All posts by James

Bus Vs. Tram

2014-08-23 082700 - Disneyland Bus2014-08-23 173650 - Disneyland Tram





Now, I’ve talked to lots of people about the difference between parking in the Toy Story parking lot and taking the bus to Disneyland or parking in the Mickey and Friends parking structure and taking the tram.

The Mickey and Friends parking lot is a six story parking structure with about 10 lanes of inbound traffic.  Five of the six levels provide covered parking and the oversized vehicle parking lot, the Pinocchio parking lot, is located next to the Mickey and Friends parking structure.  The tram station has four loading and unloading zones for high capacity tram cars.  The parking structure is relatively close to the park so it’s a 5-10 minute walk should you choose not to take the tram.

The trams carry a lot of people to and from the park but there is a downside. First thing in the morning, right after the fireworks and in the last hour of the park being opened, the lines to get on the tram are insanely long and it can take a very long time to get on one.  I’ve waited 4 and 5 trams to get on and get back to my car.  Then, once you get back to the parking structure, depending on where you parked, you have as much as a 10 minute walk to your car.  The parking structure is huge and if you don’t get there are the right time, you end up in row 1, which sounds good but is actually the furthest row from the escalators and elevators down to the tram.  Also, if you get there first thing on what the park anticipates to be a busy day, you end up in the Pinocchio parking lot and if you were going to Mickey and Friends to park in covered parking and keep your car cool in the summer, that will backfire almost every time…it has for me.  On some mornings, you will make the turn onto Disneyland Drive from Ball Rd and find the ramp to enter the parking structure blocked by the Anaheim Police Department and signs directing you to other parking lots like Pumba (on the opposite side of the park) or what I believe is called the Simba parking lot ( I can’t find it on any website…even Disneyland’s but it’s a parking lot straight down Disneyland Way, past the Downtown Disney parking lot and just south of the Paradise Pier Hotel).  Now, you can get past the Anaheim Police Department at the parking structure ramp if you have someone in the vehicle that is special needs.

Now, the Toy Story parking lot is a smaller parking area but it is still a good size.  There are benefits to parking in Toy Story.  The main one being that I have never waited more than 2 buses to get on and in the summer or winter months, the buses are cooled or heated.   I’ve ridden the tram in the winter and froze my face off.  Also, getting back to your car after the bus ride is not even a 5 minute walk, even if you’re parked in the farthest corner of the parking lot.  Most tourists don’t know about the Toy Story parking lot so there’s usually no issue on them running out of parking or closing the lot unlike the Mickey and Friends parking structure.

When I started writing this a while back, in my mind, there was a clear winner in this battle.  My first 7 or 8 trips to the park over the last year and a half, I refused to park anywhere else other than the Mickey and Friends parking structure…unless I was forced to park somewhere else.  Now I’ve never parked in the Pumba lot but a friend of mine (who is also a Disneyland fanatic) recently made a trip to the park and when she made the turn onto Disneyland Way, she was redirected to the Pumba lot.  They apparently direct the traffic on a small access street that actually goes around the perimeter of California Adventure and comes out on the east side of the park onto Disney Way, where the busses would come into the park.  Oddly enough, the last part of this drive on the east side of the park, is the original entrance to the parking lot when it occupied the lane that is now California Adventure.  I have however, parked in the Simba lot and that one is a pain.  There is no transportation from the lot to the park.  you have to walk through the parking lot, through the Paradise Pier Hotel parking and driveway area, into the west end of Downtown Disney between the Disneyland Hotel and the AMC theater.  Then, if you’re there before the park opens, you have to walk past the Monorail station that could take you into the park if it was open and all the way through the rest of Downtown Disney.  This is a long walk and the first time I had to park in this lot, we did it with a 3 year old.  I swore I’d never park there again and I haven’t.  There’s a trick to get into the Mickey and Friends that we’ll cover on another blog that I’m working on.

parkinglot_frontNow some people have asked me why I like the Mickey and Friends parking structure more than any other parking lot at the resort and my answer has always been the same.  For the few trips we made when I was a kid, DCA didn’t exist…it was THE parking lot.  15,167 parking spots divided into 19 areas named after Disney character.  That’s how you remembered where you parked.  “We’re parked in Pinocchio 7”.  This system is still in place in all of the Disney parking lots.  But for me, the defining thing about parking in the old lot was there was a central driveway down the middle of the lot and you could ride a tram to the front gate.

So when I started coming to Disneyland again and found that what I remembered as the parking lot was gone, the Mickey and Friends parking structure gave me that experience on the tram that I remembered from my youth.  To me, you weren’t at Disneyland until you got on the tram.  The Toy Story parking lot transportation system was a public bus…that wasn’t magical.  It felt like my car broke down and I had to ride the public bus to get to where I needed to go.

