All posts by James

Disneyland’s Star Wars Land…Good or Bad

So at this point, anyone who’s a fan of Disneyland has heard that most of the northwestern corner of the park closed January 11th, 2016 for the beginning phases of construction for the largest expansion Disneyland has ever seen since it’s opening in 1955…..Star Wars Land.

I’ve had some time to process the initial news, read the rumors, read the facts, and come to a personal conclusion.  But I’m not going to let you off that easily…you’ll have to read on.

First off, I want to put it out there that I am a huge Star Wars fan.  I am almost 41 and I grew up on these movies.  Before the age of VCRs,  we had a film projector and my favorite 10 minute reel we had was a Star Wars film that was one scene from the movie.  It was the scene where Luke and Han Solo are in the Millennium Falcon in the blaster turrets taking out tie fighters…”Don’t get cocky kid”.  To this day, I have fond memories of watching that real over and over again.  There was no way to watch the full movie at home.  It was all I had.

So let’s go back to where this started because some people may not know the history.  Back on October 30th, 2012, Disney, CEO Bob

Iger-LucasLucasFileSigningIger and and George Lucas signed the estimated $4.1 billion (yes…billion ….with a “B”) deal to acquire LucasFilm.  That purchase was Disney’s largest acquisition to date, topping the purchase of Marvel,  which had a price tag of $3.96 billion.  The purchase not only gave Disney LucasFilm but Lucas’ special effects company ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), Skywalker Sound and LucasArts, a video game company.

That same day, Disney announced it’s plans to expand on the original 3 part movie saga, and subsequent prequel trilogy nightmare with parts 7, 8 and 9.  The Star Wars fans were mixed with emotions.  Was Disney going to massacre the franchise with more cutesy “Disneyesque” abominations like Jar Jar Binks?  Were they going to create washed out versions of Star Wars to appeal to a wider family audience?  Some people we elated that the franchise was out of George Lucas’ hands.

Either way you looked at it, at least we were going to get more Star Wars.  There were lots of sub plots and story lines to pull from in the expanded universe that authors had been working with for 30 years….then Disney announced that none of that exists.  Anything outside of Episodes 1-6 and the animated Clone Wars never happened and is not part of the Star Wars cannon.  Fans were shocked but it was an understandable move.  Authors of books and comics and fans had been writing their own versions of what happened after (and in some cases during) the first 6 movies.  It would have been impossible to wade through all of that and keep bits and pieces that fit into the direction Disney wanted to take the property.  While a hard pill to swallow, it was an understandable move by Disney and it’s executives.

Everyone was in anticipation for Episode 7.  We knew it had been filmed but there was a secrecy over this movie that fans had never experienced.  Unlike other movies, no one could get any idea what it would be about, what the plot line would be or really even who was in it.  Because of all the secrecy, the public became more and more obsessed with trying to figure something out.  Every trailer that came out was dissected frame by frame.  People were analyzing the background of the shots, the costumes and the people in it.

At this point, Disney took the bull by the horns and Bob Iger announced at the D23 convention in Anaheim on August 15th, 2015 tSWL180055hat Disneyland would undergo a 14 acre addition for Star Wars Land (WDW was getting one too at Disney’s Hollywood Studios but this ins’t a WDW blog).  It was announced that the new land would be completely immersive with cast members completely in cSWL203101haracter as humanoid aliens from far off worlds that have settled in this remote planet and set up “shop” as it were.  On a side note, I haven’t been there yet, but this is very reminiscent of what Universal has done with their Harry Potter World attraction they’ve been installing in all their Universal Studios parks.

SWL300118Iger announced at D23 that this new land would be a “whole new world” (pun intended) in the Star Wars universe.  There are two planned attractions that have been announced.  One drops you in the middle of an epic Star Wars battle between the First Order and the New Resistance and the other let’s you take the helm of the Millennium Falcon in a customized secret mission.

So there we are…Disney buys Star Wars, creates tons of hype over the property and then announces the largest expansion to Disneyland ever.  Great for stockholders but what about diehard Disneyland fans?  Since the announcement, Episode 7 has been released and smashed just about every US record for a movie in the first 4 weeks.  It now holds the earnings titles for biggest opening weekend, biggest 2nd and 3rd weekends too.  It beat Jurassic World’s 17 day record to reach $500 million by 7 days.  It is officially the highest grossing movie of all time in the US.  It probably will not beat Avatar as the biggest grossing movie worldwide.  Avatar holds the record at $2.7 billion and as of this post, Episode 7 is $1 billion away from that mark and slowing down in international markets.

