Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun entry into the Star Wars canon. The movie reveals the backstory of Han Solo, everyone’s favorite reluctant rebel from the original trilogy. The movie is set about 10 years before Luke and Obi Wan Kenobi first meet Han and provides a good clean fun backstory for the character.
Solo and Rogue One, the first of these side Star Wars stories, both deal with the same challenge: the audience already knows how the film is going to end because the movies are based on known events or in this case are backstory for existing characters.
With that in mind, the directors (there were two original directors who were removed from project and replaced with Ron Howard) and writers (Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan) did a fantastic job of taking what we as fans would want to know and including them in the new movie without bogging down the storyline too much. The movie answers questions about Han Solo that have been in the back of your head since you first saw him on screen. How did Han Solo get his name? Where did he meet Chewbacca? What does the kessel run look like? Where did he get the Millennium Falcon?
These questions are all tackled through creative storytelling that brings a new depth to existing characters. The one difficult thing about the expansive story and array of new added characters is that new cast members in this film don’t have a place in the future of the story as we have already seen the next piece of the story on screen. This decreases the stakes–we know that any love interest introduced in this film is inconsequential because ten years later we will see Han with Princess Leia.
This leads into the other strange aspect about the movie–we haven’t yet invented a time machine so the young Han Solo that stars in the movie is not Harrison Ford, but Alden Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich does a good job fitting into the role while making the character his own, but again it isn’t Harrison Ford (the original star does of course approve of this new young actor and publicly supported him). Donald Glover also overcomes this challenge as he portrays Lando Calrissian in the new movie.
The movie itself is beautiful and does a nice job of blending the polished look and feeling of the prequels with the grittier look of the original films. Most importantly though, the look of the film does not impede on the ability to tell a fun story.
The movie centers on Han joining a group of raiders who are looking to make a quick buck by any means necessary. Han uses this as an attempt to reunite with a girl that he was separated from a few years earlier. In a somewhat formulaic quest story, the unexpected band of soon to be friends must come together to accomplish their shared goal.
Overall I recommend Solo: A Star Wars Story to any Star Wars fan or fan of the adventure heist genre. You really don’t need to understand all of the Star Wars universe to appreciate this movie, but if you do want to be fully up to speed, you should rewatch episodes four and five.
Last night I saw the incredible new Avengers: Infinity War. Twenty-four hours after seeing the movie I am still processing all of the cross-overs and interactions between the key characters.
This will be my attempt to prep you for your experience seeing the new Avengers: Infinity War. I will NOT give any spoilers.
This movie was a fantastic uniting of all of your favorite Marvel characters in a fast sequence of stories and characters as the titan, Thanos, comes in search of the infinity stones.
More than anything, Avengers: Infinity War was a culmination of the last ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Storylines, character motivations, and locales were all woven in from each Marvel film ranging from the original Iron Man to Guardians of the Galaxy to the recent Black Panther. It was a Marvel fan’s paradise!
With that said, I wish that I had done more preparation before I saw the new movie. It has been a little while since I saw the Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. I have also never seen Doctor Strange in its entirety. My viewing experience of the new film would have been improved if I had seen these other films again and had a better grasp on all of the characters backstories and their current status.
This comes from the fact that because there are so many characters in this new movie, there is little room for much character development for many of the characters. You will see your favorite characters interacting with each other, and that has to be the point for you. It is almost as if you should binge watch all of the Marvel Movies leading up to the new film in TV show style (if only we already had the Disney streaming service) and this is the great first half of the season finale.
Seeing Thor and Star Lord (shown widely in the trailer) meet each other was hilarious and is a perfect example of the power of this new movie. We already know everything about Thor from his movie and everything about Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, so we can appreciate their meeting and interaction. There are other awesome interactions like this, that I won’t go into.
Finally, one of my favorite aspects of many Marvel movies are the film scores and music chosen. Avengers: Infinity War did not disappoint at all in this aspect! Your favorite movie music themes will be inserted throughout in addition to new music that you will love in years to come.
So, I greatly suggest that you do your homework and take a look at the Marvel movie list and do a little bit of viewing before you see this new movie. Do it quickly though! This is a movie to see the opening weekend with an interactive audience. When I saw the movie, I was in a preview screening with 1,100 other people at the El Capitan in Hollywood. The air was electric and the audience was extremely invested. This only elevated the experience that much more. The combined gasps and laughing out loud made the movie that much better.
Remember #thanosdemandsyoursilence, so don’t share any plot points on social media or give out any spoilers.
Marvel’s latest film, Black Panther, was incredible! I can easily confirm that this new film is in my top 3 Marvel movies of all time. Black Panther delights with a fast paced story, strong leading characters–of both genders, and incredible visuals.
The third feature from director Ryan Coogler, who brought us Creed and Fruitvale Station, is surprisingly fresh for being Marvel Studios’ 18th film. The movie takes places largely in the mythical African country of Wakanda. The country is built on a bed of the rarest metal on earth. The metal allowed for the Wakandan people to make advancements in technology that improved all aspects of life.
Our story revolves around the struggle for the thrown between T’Challa, the man we know as the Black Panther from Captain America: Civil War, and Killmonger. Part of the success of the story comes from Killmonger, who at first glance seems a brutal villain, having a clear motivation to right former injustices of slavery that we can connect with. While we may not agree with his way of going about it, this conflict and our understanding makes Black Panther a lot more than a good versus evil superhero film a la Captain America fighting Nazis.
And right alongside T’Challa are his mother, sister, and longtime best friend/love interest. They are as much the stars of the film as he is. Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, was my favorite character in the entire movie. Played by Letitia Wright, Shuri was insanely smart and not afraid to poke fun at her newly crowned king brother. Responsible for most of the tech developments in Wakanda, she is strong, smart, and most importantly felt like my own sister. If I could hangout with any character from the film it would be Shuri.
As you have likely realized, Black Panther is the first black superhero ever. While that is important, the film they created around that character is almost more impressive and earth shattering. They created an authentic feeling of Africa in the setting, costume, and story elements while also painting the struggles of an African American in the US. This is not just a black superhero, but an African superhero with the story about his heritage. The visuals capture the stunning beauty of the continent and the costumes drew inspiration from varying tribes (see a great featurette on this). They easily could have had a story of Black Panther set against the backdrop of New York City, but that would not have had nearly the same power and effect as this culturally centered piece.
Disguised as an impoverished country world, Wakanda melds the countryside and high tech developments. People walk through dusty streets alongside floating trains while the latest health technology is discovered below the surface. The production design team did a fantastic job creating a world that was somehow grounded, believable, and aspirational.
Black Panther is an incredible addition to the Marvel Studios lineup. I cannot say how excited I was leaving the theater after experiencing this genre-rocking superhero film. The 2h and 15m flew by and I just wanted more of all the characters. I can’t wait to get back out to see the movie once again when it is released to the public!
While everyone is raving about the deal between Disney and Fox as a potential Netflix competitor, there are some other fun implications from the acquisition. Fox has created so many classics over the years that are feel good films that will fit perfectly alongside the Disney library.
Briefly let me explain the aspects to this deal: Disney has just acquired the 21st Century Fox film and television studios (including all of the film library), a large stake in Hulu, and the National Geographic channel and FX…
Today we will hone in on the existing film library that came with the acquisition.
8 Fox Classics That Will Find a Perfect Home at Disney
In this article I want to focus in on all of the things that the media hasn’t been talking about. You have likely already heard that the X-Men will now be at home with the rest of their Marvel crew, but I want to talk about all of the other Fox film classics that will find a fantastic home at Disney.
1. The Original Star Wars Rights
Now Disney owns all rights to the original Star Wars films that were made before they acquired. Fans has clamored for years for the cuts of the films from before George Lucas went back in and meddled with them. Maybe this will now allow them to release these original cuts without the special effect additions.
2. The Sound of Music
Julie Andrew’s favorite film has now come home! This is one of my favorite movies of all time and now it is under the Disney label. This is only fitting as Walt Disney was the person responsible for originally getting Julie Andrews to switch over to film acting in the first place when he cast her in Mary Poppins.
You can most likely quote a line out of this film right off the top of your head.
5. Home Alone
Also created by Chris Columbus, Home Alone is another classic that is beloved by audiences around the world. There is a touching element and piece of irreverent fun.
6. Mrs. Doubtfire
Surprisingly another Chris Columbus film…seems like a pattern here! There is a sensibility about these films that brings optimism and fun to the screen.
7. The Devil Wears Prada
This is perhaps my favorite movie to have on the background while working (besides maybe Princess Diaries which happens to be on while I’m writing this article and also stars Anne Hathaway). Again there is a sense of family friendly optimism and incredible storytelling present in this film that makes it a perfect fit for the library.
This film franchise fits well within the Disney company especially considering that they just finished a massive new land in Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World that celebrates the world of Pandora where Avatar takes place.
There are currently at least two sequels planned for Avatar and you will likely see an even bigger push for the films now that they are completely under the Disney ownership.
Wrapping Up: What’s Next?
Some of the more bizarre additions thematically in my opinion are The Simpsons, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Die Hard, Aliens, Kingsman, and Ice Age. The coming weeks and years will be very interesting to see how these properties will be integrated with the overall Disney brand and if they will make their way into the theme parks at all.
Disney, under the guidance of Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, has made a history of letting companies operate on their own after acquisition. After purchasing Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, they made sure that top leadership stayed intact and that the spirit of those companies was not lost. After the acquisition was announced, Bob Iger cited these examples explaining that they had similar plans to keep Fox functioning in a similar style as they already have been.
Coming off Toy Story 3, director Lee Unkrich had an idea. He wanted to create a film based upon the Mexican celebration of Dia de Los Muertos. This was one of three ideas that he presented to the Pixar Braintrust to be his next project.
Unkrich shared that he “had always been interested in the tradition, and spent some time doing some research, and really trying to understand more than [he] already knew. And the more that I dug in, the more that I learned about how central family is to this celebration, and that Dia de Muertos is, you know, is all about this obligation that we all have to remember our loved ones, and to pass their stories along. And I just really started to see the potential to tell a unique story, to tell a story that could only be told in animation, that could be visually dazzling, but also had the potential to have a real emotional core to it. And that was really kind of the beginning of this journey.”
With his further development of the idea, he and his team at Pixar began to research the beautiful traditions. He shared they “immediately headed down to Mexico and went on the first of what proved to be many lengthy research trips, to spend time learning about the traditions, learning about the culture, and spending a lot of time with many beautiful families down in Mexico.”
Throughout the development of the film, the team worked with cultural advisors that helped them to make sure that the film felt true and authentic. This partnership combined with the numerous research trips down to Mexico paved the way for a deeper understanding that was culturally sensitive.
The co-director of the film, Adrian Molina, shared how special the creation of the project was to him. He shared that he “felt like [he] had a lot of experience to bring to it, and also just the way we work at Pixar, it’s such a collaborative effort, and to be able to work with all of these actors, all of these musicians, and to really bring to life this culture on screen was something that [he] was thrilled by.”
Molina rose rapidly on the film–he started as a storyboard artist and was soon elevated to co-director due to his passion for the project and knowledge of the subject. He started at Pixar as a 2D animator working on the credits of Ratatouille and quickly, in Pixar terms at least, made it up the line to help lead a production.