So there it is.  The Mickey and Friends parking structure is better.  Especially for people that remember the experience of the trams from the old parking lot.  However, on my last couple of trips I have started to change my opinion slightly.  The tram experience still makes takes me back to my childhood experiences…and that’s priceless.  But I have been able to manage my time much better in the Toy Story lot.  When I go to the park, I got for rope drop as many days as I can.  If I decide to park in Mickey and Friends, I have to leave my hotel 30 minutes earlier than I would if I parked in Toy Story.  The reason is you never know if you’re going to have to wait in a long line of cars to pay for parking,  or get rerouted to another parking lot, walk from that new lot, wait in an insanely crowded tram depot for several trams to go by.  In the Toy Story lot, you park, walk for a minute or two to the bus and it leave within a couple minutes.  Much faster and no waiting.  Next, when you get to the park and get to bag check, the tram side of the promenade has long lines from people coming from the resort hotels and the trams which are operating at full capacity to bring the guests into the park.  The bus side has virtually no wait.

Next, if you need to go a ticket booth to upgrade to an annual pass, or get your annual pass or anything else, the tram side line at the ticket booths are crazy.  The bus side, you can usually walk right up to a window.

So, here’s my final answer: park in Mickey and Friends if you want the authentic Disney experience and park in Toy Story if you’re looking for time management and speed.  My heart is still with the tram but I don’t live in California and my trips are short and numbered.  I have to make the most of my time.

Thanks for following.  I hope you enjoyed reading.  Stay connected and look out for these upcoming blogs:

  • Fantasmic Fastpass
  • Disneyland Tips for the Novice Park Visitor
  • The Haunted Mansion 45th Anniversary – Part 2

Happy Birthday Walt

On December 5th, 2014 we celebrated the birthday of the man and visionary that created a legacy of entertainment that no other man or group have managed to duplicate since.

Walt’s commitment to family entertainment both in his movies and in his parks have inspired every generation since Snow White was premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21st, 1937.

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5th, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois to Elias and Flora Disney.  Oddly enough, Walt’s parents were married on New Year’s day, 1888 in Kismet, Florida and lived briefly in Acron, Florida…just 40 miles north of where Walt Disney World would one day be built.  Both Acron and Kismet are now ghost towns.  Walt was the forth of five children: Herbert, Raymond, Roy, Walt, and sister Ruth.

When Walt was 4, the family moved to Marceline, Missouri where Walt started growing a passion for drawing.  Stories say that he used to practice drawing by copying the comic strips from Walt Disney backyard railroadthe front page of the local newspaper.   He also grew to love the railroad, which would later be evident in both his first park and his home where he built a working scale model of a steam driven locomotive.  Here is a video from my favorite YouTuber, Justin Scarred and Randomland about Marceline, MO.

In 1906, when Walt was about 4, his brothers Herbert (17) and Raymond (16) grew tired of the constant workload on the farm and receiving little to no money that they ran away from home.  In 1911, Roy, Walt and Ruth moved with their parents to Kansas City, Missouri where Elias purchased a newspaper delivery route from the Kansas City Star with 700 morning deliveries and over 600 evening deliveries.  Roy and Walt were instantly put to work helping their father deliver their newspapers.  For six years, Walt would get up at 4:30 in the morning and deliver papers until school started and after school continue delivering papers until dinner time.  All the work resulted in Walt receiving poor grades in school from falling asleep in class on a regular basis.

When Walt was 16, Elias moved the family back to Chicago where Walt attended high school during the day and at night, took classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.  Walt went to high school for less than a year before dropping out with hopes of joining the Army during World War I.  Walt was rejected due to his age.  He wound up joining the Red Cross and being sent to France for a year to drive ambulances just after the war was over.

When Walt returned in 1919, he moved back to Kansas City with hopes of beginning his artistic career.  When he was unable to sell any of his comic strips, his brother Roy used some friendship connections and got him a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio where he drew advertisements for local businesses.

Walt was so successful at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio that in 1922 he decided to strike out on his own and opened Laugh-O-Gram Studios but due to poor money management, the company went bankrupt.  Walt decided that to be successful his artisticdisney_brothers_studio career, he needed to in the heart of Hollywood, California.  So Walt and Roy pooled their money and relocated to California in October of 1923 and opened the Disney Brother’s Studio’s on Hyperion Avenue.

In 1925, Lillian Bounds was hired on to the Disney Brother’s Studio to ink and paint celluloid.  Walt and Lillian started a short-lived courtship and were married on July 25th, 1925.

In 1926, Charles Mintz and Universal Pictures contracted with the Disney Brother’s Studiososwald-the-lucky-rabbit-movie-poster-mickey-mouse for a new animated cartoon series called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.  The character and cartoons were an instant success and in 1927, Walt went to Mintz to negotiate higher pay for his company.  Mintz had a different plan in mind.  He lowered the Disney Brother’s Studios pay and told Walt take it or he would open his own animation studio, take his animators (who were all now under contract to Mintz and Universal) and produce the cartoon himself.  Walt refused, Mintz took Oswald and the animators (all but one who also refused to betray Walt) and produced the cartoons himself.  In 2006, the Disney Corporation, through an odd negotiation that we might cover in another article, obtained the rights back for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and now you can meet him and have your picture taken with him in Disney’s California Adventure.