Now let’s talk about what this means for Disneyland.  First, here’s a Google Earth image of the area this effects and the original idea of the area where Star Wars Land would fit:

DLAerial

Within the first couple of days after the announcement of Star Wars Land, we knew that the backside of Big Thunder Trail was going to go.  That included the Big Thunder Barbecue, the Big Thunder Jamboree, and Big Thunder Ranch (horse,  cow and goat petting area).  That last one seemed to upset some people.  Disney was also moving the livestock and horse stables off property as well as a couple other administrative buildings, including what appears to be the sorting area for the recycling (pull up Google Maps and really zoom in on the area).

So I sat back and thought about how I felt about the whole thing.  My initial reaction for the first couple months was exactly what us true Disneyland megafans was supposed to be: “Disneyland will never be complete as long as there is imagination left in the world.”.  It’s a Walt Disney quote that is thrown around by even the slightest of Disneyland fan.  And I felt that way too.

Then, sometime in November, we started seeing the following:

DLAerialAfterThe blue line represents an entirely new Disneyland Railroad path.   a path that has not changed since the installation and opening of It’s a Small World in 1966.  But really look closely at the above image.  what you will also notice is that 30-40% of the Rivers of America are being removed for the addition of Star Wars Land.  Everything north of the pirate treasure on Pirate Island is being removed.  The Rivers of America has not changed since Walt walked the property in 1954 and decided it’s path.  Even this revelation didn’t waver my confidence that Disneyland is an ever changing tapestry and meant to change over time.

So now with this information, we find that the closure list during the 1 1/2 year construction is going to be:

  • The Mark Twain
  • The Sailing Ship Columbia
  • The Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island
  • Pirate Island (formerly Tom Sawyer Island)
  • Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
  • Fantasmic!
  • The Disneyland Railroad

And permanent closures include:

  • Big Thunder Jamboree
  • Big Thunder Barbecue
  • Big Thunder Ranch

I did some reading and the capacity for these attractions and their historical numbers showed that a quarter of the park’s real estate was being used on about 5000 visitors per day….that’s it.  Let’s figure that on an average day, Disneyland (not including California Adventure) sees 50k-60k people at any one time.  That’s a lot of real estate for such a small number of people visiting that area of attractions.  Yes, the Mark Twain ride is a nice relaxing journey through old America and Pirate Island has tons to offer kids that like to run around and explore.  So, still I wasn’t too upset about the changes.  Some of them were sad to see change but I held fast to Walt’s quote.

Then I really got to thinking.  Star Wars Land…..Star Wars Land…. hmm.  My brain ran through: Main Street America, Fantasy, Tomorrow, Adventure, the Frontier.  These were the original lands created by Walt and his vision.  They all had a theme that many things could fit into.  Then they added New Orleans Square which led to ghosts, pirates and Mardi Gras.  Still an open concept that new things could be fit into.  Next was Bear Country and even that was considered too narrow of a concept and changed to Critter Country to allow for a more broad spectrum of characters when Splash Mountain was added to the park.  Then Toon Town was given some real estate.  If you couldn’t call the Fab 5 “toons”, then what the heck were they?  So that fit too with plenty of room for the population of toons to grow.

Then I thought about Star Wars Land again.  It’s 14 acres devoted to 1 franchise.  There is no room for anything else.   Now I know that Star Wars was a large investment for Disney and they absolutely are in the business of making money.  But let’s really think about this.  Every other land of Disneyland has room in it’s concept for at least 2 movie franchises, if not more.  Star Wars Land does not.    That is all that will ever occupy these 14 acres short of tearing it down in 20 years for something else.