The film did face some difficulty throughout the process with a couple of cultural missteps and one potential look-a-like project. Early on in the process, the team had thought about calling the film “Dia de Los Muertos.” Part of the process for Disney in okaying a film title is getting a trademark on that name. There was massive blowback from the public when it came out that Disney had attempted to seemingly trademark a holiday.
Of course the team didn’t end up using “Dia de Los Muertos” as the name of the film and chose “Coco” instead. That character name “Coco” had been used in an early version of the script and is one of the last remnants of the earliest iterations.
The other big hold up came when the Book of Life film also centering around Dia de Los Muertos was announced. Unkrich shared that he was nervous that they would inadvertently create a similar film, but after the entire Coco crew screened that film on opening day they were thrilled to find that it was a completely different story even though it pulled inspiration from the same holiday. The director of Book of Life, Jorge Gutierrez, has even become a friend of the Coco team and attended the premiere. Unkrich’s final word on this “duplication” was that “there are multiple Christmas movies, why can’t there be multiple Day of the Dead movies.”
The hispanic cast was also very proud to tell this culturally specific story that happened to be released in a very politically charged moment. Alanna Ubach, who voices Mamá Imelda in the new film, shared that “they really did pay such a respect to the one quality that Latin families have across, and that is the importance of familia, and that is something that no presidents, or borders, or politics can ever break – that importance, the importance of familia.”
Coco is a fantastic film and you need to go out and see it with your family. It is one of my favorite Pixar films ever and the best film of the year.
Throughout this holiday season I hope that you are surrounded by family. The new Disney Pixar film Coco offers up this same hope as they tell a story that will give you new perspective on what it means to remember someone and honor your family.
To tell this story the film focuses on the theme of death. Pixar broaches this topic with a sensibility that matches that of their other films and they do it in a way that keeps the film kid friendly and positive. The film centers on Miguel, a young boy that is frustrated with his family because they won’t allow him to play music. Through a series of magical events Miguel ends up in the land of the dead where he meets his ancestors and soon comes to understand how much his family really means to him. Should he focus on pursuing his dream of music or reuniting with his family? The events of the film lead us on a twisting journey that will make you fall in love with the characters.
Miguel’s incredible adventure is brought to life by dazzling visuals that highlight the color and beauty of Mexico and the land of the dead, a cross between a cleaned up Las Vegas and Disneyland. Each frame of the film could be paused, printed, and hung up on the wall as a piece of art. My favorite shots came when magical golden marigolds were on screen glowing with warmth and enriching the entire scene.
The film also provided a unique challenge to the film makers. How do you create a world of skeletons that are not scary and have inflection points for interaction, but still look like a skeleton? After many iterations, some of which I saw during a recent tour of Pixar that I unfortunately couldn’t photograph, the team decided on a skeleton body that would have eyes but still allow for the entire body to come apart and then back together again. This led to character interactions and deconstructions similar to Olaf in Frozen.
The incredible characters of the film were completely brought to life by the incredible score and soundtrack of the film. While it’s not officially a musical, this is far and away the most musical Pixar film. John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer for both Pixar and Disney, made a distinction that Pixar never makes musical and that holds true here. While the characters almost all sing, the other characters known that they are singing and thus it is not a musical, but a film featuring lots of music.
And boy that music is spectacular! Once you see the movie you will immediately go home and start listening to the soundtrack. I am listening to the music as I write this review and you can too right here. You’ll be hearing the soundtrack for the next year in the same way that Moana and Frozen took over. The main song throughout the film, “Remember Me”, was written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson, the same team who wrote all of the music for Frozen.
This film provides a fun journey into the land of the dead that will make you thankful for the family that you have surrounding you this holiday season. This movie really is the best movie that I have seen this year.
Go out and see Coco this holiday season and remember the importance of family.
Sitting down in the theater for the next Thor: Ranarok film I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Of all the Marvel movies the Thor films have never been my favorite. I’ve always enjoyed the Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy films the most. There has always been a quality to Thor that I could never connect with, and while the movies provided spectacle, they never really had heart.
Suffice to say, my expectations were not very high as I walked into the press screening of Thor. Let me tell you, Thor: Ragnarok far exceeded anything that I could have even hoped for. The new film delighted with a type of humor I’ve only really seen Marvel use in Guardians of the Galaxy, classic rock music that brought the story to life, and a new perspective from which Thor views the world. In essence, this new Thor movie has a whole lot of heart.
There were some very humorous jokes throughout the original Thor film and into the Avengers that showed off just how funny Thor can be, however they were not used to reveal Thor’s character. Those jokes were taken to a new level in the new film where the bizarre setting allowed for comments left and right that added a layer to Thor. There also seemed to be a new perspective in the writing of the film that allowed for jokes about things that could have been taken completely serious in either of the other movies (the open scene shows this off immediately).
The new movie also took a page out of the Guardians playbook in regards to a use of music interacting with the characters. They use Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song to drive a battle scene montage home. It’s awesome!
Something that makes the movie so much easier to connect with is that Thor himself feels more human in this film. Due to circumstances that I won’t reveal, Thor is knocked down a few pegs from a level of saving the world with one mighty blow to one much closer to being a human. This change and the issues that the film deals with like family trouble–while still on a large scale–puts the film in a place that us mere mortals can connect with beyond our impressed reactions to the special effects.
Thor: Ragnarok takes place mostly off of earth on Asgard and on the newly introduced Sakaar. This new planet revolves around a coliseum tournament style battle which Thor (and one other classic character that I don’t want to mention and hopefully you haven’t seen in any commercials). This world helps to contribute to the tone of the film that I already discussed.
There is so much good in Thor: Ragnarok and so much of that comes from the further development of Thor as a character and the fantastic world that the film is set in. I highly recommend that you go out and see this new film.
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You can see the recommendations for children watching the film at Common Sense media which I always recommend checking out if you plan on taking kids.
Disney has confirmed that Walt Disney World will get their own version of the exclusive Disneyland Club 33, the members only private club. Disneyland in California has the original Club 33 which has been open since 1967 in the location above New Orleans Square in Disneyland.
The official Disney Vacation Club quarterly magazine, Disney Files, confirmed the new club out in Florida, but provided few details. The article shared that “Club 33, the private club dreamed up by Walt Disney for 33 Royal Street in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park and since expanded to Tokyo Disney Resort and Shanghai Disney Resort, is coming soon to Walt Disney World Resort.”
The theme of the new Walt Disney World Club 33 was confirmed to be world travel. Specifically the new venues will be “inspired by Walt’s worldly adventures with his beloved wife, Lillian.”
The new club will give members access to four new private lounges throughout the resort. The expectation is that the new locations will be located throughout the theme parks with one in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, one in the Magic Kingdom, and one in Epcot.
The issue of membership was not touched upon in the article. Club 33 members from Disneyland have shared that they do not expect their membership to include access to the Walt Disney World locations. There are other Club locations in both Tokyo Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland that are not open to Disneyland Resort Club members either and share only the name as an affiliation.
There is no information on when the club will open for membership or first use beyond the comment of “coming soon.”
“Fantasmic!”, the popular Disneyland nighttime spectacular based on an adventure through Mickey Mouse’s imagination, returns to the Rivers of America on Monday night after a long hiatus during the rerouting of the river for Star Wars Land construction.
The new show soft opened on Saturday night for those who were attending the D23 Expo this weekend and were inside of the Parks and Resorts Presentation. Luckily I was in that group so I can bring you a review of the new “Fantasmic!” show before it officially opens Monday.
To preface this review, I had fantastic seats for the new show. I was right in the middle section dead center looking directly at the main stage of the show on Tom Sawyer’s Island. I will not be able to very well judge how the new projections play if you are sitting off center on the Rivers of America.
One quick side comment: If you purchase a Disneyland 3 day park hopper from Get Away Today before Monday night, you will receive $19 off your ticket on top of the already steep discount. Must book through this link for discount.
What didn’t change in “Fantasmic!”?
The new “Fantasmic!” show kept the heart of the show almost identical to the original version. The show is still telling the same story that takes you head first into Mickey Mouse’s imagination.
You will still feel the same sense of excitement and swell with emotion throughout as the show builds its energy levels in almost identical patterns. That is, the overall structure and layout of the show is basically the same. Segments were tweaked here and there and new intellectual property was added, but the show remains built around the same main blocks of content. This means you don’t have to worry about your favorite opening and closing numbers changing too much with this update. You can see the new closing act including the dragon here.
Now let’s dive into the new in the show by looking at…
What’s different in “Fantasmic!”?
When I first arrived at the Rivers of America for my viewing I was immediately struck by a large brown tarp that was hung behind the shack on Tom Sawyer’s Island where much of the action for the show takes place. This tarp stretched up almost all the way to the tops of the trees on either side.
Once the show started, I saw that this surface was being used to increase the area that they were able to project onto. Each segment was enhanced by new projections. This was a very nice added layer that will increase the amount of times you can watch and always see something new.
The music seemed much more substantial with a richer audio recording that must have resulted from a full new orchestral recording or remastering. The sound is a little different, but nice.
From the opening to the close, Mickey Mouse was inserted into many more scenes so that he was traveling through the entire adventure with you. Even when there was no physical Mickey Mouse actor, he would appear in the projections.
New characters were added into segments in many different areas of the show. The Lion King was added into the jungle type segment with the dancing monkeys. Aladdin was added with Genie doing the “Friend Like Me” number and “Whole New World” with a flying carpet opening the princess segment. In the princess segment, Snow White was replaced by Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Tangled. The second half of the show starting off with the villains sequence remained largely untouched hold for better technology that only enhanced the show.
One such addition made the dragon each cooler. Right as the dragon is being defeated by Mickey Mouse, it rears up its head and shoots a huge burst of flame up into the sky. It is nothing short of epic!
The only extremely jarring and potentially negative change to the show was the replacement of Peter Pan with Pirates of the Caribbean. The segment functions the same way with the Sailing Ship Columbia being transformed into the Black Pearl with Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan battling pirates in the same way that Peter Pan and Wendy did. Originally this new segment was planned to have projections and digital mapping on the actors themselves, but, during the performance I saw, these projections were not present. The segment was basically equal to Peter Pan in my mind, which I would then say means they should have left it as Peter Pan. However, I understand their motivation to change to pirates because of all the large promotion currently happening around that film and the synergy this addition creates.
Overall, the new Disneyland “Fantasmic!” is a wonderful show that has been freshened up and enhanced beautifully. The changes make the show even more relevant for the current landscape of popular Disney characters without hurting the classic storyline and show that we all love.
The new Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 movie serves as a great addition to the first film. This second journey into the outer reaches of the galaxy brings together the same team from the original film plus quite a few new characters–a couple of whom are played by fan favorite actors including Disney Legend Kurt Russell.
This new film does a fantastic job building off the characters from the original film and solving key questions that we were left with at the end of the first “volume.” The director took the story in a different direction looking at the origin story of Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt). The film follows the story of how Peter’s father came to earth and how that ties back into the larger world of Guardians of the Galaxy.
While this comparison may not be fair, there is an early line in the film that had me looking at the movie through a Star Wars lense. The Guardians are being pursued through space and Peter Quill flies the ship into an asteroid field to get away. One of the other characters says in a somewhat whiny voice–Princess Leia style–something along the lines of “you’d have to be the best pilot in the galaxy to make it through their alive.” All that was missing from this moment to bring me totally back to this classic scene from Empire Strikes Back, was C-3PO providing the odds about unlikely it was for them to make it through.