For the second time in Walt’s animation career, he was left with nothing.  One thing I can say from the research I’ve done, Roy stood by his little brother through everything.  I have never found anything to suggest that Roy wavered in his support for Walt and every time Walt wound up starting from scratch, Roy was there beside him. helping.  I think that’s one thing that people don’t talk about as much as they should.  A lot of the things we have grown to love over the years wouldn’t have been possible without the support Roy gave Walt.

Now, Walt needed a new character.  I’ve read countless stories of how “Mortimer Mouse” came to be and they all vary drastically.  I’ve read that Walt felt he needed a new idea Mickey_Mouse_concept_artbefore returning to Disney Brother’s Studios in California.  He didn’t feel he could return to his staff and tell them they had nothing.  So Walt spent the train ride back from New York sketching various characters and before the train arrived, settled on a mouse character named Mortimer.  Lillian told Walt that she felt the name Mortimer felt pompous and suggested Mickey.   I’ve also read that Ubbe Iwerks, Walt’s last remaining animator, sketched countless characters including a cow (later to become Clarabelle Cow) and a horse (who became Horace Horsecollar).  None of the characters Ubbe created sparked an interest in Disney.  In 1925, an animator from the Laugh-O-Gram studios had taken a picture of Walt and had drawn little mice around Walt’s portrait.  This sparked an idea in Ubbe to create a mouse character and Mortimer was born.  The piece of the story where Lillian renamed Mortimer stayed the same.

Now, I may be biased but I tend to believe the train ride story.  That story of course, gives us the idea that Walt created Mickey rather than Ubbe.  That version sits better with us diehard Disney fans.  Walt was a marvelous story teller and had a way of telling stories in his favor.  However, I tend to believe that Walt created Mickey because one of the Alice Comedies that were created in 1923 and 24 has a scene with a room full of mice that look very much like Mickey Mouse.

steamboatwillieWalt and Ubbe created two cartoons with Mickey, Plane Crazy and Gallopin’ Gaucho but they could not get distribution for either short.  Then, Walt created Steamboat Willie which was the third short to feature Mickey Mouse, but it was the first one to feature sound.  Through the use of a Cinephone, Steamboat Willie got distribution and was a success.  Plane Crazy and Gallopin’ Gaucho were reworked to include sound and they too received distribution.

Fast forwarding through the history, 1929 saw Silly Symphonies created and released. 1932, Walt received a special Academy Award for his creation of Mickey Mouse. 1933, Walt’s first daughter, Diane, was born. 1935 saw the creation and spin off of Donald, Goofy and Pluto. Donald quickly became Disney’s second most successful character. In 1936 Walt and Lillian adopted their second daughter, Sharron.

In 1937, Disney Brother’s Studios ran out of money while creating Snow White and theswpost37a Seven Dwarves.  It had been started in 1934 and the movie industry called it Disney’s Folly because no one had ever made a full length animated feature and they didn’t believe that audiences wanted to or would pay to sit through it.  Even Roy and Lillian tried to talk Walt out of the project.  Walt pushed the boundaries of animation with advancements in realistic human animations and the creation of the multi-plane camera, which gave the feature a depth of imagery that had never before been seen in a cartoon.  In order to obtain the funding necessary to complete the feature, Walt had to show a rough cut version to loan officers.  Snow White premiered at Carthay Circle Theater on December 21st, 1937 and earned $8 million dollars on it’s initial release, a sum equal to over $134 million in todays economy.  The success of Snow White earned Walt’s studio an Oscar, which was awarded to him with one regular sized Oscar and 7 half size statuettes.

A lot happened from there but we’re going to flash forward to the late 1940s, where Walt got the idea build a small amusement park across the street from his Burbank studios where his employees and their families could go and have fun together.  Other stories that Walt told over the years were that he sat on a park bench while his daughters went on rides and he thought that there ought to be a place where children and parents could go and have fun together.  All these versions end the same, Walt’s idea blossomed into a much larger idea than the empty lot across from the Burbank studios could contain.  So Walt went out to Anaheim and purchased 160 acres of orange groves from the Dominguez family and a dream was born.

For at least the second time in his career, he leveraged everything he owned for his dream of Disneyland.  Skeptics thought for sure, this time, this would be the demise of the Disney Company.  Disneyland was built for about $17.5 million, twice what Walt thought it would cost.  The costs were so high that before opening day, he had to decide whether he wanted bathrooms or water fountains because he didn’t have enough money for both.

Disneyland_aerial_view_in_1956Disneyland opened July 17th, 1955 with fanfare broadcast live on ABC with such talent as then actor, Ronald Reagan, Bob Cummings and Art Linkletter.  Opening day was one of only two times that  the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty Castle has been raised and lowered.  The second time was for the reopening of Fantsyland after an extensive remodel in 1983.

Disneyland became a passion for Walt that he would never let go of.  The park continually underwent upgrades and expansions to entertain the masses.  When Walt was building theIMG_1812 park, he had an apartment built above the Main Street Fire Station and when he was in the park, a lamp by the front window burned to tell guests and cast members that Walt was on the property.  Since Walt’s death, that lamp is continuously burning to tell everyone that Walt is there with us.