Before the official announcement that Star Wars Land was going into Disneyland, there were rumors that Star Wars and Marvel were going to be the driving force for the creation of a third park in

TSParkingAnaheim.  The rumor was that the Toy Story Parking Lot and all the Disney Cast Member parking next to it was going to be turned into the next greatest park for Anaheim.  I went to Google Earth, pulled up Disneyland, and then moved over (with the same amount of zoom on Google Earth) to the Toy Story parking lot.  The area of all that parking is roughly the same as Disneyland.  It was going to cost a bit of money to build…but come on.  A third park in Anaheim?  Annual passes are already $1050.00 a year with no block out dates for 2 parks.  To put that in perspective, Walt Disney World’s annual passes are $830.00 for 4 parks, 2 water parks, the ESPN complex and access and green fees at one of their golf courses and no block out dates.  For just three parks, I would have expected to pay $1400.00 for my annual pass.  And I would have done it willingly because Star Wars and Marvel are entertaining enough to sustain their own property.  Especially if you create entertaining attractions that do what Walt said always worked….tell a story.

So after lots of reading and thinking about Star Wars Land, my opinion has changed.  It doesn’t fit in with the ideas and format of Disneyland.  I am all for a Star Wars themed area but it should be in it’s own park.  The best way I can describe it is if thnew-disneyland-rivers-of-america-waterfront-concept-art-revealed-786055ese changes to the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America and everything else that is changing was for a Fantasyland expansion to add a Frozen ride and a Tangled ride or whatever else and I would have been fine with it.  We’ve had Frozen stuck down our throats for the last few years until we’re sick of it, but it fits the theming.  The real estate could evolve within the ideas of Disneyland over the years.  Star Wars Land does not fit inside Disneyland and can not evolve outside of Star Wars…but i’ll be right there in a year and a half to see it.  Maybe that will change my mind.

Thanks for following along and check back in a couple weeks.  I have a trip to Disneyland planned for this upcoming weekend and I plan to take pictures of the closures to post to a new and updated page.

Disneyland’s Star Wars: Season of the Force

IMG_4157[1]It’s been a while since I’ve had time to post anything but I had the chance on the official opening weekend to make a impromptu trip to Disneyland and I got to experience Disneyland’s Season of the Force.

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, basically, Tomorrowland  has been given an overlay of Star Wars theming to tie in with the release of Star Wars, The Force Awakens that came out on December 18th.  These are temporary theming updates that will run for an unknown amount of time at this point.

Now initially, I wasn’t too fond of turning Tomorrowland into a makeshift “Star Wars Land” but after experiencing it for myself, I think the Disney team did a fantastic job and the entire experience tied nicely into the new movie.

IMG_3926The first thing I got to experience was Start Tours.  It was updated for Season of the Force with a new segment that takes place on Jakku, the desert planet you see in the trailers for the new movie with a crashed Imperial Star Destroyer sticking several hundred feet up out of the ground.  In the new segment, you come out of hyper space and enter the atmosphere of Jakku following the Millenium Falcon through the wreckage.  Finn comes online on the display to the right of the main view window and instructs you to follow him in the Millenium Falcon.  After a brief landing in the wreckage and scavengers trying to remove parts from your ship, you take back off and into space above Jakku.  There, you receive a transmission from BB-8, the new spherical droid from Episode 7 with instructions for a “special mission” that C-3P0 objects to as always.

The new segments are a much needed update to Star Tours and this piece of the Season of the Force is permanent.  The Jakku segment is nicely done and adds some new excitement and visuals to the ride.  I also noticed that some of the original segments seemed to have gotten a visual update as well but I have not verified that.

IMG_3931The next thing I got to try out, was the revamped Space Mountain.  For the Season of the Force, it’s being called Hyperspace Mountain.  If you’ve ever been to Disneyland during Halloween and experienced Space Mountain – Ghost Galaxy, Hyperspace Mountain is the same concept just with Star Wars projections while on the ride instead of the ghostly creature from Ghost Galaxy.  The difference here is that you are piloting an X-wing through a battle around a Star Destroyer with Tie Fighters.  To me, this was leaps and bounds beyond what they do on Ghost Galaxy and far superior.  I enjoy Ghost Galaxy but this is done much better.  In some places of the ride, there are laser blasts shooting past you.  Definitely worth getting a fast pass for this one.

IMG_3928Next up, was Star Wars: Path of the Jedi at the Magic Eye Theater.  This is essentially a 12 minute commercial for Episode 7.  It ties bits and pieces of episodes 1-6 together while showing the usual clips from the the new movie that have been in the commercials.  There were a couple new brief looks at things we hadn’t yet seen (but by this point, who’s left that hasn’t seen the movie?).