After this initial scene I was constantly looking for more comparisons back to my favorite franchise set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. The film matched very well with the model for Empire Strikes Back. Throughout Guardians 2 they were laying the groundwork for future story points and connecting the characters together as they solved a mini problem in the form of Peter Quill’s dad. The story was a break from the overall arc of the trilogy that centers around the fight against the big blue bad guy whose name I don’t quite remember.
Other highlights for me were the great pop culture references that lightened the mood of the movie and added a really fun layer for me to pick out. I am sure that some went over my head and I will discover more in future screenings. For now, I am quite pleased to have them make reference to Cheers!, Mary Poppins, and the Zune being what “everyone on earth is listening to right now.”
On top of all these references, the movie had another fantastic collection of 80s music that added quite a bit of the movie. These songs combined with the visuals of the Baby Groot character dancing were a hilarious highlight that everyone will love.
Anyways, all these comparisons are a long round about way for me to tell you that if you like Star Wars, pop culture, and 80s music you will really enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Don’t go in expecting a revolution of the genre and you will be pleased to have a new space based film where the key to success is blowing up a huge mass that appears to be a planet and asteroid fields are the perfect way to escape a pursuer.
The new film debuts on May 4.
While I was given access to an early press screening of the film on the Disney Studio lot, the opinions shared here are my own.
Watching the new Beauty and the Beast film was like meeting an old friend for the first time. This retelling of the story added depth to the classic story we all know and love.
Arguably, Beauty and the Beast is one of the most loved animated films of all time. The original film was a turning point for stories that could be told through animation and for the Disney company as a whole. That 1991 version marked the first time that an animated film had ever been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award (the film won two Academy Awards for best song and best score).
So when this new film was announced, I was curious to say the least. What more could they add to the classic telling of Beauty and the Beast that had been so well received? My faith in the studio’s ability to create powerful remakes was increased with the release of the 2015 retelling of the classic Cinderella film. I hoped that the same level of realism and outright passion for the story found in the Cinderella remake would appear in the new Beauty and the Beast film.
And, I was not disappointed…
Beauty and the Beast Review
The writers and director of the new film were able to breath new life into the classic “tale as old as time.” The new film found its success in incredible writing to add more layers to the characters, the deeply talented cast of actors, and powerful music throughout.
The script for this new version of the film somehow jammed tons of new information into the story without boring the audience with the details. They were able to bring a new perspective that helped to provide all of the motivations for the characters. You won’t find any glaring holes in the plot here. Those were all filled with details that make a truer understanding of the characters and a deeper love for them possible.
Specific choices were made to make Gaston quite villainous. You will have no problem rooting for his demise after the actions he makes in this film. His character is actually malicious. On the other hand, Belle has even more spunk in this version. The moment she is locked up in the cage she promises her father that she will escape. She even creates a tied line of sheets to scale down the palace walls (though she doesn’t ever quite make it that far). Another nice addition was the creation of a love of books in the Beast. Now, there is a clear development in the story were the Beast and Belle connect over their shared love of books and reading (there are some clever Shakespeare and other classic literature references thrown in).
All of these story points were beautifully brought to life by the incredible ensemble of actors in the film. There is no better place to start than with Emma Watson. She fit perfectly into the role of Belle. Emma Watson is the worldly and sophisticated person that Belle aspires to become. Her personality fit perfectly in with the new character and she did a marvelous job. Now, we can’t stop there. The supporting cast was star studded with Emma Thompson playing Mrs. Potts, Stanley Tucci and Audra McDonald playing a harpsichord and wardrobe, and Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen playing the classic Lumiere and Cogsworth duo. Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen) plays Le Fou, Gaston’s trusty sidekick–another character that was given much more depth in this new version. Kevin Kline plays Maurice, Belle’s lovable father, and delivers yet another inspired performance.
This film is a return to the golden musical age of Hollywood. The room I was screening the film in began to applaud after both “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast.” From a room full of jaded reporters and familiar studio families, that’s rare. After having just watched La La Land, it is difficult not to compare. That film was reviewed as the return to golden age musical we’ve all been waiting for, but this new Beauty and the Beast blew me away with its incredible musical numbers and boisterous scale.
Alan Menken, the legendary composer for the original film and so many other Disney classics, returned to work on this new telling. The new songs were blended in with the classics seamlessly.
A Beauty and the Beast review note to parents: This film is a bit darker than the original, but remember that even in the original there is a song called “Kill the Beast.” The intensity of that scene is magnified, as is the spookiness of the woods and villainy of Gaston (as mentioned above). Common Sense media recommends Beauty and the Beast for ages 8 and up.
The 2 hours and 9 minutes of the film flew by, and when the credits began to roll, I was planning when I could see it again (a rare occurrence for me with new films). This will be a movie–and soundtrack–you will not be forgetting anytime soon.
Beauty and the Beast will be in theaters on March 17. While I was invited to an early screening of the film at the Disney studio, all above opinions in my Beauty and the Beast review are my own.
Updated February 12th 2017 Disney theme park prices have gone up once again. In this article you’ll see how to lock in the discount prices on Disneyland and Walt Disney World prices before they are gone forever.
Disneyland has increased prices on all one day, multi day tickets, and some Annual Passports.
In Walt Disney World, the prices for the one day tickets, multi day tickets, and some Annual Passports will increase.
There are some tricks that will allow you to lock in exclusive discounted prices on the current Disneyland and Walt Disney World ticket prices.
Disney works with a select group of tour companies to sell packages and discount tickets. Disneyland’s first outside travel partner was Get Away Today vacations (they have worked together for over 25 years). I reached out to Get Away Today and negotiated their prices down exclusively for our readers. When you purchase through our private link, you will be guaranteed to be purchasing the lowest priced 2-day and longer Disneyland tickets available to the public anywhere.
You can buy Disneyland tickets for use any time in 2017. If you are visiting the parks, buy now! If you are buy Walt Disney World tickets before this increase, the tickets will remain valid indefinitely. There is no expiration date until the first day you use your ticket.
The lowest prices on tickets can only be accessed through our private link. When you go to Get Away Today’s website directly, you will still get a great discount, but will miss out on roughly $20 of savings per ticket.
Today is an even more special day, because even though Disneyland and Walt Disney World raised their prices on February 12, Get Away Today will keep their current extremely discounted prices until February 21st for the purchase of any ticket two days or longer. Access the exclusively discounted tickets just for our readers via this private link. Ticket prices go up immediately on February 22nd!
Prices for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts have risen steadily since 2000 when the prices for admission at Disneyland were a mere $41 for adults and $31 for children. In Walt Disney World tickets cost $46 for adults and $37 for children.
These increases have come after a steady increase of attendance and an overcrowding problem that makes Disneyland busy during every time of the year.
As recorded by the Themed Entertainment Association, in 2014, Disneyland is reported to have seen 16,769,000 million visitors while Disney California Adventure welcomed 8,769,000 visitors. In Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom saw 19,332,000, Epcot saw 11,454,00, Animal Kingdom saw 10,402,00, and Hollywood Studios saw 10,312,000.
The Main Street Electrical Parade was welcomed back to Disneyland after 21 years away from the original parade route. The parade will run from January 20-June 18, 2017. I was in the park for the “premiere event” which included a red carpet, debut performance of the parade, and nearly all Disneyland attractions open.
There were less than 10,000 people in the park and we walked on to every attraction. It was an incredible evening!
The Main Street Electrical Parade event was made up of a fascinating mix of attendees with Disney executives, select members of the media, and parade fans who opted for the $95 event ticket. With limited attendance numbers, the event was a fantastic opportunity to see the parade and experience attractions.
And what a parade it was…
The Main Street Electrical Parade still holds up to the test of time. There is something about the mix of the classic Christmas tree light look and the floats featuring a mix of classic and now obscure characters that make magic. For me, the parade experience started off a little bit weak as I compared the opening float to that of the high-tech “Paint the Night” floats. However, after the whirling bugs spun by, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the parade. This nostalgia combined with the designs of the later floats, an incredible soundtrack, and the location back in Disneyland made this a parade experience I won’t soon forget.
You can watch my live video of the premiere experience that was live streamed on our Facebook page here…
The parade, which debuted in 1972, has been a staple of the domestic Disney theme parks ever since. After performing on and off from 1972-1996 inside Disneyland park, the parade officially “glowed away forever.” But, nothing can keep this classic away. The floats were pulled out of the mothballs to perform as the night time entertainment in Disney California Adventure park from 2001 to 2010. The parade was shipped to Walt Disney World in Florida in 2010 when Disney California Adventure got too crowded with construction for Cars Land.
It was during the Disney California Adventure run that I first experienced Disney’s Electrical Parade. I can remember vividly seeing Pete riding on Elliott the Dragon rounding the corner into the old Sunshine Plaza at the entrance to the theme park. With corn dog from the Corn Dog Castle in hand, that time will forever be stuck in my mind as a moment of pure Disney magic.
Thus, it is fitting that the float that was chosen to be displayed for photos during the event after the premiere of the parade was the Elliott the Dragon float in addition to the whirling bug floats. I went a little crazy with the photos capturing the floats from all angles fitting in photos with the “Partners” statue and castle (you can see many of these on the Facebook page and below).
The park was filled with Disney executives including Michael Colgazier, the President of the Disneyland Resort, who graciously paused to catch up with me, before continuing his walk down Main Street. He was joined by Disneyland Park Vice President, Kris Theiler. I always enjoy seeing the executives out in the park and hearing their perspective on operations. Reportedly, Michael Colgazier called into the main parade operations from his car on the freeway to tell them to start the parade early as it was pouring where he was. From the weather satellite tracking, the Cast Members could tell they would make it just in time if they ran the parade at the planned 9 pm step off time. And, just like magic–Disney magic perhaps–the rain held off until moments after the last float stepped off stage.
The leading float from the Main Street Electrical was out for pictures as we were leaving the parks.
As I was leaving the parks, I experienced what I am convinced is a well coordinated attempt by the Disneyland powers to tease me. When I was walking by the Rivers of America after riding the Haunted Mansion (which we rode in our own private stretching room lying on the ground), all of the “Fantasmic!” light towers were raised and entertainment technicians were testing out a row of show fountains right in front of the island. After I lingered for a little while, a security guard told me it was past 12 and the parks were closed. They needed me to move along so they could start making the magic for this summer’s return of “Fantasmic!”.
Do I have Disneyland tips I usually say?!? How much time do you have?
Now, rather than being constrained by time, I have written down my top 150 Disneyland hacks and tips for your easy use. (These are not your average Disneyland tips.)
150 Disneyland Tips, Tricks, and Hacks 2017
Buy discount Disneyland tickets in advance for a discount. You can save money and avoid a line at the ticket booth when you purchase your tickets in advance. See all my advice on finding discount Disneyland tickets (how to avoid scams and other Disneyland hacks).
Stay in a hotel that is close to the parks. You can either stay at a Disney-owned on property hotel or at a partner hotel right next door to the resort. On property hotels give you access to the park an hour early every day of your visit, but are more expensive. The partner hotels are less expensive but have many fewer amenities. See our recommendations for both types of hotels near Disneyland.