In the early 1960s construction started on an expansion to Disneyland: New Orleans Square, where Walt was having a newer, larger apartment built for his family as well as another for Roy and his family.  The apartments were located above the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance.  Walt never got to see the new apartments completed or Pirates or his long envisioned Haunted Mansion because on December 15th, 1966, Walt would die from complications due to lung cancer.

I can only imagine what the people that had been with Walt from the beginning were feeling and going through at that time.  I wasn’t even born when he died and I’m still deeply touched every time I walk past his apartment above the fire station and see the lamp burning.  I’ve even been known to stop and talk to his window and say a little goodbye on my way out of the park.  I’ve never been able to fully understand my connection and absolute love for Disneyland and some days I don’t care to.  I’ve told my wife before that if given the chance, I would gladly pack up and be part of the team of people that help shape and build the future of Walt’s vision.  It’s up to those of us who have this passion to continue to push the park the way he would have wanted it.

Happy Birthday Walt and thanks for reading.Walt Disney 6

Happy 45th!!! A History of the Haunted Mansion

250px-Haunted_Mansion_poster_at_Disneyland_AnaheimWhen hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls.  Whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still.  That is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight.”

On August 9th, 2014, Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion celebrated it’s 45th anniversary and I thought it would be fun…not to mention totally cool, to go over a history of this classic Disney dark ride that is a favorite of my son and I.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time reading various research materials to do this and I’ve decided that I’m going to break up this blog entry into segments.  I’ve not quite decided what segments…but it’s happening.  This way, I can release little by little and keep things moving.

Part 1

Now, for the 3 people on earth who don’t know anything about the Haunted Mansion, it is a traditional Disney dark ride using the Omnimover system (in this case, called “Doom Buggies”) to travel through a New Orleans style plantation house inhabited by 999 happy haunts.  Disney Imagineers have used everything from cutting edge technology to 250 year old illusions to pull of some of the hauntings in the mansion.  Throughout this piece, we will talk more about these illusions…but I will not mention how they are done.  If you know, great.  If you don’t know, take it from me, once you read in some article or worse yet…some random blog how they’re done, it kind of takes away from the experience on the ride.  After I learned how some of the illusions were pulled off, I found myself trying to look for the mechanics of the trick rather than enjoying the ride for what it is.

Even before ground broke at Disneyland, Walt had envisioned a “haunted” attraction.  HISTgoffsketchConceptual drawings and aerial maps were created by Disney Legend, Harper Goff, that depicted a small path off of Main Street USA that led to a mansion that sat on a hill, complete with church and graveyard.  Later, the haunted project was shown on a conceptual drawing of what was to become Frontierland.

Then in 1961, it was decided and announced on Disneyland handbills handed out at the park’s entrance, that the Haunted Mansion would be added to the new expansion of Disneyland: New Orleans Square.  Construction began on New Orleans Square that year and the foundation for the Haunted mansion was poured in 1962.

Early drawings of the Haunted Mansion were of a run down, dilapidated building.  Walt did not like the idea of an attraction in that state of decay on the property.  He made the decision that the Haunted Mansion would be a well kept and pristine façade, stating, “We’ll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside.”

The Shipley-Lydecker House in Baltimore
The Evergreen Mansion in Baltimore.

Disney legend Ken Anderson designed the look of the house.  I’ve read several versions of the story that contradict each other and I’ve not been able to get the hard facts on which one is right.  One story I found, said that Anderson designed the Haunted Mansion façade after the Shipley-Lydecker house in Baltimore and the other story I’ve seen said that it was based on the Evergreen Mansion in Baltimore.   Looking at the photos that I’ve seen of both mansions, I tend to lean more towards the Shipley-Lydecker house.  The railings on the porches very much resemble what’s on the Haunted Mansion, the third floor has a smaller footprint than the floors below it like the attraction, and the pillars holding up the pitched porch roof.  The Evergreen Mansion lacks several basic architectural elements that make the Haunted Mansion look the way it looks.  No pitched roof porch, no porches around the floors, no third floor.  To me, the only thing that makes the Evergreen Mansion a possibility are the pillars.  But who knows, I could be wrong.

Now that the look of the house was decided, construction began and was completed on the mansion in 1963.  Not long after, Disney’s became involved in the 1964 World’s Fair.  Out of this World’s Fair came what are now iconic Disneyland attractions: It’s a Small World and Primeval World that’s on the Disneyland Railroad circle tour between the Tomorrowland station and the Main Street station.  The work on the World’s Fair also gave Imagineers the technology to build the transportation systems for Pirates of the Caribbean and the People Mover.  It was also where Disney and his Imagineers perfected human-like “Audio-Animatronics” with both Carousel of Progress and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.  These innovations changed the future of Pirates of the Caribbean…but that’s a story for another time.

When the façade was completed in 1963, a sign was put out front until the Mansion’sHM Leases opening that read, “Notice!  All Ghosts and Reckless Spirits.  Post-lifetime leases are now available in this Haunted Mansion”.  For several reasons (most of which we’ll get into in the next installments), including Walt’s death in 1966, the Haunted Mansion façade spent 6 years unopened and finally opened to the public on August 9th, 1969.

Come back soon for the next installment in our 45th anniversary look at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.  Thanks for reading.