IMG_3935IMG_3941Next, we went into the newly opened Star Wars Launch Bay.  This occupies the area that used to be the house of tomorrow.  That has been gutted and re-themed for Start Wars.  When you IMG_3939first enter, you can go to either the light side or the dark side.   I went to the light side first.  This area was full of displays IMG_3946of everything from models of the Millenium Falcon  and X-wing Fighter to Rey’s costume and speeder from the new
movie.  The light side is also where you can go to meet Chewbacca.  The light side also has an area themed like the Mos Eisley Cantina that can host meets of several different characters.  When I was there, you could meet Boba Fet.

IMG_3958The dark side also has displays of things like models of the Emperor’s shuttle and life size Storm Trooper costumes.  The dark side is also where you can meet Darth Vader.  The dark side is also where the Star Wars IMG_3968shop is.  The merchandise here is different from what is normally at the Star Trader in Tomorrowland.  There were customizable phone cases, Metal Earth replicas, collectible resin figurines and my absolute favorite thing I saw there (and I would buy it if I have a spare $6000.000) was a 2.5 foot tall “lifesize” statue of Yoda.

The collectibles in their shop were slightly more expensive than size and quality equivalents in other parts of the park.  For instance, there was an R2-D2 resin statue that I liked.  the size and quality of it would have warranted maybe a $150.00 price tag at Disneyana, but here was priced at $262.00.  So there is a markup for buying Star Wars collectibles at the park.

DSC_1760About a month after my first trip where I experienced Season of the Force, I was able to go back, and this time, my son wanted to do the new Jedi Training Academy, now called Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple.  The story line here is that a group of youngling Jedi’s (your kids) are facing a training challenge where their “fears” materialize.  Their fears materialize in the form of Darth Vader and The Seventh Sister (from Star Wars Rebels).  The younglings then perform the  maneuvers they were trained in the first half of the show to fight their fears.  This new format allows more kids to participate in each show since there are 2 villains to fight.  After all thDSC_1770e kids take their turn facing their fears, they are gathered to fight one last fear: Darth Maul.  All the younglings use the power of the Force Push to send Darth Maul back into the temple.    This was another good update to an outdated attraction.

Lastly, we tried the food at the Galactic Grill, which is the Tomorrowland Terrace with Star Wars themed food.  Everything on the menu is separated by “light side” and “dark side”.  The food on the dark side comes on a “dark bun” which to me, didn’t look too appetizing.  Looking around, it didn’t appear that anyone else thought it was too appetizing either because I didn’t see anyone eating the dark bun..  Other things you can get at the Galactic Grill in IMG_5989[1] IMG_5987[1]celebration of Star Wars is a BB-8 shaped cup and you can also order your meal in a box that is Han Solo in carbonite.  I couldn’t resist these and I bought both.

Overall, I think the Season of the Force is worth spending some time in.  Especially for those of us that grew up with Star Wars.  But I will not complain when we get Tomorrowland back to it’s regular self. Thanks for following and may the Force be with you.

 

The Future of DisneylandDiehard.com

First of all, for the 3 or 4 people that actually follow my site, I apologize for my lack of new content recently.  The host service for my site decided that doubling the cost of my domain would be a good idea.  I have spent the last month and a half deciding whether or not to put forth the expense to continue to do something that very few people look at and appreciate.

Then I remembered that I didn’t start this website for anyone but me.  It’s great if anyone else reads it but ultimately, it lets me talk about something I enjoy above everything else…Disneyland.  So I decided to renew.  With that decision comes a renewed commitment to add content to the site more regularly than I did last year.  For the amount I was charged to continue DisneylandDiehard.com, I’m going to make sure I get my monies worth.

So again, for the 3 of you that read this, get ready for new content every week.  I promise that I will make the time in my busy schedule to add at least one new page or post every week.  I’m actually going to shoot for 2 or 3.  I’m going to look into changing the layout of the site and the way I add content to it.

I also have plans this year to invest in some equipment to allow me to also put up high quality ride throughs of the rides at Disneyland on YouTube that I will link here on the site. This will require that I make a few “research” trips…but I’ll sacrifice for all my fans.