Be sure to call your hotel in advance to tell them about your vacation. Recently I was traveling with my grandmother who had never been to Disneyland. I called the Disneyland Hotel to let them know and they greeted us with a First Visit button and a special upgrade to include a fireworks view room and dessert party. All that just by letting them know I was celebrating something. If anyone in your group has an anniversary, birthday, graduation, promotion, or anything else notable that has happened recently, let your hotel know. They are looking for a reason to be nice to you!
Purchase Disney gift cards online and get 5% off when you have a Target Red Card. See our full guide on hacking the system and earning at least 5% off everything that you buy at Disneyland.
You can purchase discount tickets and then upgrade them to annual passports and save big. When you present a ticket you purchased at a discount to be upgraded to a pass, you actually get the full value of that ticket. See pertaining Disneyland tips in our guide for how to take advantage of this opportunity.
Take a photo of the back of your ticket to use in case you lose your Disneyland ticket. Using the barcode from the photo, Guest Relations is able to replace any lost ticket.
The Anaheim Convention Center is the biggest on the West Coast. Crowds from the convention center can really change the crowd levels inside both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. See more Disneyland tips in our when to visit Disneyland guide to avoid these crowds.
There are nearly 1 million Annual Passholders at Disneyland. Whether or not they come determines how full the park is. When the lower level Annual Passports are blocked out, the parks will be much less crowded. See our Disneyland crowd calendar.
Be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Visiting Disneyland can be a long day. You will be walking and moving around constantly so make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes and especially shoes. Remember though, you still want to look good for all the pictures. See our full Disneyland packing list and what to wear guide.
Be sure to pack a light jacket and dress in layers. While Disneyland is located in warm southern California, expect cold evenings and mornings.
Track how far you walk. Use your pedometer or iPhone application to track how far you have walked during your trip. On average my family walks about 9 miles a day at Disneyland.
Take a picture when you park your car. The Mickey and Friends parking structure is one of the biggest in the world. Losing your parking spot can be quite easy. Take a photo or drop a pin in your car’s location so that you can remember where you parked after a long day at Disneyland.
Request a FREE Disney Vacation Planning DVD. These videos are fantastic to get an overview of Disneyland and a great way to get the entire family excited for your Disneyland vacation. Get FREE Disney DVD>
Arrive at the gate to Disneyland at least 20 minutes before opening. Many days the parks open before their scheduled opening time and you want to be ready to enter when they do. Also, the lines to get in can be long once the actual opening time comes around.
You can get an extra hour in Disneyland or Disney California Adventure before the parks open to the public. You can get this extra hour in the park by either staying at a Disney-owned hotel or by purchasing a three day or longer park hopper or non-park hopper discount Disneyland ticket from a Disney ticket reseller. Magic Morning is for guests who purchase three day or longer tickets and takes place in Disneyland Park on select days of the week, right now Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Extra Magic Hour comes when you stay at one of the three Disneyland Resort Hotels and provides alternating access to either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure on every day of the week.
If you do not have access to the Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning, start the day in the park that does not have the extra hour. If Disney California Adventure has Extra Magic Hour and you don’t have access because you aren’t staying on property, start your day in Disneyland. And vice versa. Visiting the park without with early opening will prevent you from running into lines that were formed by the crowds of people who got to enter the theme parks early. You can find this information on the Disneyland entertainment schedule.
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Booking a Disneyland vacation package can help you save money. When you book your tickets and hotel together you will save quite a bit more. See all of our information on how to save money with discount Disneyland packages.
Use the center gate to enter the parks. There is an individual gate with a turnstile in between the two long rows of turnstiles. Many believe this is just a line for wheelchairs and strollers, but anyone can use this line. Often this line is much shorter.
The best Sleeping Beauty Castle photo can be taken from the right hand side of the castle. There are fewer people from this side angle and you are surrounded by greenery rather than concrete.
Put your phone on airplane mode when waiting and riding underground rides. On rides that are underground like Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean your phone battery will die much more quickly because your phone will be searching for a cellular signal that is not there.
Listen to the Disneyland Vacations Show podcast. If you like listening to the podcasts, be sure to listen to the Disneyland Vacations show for advice on all aspects of planning your Disneyland vacation. Listen on iTunes here>
Be sure to park hop at Disneyland. This is such a nice attribute of the resort. Everything is so close together that you can really jump around from one corner to another without wasting much time. Do not feel limited in the same way you would at Walt Disney World. I always recommend Park Hopper tickets.
Pick up a celebration button. Disneyland makes unique buttons for almost every celebration including birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons, first visits to the park, and anything else you are celebrating. Wear a button so that Cast Members will say hello and have a reason to make magic for you. That could mean anything from a free dessert to a random front of line pass or just friendly greetings. You never know! See all of our Disneyland tips about celebrating a birthday at Disneyland.
Use Disneyland’s free FastPass service to avoid the lines. The Disneyland FastPass system is essentially a way to reserve a return time for an attraction when you can ride with little to no wait. See our full Disney FastPass guide for a full explanation of this very complex system.
To plan out the best day and avoid lines, use the Touring Plans service. This subscription website will provide you custom itineraries based off years of data on crowd control and ride capacity in Disneyland. You can get a 20% off discount if you use code “DisneyDose16” when you click this link.
Updated 4/3/17: No longer works! Sadly this was changed earlier this year. Use the secret FastPass for Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. Next door to the FastPass distribution for Star Tours, there are two machines that are not connected to the rest of the FastPass system that distribute FastPass tickets for Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. See full explanation of this trick and how disconnected Disney FastPass work here.
The FastPass systems between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are disconnected. In addition to the two theme parks being disconnected, some key attractions are not looped into the main system either. This means that you can hold multiple unconnected FastPass tickets at one time. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and World of Color are all disconnected from their theme park’s respective systems.
Disneyland now enforces FastPass return times (the second time on the ticket). Attempt to return to the attraction before the second time printed on your FastPass ticket. If you are a few minutes late though, do not be too worried. The Cast Members are typically generous.
Use the child swap system which allows one adult in the group to wait with a child while the other rides and they can switch. This system allows for both adults in the party to experience the attraction while only waiting once and prevents the child from ever being alone.
Bring your own stroller for the kids. When visiting Disneyland, be sure to bring your own stroller rather than renting from the parks. If you do not want to bring your stroller on the trip with you, rent from a company that can deliver to your hotel rather than directly from Disneyland. Call your Disneyland hotel front desk and they should be able to arrange this for you.
If you need a wheelchair for someone in your group, do not rent one from the parks. Rent one from the hotel as these can be taken out of the park with you and walked back to the hotel.
Establish a very specific meeting point for your group in case you split up. Every time you enter a new area establish a meeting point for your group that you can all return to if you get split up. See our full guide to lost children in Disneyland.
Tell children to locate someone with a Disneyland name tag if they are lost. This Disneyland Cast Member who finds your child will make sure that they are accompanied at all times until they are reconnected with you.
Write your phone number on your child somewhere in case they are lost. It is easy to get separated in Disneyland when traveling with a group. I recommend Safetytat, a temporary tattoo for your child, as a method to put your phone number directly on your child without any skin damage. If the number is there, you will receive a call from a Cast Member letting you know exactly where you can come meet your lost child.
Talk to Cast Members whenever you get the chance. Getting to know the people who work at Disneyland makes the experience that much more dimensional and memorable. By the end of the trip you will end up having a shared experience of some sort with one of them. Ask about where they are from, how long they have been working at Disneyland, why they chose to work in the parks. You will end up hearing some fun stories.
Cast Members with solid blue name tags have received a prestigious award. The solid blue name tag honors Cast Members who have received the Walt Disney Legacy Award for embodying the leadership spirit of making magic from Walt Disney. I like to say congratulations when I see these Cast Members who have been recognized by the Disney company.
Cast Members are given pins to wear on their name tags honoring them for the amount of years they have worked at the park. Pins range from 1 year all the way up to 50. Keep your eye out for the unique pins worn on the name tag. See our photo guide to all of the pins on the name tags.
Pin trade with Cast Members. Another fun activity at Disneyland is the opportunity to pin trade with Cast Members. You will see Cast Members throughout the park with pin lanyards on. You can trade any Disney made pin with any of the pins on the Cast Member lanyards. There are even special Cast Member exclusive pins that you can only find on the Cast Member lanyards. See our Disneyland tips in our guide to Disney pin trading.
Purchase your pins for pin trading before going to the parks. Since you are going to be trading your pins away, consider purchasing your trading pins in bulk before arriving at the parks. In the parks, pins cost between $8-$12. When buying in bulk you can find bags of pins for about $1 per pin. See our pin trading guide (linked in #39) for more information.
Bring quarters and pennies for pressed pennies. Throughout the park there are pressed penny machines that will imprint special Disneyland designs on them. To press one penny it requires two quarters and one penny. If you think you may want to partake, be sure to have change and some shiny pennies to press.
Bring a poncho to the park for water rides. Rather than getting totally soaked, I prefer to bring a poncho when we plan on riding either Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run.
Choose a goal for what you want to accomplish during your visit at Disneyland. Determine the theme and goal of each of your days. As Mousetalgia, the insightful weekly podcast on Disneyland preaches, “manage your expectations” and you will have a fantastic day at Disneyland. (You can find my interview podcast, the Disney Dose podcast, here.)
Fly into SNA/John Wayne Airport if you have the option. The Orange County/John Wayne/SNA airport is much closer to Disneyland than any of the other airports. Most of the main carriers still fly into Orange County. See all of our Disneyland tips and information on the Disneyland airports page.
Use the Uber app to get around and from the airport to Disneyland. Uber is a fantastic option for transportation that will save you a lot of money throughout your vacation. Use discount code “gavind714ue” to save $20 off your first ride.
If you are being dropped off at Disneyland, get dropped off at the Grand Californian Hotel. This is much better than the taxi stand and pick up area on the Harbor Boulevard side of the park. The hotel address is 1600 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802.
The Hotels of the Disneyland Resort will store your luggage free of charge at Bell Services. I do recommend you give a tip when you pick up your bag. You can see other Disneyland free things here.
If you bring a popped Disneyland balloon to any of the vendors they will give you a new one. Simply return to any balloon vendor with the scraps from your popped balloon.
The mailboxes throughout Disneyland are real. Disneyland used to have their own mail cancellation stamp, but now mail sent here is sent out with the Anaheim area stamp.
Gluten free items are available at almost every restaurant in the resort. Don’t be afraid to ask at the restaurant. Take full advantage of this Disneyland tip by visiting Guest Relations at either theme park to get an overview of the best restaurants to fit your needs.
It can be beneficial for one person in your group to have an annual pass just for the discounts it provides you. Price out your tickets and consider the discount rates that are provided to pass holders. The discounts provided on dining and souvenirs may make purchasing a pass worthwhile. Consider using this Disneyland hack.
If someone in your family doesn’t want to go into the park, consider sending them to the spa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. My mom and aunt made sure I included this tip. They called it a “fantastic” spa located in the Disney California Adventure hotel. Only for those who don’t want to spend everyday in the parks–personally I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to.
Buy the souvenir you want when you see it! Every store throughout the Disneyland Resort has a different selection of items available for purchase. You do not want to set your heart on one specific item and then not be able to find that item later. When you see something you want, buy it!
Disneyland Purchases can be sent to your hotel room at any on property Disney owned hotel. This is another nice perk of staying at any of the Disneyland hotels.
