Thursday, April 3, 2014

Team Danger's Disney California Adventure

Day two at Disneyland Resort was spent at Disney's California Adventure.

Its changed a lot since we were last here, most noticeably because Cars Land opened up last summer.

I had read up a bit (okay, a lot) about how to navigate the crowds for Cars Land, and most importantly, its flagship ride, Radiator Springs Racers.

The single most important tip? Be there at rope drop. Which is easier said than done, but we made it. Here we are waiting with thousands of other people in a mob-like setting.

Notice the sign in the pic above that says, "Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass." I'd also read that you should send one member of your party with your tickets to get all fastpasses, while the rest of you wait for Cars Land to open. Carl was our lucky fastpass nominee. The book wasn't kidding. Within an hour of the park opening, this sign appeared. And the line for this ride is LONG. Like Queen Elsa and Princess Anna long. Fastpass is the only way to go.

The advice I had gathered was to avoid the mobs all heading to stand in line for RSR, and to head to the two other Cars-themed rides which are slow-loading and will fill up fast. So Chris and the boys and I did that while Carl stood in line. First up, Luigi's Flying Tires.

The tires inflate and become something like hovercrafts that float seemingly in air. And then they are like bumper cars. We were the first ones on the ride!

We then hopped over to Mater's Tractor Tipping, where  we waited about five minutes.

It was cute, but really just another version of a spinning teacup kind of ride.

I didn't get nearly enough pictures of how fantastically tripped out Cars Land was. You really felt like you were in Radiator Springs!

We were especially thrilled to see the Cozy Cone Motel, and its sign for 100% Refrigerated Air. It reminded us of our stay at its namesake in New Mexico, the Blue Swallow.

Oh, and in case you are wondering why we are jumping around in picture quality here. Well, some were taken with my cell phone, so those aren't as good.

And then some were taken with our good camera. Which, unfortunately, ... back while we were waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion ride late in the day at Disneyland, I dropped our camera. I thought it was working okay, but once I looked at the pictures, it became clear that our lens was trashed. So the rest of our pictures for this trip are a mixed bag. My zoom lens still worked well, so I was able to use that a lot. And at night, or indoors, the pictures tended to be okay. Whatever I did to the lens caused all my photos to be washed out. I've tried to edit them back at home to delete the washed out look, but as you'll see, that wasn't always possible.

Around this time, Carl finally made his way back to us, with these babies which were worth their weight in gold.

Since it wasn't even ten am at this point, we left Cars Land and went to Paradise Pier.

We pulled Fastpasses for California Screamin', and then proceeded to wait in the longest line of our trip, for Toy Story Mania.

We love this interactive Hamm, who talks to you while you stand in line.

This is such a fun ride!

It was then time for our Fastpasses for California Screamin', which I braved with Alex and Ryan. This was their first ever upside down roller coaster. I was way more nervous than they were (can you tell??). Since Carl and Chris sat this one out, the boys went a second time - by themselves - with our other two Fastpasses. No way could I have done that when I was ten, let alone eight!