Pin Trading At Disneyland

When I returned to Disneyland for the first time in 20 years, I discovered this “new” thing with pin trading.  I had been out of the park for so long that I had no idea it had been going on for years.

One of my last trips to Disneyland as a kid, you gave your ticket when you came in and by turning the turnstiles, a pin came out that was a Disney character and it was for one of the lands in Disneyland.  I still have 2 of those pins. So to discover that pin trading had become a thing at Disneyland, I was kind of excited…but a little scared.  I’m a perpetual collector.  If I like something that’s 1 of 10 or 1 of 3 even, I have to have the entire set.  I won’t stop until I get them all.  Financially, this was a scary proposition.  So that first trip back to the park, I was careful and selected a couple of pins from the Frontierland Trading Post that I liked and that reminded me of my moments in the park that trip with my family.

Since then, I have bought as many as 8 pins each trip.  After a few trips, I decided that it might be fun to start trading with cast members.  I’m not an outgoing person.  Some would even call me a little socially awkward.  Especially if I don’t know the person I’m talking to.  So I thought this might be a way to get me over that. So I looked at the park for what’s called “Mystery Packs” of pins.  They range from $12.95 for 2 mystery pins on up to $29.00 for 5 pins.  I have an annual pass with a 20% discount on merchandise but even with that, the cost of buying pins with the sole intention of giving them away was overwhelming to me.  So I bought 2 packs of 5 pins but it was a set that I liked and I wanted to keep.  I got lucky and in my 2 packs of 5 were 10 different pins of a 16 pins set…no duplicates.

I got home from the trip and decided that I really wanted to get some pins to trade with at the park.  So I looked online.  I went to the normal sites that I go to for shopping: Amazon and Overstock.  Everything on those sites was just about as much as buying at the park and with my 20% discount at the park and shipping added, some of them were more expensive.  So I went to ebay (If you know where this is going, please don’t get ahead of me).  I found store pins still on their cards for a couple dollars less or the same price as at the park.  Still no luck.

Then I stumbled into page after page of “25 Hidden Mickey/Cast Lanyard Pins” with a starting bid price of $9.00 and I thought, “This is what I’ve been looking for!  This is reasonable.”.

One issue I had was that I was new to this whole pin trading thing and I had no idea what Hidden Mickey or Cast Lanyard pins were.  So I read a couple things online and found out that there are a large number of pins that are not available to buy in stores at the park.  They are solely given to cast members with the intention of them trading these with guests in the park.  There are usually sets with several pins across a theme and guests will search the park on their trips to try to collect and trade them all.

So after I learned what these were, I set up an ebay and Paypal account, placed a bid and a couple days later, was notified on my phone that I had won the auction.  A few days later, the pins arrived.  I was excited to see what pins I had gotten.  I opened the package and looked at the pins.  There were a few that I liked and therefore kept but for the most part, I had bought these pins to trade and that’s what I intended to do with them.

I bought myself what I like to call my “man purse”…very European.  It holds things like my phone, battery charger and anything else I don’t want to carry in my pockets.  But it also has a zippered pouch with cloth pages to hold your trading pins.  I never went to the park without it after I bought it.

So I started trading pins with cast members.  I found some that I liked and some that I just thought were upgrades from what I had.  I figured they would be more useful should I come across someone with a pin I really liked and wanted.  I realized that I liked trading for anything Haunted Mansion. Then my son saw me trading and he wanted to be like dad…like most 4 year old boys.  So I got him a small pin collecting book and went back on ebay to get more pins.  I was running low and he needed some to trade too.  This time, I won 100 pins “all traded with cast members at the park” shipping from Orlando.  I won, they came, we traded. Sounds great, right?  Try again.

Recently, I was doing some research for another blog I’m working on and I came across an article about “fake” Disney pins.  I thought, “Man, that must suck to find out you had some fake pins.”.  I figured with as big of a business as this was for Disney, there must be someone trying to profit off of screwing people.  I didn’t find it surprising that there would be some fakes out there.  Then I read the article.  Not only did I discover that there were some fakes but that every ebay seller offering a large number of pins for a fraction of the price were fake.  But this is online, there’s always someone mad or that got a batch of fakes from one seller.  But unfortunately, not the case.  After several hours, several articles and several YouTube videos, it was the same thing in every single one of them. By this time I had probably bought 300 pins, spending roughly $150.00 on ebay, in exactly this manner.

So I went and pulled out all of my trading pins.  I pulled out what was in my man purse, what was in my son’s trading book and what I had in reserve for when I was running low.  I started going through the pins one by one looking for the signs I had learned in the videos and articles.  Out of all the pins I had for trading, about 10 of them were real pins.  Of course, that may not even be right seeing that I was new to the process of trying to figure out which ones were fakes.  Every other pin I had left was an obvious fake…no question. Now, I wasn’t upset that I got duped.  Yes, it sucked to have spent $150.00 on essentially garbage but what really got me mad was that I traded these pins at the park.  I helped spread this garbage around to other guests.  I only traded with cast members but they would in turn trade those pins to other guests.