There are specific locations that will hold souvenirs for you so that you can pick them up at the end of the day. These shops are the Disneyland Resort Stroller Shop, Elias & Company in Disney California Adventure Park, Pioneer Mercantile at Disneyland Park, Port Royal at Disneyland Park, and The Star Trader at Disneyland Park. They will just check items that were purchased in the parks and are not limited edition.
Disneyland pins make great souvenirs for your vacation. There are pins to represent nearly every experience in Disneyland. Each time we try something new, like the first time we rode California Screamin’ or stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel, we would buy a pin featuring that experience. It’s a great way to remember your Disneyland firsts.
Purchase your souvenirs and costumes for kids in advance. If you plan on having your kids wear costumes or use an autograph book, you should definitely purchase these items in advance to save money. You can also find plush toys of Disney characters at much better prices by buying items in advance. See our full Disneyland tips and tricks to finding the best Disneyland souvenirs.
Get your silhouette cut on Main Street. Inside a shop on Main Street you can find incredibly talented silhouette cutters who will cut your silhouette on black paper. These cuts are inexpensive and make an extremely memorable souvenir!
Don’t miss Trader Sam’s Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. Located in the middle of the pool area at the Disneyland Hotel, the bar is highly themed bar with fun tropical drinks and special effects throughout.
Try the Ice Cream Nachos at the Golden Horseshoe in Disneyland Park. These are on the “secret menu” and consist of ice cream served over waffle cone “chips.”
Check out the Disneyland Secrets Facebook page for updates on the latest news, fun historic photos, and more Disneyland hacks. On the page you can find the latest news and fun Disneyland commentary. Be sure to like the page to get a daily post from the parks.
Don’t miss the nightly sh-boom moment when the lights come on in Cars Land. Every night at dusk, all the lights come on in Cars Land to the famous sh-boom song. See the video. This nightly light show was suggested by John Lasseter’s son Ben when walking the construction site with his dad near the completion of the project. The show can be seen nightly two minutes after sunset.
For a nice view of Cars Land, enter from the Paradise Pier side of the land. This is will provide a breathtaking view of the rockwork and Radiator Springs Racers attraction.
The Grizzly River Run lockers are free for the first two hours. Located on the left hand side of the entrance to the attraction, the free lockers are a perfect place to put things you don’t want to get wet during the ride.
Be sure to pick up an entertainment schedule when you enter the parks. Do not miss the incredible shows, parades, and entertainment throughout both theme parks. The paper entertainment guide, available at the ticket turnstiles when you walk into the park (or from one of the Cast Members sweeping the street once you are inside the park), is critical.
Never wait more than 15 minutes for fireworks or a parade. For all of these in-park shows, you can still be stand back a few rows and get the entire experience.
Watch the parade at the very beginning of the route when it starts next to “it’s a Small World.” Watching from the beginning point means that you will be done viewing the parade while thousands of other people are still waiting to watch. Get in line for “it’s a Small World” right after the parade passes by. This is especially important during the Christmas season when the lines for “it’s a Small World” are extremely long.
Please watch the Disneyland Flag Retreat ceremony honoring our country. This daily ceremony happens in the late afternoon in Town Square on Main Street. All of the branches of the armed forces are recognized. Make time to see the presentation! For many this is the best part of a Disneyland visit. Check out our list of the most patriotic things in Disneyland.
Watch Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. I have to mention this item in this list because so many people miss the show completely. The show has great American history and Disney history all wrapped up in one. Mr. Lincoln was the first human Audio-Animatronic Walt Disney Imagineering ever built.
Do not promise any specific character to your children. While there are quite a few Disney characters meeting in the parks, they change constantly. You never know who you will see.
Ask Guest Relations about specific characters so that they can track them down for you. If there is any specific character you are desperate to meet, you can ask at Guest Relations. They will have the full listing of characters throughout the resort.
Character dining can be a great way to meet characters without using a lot of your park time waiting in lines for photos. There are quite a few character dining options. You will want to check out all our Disneyland tips on Disneyland Character Dining here.
Children under the age of three can eat for free in the buffets throughout the resort.
Anyone can order kid’s menu items from counter service restaurants. While there are recommended ages for kid’s menu items that are sold from the counter service restaurants in Disneyland, people of any age can order this food. These smaller, simpler, meals can make for a great meal if you aren’t that hungry.
All food and snacks are allowed to be brought into Disneyland. While the official policy is that outside food is not allowed in Disneyland, you will not be questioned if you bring food from outside into the theme parks. See my Disneyland packing list guide .
Attractions don’t actually shut down when the park closes. Only the lines to attractions close at the listed time the parks close. You can save some of the big attractions for late at night at which point the lines will have gotten shorter and you will be able to be in the park longer. For example, if you get in an 80 minute line for Space Mountain one minute before park close, you could be in the parks an extra 80 minutes after the park officially closes.
Shops on Main Street USA and Buena Vista Street are open for 30 minutes to an hour after the official park closing time. This can be a good time to get your shopping done.
Look for the secrets of Disneyland while you are touring. In my best selling book, Disneyland Secrets: A Grand Tour of Disneyland’s Hidden Details, you can find information on secrets and stories from each land of the park. Read the book before your trip and take it into the park to spot hidden details.
Not ready to buy the Disneyland secrets book? Read our other article with some Disneyland secrets excerpt from my Disneyland secrets book here.
Make dining reservations for your group. Making dining reservations can help provide structure to your day. You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance and can cancel those reservations up until 24 hours before your seating. After the 24 hour mark you will be billed $10 per person of a cancelled reservation. See all of our Disneyland restaurant advice.
Make special requests for your dining reservation. If it is your birthday or if you are celebrating something, be sure to let them know.
Choose your dining options by looking at your daily schedule. Having a nice sit down dinner can be a great way to break up the day, especially if the park is open late. If the park closes at 9 pm or earlier, make a reservation in Downtown Disney for right when you are leaving the park.
Get a FastPass for World of Color and Fantasmic! early in the day. The World of Color nighttime fountain and projection show is incredible. Through Disney’s FastPass system you can grab a free ShowPass to reserve a specific seating area. For World of Color, simply pick up a ticket right when you enter Disney California Adventure. The distribution is located in front of Grizzly River Run. For Fantasmic!, pick up a FastPass from the distribution area next door to the boarding area for the Mark Twain Riverboat and Sailing Ship Columbia. See our full guide to how Disneyland FastPass and disconnected passes work here.
My favorite spot to watch the fireworks is halfway between the end of the shops on Main Street and the partners statue. You can secure a spot for the Disneyland fireworks pretty easily all the way up until the show begins.
There are now multiple Starbucks throughout Disneyland. If you think you will want Starbucks, the lines are usually much shorter at the new Downtown Disney location next to the Disneyland hotel across from the Downtown Disney Monorail station. (Or just order Starbucks instant coffee online as we recommend in our Disneyland packing list guide.)
Enter the parks from Monorail or Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel entrance. While you don’t always have to utilize this Disneyland tip, be aware that you can enter Disneyland from the end of Downtown Disney at the Monorail station and enter Disney California Adventure from the Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa private entrance.
Use the Single Rider system to maximize time. This system splits up parties and lets you jump the line so that Disney can fill all the empty seats. See our Disneyland tips in the Disney Single Rider pass guide.
Do not use Single Rider for Soarin’ because this line Single Rider line often takes longer than the real standby queue. Get a FastPass for Soarin’ as they rarely run out.
If you are traveling alone, an eReader can make the lines go by quickly. Load up a new book or one of the many books on Disneyland.
If you are traveling in a group, download the Heads Up game to play in line while you wait. This is a great game to pass the time in line. The app is like charades but you talk out the answer.
The Walt Disney Imagineers have hidden Mickey Mouse heads throughout the theme parks. These are called “Hidden Mickeys” and there are entire books dedicated to helping you find them. See my favorite Disneyland books to bring into the parks.
Be on the lookout for Disneyland cats. At last count, there were over 200 cats wandering Disneyland property. These cats are tended to by Disneyland Cast Members and help keep the rodent population under control Sometimes they can be spotted during the day, but mainly they are in the planters.
If are at the resort for multiple nights (as we highly recommend), you should ride an outdoor attraction like Big Thunder Mountain or Grizzly River Run while the fireworks are going off. This is a totally unique view of the fireworks and really adds to your experience on the rides.
Both Fantasyland and Toontown are closed during the fireworks shows and for both an hour before and after. Do not plan on experiencing anything in these areas during the shows.
Find a private restroom in the Enchanted Tiki Room. The Tiki Room is one of the only attractions with its own restroom, because the attraction was originally going to be a restaurant.
Interested in a recipe of something you ate in the park or a plant you saw? You can visit Guest Relations and they will be able to get you a recipe for most dishes or identification of most plants.
Go to the Grand Californian Hotel lobby to relax. The Hearthstone lounge is a calming place to get a drink and have a snack. They have a limited bar menu. My favorite item is the flat bread. This spot is worth stopping by just for the peaceful atmosphere. Once you are done with your break, enter the parks again from the private hotel entrance.
The Carthay Circle Theater Lounge and Restaurant is a fantastic upscale fine dining location. Carthay Circle serves as a perfect oasis of tranquility in the middle of Disney California Adventure park. This restaurant is expensive and real treat! See my review of the Carthay Circle Restaurant.
The Animation Building, specifically the Animation Academy is a great break to rest your feet and get inside. You can learn to draw your favorite Disney characters, meet the stars of Frozen, enjoy Turtle Talk With Crush, or take a test to see which Disney character you are.
Request the front cabin on the monorail for privacy and fun views of the parks! Plus, this is the only place in the monorail that has air conditioning.
There are water bottle filler locations throughout Disneyland. The spigots can be found at Tomorrowland Terrace, Rancho Del Zocalo, the French Market, and the Plaza Inn. Disney California Adventure does not have water bottle fillers. I have found the best place to fill up a bottle is in the Wine Country Trattoria bathroom.
Disneyland offers private VIP tours and guided tours. There are a number of tour options ranging from very expensive VIP tour guides where you have free reign of the park to half day tours that center around themes like Christmas at Disneyland. See my Disneyland tips and review on booking a Disneyland VIP tour.
Do not fear the rain. Celebrate the forecast of a rainy day. Some of our best days at Disneyland have been on days when it has rained. All of the Southern California locals will be scared away and you will sometimes have the park to yourself. We went on Big Thunder Mountain four times in a row without getting off on one of these days.
Download the official Disneyland mobile application. Through the app you can see entertainment times, attraction wait times, character meet and greet locations, park hours, and other ticketing information.
Follow official @DisneylandToday on Twitter for live information. If you are on Twitter, you can follow along with posts and ask the account questions about your day.
You can always request the ride row you want. You may have to wait a little longer, but they will always give your preference to you. Ride in the front row of Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain. Ride in the back row of Big Thunder Mountain. Choose either the very front row or very back row for California Screamin’.
You have to eat a corn dog!!! I don’t care what your feelings are, you must try one of these deep fried delights. This is a must for every single one of my trips to Disneyland. See Disneyland tips on my three favorite Disneyland snacks.
You can purchase corn dogs from multiple places in Disneyland. The Red Wagon Corn Dog cart always seems to have a massive line, so I usually buy mine at the Stage Door Cafe which is attached to the Golden Horseshoe or the Corn Dog Castle in Disney California Adventure.