Again, thank you all for following and promoting the site.  I know it’s nothing absolutely amazing but it is intended to be a place where we can get together about our love of Disneyland.  If you have any topics you’d like covered in future posts or pages, comment here and I’ll see what we can do.

Fantasmic Fastpass Results

UPDATE!!!!!!!!!!!

The last couple of times that I have gone to the park to see Fantasmic!, I have been surprised that the seating locations for different packages has changed from my information below.  I thought about updating my post but as of the date of this update, Fantasmic! will close tomorrow for a year and a half while the Rivers of America undergo significant changes to accommodate the construction of Star Wars Land.  So for now, I’ll leave the post as is until I have a chance to go back in the Summer of 2017 to see how things have changed for Fantasmic!  Thanks for following!!!

Fantasmic Map

If you’ve read the first part of this story, you know that it’s taken me a few trips to figure out the little bit of information that I have.  What I can tell you is that…I’m a fan of the Fantasmic Fastpass.

Initially, I wasn’t really sure but after experiencing it on both the Fastpass side as well as the dining option side, I’m a fan.

On my initial page about Fantasmic, I mentioned the “Blanket Brigade”.  That is absolutely gone.  As a matter of fact, about 45 minutes before the show begins seating, the area is completely cleared out of all people and strollers.  On a side note about the strollers.  If you have kids that use strollers, don’t park your stroller anywhere along the Rivers of America anytime after about 7:00 or 7:30 on a Fantasmic night.  You will spend 30-45 minutes after getting off of Pirates of the Caribbean or wherever you went, trying to locate where the cast members moved it.  It’s not worth it.

Now that the area is clear, they set up there areas.  Some of it is with barriers.  Some of it is with ropes.  And some of it is with tape markers on the ground.  Now, let’s start with the top level seating: Blue Bayou.  On the above map, that area is in light blue.  This is the real estate that the “Blanket Brigade” typically took.  For $61.00 per adult and $23.00 per child, you get a three course meal and a Fastpass ticket for each person at your table to the coveted light blue section marked above.  Initially, you also got a Fantasmic padded seat cushion but I don’t see anywhere on the Disney website that they’re still offering that.  This area is also mandatory seating…no standing during the show.

Next, is the orange section on the map above.  This is the River Belle Terrace section, where for $41.99 per adult and $21.99 again, you get a three course meal and one Fastpass ticket for each person at your table.  Now this is the option that I took.  And I did it on a spur of the moment.  It is highly recommended that you make reservations for whichever of the first two options you would like to do.  On busy days, you are not guaranteed to be able to walk up and get a table and Fastpasses for the show if they are already booked with reservations for their limit of tickets.

If you know anything about Disneyland, you’re reading this and thinking: River Belle Terrace…reservations?  This guy’s crazy.  Actually no, I’m not.  Typically, the River Belle Terrace is a quick service location where you walk in, grab a tray and pick from the food in front of you.  On Fantasmic days however, they serve breakfast until 2:00pm (I’m not kidding) and then at 3:00, they start the Fantasmic dining package with table service and waiters.   You get seated, pick your three courses from a preset menu of choices and you are served those three courses.

Now, I will tell you that the food was good.  It’s been a while since I did this option and I can’t remember what I had but I do remember it had pasta and chicken and was good.  I had a soup to start with and dessert.  I was absolutely full when it was over and I was not left wishing it had been better.  It was good.  Now I will say that if I had paid $41.99 for the meal and got nothing else, I probably would have been a little upset.  The food was about as good as you would normally get at the River Belle Terrace, just walked to your table by a waiter.  The price you pay is for the seating at Fantasmic.  To me, it was worth it.

The next two areas on the map, I may not be exactly right about but it’s what I could gather asking questions of cast members and of my waiter at the River Belle Terrace.  From what I can tell, the red section on the map above is the Aladdin’s Oasis grab and go package.  Where for $19.99 per adult and $13.99 per child 3-9, you can grab a meal for either lunch or dinner (this package starts serving at 12:00 noon).  Reservations can also be made for this package as well.  The menu is relatively simple.  You get a main course, side salad, roll and dessert.  The main courses that I have seen were a beef lasagna, a vegetable lasagna and a grilled chicken breast.  And a side note: due to this new dining package, Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie are almost always out for meet and greats now right outside the oasis.  They used to be occasionally in the oasis and no one knew they were there.  I had a 10 minute conversation with Aladdin and Jasmine once and no else ever came in.  So it’s nice to see characters getting the attention they deserve.