What makes this even more of a shame is that ALL of those Haunted Mansion pins that I enjoyed looking around for and trading with cast members to get were fakes too.  The cast members didn’t even know they had fake pins.  I went through all the pins I had gotten from cast members by trading and about 50% of them were fake.  My son always trades for anything Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore but I don’t have the heart to even look at his pins.  He likes them and they stay at home…and will forever.

So I started understanding some of my interactions with cast members that at the time made absolutely no sense to me.  I traded a pin with a cast member in a pin store on Main Street.  Then I looked around to see if they had any new sets or any limited edition pins that I wanted to buy.  A few minutes after I traded with her, I asked to see a limited Edition that was behind the counter and she seemed entirely mad at me.  She was short answered and gruff with me.  Being slightly socially awkward, I didn’t feel comfortable and ended up not buying the Limited Edition pin…and man I wanted that one too.  Now, I realize that she actually knew her pins and knew that I had given her a fake.

For those of you that don’t know, cast members are not allowed to say anything to a guest that gives them a fake pin.  Disney’s thinking is that the guest may not know it’s fake.  And thank goodness for that because I was one of those guests.  But now the interaction made sense. I also had a cast member start talking to me about fake pins after I traded with her and at the time I thought, that’s weird but surely my pins are real.  She wasn’t telling me that my pins were fake.  She was telling me that some people come to the park and trade fake pins.

The worst interaction for me that I thought of after the discovery that my pins were all completely fake was on my last trip.  I was in the Frontierland Trading Post.  I had just traded pins with a cast member there and a guest and his daughter asked if they could see my pins.  I said sure and his daughter saw a Cinderella pin I had that she liked and he saw a pin that he needed to complete a set.  He said he hadn’t brought his pins and asked me if I would trade with him if he bought a mystery pack from the store.  I told him, “Sure.”.  He got in line and while I was looking around, I decided to “spread a little Disney Magic”.  He was still in line and hadn’t bought a mystery pack.  I went over and not only gave him the pin he wanted but also gave his daughter the Cinderella pin she wanted.  I thought I was spreading some Disney cheer but as it turned out, it was completely the opposite.  I felt horrible remembering this interaction that at the time, I was totally proud of.  I wanted to get in my car, drive to Disneyland and go to the park for two days to apologize to any cast member I ever traded with and buy them all pins from the park to replace the fakes I had given them.

So now that you’ve taken the time to read my horror story as it were, let me tell you what I have learned about how to tell fake pins and some friendly advice about buying and trading pins.

First…and I can’t stress this enough:  DON’T EVER BUY “LOTS” OF PINS ON EBAY FROM ANYONE!!! No matter how convincing they’re listing looks.  They will all say that they’re “real” pins traded with cast members at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  Some even try to say that some of the pins are 3rd and 4th “runs” of these pins so the “colors are slightly different”.  Remember one thing: Disney is big on quality and consistency.  If Disney were to do a 2nd “run” of a pin, the colors will be identical.  Basic rule is if it seems too good to be true…it probably is.

Second: Again, Disney is big on quality and consistency.  The edges of an official Disney pin will be smooth.  From best I can tell, the real pins are cast and put into what looks like a cement mixer along with polishing stones.  They’re tumbled with the polishing stones until the edges are polished smooth.  This is a step that the people making fake pins don’t bother to do…it makes the manufacturing process more expensive.

In this fake HM pin, there are three clues. Ezra’s eyes have no detail, the Hidden Mickey is three circles of almost the same size, and though it’s hard to see here, the design along the top is lacking detail as well.

Third: Disney is big on quality and consistency.  If you see a pin and the lines look sloppy or the details look blurred or there is just a plain lack of detail, it’s a fake pin.  Look at the eyes.  That seems to be a place that fake pins fall short a lot of the time.  Also, if it’s a “Hidden Mickey” pin, look at the Mickey silhouette.  If the proportions look off or the silhouette looks sloppy, it’s a fake.

Forth: Disney is big on quality and consistency. Fake pins are lighter in weight than real pins.  This is a harder test to use on one pin.  I think this one just comes from experience.  People who make fake pins use different, cheaper and lighter metals to cast their pins as well as a different substance to add the color.  In combination, these things end up with a lighter overall weight.  I’ve heard that if you drop a fake pin on a hard surface, you can tell it’s fake by the sound it makes but I’m not good enough to make that distinction.

In this fake pin, you can see where the waffling stops at the edge of the pin.  Real pins, the waffling will continue off the pin evenly
In this fake pin, you can see where the waffling stops at the edge of the pin. Real pins, the waffling will continue off the pin evenly

Fifth: Disney is big on quality and consistency.  Newer pins have what’s called waffling on the back.  It’s a silhouette of Mickey Mouse that’s repeated over and over again on the back of the pin.  One is right side up and right next that it will be one that’s upside down.  this pattern does not fit evenly on the back of every pin, so the waffling goes off the edge.  On a real pin, that waffling goes off the edge evenly and consistently with no change.  On a fake pin, that waffling will have in some places what looks like a boarder.  It will not continue off the pin consistently and evenly.

Two "identical" pins. The one on the right is real and the one on the left is a fake. In the one on the left, Hades is green and there are divots in the coloring.
Two “identical” pins. The one on the right is real and the one on the left is a fake. In the one on the left, Hades is green and there are divots in the coloring.

