March 12, 2010

Disney: Day 4 (or When You Can Take the FastPass from My Hand, Grasshopper, It Will Be Time for You to Leave...)

Today was our final day in the amusement parks of Southern California, and our final chance to implement all of the insider knowledge we had accrued during our time here. We altered our approach slightly this morning, deciding to sleep in a bit and hit the opening of California Adventure rather than be at Disneyland's gates at the crack of dawn. I felt okay doing this because, being Friday, Disneyland was going to be open until midnight, so we could take our last cruise through the Magic Kingdom later that evening.

So, while the kids and I waited at the rope outside of Golden State, April hoofed it over to Disneyland and grabbed some FastPasses for Splash Mountain. She rejoined us about two minutes before the rope dropped and we were off to catch Toy Story Mania for the last time. After shooting the (3-D) lights out, we walked over to the Mullholland Madness roller coaster which had been packed on our previous visit. Luckily this time around we were the only customers so the kids just stayed in their cart and rode in a continuous loop four or five times. Next up was Grizzly River Run which we did twice in a row. Also luckily, the temperature was getting close to 75° F, so we dried out fairly quickly. Our final 4-D show was a repeat trip to A Bug's Life: It's Tough To Be A Bug. This is such an awesome presentation and, in the character of Hopper, has the absolute best animatronic animation of any attraction around. When he pops out just to the right of the screen, it is as if you are watching a seven-foot live-action version of the character. His movements and mannerisms are exactly like his CGI counterpart's. It's amazing.

The best thing about California Adventure this day, without a doubt, was the live-action Aladdin musical. This is a full-scale, Broadway quality retelling of the Aladdin story, condensed down to about forty-five minutes of spectacular goodness. It had everything: flying carpets, giant Jafar-snakes, and enough up-to-date pop culture references to satisfy even the sourest of pusses. The guy playing the Genie was incredibly talented with genius level comic timing. I think I can speak for everyone in the family when I say that this show alone was well worth the price of admission. If we could have, I think we would have turned around and immediately watched it again.

At this point in the day we decided to take a break and go back to the hotel for a while to rest up for the evening assault on the Mouse. April and the kids headed back to the hotel and I headed for Adventureland to grab some Indiana Jones and Big Thunder FastPasses. I had about forty-five minutes to wait between getting one and being allowed to get the others, so I bought myself a double scoop of mocha almond fudge ice cream in a chocolate dipped waffle cone, and I sat down opposite the Jungle Ride and watched humanity pass me by. One thing I quickly determined was that the park was at least 500% more busy than it had been on any other day we had been there. After having the park almost to ourselves all week (relatively speaking), it was a shock to be in this crush of people and their strollers. Seriously, hundreds of strollers everywhere you looked or tried to walk. I can't quite figure out what the point of taking a toddler still young enough to need a stroller to Disneyland would be, but who am I to question these things? Anyway, I finished up my cone, sauntered over to the FastPass kiosk, and then high-tailed it back to the HoJo's for some R&R.

When I arrived, the kids were already hard at play in the water park portion of the hotel pool area. This, I think, was just what the doctor ordered because they were having a blast. After checking in with April, I went upstairs to blog a bit. I thought about napping, but I was just too wound up to fall asleep. Around 4:30 p.m. we cleaned-up and headed off for some supper at Mimi's Cafe, where we continued our tradition of ordering four dinners where two entrés split between the four of us would have more than sufficed. What is with Americans and their big-ass food?

After dinner, we continued on down the street and walked up the boulevard to the gates of Disneyland for the last time. I think we were all experiencing a mixture of excitement and sadness, and I know we were all trying to take absolutely everything in as we walked, knowing full well that we wouldn't be seeing it again for some time. We were hopeful that we might get in the last few Fantasyland rides that we had been shutout of so far, but no dice, there were hundreds and hundreds of people in the line-ups. So, rather than try to squeeze in new rides, we went for a smorgasbord of our favourites, our own personal greatest hits, if you will.