The next section again, may not be completely accurate but it’s the purple section on the map above.  From best I can tell, that’s the “blue” Fastpass section.  These are the first Fastpasses that are given out at the distribution machines.  Which, by the way, are located about half way down Big Thunder Trail.  Right before Big Thunder Ranch.

The next section on the map is the “yellow” Fastpass section.  On the map, this is also the yellow section.  Now, the first time I experience this new system, that was where my Fastpass was for.  For a viewing option that doesn’t cost anything, this was a great section.  I got there early enough before the show to pretty much have my pick of where I wanted to stand.  Definitely a better area than I had been getting for the last 2 years with the old system.

For reference, the black section on the map is where the center lighting rig is and where the director and engineers for the show sit at the sound and effects boards.

Now, there is one other viewing option: standby.  If you choose not to take advantage of one of the dining packages or you decide not to or can’t get a Fastpass, you can line up in a line that goes down Big Thunder Trail.  The first night I saw the line, it started across from the exit of Big Thunder Mountain and went almost all the way to Fantasyland.  There are two downsides to standby.  First, there is no guarantee that there will be enough area for everyone in standby and second, even if no one eats at the dining package options, standby will not get that space…it will sit empty.  The night that I did the River Belle Terrace package, our area was only about a quarter full and no standby people were let in the area.

So, there’s the information that I’ve managed to get.  Some of it may not be right but I was asking a lot of questions in the first few weeks of the new system.  Not all the cast members knew all the answers.

The final thing I will say about this new system is that I am a huge fan of it.  I get to decide how important fantastic seats are to me or if I’m satisfied with trying for standby.  What I mean is before, you had to invest at least 2 hours of your valuable time at Disneyland to get an “ok” area.  4 hours if you wanted your choice of seating.  That’s excessive for people who only get to make one 4 day trip a year to the park…if they’re lucky.

I’ve read some things where people are not happy about the change.  They’ve said that Disney just did it to make more money and to “take advantage” of people.  The fact is, Fantasmic costs approximately $75,000 per show to put on and some nights, they do it 3 times…and you can see if for FREE during your visit if you choose.  They’re not making that money back on the dining packages.  Yes, Disney is making some money…but they’re a business.  That’s what they set out to do everyday.

Like I said when I started this blog, you may not agree with me but these are my opinions.  I love Disneyland.  I go at least once a month.  And I am absolutely in favor of the new system.

Thanks for reading.  Check back soon for new content.

Fantasmic Fastpass – Good Idea?

2014-08-22 210258 - Mickey Mouse Fireworks Fantasmic Disneyland (2)As of the middle of December, Disneyland has initiated a Fastpass system for the Fantasmic show at Disneyland on the Rivers of America.  The Fastpasses are separated by colored viewing areas and are issued at new mobile machines that are back on Big Thunder Trail behind Big Thunder Mountain.  When I was there for my family’s Christmas vacation to the park, I saw the system but didn’t have the opportunity to experience it.

Next week, I and a couple friends and co-workers will be going to the park for a couple days.  One friend has an annual pass and is a Disney nut like me but has never seen the show.  For another co-worker, this will be only his second trip to the park and he also has never seen the show.  So I will be taking this opportunity to try out the new system and see how it works.

2014-08-22 210522 - Disneyland Fantasmic Kaa (2)Now, let me take you through what used to happen before the Fastpass system was started.  At anywhere from 4:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon, you would start to see people come out to the Rivers of America with blankets.  They would take these blankets and essentially “mark” their territory for the show.  From other annual pass holders and other blogs I’ve read online, these people were referred to as the “blanket brigade”.  I’ve heard in some instances that some of these people would lay out their blankets and ask one of the other blanket brigaders to “watch it for them” and they would go off to do other things.

I remember on several of my recent trips seeing the same older gentleman in a rascal scooter with two six foot tarps on either side of him right in the middle of the prime viewing area.  He was there every time I went to the park.

