Tag Archives: Disneyland

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:


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.


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

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