Sixth: Disney is big on quality and consistency. The only time before all this that I thought I might have gotten a fake pin, was in a set I ordered from ebay, I got a Cinderella pin.  She was wearing a pink dress and her skin was green…no kidding.  I don’t mean straight up green but her skin definitely had a green tint to it.   I never took that pin out of the bag.  I set it aside not wanting to ever trade it.  The point, colors will not be off.  Disney keeps color guides for every character in every film…ever and they can replicate them like Home Depot can match the paint in your living room.  Cinderella would never come out green and make it into the park.  Production would have stopped as soon as the first one came off the line completed.  If the colors don’t look right, it’s probably a fake.

There are other ways to tell fakes but I don’t feel qualified to explain them.  After all, I’ve just spent the last 6 months unknowingly trading worthless pins at Disneyland. So here are some links to some of the articles and videos I watched to learn what I know:

There are tons of other articles and videos out there.  Run a search in any search engine and you will find lots of resources.

My point to this story has been to hopefully inform anyone who’s thinking of starting to trade pins in any Disney park.  Have some general knowledge before you trade, don’t buy in bulk on ebay, and don’t be afraid to ask a cast member to see a pin before you trade.  This can be a fun activity to do at the park as long as you’re willing to take the risk.  I think I’ve decided to be a collector and not a trader.  Thanks for reading and have a great time in the park

Sight or Sound?

2014-09-12 104616 - Disneyland Haunted Mansion Holiday Pumpkin ScarecrowOn the way home from my family’s last trip to Disneyland, my wife was studying in the car and trying not to get too far behind on her schoolwork after our trip.  During our conversation, somehow this questions came up: “What would be worse: to lose your sight or to lose your hearing?”.  The question came up as a “life in general” kind of thing, but I immediately put it into the context of Disneyland.

So here’s the break down the way I see it.  DSC_0321To lose your sight would mean that you would no longer be able see the Mark Twain go down the Rivers of America, you would no longer be able to see Neverland on Peter Pan’s Flight, you wouldn’t be able to see how Jack has wrecked the halls, or the view you get as you come through the tunnel into town square and look down the length of Main Street U.S.A. and see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  Let’s not forget, you wouldn’t be able to see the joy in your children’s eyes as they look around in amazement at everything around them.

Dapper DansNow, lets talk about losing your hearing.  You wouldn’t be able to hear the train whistle at Main Street Station, the music playing as you walk down Main Street, the Dapper Dans, the shrieks and screams from Big Thunder Mountain.  Let’s not forget, you wouldn’t be able to hear the laughter and excitement in your children’s voices as they have the best day ever.

For me, losing my vision is by far a worse proposition for me…at least if you think about it strictly from a Disneyland perspective.  I have been enough in my lifetime to “fill in the blanks” as it were and be able to still “hear” the things going on around me.  One of my fondest memories at Disneyland is with my son and it would not have existed for me if I couldn’t have seen it.

I would not wish either disability on anyone, but as a hypothetical question, what would be the worse sense for you to lose?  Your vision or your hearing?

What Makes You An Authority? – A Personal Resume

When I was a kid, my father’s idea of a vacation was piling into the family car and driving around Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada.  From the back seat of our car, I saw the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, the Petrified Forrest, Death Valley, the Hoover Dam, Montezuma’s Castle and countless other sites that I have since suppressed in the recesses of my memory.  This wasn’t a one time trip…this was each and every summer for as long as I could remember.   And remember, this was the early 80s.  There was no such thing as a “personal gaming system” to keep you entertained.  You either read a book, did Mad Libs, or watched the weeds pass by at 55 miles an hour outside.

Then in 1985, when I was 10, my mother put her foot down and told my father that I deserved a “regular” vacation.  They fought…my mother won.  And so began the first vacation of my life I actually enjoyed.  We didn’t just go to Disneyland on this trip.  We did it all: Knots Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Sea World and Disneyland.  Out of all the places we went, I only remember Disneyland.

What I remember most about the Disneyland was that we were a family.  I used to have video of this trip and the part I remember most was us on the Skyway going through the Matterhorn, smiling and laughing.  Looking back at it, we all got along, my parents didn’t fight, we had a good time.

I’m not here to tell you that I had a bad childhood or that I went through anything out of the ordinary by today’s standards.  My parents divorced when I was 16 and there were troubles for years before that.  Everything that I felt and went through as a child and teenager helped to make me the man, husband and father I am today.  I wouldn’t change that for anything.

That first trip to Disneyland was the most amazing time I had ever had in my entire life up to that point.  There is no possible way to describe to someone that’s never experienced the feeling you have the first time you walk onto Main Street U.S.A. and get a glimpse of Sleeping Beauty Castle.  That trip ignited a passion inside me that wouldn’t soon fade.