2014-08-22 210934 - Disneyland Fantasmic Pirate ShipWhat has been frustrating for me is this is my absolute favorite show at Disneyland.  It’s another one of those things that takes me back to my childhood and since I’ve been going again, I’ve never been able to get a closer center viewing area than the third section back.  On my fist trip a year and a half ago, I managed to get a seat right on the railings to the Rivers of America…but it was a side view.  We were close enough to get wet from the water screens but we couldn’t see much of what happened on the stage.  That particular viewing area was a 2 hour wait with a 3 year old…that was tough.

A couple of times, I’ve gotten a spot right on the railing of the third section back.  So it allowed me to stand my son up on the railing and not have to hold him in order for him to see the show (BTW, he also loves this show), but it was still a tough viewing area.

For my son’s birthday this last year, it was just he and I that got to go the park.  A little Father-Son bonding time.  I had decided as we left from the previous trip to stop by City Hall and buy tickets for he and I to do their dessert package.  For $54.00 per person, you got an actual “seat” in the second section back (that’s right, further back than the blanket brigade) and a dessert box and drink.  The dessert box was huge and had a lot of stuff in it but one of them was plenty for my son and I.  I ended up bringing the second box back to2014-08-22 211910 - Disneyland Fantasmic Malificent Dragon my hometown for my wife.  Now, here was the other downside of this $108.00 adventure that I decided to try with my son on his birthday…people could check in and pick their seats 2 hours before the show.  The line to check in started forming 2 hours before you could check in.  So 4 hours before the show, people got in line to choose their seats for Fantasmic premium viewing.  I wasn’t going to do that and when I got there to check in, they tried to tell me that my 4 year old son and I weren’t going to be able to sit anywhere near each other.  Um…..no.  After about 10 minutes and several conversations with what I would think was “park entertainment management”, we got seated with he in one row and I was seated right behind him.  The next issue, there was a large pillar on our left hand side so the entire left side of the “stage” was impossible to see.  We couldn’t see the second half of the Peter Pan sequence.

So let’s not forget, I did the dessert package so that we could sit down, have a good viewing area and not have to spend 2 – 4 hours before the show staking out our territory.  All this because as of about 2 hours before the first show, the entire first section of the viewing area was completely full of people.

There was one other option before the Fastpass.  You could hover around the Rivers of America as the first show was ending.  As everyone is exiting the area, you could get a fairly decent view and the show started about an hour later.  I however, had a 4 year old and staying up until midnight is a challenge.

2014-08-22 211922 - Disneyland Fantasmic Malificent DragonSo that was then.  Now, there are separate viewing areas that are color coordinated and depending on which option you take, you get a different viewing area.  You can get to the park and just get a Fastpass, you can eat at 4 different restaurants and do the Fantasmic dining package: Blue Bayou, River Belle Terrace,  The Hungry Bear Dessert Package and Aladdin’s Oasis Grab ‘N Go.  All the packages are different prices and I’m assuming that your viewing area is based on how much you paid for dinner.

So what I think is going to happen is there is the best seating area and that is for people that do the Blue Bayou dinner package.  Then a slightly less desirable, but still great area for the River Belle Terrace dinner package.  Then another one for the Hungry Bear Dessert Package.  Another for the Aladdin’s Oasis Grab ‘N Go package.  And then the rest of the area for the regular Fastpasses that were handed out on Big Thunder Trail.  You can also line up 90 minutes before the show for a chance at stand by seating if there’s room but there’s no guarantee.

So the point of this is that I’m going next week and going with at least 2 people that have2014-08-22 212132 - Disneyland Fantasmic Mark Twain Mickey Mouse never seen the show.  So I’m going to pick one of the above options and see how the process works and what kind of seating is available for which packages.  When I come back, I’ll complete this blog entry with the results of how things went.

Personally, I did not like the blanket brigade…AT ALL.  I hated that in order to get decent viewing for the show, I had to camp out for 4 hours.  I always thought that maybe 2 hours before the show, they should have cleared out and blocked off the area and 1 hour prior, opened it up on a first come, first serve basis.  I understand why they couldn’t do that though.  It would have been a mad dash of people running, pushing and falling to try to get the area they wanted.  Fights would have started.  It would have just been ugly.  So I get it…but people staking their claim 4 hours ahead of time?  And 72 square feet of area? That’s excessive.

Check out the updated page on Disneyland’s Fantasmic Fastpass…