You can order a corn dog a la carte and save $2. The corn dog on the menu includes a side of apples or chips. When you remove the side, you will save $2. Be sure to request this if you don’t want the side, as it is not written anywhere on the menu.
Disneyland Counter Service restaurants will always give you free cups of ice water. Specify a large cup otherwise you will get the smallest size they have. Some of the locations will only give you a small cup.
There are a number of healthy food options at Disneyland. At almost every sit down restaurant there is a salad option and there are carts throughout both theme parks selling fruit.
The best counter service restaurants in Disneyland Park are Rancho Del Zocalo and Jolly Holly Bakery and Cafe. Both of these locations have great food and the lines move quickly. See my favorite Disneyland restaurant options.
The best counter service restaurants in Disney California Adventure are in the Pacific Wharf area of the park. I really like the asian rice bowl avaliable at the Lucky Fortune Cookery.
The Earl of Sandwich is a great sandwich place in Downtown Disney near the Disneyland hotel. The food is inexpensive and you will be emailed coupons for free sides and sometimes even free sandwiches if you sign up for their email list.
The best sit down restaurants at the Disneyland Resort are outside of Disneyland park (in the hotels and Downtown Disney and in Disney California Adventure). These restaurants also have the added bonus of being able to provide a selection of alcoholic beverages. I highly recommend the Carthay Circle Theater, Steakhouse 55, Wine Country Trattoria, Storyteller’s Cafe, and Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. See our full Disneyland restaurant review listing.
Carthay Circle Theater offers a World of Color dining package that gives you reserved seating for the nighttime fountain show. While the official package is a multi-course meal, your server will likely give you a FastPass even if you order off the menu and tell them you are hoping to see the show later that night.
Many people rave about the Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland, but the menu items are quite expensive. For many of the same menu items at a lower price, check out Cafe Orleans. The allure of the Blue Bayou is the fact that it is inside Pirates of the Caribbean, but I have never really enjoyed the dark sleepy atmosphere.
If you still want to experience the ambience of the Blue Bayou restaurant you can make a reservation and just have dessert. Just make reservations for later in the night and attempt to get a table next to the water.
Plan on eating food in the parks for every meal except for breakfast. Eat breakfast at your hotel so that you don’t waste valuable time.
White Water Snacks and Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen To Go are both great places to grab breakfast if staying on property. Both of these locations provide reasonably priced breakfast entrees that are fast, filling, and tasty.
Ride Fantasyland attractions early in the morning, immediately after the land reopens post fireworks, or right before the park closes. There is no FastPass available for any of the Fantasyland attractions.
Ride Peter Pan immediately in the morning. The ride has a 45 minute line that exists nearly the entire day. Sorry no Disneyland hacks to help with this one besides: Get to the park right when Disneyland opens and get in line for Peter Pan.
Ride Toy Story Mania first thing in the morning or get a FastPass. Another time to ride is during World of Color as Toy Story Midway Mania is the only attraction on Paradise Pier that stays open during the shows. Typically the line is shorter at this time.
Ride Radiator Springs Racers either first thing in the morning or by using the Single Rider line. You should not wait longer than 30 minutes for this attraction if you follow this advice. If the Single Rider line stretches back past the bridge that crosses over the queue, get out of line and come back to this attraction later.
Take a break in the afternoon. Go back to the hotel, schedule a late lunch out of the park, or find a long show to rest. Taking advantage of this Disneyland trick will allow you to enjoy your entire vacation.
Check Disneyland attraction height restrictions for attractions before your trip to avoid disappointing your children. You will be turned away if they are not tall enough. I have seen kids checked and turned away after they waited in the entire line.
The Haunted Mansion is transformed into the Haunted Mansion Holiday from September to January. This overlay is themed to Nightmare Before Christmas. During this period, the Haunted Mansion will have a longer line. See all our Disneyland tips in our Disneyland Christmas guide.
Bring a way to recharge your phone. You could either just bring your charger and look for outlets or bring a portable charger so that you don’t have to stop. If you don’t have a portable charger, you can use one of the outlets near the tables at Rancho del Zocalo.
Be sure to bring an extra camera battery into the parks. If you are taking lots of pictures or video, your battery will likely die on your camera. Having an extra really helps.
If you are traveling with a baby, check out the baby care centers. There are fully stocked baby care centers in both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
Check out the park bench in the opera house. Walt Disney sat on this bench in Griffith Park in Los Angeles while watching his daughters on the carousel when he was dreaming of Disneyland.
Listen to the area music throughout the park. The soundtracks vary from line to line and land to land. Each set of music is meant to further evoke the theme or feelings from that area. You can hear some of this fantastic music on the great WML95 Youtube channel.
The Jungle Cruise gives away free maps. This makes a great souvenir and is one of the best free things in Disneyland. See all of other Disneyland free things.
Disneyland dining plan does not work like the Walt Disney World dining plan. The system works through coupons that have to be redeemed for their total value. There is no change given with the system.
Get free bread and chocolate from the Pacific Wharf factory tours. A loaf of good sour dough can be purchased for around $5. This is a great filling snack.
Disneyland Halloween runs from mid September to October. The parks get more and more busy the closer you are to Halloween. If you want to see Disneyland during Halloween time, go to the parks in September so that you can still see the decorations, but have less crowds. See our full guide to Disneyland Halloween.
If you are planning on going to the Disneyland Mickey’s Halloween Party, do not purchase a park ticket for that day. The Halloween party is a private after hours event that happens on nights throughout September and October. The special event ticket also includes access to the park starting at 3pm or 4pm depending on when the Halloween party starts. Thus, there is no reason to double buy park admission if you plan on attending the party. See all my Disneyland tips about Disneyland Mickey’s Halloween Party.
Go midweek if you do not like crowds. The crowds in Disneyland pick up in the evenings and on weekends.
PhotoPass Cast Members will take photos on your camera. There are PhotoPass Cast Members stationed throughout the theme parks who will take your photo on their camera. You can purchase that professional photo or just have them take another photo on your own camera.
Many of the attractions take on-ride photos. These photos are displayed on a screen as you are leaving the attraction. You are welcome to take photo of these photos to avoid having to purchase them.
PLEASE turn off the flash on your camera!!! There is nothing worse than having a flash go off on Disneyland attractions. On top of that, these photos will not come out well.
Do not attempt to use selfie sticks in Disneyland. They are totally banned from inside the parks. If you do manage to sneak one into the parks and bring it on any ride, that attraction will be shut down.
Do not waste your time criss-crossing the park. If you need to get a FastPass, send one “FastPass Runner” to go pick up FastPass tickets for your entire group. Another option is to use the new Disneyland MaxPass service which allows you to make attraction FastPass reservations directly from your phone.
Running in Disneyland is not allowed, but I’ve never had someone stop me from skipping through the parks. Truly, let your inner child out.
Let Guest Relations know if there is a problem. Disney is nothing if not understanding. They want to make sure you have the best vacation possible.
On the other hand, PLEASE write down names of Cast Members who were doing a really fantastic job and leave them compliments at the end of the day. Each trip I leave a list of names and comments with Guest Relations. These comments go into their permanent file and help with promotions.
Please do not be demanding. You will have much more success if you tell a Cast Member a problem or ask them for a favor and you are totally understanding that it may not be possible. Remember they are are people too.
Consider visiting Universal studios if you have teenagers or a Harry Potter fan in your family. This park is up and coming in Southern California and worth checking out for a day. See all our tips on discount Universal Studios tickets. Side note: The last time I was in the park, it was packed! Be sure to consider the Front of Line ticket. See the guide linked above on how to get the Front of Line ticket for a discount.
I hope that these 150 Disneyland hacks, tips, and tricks are helpful in improving your Disneyland vacation. Check out our Disneyland vacation planning guide for more help.
Please share this list with anyone who is going on a Disneyland vacation!
Do you have Disneyland tips to share? Comment on our Facebook page or below.
There is no easy way to begin the review of a Star Wars film. How could I pass judgement on a story so closely connected to the films I grew up with? The fact I feel this connection speaks to the power of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The movie was a definite return to the original trilogy Star Wars universe I hold most dear.
There are barely any spoilers in this review, but if you will take my word for it, just go see the new movie. If you like Star Wars, you have to see Rogue One in the theater.
Perhaps the film hit so close to home because it centered on the background of the original 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope film. In fact, this story follows the opening scrawl from the original film as it tells how the Rebel Alliance came into the possession of the plans for the Death Star.
The scrawl reads:
“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.
During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….”
This new Rogue One film is woven quite tightly into the world of Episode 4. The plot points and details from this new film add a layer of realism to the original classic Star Wars film. Most critically, the movie finally answers the question of why the entire Death Star will destruct if the Rebels are able to blow up one part.
As is mentioned in the scrawl from Episode 4, Rogue One includes the first battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. This sequence–the third act of the film–is incredible and lives up to the promise of being a true battle. In fact, the intricacies of the scene and layering could make this scene the greatest Star Wars battle we have seen yet.
Now, just a little bit of the bad from the film…
While the story shares many attributes to last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the same feeling is not quite there in Rogue One. The movie does not feel as grand or monumental as the previous film. Perhaps this is by design. This is not an actual Episode numbered film of the grand Star Wars story and does not pretend to be–there is not even an opening scrawl for the film.
I missed having music scored by John Williams. However, Michael Giacchino is arguably the next John Williams and did a good job with the soundtrack.
And just a quick note on bringing kids. The film does have a PG-13 rating, but the film could be shown to younger kids. The film does have intense battle sequences and shows more people dying than any of the other films. The deaths are not graphic, but they are present.
There’s plenty more I could tell you about the intricate details of the film and fantastic job in writing that the team did, but I really enjoyed having my own aha moments during the theater experience. You should get to have those same moments too.
Please head out to the theater and see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This is a movie you want to see in the theater.
Be ready to rush home to watch Episode 4 immediately after seeing the movie. Rogue One gives a new meaning to the original film.
I was invited to an early screening of Rogue One at Dolby headquarters in San Francisco. While there I got to experience a new style of Dolby theater that includes state of the art laser projection and a hidden speaker surround sound system.
The newest Disney Animated film, Moana, has been brought to life by an incredible team of artists, led by Ron Clements and John Musker, the directors of Disney classics The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
Moana was the first Computer Graphics film the directors ever worked on and the film presented a big learning curve.
Compared to a hand drawn animated film, a Computer Generated film develops much slower because as Ron Clements explains “everything, along with the story, which goes through a lot of changes, everything has to be built.” Each and every character has to “be designed, they have to be modeled, they have to be rigged. Every element of the environments have to be built. There are so many testing and research going on that you don’t see a lot at first, in terms of what it’s going to, you have to be patient, you have to wait a long time.”
Amy Smeed, one of the heads of animation on Moana, explained that her and co-head, Hyrum Osmond were worried the directors wouldn’t understand the limits of CG. Before beginning animation on the film, they sat down with the directors to bring them up to speed on the evolution of the animation process, citing hand drawn references when possible and providing a full introductory lesson on the medium. Smeed shared that the directors were extremely curious and tons of fun to work with. After their first meeting, her and Osmond’s fears were wiped away.
