Wednesday, February 29, 2012

One More Disney Day: Queue It Up

10:45 p.m.

People are off work. Disney California Adventure closed a few hours ago.

Disneyland is packed. The buzz on the inside is that we've reached capacity. I'm also hearing that freeway traffic leading in and out of the Disneyland Resort is nightmarish.

None of this comes as a surprise from where I sit. I'm back at my mobile office next to the payphones on Big Thunder Trail. Steady streams of guests continue to roll by.

Ride queues are long. Navigating the pinch points in New Orleans Square and Adventureland is a major challenge, especially with people already settling in for a special 1:00 a.m. performance of Fantasmic! on the Rivers of America.

It's pretty crazy. And we've still got over seven hours to go.

Whether all these people are intent on staying until 6:00 a.m. remains to be seen. We're hoping for a mass exodus at the conclusion of Fantasmic! Regardless, whoever remains after the pyrotechnics is likely staying for the duration.

Crowds are immaterial at this point. We're staying to the end whether there are 50 people here or 50,000.

This is madness. This is fun.

But, what do I know? I've been up since 4:00 a.m.

One More Disney Day: Past the Halfway Point

7:30 p.m.

Over 13 hours down. Eleven to go. We're past the point of no return.

I guess we'll have to stay until 6:00 a.m. after all.

Late afternoon included a spin through Tomorrowland on the Autopia, Space Mountain and a return visit to Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.

Our scores:

Kyler: 276,000

Chad: 144,000

Me: 141,200

For those of you keeping track of our Buzz Lightyear Experiment, Kyler and Chad improved dramatically from this morning, while my score plummeted. I shall blame it on a less effective blaster and not creeping fatigue. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

By the way, Lisa, Josh and the Other Tim dropped out of the competition (for now). We also welcomed our friend Kimber to the fold, who posted an impressive 236,000.

I will need to raise my game. We will reconvene the competition around midnight.

Night time is my favorite time at Disneyland. I love the twinkling lights and the colorful glow of the park. That magic should keep me going for a while.

I'm not tired. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not.

One More Disney Day: In and Around the Hub

3:30 p.m.

14 1/2 hours to go.

One More Disney Day: 7 Hours Down, 17 to Go

1:00 p.m.

My friends and I are seven hours into our 24-hour marathon.

No one's gotten on anyone's nerves yet.

That's because, for now, we've all split up.

I needed to take a blog break and find a place to recharge the iPad and iPhone. The covered payphones on Big Thunder Trail are a fine location. I especially appreciate the large bench.

It's crowded at Disneyland today, but not painfully so. It does feel more like a weekend or summer crowd, though. Certainly not a Wednesday in February.

"One More Disney Day" merchandise has been moving at a steady clip. At Star Trader in Tomorrowland, they were already sold out of small- and medium-sized commemorative t-shirts. I was able to snag a set of mouse ears. I'm happy with my selection.

That was two hours ago, though, I can't say they're still available. They were selling fast.

Sugar and caffeine remains my friend. There was virtually no line for Dole Whips in front of the Tiki Room. This is rare on any Disney day, so I indulged myself.

I'm either about to devour this Dole Whip float, or stuff it up my nose. You be the judge.

We're hitting rides at an easy pace. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Tiki Room have been checked off. I even took some time to hang out with a group of MiceChatters in the hub for a noon meet.

Seventeen hours to go. I got this.

I think.

One More Disney Day: MOO and the Buzz Lightyear Experiment

The MOO Crew

9:45 a.m.

Yes, we've actually managed to ride a few rides. Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Toad, Peter Pan.

And then, the MOO.

The Marine Observation Outpost is a room adjacent to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage where you can view a simulation of the ride. It's available for people who have difficulty navigating the stairway into the sub. It's actually a very cool way to get the ride experience in high definition video and great sound.

While in Tomorrowland, we also began the great Buzz Lightyear Experiment. We're going to ride Astro Blasters repeatedly during the day and compare our scores as the day wears on. Assuming Disney still lets us ride Buzz at, oh, 3 a.m. or so, we're going to compare scores and see how much the 24-hour delirium affects us.

