad” blogger Charlie Capen, among others. The 24 creators chosen by Disney have a combined fan following of 30 million and have generated an estimated 2 billion views online. “We looked for people with a solid […]
Aug. 09, 2013 | 2:32 p.m.
When a young Disney employee in the early 1970s by the name of Tony Baxter found his daily assignments to be lacking a certain luster, he opted instead to devote his time to building a model train. This self-described “little train” would eventually cost more than $15 million to construct. Known today as moderate thrill ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Baxter’s extracurricular hobby would ultimately become one of the premiere attractions at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. It opened first at the Anaheim theme park in 1979. “Going into Big Thunder, I was a kid in a model shop. Coming out, I was a designer,” says Baxter. At 66, Baxter this year has transitioned from his senior executive position at Walt Disney Imagineering into a creative advisory role. Baxter officially will be recognized as a Disney “legend” at […]
May 30, 2013 | 2:05 p.m.
PERSPECTIVE A word of warning if you’re headed for the maddening crowds at the Magic Kingdom this summer – the line situation just took a big step backward. I’m not one to exaggerate, but mapping the human genome was nothing compared with the development of the Disneyland Fastpass, which can cut wait times for major rides by a half or a third. And now a critical benefit of the glory and envy of the civilized amusement park world has been quietly changed for the worse. Earlier this year the Disney time lords apparently decided that when a Fastpass provides a window of an hour to return to your chosen ride it means you better zip-a-dee-doo-dah do so – or else you can kiss that short Fastpass line goodbye and say hello to the hordes in the standby line. MORE: Disney is […]