Ron Clements explained that because of the CG medium used on the film and the way the film evolved, they ended up working on a quite compressed schedule for the film. In fact, “the bulk of this film was actually made since last January and at a fairly rapid rate, so when we saw it start to come together, it actually wasn’t that long ago.” The directors were blown away by the power of the computer in bringing their creative vision into reality with the “animation, effects, lighting, textures, tech animation, specifically the hair, and the water. It was all so cool!”
John Musker shared how far they have come since The Little Mermaid in terms of visual effects and possibility in animation, especially in terms of the water effects. “Even five years ago I think it would have been much harder to do it. The technology just keeps developing all the time and we knew pretty early on, when we were in the islands people talked about the ocean as if it were alive and they caressed it and they had these personal relationships with the ocean, so we knew we wanted the ocean to be a character in the movie. We knew we wanted to have this lava monster in the movie.We didn’t know how to do it and we talked to a lot of very smart people and they didn’t know how to do it either.
They were saying that this is like going to be really, really hard, but we think we can figure it out before the movie needs to come out and they did.So it was actually, there was sort of groundbreaking technology in this movie.There are a lot of things in this movie, even including what was done with the hair, Maui’s hair, Moana’s hair, there are things that were really breakthroughs in technology.”
Producer OSNAT SHURER, RON CLEMENTS, JOHN MUSKER
Some of the artist working on the film reflected back on their connection to The Little Mermaid and the effect that film had on them. Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the three artists who worked on the music of the film, shared a funny story from his interview for the role. “Well, ah, I think when I first interviewed for this job I walked into a room with Ron and John, makers of my favorite Disney film of all time and I said, “You’re the reason I even get to walk into this room,” and so, and I think I probably scared them a little bit because I quoted some obscure section of Little Mermaid that they had since forgotten about.”
The directors also pulled Disney-tested talent to work on the film. They brought in “Mark Mancina, who worked on Lion King, who helped glue together sort of from a music, a world music perspective, he sort of was able to pull in Elton John and the cultural music and level him and sort of make them live in the same world.We felt that Mark could help do that to combine the music of both Lin and Opetaia to kind of help fuse all that into one thing.”
The directors brought together a team of A-list talent to bring the world of the Pacific Islands to life and in doing so created a film that will become another Disney classic.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Osnat Shurer, the producer of Disney’s newest animated film Moana. During our conversation we discussed her inspiration for working as a producer, advice she has for people interested in producing in the future, and the importance of building a good team for a film.
Osnat Shurer has an incredible history working for both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. At Pixar she served as the executive producer of the animated shorts group for five years leading the creation of all the classic short films, theme park attractions, Pixar museum installations, and Blu-Ray releases. Now, at Disney she has worked as the head of development during production of Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Wreck-it Ralph. Then, she was asked to work on Moana full time and became the producer of the film.
Gavin Doyle: First, you obviously did something really well with Pixar for them to bring you back for this film and to work on development back to Disney. What quality do you think the Pixar team loved so much in you that they wanted you at Disney?
Osnat Shurer: Well I think, first of all, it’s just my love for the medium and for animation and also of for me, it was the opportunity to work with John Lasseter again. John’s a mentor to me. I think he’s one of the greatest storytellers living and so for me, it was a no-brainer to come and work with John again. I think for this film in particular. I came back to head of development, but within about 6 months or so Ron Clements and John Musker asked if I would produce their film. For awhile I held both positions, but eventually I moved on to focus solely on Moana. I think part of what I was able to bring to the film was my background in documentaries. I grew up all over the world, I’m an airline brat. So travel and understanding other cultures and fostering a love for other cultures in inherent for me. The experience of being with other cultures, of listening, of hearing, of integrating them. I think that was part of just what came with the experience I’d had throughout my life. So hopefully those were some the things that came to the table.
Osnat Shurer, Ron Clements, and John Musker presenting on Moana at D23 Expo 2015
Gavin Doyle: What’s it like being the person who works on business side of the film in a creative driven studio working to allow the creatives to execute their vision?
Osnat Shurer: Actually we sit in all the creative planning sessions togethers. The role of the producers on our films is actually in the heart of the creative. There’s the business side of it, of course, keeping the film on budget and completing the film on time. I sit with the directors and the heart of story: editorial, casting, music as producer I get to be an integral part of the creative process of a film, which is really really cool.
Gavin Doyle: Great. I’m actually studying at USC right now. I’m in the business cinematic arts program that grooms people to work as producers in the future. What kind of advice do you have for aspiring film producers?
Osnat Shurer: How much time do you have? For me, producing which I love particularly at Disney animation and Pixar it’s the same thing, where it’s a very creative-led company, and it’s not about suits, it’s not about execs, it’s about leading with story, which is where I come from. I went to film school. I write, it interests me, it fascinates me. To me, my advice to producer would be one, do whatever’s needed in any situation, that’s our job. Your job is to do what’s needed. When I was out on documentaries in Tibet, what was needed was hand-copying the script because there’s nowhere to Xerox. I did it by the light of a candle. You know that’s what you need to do. Just do what’s needed. Two, to learn, if you’re aspiring to be a producer so it’s a little bit different than a line producer that just tends to be more in the business and scheduling side, you need to know some of that because you’re responsible for that as well but to learn how to manage the creative process. Managing the creative process is very different than managing doodads and dingbats, you know. It’s very different than, you know, even though there is a production line, it’s not a rigid even if things do work especially in animation, they work in a certain order, I can’t model my characters until they’ve been designed. I can’t design them until we know what the story is. It all starts and ends at the story, at the heart. It’s a wheel, where at the hub of it is the story. It’s not a line. The creative process needs to breathe. You’re sitting in a room where people are trying to solve a story issue give it time, let it breathe. Even if as a producer, you know that that’s an idea that will never fly. Or it’s an idea that we can’t afford anymore. I don’t have anymore model or stop coming up with five more transformations for Maui. Let it breathe, let it happen because inevitably that will lead to a better idea. That idea might not work but inevitably that will lead to another idea so your job as a producer is to find a balance between letting the creative process breathe, you can’t pull a tree up and make it grow. You have to let it go. You get fertilizer and water and you let it grow. Let it breathe, and yet gentle it along, because it’s also my job that there’d be a movie onscreen, and a good one. So that balance I think, learning to manage the creative process, to me, you can’t do that unless you try on your own bones. You need to try to do creative things. See what it’s like to get notes. You can’t give people notes until you know what it’s like to get notes. So you can make them constructive, upbeat, make people do what they need to do. Never smash it down. Those are the key things.
Gavin Doyle: In my interview with Don Hahn, his advice, was all about finding the right people. What was that like for you in finding the right people and putting them together?
Osnat Shurer: Yes, that’s a big part of it. But, to be fair, Ron and John were already in place. The key people were there and they asked me to join them and you know, these are the animation greats of all time. There’s that and John Lasseter our chief creative officer was already there. Everything after that is really about the team. Any creative endeavor, is certainly about the team when it comes down to it. We are living together for five years, it’s not like live action where people come together and break apart where I came from originally. At that point, it becomes about the people who can bring what’s needed to the table, whether it’s the storytelling capacity or Pacific Island musicians or whatever it is, and then their compatibility with the rest of the team. At Disney animation, our leader’s John Lasseter and we only work with good people so they have to be good at what they do, but more importantly they have to be good people. In the end, we’re all hanging out together making this thing and if people aren’t uplifting, we won’t have an uplifting product. So it’s about finding the right teams but also making sure that good people you want to spend all this time with you know.
Gavin Doyle: It’s a lot like the old studio system. People stay together andbecomes this family.
Osnat Shurer: Yeah it is actually. Animation is like that and you know, I’ve talked about this with John Lasseter many times, I can’t understand why other people can’t do this. Part of the secret of Disney animation and Pixar is we have our story trust where all the directors and writers on other movie set aside what they’re doing, they put aside their movie for the day, for two days, for three days whatever it takes. We watch our screening and we sift through good notes. Notes are thrown out by anybody in the room. If it’s an interesting note, or if somebody else had a similar note, it will get some traction then we will spend the day, two days, we’ll do an off site with some subset of the directors and look for solutions for some of those problems. This is an amazing gift to have. One great idea and he pitches it so hard to action directors and they look at him, he’s insane. Show my unfinished movie to another director? I don’t think so. That, I think is one of the keys to the success of Disney and its stories. There’s a commitment around making all the stories good, you get your peers. Your peers, some of the greatest storytellers in the world want your movie to succeed and are willing to put the time and the effort into helping you to figure out how to do that. Who else gets that? That spirit of generosity is not something you see very often.
Gavin Doyle: Now you worked at Pixar and Disney Animation, John Lasseter talks about keeping them separate but sharing the good attributes between the two, what are the kind of differences do you see between these two studios?
Osnat Shurer: The main difference aside from one has fog and the other doesn’t, is the people. It’s only different people, their philosophies are the same. It’s driven by filmmakers and the group of filmmakers in both is different. We have this 90-year legacy that’s amazing and yeah may be held to a high standard but nothing wrong to being held to a high standard, and our histories are slightly different. But the truth is it’s all about the people who were there and how the atmosphere we create in the studio going forward. I can tell you that both places are amazing places to work, and right now, in this moment in time, the last 5 years in Disney animation the spirit of collaboration and generosity and excitement about the movies we’re making, the pride in them, and the quality of the work! I mean we have the best animators in the world. It’s hard to go wrong. Just helping create the vision and hold it off together is what we need to do.
Gavin Doyle: And what’s that pressure like on those amazing people, just you have to have this kind of great final product that fits in with the rest of the catalogue?
Osnat Shurer: You know you’re thinking less about fitting in with anything and more about this movie. We’re all within this movie. We’re in this moment. People are learning for example are the animators. They’re focusing on who this character is. They’re focusing on watching you know watching Aulili, watching Dwayne, and the action adventure. Learning to sail. You have to learn how to sail before you can animate sailing right? Understanding some of these things. Understanding the culture. Our heads of animation went to Tahiti and spent some time there to absorb the feel and the movement of the people, the movement of the hair and the breeze. I think people were just looking at what’s in front of them. Our technology team, our CG, water is notoriously hard to do. What do we have? A movie with 85% water. The teams didn’t give them that’s impossible, “That’s an interesting challenge,” and rose to it. And honestly a couple months ago, I didn’t know if the water would come together entirely what it needs to do because it was all complete birther technology. Skin! You know we showed so much skin because that’s the culture and so that’s in that time and in that place. We have to figure out anatomy because we’re not hiding it behind cloth. Hair! That stunning hair gets wet, she messes with it all the time, gets put in a bun. All no-nos in CG, and we did all of them. And again, the team just rose to it, yay a new challenge! Will our next movie be about water? No! Of course not! We’ll have a new challenge for the team.
Moana brings characters to be proud of in a classic Disney Animated film.
The film is built around lead character Moana’s journey to find her purpose in life as she crosses the ocean on her quest to return prosperity to the islands. From the start of the film, Moana is told by her father to stay away from the dangerous ocean. But to Moana, the ocean is not dangerous. Rather, it has called for her, her entire life. My favorite scene of the film comes early on when the ocean itself is given a personality as it interacts with baby Moana. You can see a clip of that here.
After an event pushes Moana to go out to sea, the story really kicks off as the character openly copes with her fears of leaving home and a feeling of being part of something bigger than herself. There is no weeping princess unable to help herself here though. Moana conquers her fears quickly and stares danger in the face with her bravery and determination to succeed. She is a role model we should all look to when faced with challenges.