I scored a respectable 222,700, fresh and fully caffeinated. Here's how all my friends did:

Kyler: 174,500

The Other Tim: 94,500

Josh: 82,000

Chad: 67,000

Lisa: 6,600

Lisa is sandbagging, so her scores will improve as the day wears on. Maybe.


One More Disney Day: We're Here, Now What?

7:15 a.m.

Props to Disneyland for getting the crowds in quickly. I got through the main gate about 6:20.

By 6:25, I witnessed a marriage proposal in front of the floral Mickey. She said yes. The crowd went wild.

I quickly found some friends as weird as me who are committed to the next 24 hours. All we have to do is decide what we want to do next.

First, the locker line. Then the coffee line. Then we stood around and told dirty jokes.

We know how to rock Disneyland.

OK, I guess we can get FastPasses to Star Tours.

And here we go....

One More Disney Day: Not a Fastpass in Sight

5:45 a.m.

I strolled through Downtown Disney and got to Disneyland around 5:15. It was a good sign to see the Esplanade was mostly clear.

Optimism faded quickly. People were being lined out on the other side to Harbor Boulevard.

It's a long, winding line. I can see IHOP and Denny's from where I stand. Apparently, people camped out overnight. That's pretty hardcore just to get mouse ears.

I don't expect to be inside the park until at least 6:30.

Ok, make it 7:00.

7:30 at the latest.

One More Disney Day: Bring On the Madness

I'm taking the leap on Leap Day.

Why else would I be up at 4:00 in the morning?

I'm getting ready to go twenty-four hours straight at Disneyland from 6:00 a.m. today until 6:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Care to join me? Or do you have a life?

If you can't make it to the park, please follow along with me as I marathon it at the Happiest Place On Earth. I'll be updating my exploits on Facebook, Twitter and right here on The Mouse Castle.

Subject, of course, to battery life, spotty Internet connections and my growing state of exhaustion.

Disneyland is promising special late-night performances of Fantasmic!, MIckey's Soundsational Parade and Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. They're also promising free swag (commemorative mouse ears and buttons) to the first group of guests crazy enough to be there when the park opens.

They should be promising coffee, lots of coffee.

It will be madness. Cover me, I'm going in....

Monday, February 27, 2012

More Photos From Oscar's Red Carpet

On the day before the Academy Awards, here's more of what we saw on the red carpet:

The early morning view from above from Hollywood & Highland.

Everywhere you went, there were giant
Oscar statues. Go figure.

The Chapter 11 Theatre.

The entry arch to the red carpet.

That rack behind Oscar sat there for hours.
We were prepared to take it since no one else
wanted it.

Disney's El Capitan Theatre, across the street from the Kodak.

Tim Gunn from Project Runway and ABC's red carpet coverage gets in
some rehearsal time.

The Kodak Theatre's grand staircase.
Photos by Tim Callaway and Christi Andersen.

My Adventures in Oscarland

My moment on Oscar's red carpet. My press
credential has been adequately blurred.
There's an expression in the film industry that goes, "A movie is never finished. You just run out of time."

I ran out of time.

On a frantic Sunday morning that saw me travel from my hotel in Anaheim to friends' houses in Irvine and Anaheim Hills, I searched valiantly for a fast Internet connection. I had a 2 GB video file to upload, part two of my preview coverage of this weekend's Oscar ceremony.

No knock on the DoubleTree in Anaheim, but hotel Internet connections, in general, suck.

I found a fast(er) connection, but I still missed the deadline. The video debuted on YouTube around 7:30 p.m., two hours into the Oscar telecast.

Frustration. Hey, it happens.

But, you know what's cool? Even though I couldn't edit together and upload the finished footage in time to beat Billy Crystal's opening monologue, I still had my moment on the red carpet in front of the Kodak Theatre, a first for me and this humble blog. A lot of blogger's didn't make the cut, or even tried. I previewed the Oscars, bitches, at the very spot where it would happen. Who cares that I wasn't allowed to stay for the actual ceremony?