First up was Pirates of the Caribbean. No FastPass, but it's a continuously moving ride so the line always moves quickly. At one point Sam said to himself, "I've got to get everything!" meaning he was trying to commit every little detail to memory because this was the final kick at the can. I knew exactly how he felt. Next, we hit the Haunted Mansion which was as great as ever. I sat out the last ride on Splash Mountain, but the three other Andersons took the plunge. I'm just not a free fall kind of guy, I guess. We back-tracked to Adventureland and took, what was for me, the most important of our last rides: Indiana Jones. This final pass through the Temple of the Forbidden Eye was perfect. I asked the attendant if we could have a front row seat in the car and she happily obliged. We risked being cursed in order to find the hidden Mickey created by the nostrils and philtrum on the giant idol of Mara, ducked when the poison darts whizzed by, and screamed when the giant boulder nearly caught us again. It couldn't have been better. This also marked another instance of the unbelievable luck we had been having the entire trip. We used our FastPasses and headed up the corridor, arriving in the holding room with no fuss; but as we left, for whatever reason, the entire passage leading into the ride had somehow filled with hundreds of people who were not there 12 minutes before when we walked straight through. Maybe all those rides spent avoiding Mara's gaze were paying off!

April and I had one of our very few, very brief moments alone as we next sent the kids on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad one more time. We sat in the (relatively) peaceful corner of Frontierland and talked about how wonderful the trip had been so far and how it didn't seem possible that tomorrow we would be getting on a plane and leaving. The kids came off the ride pumped full of adrenaline and glowing like really glowy-type things.

We tried the classic Fantasyland rides one more time, but there was no way we were getting anywhere close, so we did what any logical people would do: we joined the line-up for the newly re-opened Matterhorn which wrapped almost completely around the base of the ride. The sign a few dozen people ahead of us stated that it would be a thirty minute wait from that point, but we bit the bullet anyway. About twenty-one minutes later we were at the front of the line and Sam asked the attendant, "How's Harold?" The guy was great and replied, "Oh, he's really good. We fed him already, so he shouldn't give you too much trouble." (Harold is the name of the Abominable Snowman who lives in the Matterhorn ride and ever since Sam read about him in his guidebook, he'd been itching to lay that question on someone in the know.) Chloe and I weren't big fans of the ride, but at least we can add it to the list of the iconic Disneyland attractions we can say we've been on.

At about quarter to nine it was time to find our spots for the fireworks display. We picked a spot just past the end of Main Street and stood there for the next forty-five minutes as people milled around us. I'm sure some people wondered what we were doing in the middle of the street, but when it came time for the show, we could not have been in a better position.

I don't think there are words potent enough to describe the overall effect of the "Remember...Dreams Come True" fireworks show. It starts with the ubiquitous Disney Announcer Guy introducing the show with Julie Andrews taking over shortly after that. Ms. Andrews' melodious voice, played over "When You Wish Upon a Star," begins to take everyone watching on a tour of the past fifty-five years of Disneyland history. The music swells, and two shooting stars criss-cross each other over Sleeping Beauty's castle, and then the sky erupts with colour and light. The projected lighting on the castle changes to suit the mood of the music (which ranges from "Wishing" from Snow White to "Indiana Jones") and at one point a real live Tinkerbell flies out over the castle, her wings aglow, setting off various bursts of fairy dust just like the opening to the old Wonderful World of Disney show. It is, quite simply, Magic.

I stood there holding Sam in my arms, his eyes saucer-wide, looking at Chloe and April standing arm-in-arm, and I started crying. I didn't know it was going to happen, it just kind of washed over me in a wave. I guess I just suddenly came to the realization that I was, in that moment, truly happy. It is a memory that I have placed in my breast pocket. One which I will take out every now and then for the rest of my life, holding it close to my cheek and spending some time basking in the warm glow of its joy. I am so glad that we have made this trip, I am so glad that I have my family, I am just so...glad. Tomorrow we head back to reality, but for now I'm going to lay here and love my life for a little while...


P.S.: Here is some video footage of a similar fireworks show to the one we saw.

Posted by Sean at 11:46 PM
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