After those rides, we noticed Woody was hanging around. So we stood in line to meet him. The little boy waiting in line behind me was adorable, probably around four or five, and wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume. I applauded his parents' ingenuity at dressing him up so fantastically to go to the Pixar-themed Disney park, so of course I had to tell his father how much I approved, and how cute his son was. We talked a bit about how much he loves Buzz and Toy Story. Then I noticed the dad was wearing a Make-a-Wish t-shirt. And I looked again at the little boy. Well, I asked the dad, as unobtrusively as possible, about his t-shirt, and brought up the cute BatKid who got to be Batman in San Francisco a few months ago, and how much I love the Make-a-Wish charity. The dad then volunteered they were here at Disney on his son's wish trip. The little Buzz Lightyear. At this point, Woody's minders came by and announced Woody would be leaving soon, but Jessie was coming out. We were about three families from the front of the line. Would we make it for Woody? I decided I would let little Buzz go in front of my boys if we made it up there, which would likely lead to some tears because I couldn't very well explain to them at that moment why we were doing so. But we were still two families away when Jessie walked out. I wasn't going to have my chance to do a good deed after all. Well, turns out little Buzz's mom is pretty crafty. Because she managed to get little Buzz pulled out of the line, and he got to meet Woody. And even better than that, he got pictures with Woody and Jessie. This had to have been the most magical Disney moment I'v ever seen, and I probably spent the next hour plus with teary eyes. I'm teary even now, writing about it. Out of respect for little Buzz, I'm not posting those pictures. Just this one, of Woody greeting him off to the side. I really hope he's okay, and gets to live a long, happy life. And that little Buzz can come back in thirty years and be big Buzz, and meet his best friends, Woody and Jessie, all over again. Well done, Disney. Well done.

Our meeting Jessie seemed almost silly to me after what I had just witnessed. I thanked the Disney people a lot on little Buzz's behalf, and somehow managed to take a picture through my wet eyes.

I sat the next few rides out, while I thought about how grateful and blessed I am for healthy children.

I also took the time and volunteered to trek across the park to get our Fastpasses for Soarin' over California (Carl was still Mr. Grumpy over the Radiator Springs Racers FP line). I passed Flyin' Minnie while I was hoofing.

I met back up with everyone in Cars Land, since it was finally time for our Radiator Springs Racers ride!

It really sucks our camera wasn't working right here, because this might be the coolest thing Disney has ever built. Its HUGE. And I mean HUGE.

For the ride, everyone gets one of the "cars" to ride in.

And then you go for a drive around Radiator Springs, and see all the sights.

And I do mean all the sights

At first, its just a leisurely drive.

But before long, you are racing another car at very high speeds (something like 60 mph). Check out my hair! (and the woman sitting next to me, whose face is blocked out by the picture number? A single rider. Whose family had done nothing but ride RSR since park opening, once together, and the rest of the time with the single rider lines. Yes, my friends. Its that awesome a ride, that some families DO NOTHING BUT RIDE RADIATOR SPRINGS RACERS ALL DAY.)

What a ride! After lunch, we spent some downtime with the Muppets show, and Turtle Talk with Crush. And we got to meet Sully.

I was probably happier than others to score Sully, mainly because I'd gotten Alex a Monsters University shirt to wear today, and Sully was in his Monsters University letterman jacket. Big score in my book.

We also braved the Tower of Terror. That's one ride I don't ever have to go on again.

The boys were, however, excited to meet Russell, a Wilderness Scout. When we told Russell and his people that the boys were Scouts, they suggested they all do the Scout salute.

The Green Army Men drove up, and ran some drills with the kids to teach them how to be army men.

This was something right up Alex's alley, since he wants to be a Navy SEAL.

And then we found Dug, who did not respond when I yelled out "Squirrel!" Come on, Disney. How hard would it be for him to look up and around for a second?

Dug did, however, sign autographs. Something Russell couldn't do, because he hadn't earned his handwriting badge yet, or some silly excuse.

I would have loved to stay and see the park at night. Radiator Springs looks incredible with all its neon in the pictures, and then DCA is famous for its big evening show, World of Color, which is supposed to be like the Bellagio fountains in Vegas, except with color, and way better. But everyone was pretty beat at this point, and we wanted to have dinner with family. So we headed out. But not before one last autograph from Goofy!

And this picture, I took because I loved the buses that took us to our parking lot.

And because Alex just happened to pick a big lollipop at the final gift shop visit with the last of his Disney Dollars. And it reminded me so much of this, five years ago, as we left Disneyland for the last time that trip.

Oh, how they grow. And yet in so many ways, they stay the same. I swear, the lollipop was totally unplanned and all Alex's idea. We'll have to go back when he's fifteen, and see what happens then.

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