Yeah, about that part...

On Hollywood Boulevard, outside the Kodak Theatre.
I have no delusions about The Mouse Castle's place in the worldwide media pecking order. I have a small blog by Internet standards, although my ego does allow me to believe that I'm providing an important and entertaining service to my loyal readers. Over my last six or seven years of writing online, first with MiceChat, then branching out on my own, I've made a number of useful contacts. A lot of them have enabled me to access official media websites full of press releases, photos and video. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (a.k.a. the Oscar people) is just such a contact. I registered for online press access last year and, after reviewing The Mouse Castle, they said, "OK, we'll let you in." I can only speculate to what degree they were impressed with my insightful commentary and nimble wordplay.

On the Academy's media site, they have an impressive trove of pictures from past events, including the Oscars. That's the main purpose of the site. The big fun comes in the fall, though, when notices go out that media applications for the Academy Awards are being accepted. When I got that e-mail, I was quite emboldened. I requested access to everything.

Weeks later, the polite responses showed up.

Red Carpet: No
Media Bleachers: No
Press Room: No
Interview Room: No
Nominees Luncheon: No

It appears I am not regarded in the same manner as E!, the Today Show and Good Morning, America.

Hey, my feelings weren't hurt (too much). If you never ask, how can they say "yes"?

Setting up for the Oscars.
Which is why a made a last gasp application for "Oscars Setup."

The Academy relented. I can only speculate to what degree they were annoyed by all my other requests for credentials I had no chance of getting.

"Oscars Setup" means you're allowed onsite at the Kodak Theatre in the week leading up to ceremony. The pass does come with an expiration date, however: 11:00 a.m. on the day of the Awards. I made the B-List!

Enlisting my friends Christi and Jenn to help take pictures and shoot video, we trudged to Hollywood Saturday morning. Aside from one wrong turn into a press room we didn't have permission to enter, we had free access to the red carpet on Hollywood Boulevard amid all the reporters and camera crews going about their business.

Yes, it was a geek moment.

Yes, we took an obligatory geek photo:

See? We really are on the red carpet.
Don't judge. I'm sure George Clooney has done the exact same thing.

Eventually, we did get down to work. While I wrote some last minute copy, Christi and Jenn took photos and shot B-roll footage. There was a surreal quality to it all. I've watched the Oscars on TV for over 40 years. They were required viewing at our house growing up and a tradition I have never missed as an adult. Whether the show is good or bad, whether the host hits or misses, it's always been "The Oscars." So, standing here in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard on the red carpet--even before all the stars came out--was a big deal. I'm sure that to the veteran technicians, camera people and talent setting up and rehearsing along side us, this was just another event to cover. Or not. I lost track of how many media types just like us were posing for pictures in front of the giant Oscar statue at the head of the carpet. Just make sure you don't photograph your press credentials.

Seriously, that was a major no-no. The Academy didn't want to risk any chance of credentials being copied.

A few hours later, we had the video shot and I headed back to my hotel. That's when the crazed race against time began. I learned a valuable lesson about how long it really takes to edit down video and especially how not to rely on unfamiliar Internet connections when deadlines are looming.

I also learned to fact check better. In Part 2, I incorrectly stated that Viola Davis received her first Oscar nomination for The Help. Actually, it was her first Best Actress nomination. Davis received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for 2008's Doubt.

I promise to do better next year.

Oh yes, there will be a next year. And this time, I'll be there early. After all, it's the Oscars.


I know it's after the fact, but here's Part 1 of my preview. This one managed to make it to YouTube in time:

For the elusive Part 2, click on the handsome face below:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Inside the Mouse Castle (Again) With the MiceChat Crew and Historian Sam Gennawey

OK, I haven't quite mastered this video thing yet, but I'm starting to get the hang of it.

It certainly helps when you have good subject matter to work with.