My next trip to Disneyland was Christmas, 1987.  This trip was memorable for me because it was the only time I’ve ever stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and back then, the monorail stopped at the front of the hotel, so my parents allowed me to go to the park completely by myself on Christmas Day.  Something that I think by today’s standards would be considered neglect or in the very least highly unsafe.  The two things I remember most about that day was how empty the park was (you don’t see that happen now) and there was absolutely no line for Space Mountain.  I rode it 14 times in a row.  I would get off the ride, go around and get back on.  Most times riding by myself.  I rode so many times that after about the fourth time going around, the cast members told me to stay on as long as I wanted.  I rode 10 more times.  You could never do this today.

I became so familiar with the park that I knew every path, every bathroom, every restaurant and what their menu had and how to get to every ride.  I had bought a map at the park on my first trip that was about 3 feet by 5 feet and it hung on my wall in my room.  I would sit at home and study every facet of that map and run through the fastest way to get from Country Bear Jamboree to America Sings or from the People Mover to the Mark Twain Riverboat.  I was obsessed.

This was the last trip I would make to the park while my parents were married.  My next trip was in high school.  I sang in our choir and us and our band went to Disneyland for Magic Music Days.  I’m not sure if they still do this but it was a program where high school bands, orchestras and choirs would come to Disneyland, go to the backstage area behind the park into a studio and see how music scores and choral pieces were recorded for Disney movies.  If you were a good enough high school, you got to perform in the park…we were not. This trip was the first time I went to the park with friends and not family.  It was a different experience and I had a blast.

I went one more time in my teens when I was 18…and then I didn’t go again for 20 years.  That’s right…I was 38 the next time I went to the “Happiest Place on Earth”.  In the time since my last trip, Country Bear Jamboree was turned into a Winnie the Pooh ride, Bear Country was now Critter Country, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was turned into the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage,  the rockets were moved from the top of the People Mover loading platform to the entrance of Tomorrowland, the People Mover was turned into something called Rocket Rod’s and then closed, Captain EO had been turned into Honey I Shrunk the Audience and then back to Captain EO, the Circle Vision theater was closed and used for the Rocket Rod’s queue and then turned into Buzz Lightyear when Rocket Rod’s closed, America Sings closed and all the animatronic characters were moved to Splash Mountain, and the biggest change of all was that the parking lot was bulldozed and turned into a completely new park, Disney’s California Adventure.

I went to Disneyland because I was now married and had a son.  My wife and I decided that we would take him for his third birthday.  Planning the vacation, I was excited to take my family but that had not sparked the embers I still had burning for the park  since I was younger…until we walked in the front gates and through the tunnel onto Main Street U.S.A..  By the end of that trip, to say that I was obsessed would have been an understatement.  What really did it for me was on Friday night of that trip, we staked out our spot for Fantasmic!. I had not told my son anything about the show or showed him any clips from YouTube.  When the show started and Mickey walked up to center stage after conducting the water and fireworks shot from his fingers, the look on my son’s face is one that I will never forget.  His eyes popped open, his jaw dropped and he pointed at Mickey in total amazement.  To this day, that is a mental picture that I still see as if I had it printed on Kodak paper.

Since then, my family and I have become annual pass holders, we went back for my 39th birthday, I’ve been several times on my own during my travels for work, I went with my brother-in-law, Danny, for the 24 hour “Show Your Disney Side” summer kick off, my son and I went for his fourth birthday (That’s right…without mom), and we’re planning on several more trips throughout the rest of the year, including my wife’s birthday, Halloween, and a weeks vacation during Christmas.

The short answer to the question, “What makes you such an authority?” is…absolutely nothing.  I have read books, watched specials, read other blogs, chat rooms and chatted with people who also have a passion for Disneyland.  Do I know everything?  Again, absolutely not but I hope to pass on what I do know and I hope to learn more as I go along and most of all, entertain those of you reading.

Walt Disney created this place for people to be emmersed in another world with their families and friends and he left it to us to continue the legacy and pass it on to our children and grandchildren and I plan to do just that.

I’m sorry this blog didn’t talk much about the park, but I thought it important for those of you who are willing to read these to understand me a little bit.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t spend some portion of my day thinking about Disneyland…it’s what keeps me sane.

Coming up next: Happy 45th Anniversary to the Haunted Mansion!!!  Did you know that one imagineer intended and wrote the story line to combine the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tom Sawyer Island (now known as Pirate Island) into one big story line?  Read all about it in our next blog!

What’s To Come

Before I committed to coming up with and paying for a domain, I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of ideas of what I’d like to talk about.  So here’s a short list of some of the topics I plan to blog about:

  • What makes you such an authority? – A personal resume.
  • Tram Vs. Bus – A diehard’s opinion of Disneyland parking transportation.
  • Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion – With the anniversary recently, I thought it would be fun to go over a history of the attraction.
  • Star Wars Land? (That’s right, it’s been rumored)
  • Classic Dark Rides – An evolution
  • Get your superheroes out of my park…well maybe.
  • The Disney standard in service.
  • The history of Disneyland – An important legacy.

These are just a few topics I thought would be fun to think about and discuss.  I’m not setting myself on a schedule so some of these may be put aside for other things that are more up front in my mind at the time I sit down to write.  Hopefully, I’ll pass on some information that you didn’t know…and hopefully, I’ll do all my research and not get things wrong.  Most of all, I hope to entertain and get people thinking and participating.