In the film, Moana searches for Maui the demigod, who is played by Dwayne Johnson. This larger than life character seems to really reflect many of the other characters that Johnson has played in the past. Watch the Game Plan again after seeing Moana and you will really know what I am talking about. After being introduced as self centered, we see Maui evolve as he becomes friends with Moana and finds his own value in life.
Together Moana and Maui go on a journey to restore life to Oceania. In doing so, they are pushed together and become friends who respect each other. Unlike the classic princess finding her prince story, this movie centers on finding a true friend and supporting one another.
Moana is perhaps the most beautiful Disney animated CGI film yet. The visuals of the water and islands are incredible, creating a lush depiction of our fantasy of the Pacific Islands. This movie serves as a powerful tourism advertisement for the Pacific Islands making me just want to hop on a plane for the islands as soon as possible. (Who’s ready for an Aulani-Disney Resort in Hawaii tie in?)
Concept artwork for islands in Moana.
The soundtrack features a collaboration between Lin-Manuel Miranda, the name you know from Hamilton on Broadway. He worked with Opetaia Tavita Foa’I founder of the band Te Vaka, which has traveled internationally spreading the message of the Pacific Islands and Mark Mancina, the composer behind many classics like the Tarzan animated film and tune for the classic Disney castle logo. The music throughout is quite enjoyable to listen to and there are a few standout songs like How Far I’ll Go, Moana’s equivalent song to Ariel’s Part of Your World.
Overall, Moana was a worthwhile film full of stunning visuals and admirable characters.
I was invited to an advanced screening of the film on The Walt Disney Studio lot.
Annual Passports to Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida can be very expensive. These year long passes are rarely discounted to the general public beyond certain passes with lots of block out dates.
There is a powerful hack to save money on your Disney Parks Annual Passports. This hack has been referred to as…
The computer systems of authorized third party resellers, like Get Away Today (our recommended authorized ticket reseller and partner with Disneyland for over 26 years), do not share the price paid for tickets. When you present your ticket to upgrade to an annual passport, it is assumed that you paid full face value for the ticket, even though with this strategy you will have purchased the ticket at a steep discount.
Here are 6 easy steps to save money on your Annual Passports. See all of the different options of annual passports on our Disneyland tickets page or our Walt Disney World tickets page.
6 Steps to Save Money on Disney Annual Passports
Go to our recommended ticket reseller, Get Away Today. (I negotiated a special rate with Get Away Today exclusively for our readers. These are the best rates you will find for Disney tickets online.)
Write out the entire transaction. Calculate the amount that you should be credited for your tickets, the price of the annual passport you want to purchase, and the final difference you will have to pay in order to upgrade your ticket to an annual passport. Once you have all this written out, you may proceed.
Go to a guest relations window with your ticket. Visit one of the Guest Relations desks at the park and request to upgrade your ticket to an Annual Passport.
Check the amount the Cast Member is giving you with your notes from step #3. Ticket bridging is an uncommon transaction for a Cast Member to complete and may be confusing. Make sure that everything is lining up correctly and that you are getting the full value for your ticket. If the Cast Member isn’t able to assist you, a supervisor or “lead” nearby will be able to help you complete the purchase. If they are unable to help, visit a different Guest Relations window.
Pay the difference between the ticket price and annual passport price with a Disney gift card you got for 5% off. To take this ticket bridging to the next level. You can pay the difference of your ticket price with a Disney Gift Card you purchased for a discount. See info here on how to get 10% off when you purchase a Disney gift card.
Assuming all has gone well, you should have a fully functioning Disney Annual Passport. Enjoy your ticket.
Share this method if you think any of your friends would find it helpful.
Let’s take a look at this model in action…
I’ll use an upgrade from the five day Disneyland park hopper ticket to the Disneyland Signature Annual Passport as an example. The five day park hopper ticket is worth $335 and the Annual Passport costs $849. You would pay the difference between the two tickets which is $514. If you used the Disney gift card to pay this difference you could get 10% off the difference. You could save $51.40 from using the Disney gift card in addition to the $24 you saved by purchasing the discount ticket. In total you would save $75.40 on your Disneyland Annual Passport when you upgrade a discounted ticket to the Signature Annual Passport.
The final cost of the Annual Passport for Walt Disney World will be even less because of the steeper discount on tickets and lower price for Annual Passports in Florida.
Answers to Frequently Asked Upgrading Questions
Can you apply the Disney Vacation Club discount?
Yes, this price bridging can be applied to the discounted Disney Vacation Club Annual Passport rates.
Can you use the discount with Annual Pass renewals?
Yes, you can use this price bridging strategy on Annual Passport renewals.
Are you sure this strategy works at Disneyland?!?
Other websites have said that price bridging only works at Walt Disney World in Florida. They claimed this was because Disneyland coded the price you actually paid, i.e. the discounted rate, onto the physical ticket. This means that the price bridging strategy does not work for most ticket resellers.
Get Away Today does not fall into this trap because they have the ability to sell you a Disney e-ticket which falls directly into the Disney Parks computer system. You just have to pick up the ticket at the ticket booth and then proceed to Guest Relations. There is no distinguishing marking on these tickets and you will be given full value for the tickets.
Does this work for Universal Studios Hollywood?
Unfortunately, this ticket upgrading technique does not work with discount Universal Studios Hollywood tickets. I have heard conflicting stories about ticket bridging using these tickets. Most likely, they would be able to see how much you paid for the ticket and just credit you that amount, however that may not even be possible. You should be able to find a good deal for Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Passports on our Universal Studios discount tickets page.
Planning a Disney Parks Vacation?
I have a whole guide to saving money at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal Studios at MickeyVisit.com.
Disney Parks and Resorts are changing their policies all the time. For now, this strategy works well and can get you a fantastic discount on your annual passports, but it could change in the future. This is editorial content, use at your own risk.
Disneyland opened over 60 years ago and now holds hundreds of secrets that are waiting to be unlocked. Learning these hidden stories of the parks is the perfect way to celebrate the 60th anniversary.
Below I have thirteen secrets from the book to share with you. These stories were all collected from interviews (many on the Disney Dose podcast) with Cast Members, previous Disneyland history reading, or time spent roaming Disneyland.
The below are excerpts from the book.
#13 Secrets of the Walt and Mickey Partners Statue
The Partners statue, unveiled in the central hub in 1993 and portraying Walt Disney holding hands with Mickey Mouse looking out toward the future, has several easily missed references to Walt.
According to Disney Historian Jim Korkis: On Walt’s tie there is a small insignia for the Smoke Tree Ranch in Palm Springs, California. Disney had a house there and had the logo stitched into many of his ties. On Walt’s right hand there’s a Claddagh ring in honor of his Irish heritage. Both Walt and his wife, Lillian, purchased Claddagh rings during their 1948 trip to Ireland and wore them often.
#12 The queue of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is lined with big battery boxes.
Many of these props are labeled Glendale, California, USA. The batteries pay tribute to the home of Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative team of people behind everything in the Disney parks.
#11 A famous, non-Disney character is featured inside Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Behind the middle window of the constabulary is the silhouette of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. He can be seen on your upper left just after leaving the pub room.
#10 “Swisskapolka,” the theme song from the original Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse attraction, still plays on a phonograph in the upper room of the treehouse.
This song, which I guarantee will be stuck in your head by the time you leave the treehouse, was a staple for the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse theme remains in Walt Disney World.
#9 On the King Arthur Carrousel, one horse is more decorated than the others.
The white horse with the collar that reads “Honorary Ambassador” was dedicated to Julie Andrews for her Disney film work and for her stint as as the official Disneyland ambassador during the 50th Anniversary of the park. The horse is decorated with touches from her most popular film, Mary Poppins.
#8 The original Disneyland Submarine Voyage was comprised of eight submarines.
Based on world rankings at the time, this made Walt Disney the commander of the eighth largest submarine fleet in the world.
#7 Real logs were used to build the fort on Tom Sawyer’s Island.
To transport these full-sized tree logs to the island, they were floated across the river similar to the way that logs were transported in old-fashioned wood mills.
#6 A majority of the mining equipment throughout the queue and attraction of Big Thunder Mountain is authentic.
Imagineers searched swap meets, abandoned mines, and ghosts towns throughout Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, and Minnesota to find enough authentic equipment. This attraction’s development was led creatively by Imagineer Tony Baxter, who you can hear in a group discussion on this episode of the Disney Dose podcast.
#5 A large spider web festoons the ballroom in the Haunted Mansion.
This web was added when a guest with a slingshot made a hole in the large glass panels that separate the hallway from the ballroom. The glass is built into the foundation of the Haunted Mansion, so it would be impossible to remove without lifting the roof off the building.
You can still see the crack in the Disneyland Halloween “Nightmare Before Christmas” version of the attraction.
#4 The flames in the Pirates of the Caribbean looked too real for the Anaheim Fire Department.
The flames in the Pirates of the Caribbean look so real that the Anaheim Fire Department was concerned they would not be able to tell the difference between the real and faux flames during an emergency. Even though they realized that it was all part of the show, a special system was put in place to shut off the burning town effect in the case of an actual fire.
#3 Three trees along the backdrop of Toontown behind Minnie’s house form the letters WDI.
WDI stands for Walt Disney Imagineering. They are the team of designers who create everything that is included in the Disney theme parks around the world.
#2 Inside the Pirates of the Caribbean there is a real skull on the headboard.
When the attraction first opened, all of the skeleton heads were real. They were purchased from the UCLA Medical Center. The only remaining real skeleton can be found in the treasure room on the headboard of the bed.
#1 The final plans for the Jungle Cruise were made on the Disneyland construction site, by Imagineer Harper Goff.
He used a sandbox to sculpt the sand into the shapes of the jungle river. Once completed, the bulldozers replicated the sandy forms he created with his feet.
Stuff Even Mickey Doesn’t Know
When a theme park has been around for 60 years, it hides a lot of secrets. I have swept aside the pixie dust and uncovered little-known stories about the happiest place on earth that will make you a master of the magic.
In the book I develop each of his dozens of secrets into a brief story that illuminates a forgotten moment in Disney history, or sheds light on a neglected area of the park, or reveals something new about an iconic attraction, such as:
Why is the address of Disneyland 1313 Harbor Boulevard?
What’s up with the Jewish menorah on Main Street?
Why is there a fake book called “Walt & You” at City Hall?
Where can you find Sherlock Holmes at Disneyland?
Is there really a pet cemetery at the Haunted Mansion?
Shhh! It’s a Disneyland secret. Until you read this book…
Juliana Hansen, one of the stars of the now closed Aladdin: Musical Spectacular joins us on this episode of the Disney Dose podcast. On the show we discuss the incredible joy she found in playing the character and all of the other work she has performed for The Walt Disney Company.
And for more information on One Starry Night to ALS, click here.
Special Thanks to You:
The Disney Dose Podcast is an incredible joy for me to put together. I apologize for the long silence between the last show and this one. As one commentor said, I have not “dropped off the face of the earth.” I am headed to college in a couple of weeks and will continue to provide value for you when I can. In between shows find more on our Facebook page. If you enjoy the show, please leave a review on iTunes. Please feel free to send me an email: GAVIN @ Disney Dose .com