At the ESPN Zone with (l. to r.) Sam Gennawey, Margaret Kerry,
Susan Egan and Bob Gurr
I spent a few days last month with my friends from MiceChat to celebrate the Disney fansite's 7th anniversary. There were plenty of member meets and celebrity appearances. At a gathering over breakfast at the ESPN Zone one Saturday morning, I had the pleasure to not only see Bob Gurr, Susan Egan, Margaret Kerry and Sam Gennawey talk about their work in and around Disney, but I also had time to speak one-on-one with Sam, Margaret and MiceChat's Dusty Sage. Sam's and Dusty's interviews are in the video below. My chat with Margaret is coming soon.

In my interview with Sam, we talked about Walt Disney's plans in the 1960s for an ambitious ski resort in California called Mineral King. The project was never completed, mostly due to politics and environmental concerns, but it remains one of Disney's most fascinating failures. Sam writes in detail about Mineral King in his book, Walt and the Promise of Progress City. He's also posted several excellent articles on MiceChat: Mineral King - The Rest of the Story Part 1 and Mineral King- Wrapping Up the Story.

Special thanks to my friends who helped me put this installment of Inside the Mouse Castle together: Heather Antonio, who shot all the interview footage; and Gregg Condon for his photo of Jack Lindquist from MiceChat's anniversary meet last year.

Inside the Mouse Castle is now becoming a regular thing.

Two episodes makes it a regular thing, right?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

'Lady and the Tramp' Bonus: Inside Walt's Disneyland Apartment

Disney releases its charming puppy love story Lady and the Tramp on Blu-ray today. While many of the bonus features on the included DVD are recycled from the 2006 50th anniversary home video release, there is one particular new feature (among the few) on the Blu-ray disc that stands out, Diane Disney Miller: Remembering Dad. In this eight-minute featurette, Walt's daughter takes us on a tour of the small apartment over the firehouse in Disneyland where Walt and his family frequently stayed to enjoy the park and entertain guests. It's a welcome glimpse inside a part of Disneyland rarely seen by visitors.

For a closer look at Walt's apartment, download the Lady and the Tramp Second Screen app for the iPad (if you're Apple-challenged, you can also find it online here). Bundled amongst the concept art and design sketches that take you inside Walt's Lady and the Tramp story meetings, is a 360-degree rendering of the apartment you can navigate on-screen.

There are plenty of places to tap/click that reveal details about the Victorian-style apartment: the old Victrola, Walt's countertop grill where he made his favorite grilled cheese sandwiches, Lillian's and his matching trundle beds, the lamp in the window that stays perpetually lit to honor his memory.

The apartment was originally designed by movie art director Emile Kuri, who won an Academy Award for his work on Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It's a cozy corner of Disneyland that few people get the privilege to see in person. It's certainly on my Disney bucket list. For now, this virtual tour does nicely.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bobbing Along With Bob Gurr

Bob Gurr (l.) and me.
OK, I'll admit it. I had a geek moment when Bob Gurr complimented me on my choice of video camera (a Canon Vixia). There's something inherently cool about having your electronic equipment validated by the engineering genius (and Disney Legend) who designed the Monorail, the Matterhorn and pretty much everything that moves on wheels at Disneyland.

There were a lot of moments like that on Saturday morning.

Visiting Disneyland last weekend to celebrate MiceChat's 7th anniversary, I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney where Bob (do NOT call him "Mr. Gurr"), Margaret Kerry (the original live-action model for Tinker Bell), Susan Egan (Meg in Disney's Hercules and the original Belle in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast) and author/historian Sam Gennawey (Walt and the Promise of Progress City) were the special guests.

The restaurant could barely contain the crowd's enthusiasm for these Disney heroes who shaped and influenced so many childhoods in the room. A seemingly endless stream of great stories, old and new, was shared that morning, like this one from Bob about a project at Walt Disney World that didn't quite make the cut (shot with my Canon Vixia, TYVM).

I'll have more video footage plus my own interviews with Margaret and Sam later this week. I just couldn't wait that long without posting something.

Yeah, I'm a tease.

Bob Gurr's Main Street window at Disneyland.
Bob has written a new book about his fascinating life as a project designer for Disney, Universal Studios, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and many others. Design: Just for Fun will be available in late spring and can be pre-ordered now directly from Bob's website.