Martin Miller

March 16, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

Enhanced Big Thunder Mountain ride adds thrills to Disneyland favorite

Guests ride the train cars on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain ride. (Disney)
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. 24, 2013 | 9:00 a.m.

Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise gets a new jingle

Jingle Cruise
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 […]
May 30, 2013 | 2:05 p.m.

Heading to Disneyland? Beware the Fastpass rules change

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 […]
Feb. 03, 2013 | 10:55 a.m.

Super Bowl Sunday: A goofy notion of smaller crowds at Disneyland

Visitors attend Disneyland's Magic Kingdom in February, 2012. Some Disney patrons expect Super Bowl Sunday to be the least crowded day of the year in the park. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Is Super Bowl Sunday the least busy day to visit the Happiest Place on Earth? According to persistent online chatter and practically anyone with a Disney annual pass that doesn’t black out on weekends (sorry Southern California passholders, this doesn’t include you), the day of the Big Game is regarded by many Mickey-ophiles as an all-day extension of magic morning hours — shorter lines for marquee rides. (Magic morning hours are a perk for Disney hotel guests who on certain days are permitted into the parks early, usually an hour before the public.) Of course, as anyone who has ever covered Disney can tell you, the gatekeepers of information at the Magic Kingdom are about as likely to disclose daily attendance figures as they are to sponsor a mixed-martial arts fight between Cinderella and Goofy. (Actually, that sounds more entertaining than […]
June 15, 2012 | 8:06 p.m.

Disneyland’s new Matterhorn: Snow white sights, abominable sounds

The Matterhorn's snowmen make abominable noise. (Disneyland)
Steps away from the honking traffic jam of humanity crushing into the grand opening of Cars Land on Friday, Disneyland quietly welcomed back one of its icons – the Matterhorn Bobsleds. The Swiss-Alps themed ride was the park’s first roller coaster in 1959 and has been undergoing much-needed minor repairs and refurbishment during the last six months. The most notable alteration is completely cosmetic, and instantly recognizable – the mountain simply looks better, much brighter and sharper. Despite global warming, more snow has fallen over the venerable Matterhorn. It pops, and frankly, is a considerable improvement over its former battered and worn appearance. Extra snowflakes and frost won’t be the only change visible on the peak’s ridges. After a lengthy absence from the park, real mountain climbers return to the 147-foot mountain and will begin scaling the slopes that separate Tomorrowland and Fantasyland (just as the […]
June 06, 2012 | 11:41 a.m.

Review: Universal’s ‘Transformers’ ride sophisticated, satisfying

Transformers ride (featured image)
How’s the new ride at Universal? Los Angeles Times television editor Martin Miller is our guest reviewer.  There is only one measure of a marquee amusement park ride if you have children, and that is whether the parents hear “Can we go again?” before you hit the ride’s gift shop. Moments after stepping off Transformers: The Ride – 3D, which opened Memorial Day weekend at Universal Studios Hollywood, both of my sons – ages 12 and 10 – fired off the question. No hesitation, no cold feet, no concern for their safety (or their parents’) as I remember a couple summers ago from my older son after tangling with Knotts Berry Farm’s GhostRider. The Transformers reaction was immediate, utterly certain and completely enthusiastic. After declaring their interest in at least a repeat, if not three-peat, of the experience,  other family […]
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