Tag Archives: Disney

Disney Hidden Treasures: 2 of ?

There are few places in Disneyland that I like more than the animation academy. I guess technically the animation studio is in California Adventure but whatever it’s part of Disney parks. It’s one of my favorite places because it’s one of the places were you can just sit and relax and enjoy Disney.

The thing that really makes this place great is the loop of Disney Classics playing in the background. You can sing along with everything from “Hi Ho” to “Let it Go”. The screens surround you. They let you experience the movies. You get to see concept art and sketches come to life. And best of all nobody judges you when you sing along.

The Animation Academy also has some fun hidden gems. You can learn how to draw a different Disney characters with the Disney animators. They show you some basic steps for how to draw a Mickey or how to draw Pluto. Every half hour brings a new Disney characters to life and you get to be part of that magic.

My attempt at drawing Minnie Mouse

You can also head over to the Sorcerer’s Workshop where you can draw your own cartoon. The first room of the sorcerer’s workshop contains zoetropes, a spinning device that allows cartoons to come to life. Afterwords head down to the beast’s library to learn which Beauty and the Beast character you’re most like. Then brush up on your karaoke skills by singing like Ariel in Ursula’s grotto.

Next go talk with a turtle with turtle talk with crush. This is a surprisingly fun interactive encounter. Crush actually talks to people and answers your questions about pretty much anything that you want to ask him. He’s curious about human swimming wear and will even tried a dab if you ask him. I’m not joking about that last one. Some kid asked him and he tried it. It was really funny.

So while some folks might just know the Animation Academy as a place where you can go meet Anna and Elsa, I know it is a place where I can sit, relax and enjoy everything that I love about Disney.

Disney Hidden Treasures, part 1 Of ?

I enjoy going to Disneyland. So much so that I travel to the magical kingdom at least once a month and pay homage to the mouse. On my treks, I have many spots that are less known to people but magical to me to. I’m not sure how long this series will be or even how often I will post new locations, but here’s the first:

Mickey and the Magical Map:

This show tells the story of Mickey, an apprentice map maker, who desperately wants to be a full map maker. He notices that the other map makers left a spot unpainted on their map. Determined to make his mark and prove his worth, Mickey tries to paint the spot. Spot has other plans. Thus starts Mickey’s magical and musical adventure.

Mickey’s adventures take him to wonderful places north, south, east and west where he witnesses musical numbers by Mulan, Pocahontas, and Stitch. There, he learns the importance of the journey and of leaving his imagination open to new possibilities.

Mickey and the Magical Map is a great show where you get to see some of those lesser seen characters such as Pocahontas and Mulan, as well as hear great songs from Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid. The music, dancing, and original numbers are fun and catchy. I guarantee you’ll be singing them for the rest of the day. The appearance of familiar characters will have the little Musketeers cheering. The message of enjoying the journey is one that all big kids will appreciate.

On top of the show being wonderful, the stage is located next to the Troubadour Tavern, which is home to an amazingly delicious baked potato. Grab a bit and get ready to grove along with Mickey on his adventures.

Fantasyland Theatre is located across from Small World at the Toontown entrance. Mickey and the Magical Map has showtimes most days between 10a and 6pm.

No Flash Photography Please

This needs to stop.  We’ve all been there: you’re on your favorite dark ride, enjoying the scary tunes of the Haunted Mansion when suddenly *FLASH* everything lights up for a few brief moments.  You look around because you know this ride and there are no sudden bright flashes of light.  Then it happens again and you spot them: two doombugies down is a mom happily snapping pictures of her darling bundle of joy on its first Disneyland ride.  Snap, flash, snap, flash, snap, flash.  “No flash pictures!” You want to yell.  Or do yell in my case, because, NO FLASH PICTURES.

I get it.  You want to capture every second of precious little prince’s or princess’s Disneyland experience.  Maybe you are going sans kids and want to capture all the magical memories of being at the happiest place on Earth.  But you are literally RUINING DISNEYLAND.

I’m not sure you understand the concept of a “dark ride”, so let me quote Wikipedia: “A dark ride or ghost train is an indoor amusement ride on which passengers aboard guided vehicles travel through specially lit scenes that typically contain animation, sound, music, and special effects” (italics added).The key part of a dark ride is that it is specially lit to make it seem more real, to create the correct atmosphere, and to give the rider a reason to suspend disbelief.  I know Indian Jones is not really hanging from a rope above my motor-vehical as a giant boulder comes rolling down a hill.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun pretending that it’s really him.  And when you click that little button or tap your little screen to get a *FLASH* you are ruining that moment for other people in the ride vehicle or in ride vehicles before and behind you.

Let’s say for a moment that you don’t care that you are literally ruining the experience for


Picture I took using flash in the Haunted Mansion queue-line (not on the actual ride yet).  I also immediately apologized to all around me for taking the picture.

at least 10 other people who also paid $295 for their 3-day park hopper ticket.  Let’s say that you are an entitled jerk who just has to have that picture on Pirates.  Your pictures will be crap when using a flash.  Case in point is the picture on the right.  I took that while in line of Haunted Mansion.  I was still in the queue, not on the actual ride yet, and I apologized to everyone around me once I finished.  If you know the Haunted Mansion, this staircase is at the very end of queue right before you board your doombugy.  Notice anything about that picture?  Cause I think it’s garbage.  It’s a crappy picture.  You can barely see the stair case, the cobwebs look dirty and there is some weird bug smear flying through it (I’m also sure this picture will later be used to “prove” there are real ghosts in the Haunted Mansion.  There are not.  That is a bug flying through the frame.)  Turns out that flash doesn’t work that well when the objects you are trying to take a picture of are farther away.  So not only are ruining other people’s experiences, you are getting crappy pictures too.


Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare picture taken without flash on my iPhone

I understand that you want to take pictures though.  And the good news is that you can!  JUST TURN OFF YOUR !@#$%^& FLASH!!!  I’m serious.  There are entire blogs about how to get great pictures on a dark ride without using your flash.  Here for example or here.  I’ve gotten some really fun pictures of dark rides with just my iPhone.  There are ways to use the lighting in the ride to your advantage and get that perfect picture that you can then upload to Facebook and make all your friends jealous.  Or, you can take a bunch of pictures outside the ride (I’ll even often to take one for you so you can be in it too) and just enjoy the ride experience.

But for the love of the mouse, stop ruining Disney with your flash photography.  It is against the rules for a reason.  You are destroying the magic for everyone else and the end result is a bad picture that doesn’t capture the moment anyway.

Disneyland Vs. Disney World

It’s no secret that I’m a Disneyland (DL) fanatic.  I go several times a year because I can.  I don’t get sick of it and I don’t get bored of it.  It is my sportsball and I wrote all about that here.

Recently, I got to visit Walt Disney World (WDW) for a family Christmas trip, and boy-howdy was it different.  I have a lot of friends who swear that WDW is so much better than DL, but, after visiting WDW as an adult, I’m going to have to disagree.  I actually like DL better.  It might be because I’ve spent so much more time there that I have a more personal connection to DL.  It might be the cast members or the people.  It might be the cleanliness of the parks.  Here’s some of the observations that I made while in WDW.

The Size

Let’s start with the good.  WDW is huge.  There are four main parks, three water parks, Disney Springs (formally Downtown Disney), and 27 Disney resorts.  We were there for 7 days and probably did a quarter of the things there are to do.  We didn’t even fit in all of the rides at the parks, although we did try.  There are so many things to do at WDW compared to DL.  I could have easily spent those 7 days just in one or two parks in order to see all the attractions, parades, shows, and eat all the food.  I never felt bored in WDW despite the amount of time we spent there.  I think if we spent 7 days in DL, we would have been bored by the end of the trip.  Yes, there are lots of things to do in DL as well, but not 7 consecutive days worth.  WDW definitely wins on the amount of things there are to occupy your time with.

The cleanliness

Ok, time to get into the bad.  WDW is dirty.  I’m sorry, but it has to be said.  I’m not sure why, but there was trash everywhere!  We were in line for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train ride at 7:05am, right when the park opened, and there was already a pile of trash in the line que.  Cups and wrappers and water bottles littered the areas around the queues for all the rides.  I had to step around multiple gum-landmines in all of the parks.  Trash cans were just as prevalent in the Magic Kingdom and the other parks in WDW as they are in DL, but for some reason, people seemed less inclined to use them.  And the cleaning staff seemed to have a difficult time keeping up with the litter-bugs.  DL, on the other hand, always seems clean.  I have actively watched their cleaning staff scoop trash as people drop it.  The line queues are monitored better and trash is dealt with swiftly.  DL wins on the cleanliness of the parks.

The cast members

Since we started talking about cast members on trash duty, let’s continue that train of thought.  The cast members at WDW are kind of rude.  Many seem like they don’t want to be there.  I overheard several cast members complain about their schedules and days off.  My sister listened for many moments to two women in the France area of the World Showcase complain about their paychecks before they gave her any attention (I don’t think they realized that my sister speaks French!).  I watched a cast member literally snap her fingers at a group because they weren’t moving fast enough in the line.  I had a cast member yell “Ma’am” at me over and over again because, yes, I had crossed a rope barrier to take a picture of some lights.  I realize I wasn’t supposed to cross the barrier, but yelling “Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am” at me over and over again wasn’t working.  I honestly didn’t realize she was talking to me.  It wasn’t until a family member called my name that I realized the cast member was talking to me.

I’ve never had that happen to me at DL.  Even if I’m in a place I’m not supposed to be, the cast member is polite in asking me to follow the rules.  While I have heard some complaints from cast members in DL, it is few.  It seemed like every person who was working at WDW hated their jobs.  The wait staff at the restaurants were pleasant, but most of the store clerks and quick service staff were at best indifferent and at worst flat out rude to customers.

There also seemed to be a lot of new people training at WDW.  There were several times that cast members seems flustered or overwhelmed by what was happening around them.  One notable occurrence happened at Hollywood Studios when we boarded Star Tours.  The cast member responsible for placing people in rows was having all sorts of trouble placing people correctly.  So much so, that she was using a cheat card that showed her the number of seats per row.  I have never seen a card like that in DL and Star Tours is my favorite ride.

All in all, I give major points to the cast members at DL.  They are always polite and rarely flustered.  Maybe there was a lot of season help at WDW, but I was not impressed by their staff.

The customers

Not all of the problems at WDW were caused by cast members.  The people are WDW were just as much at fault.  There is a different clientele between WDW and DL and it’s not something I can put my finger on.  It was just a different vibe from the people in the park.  For starters, rarely do I see people just dump their trash on the ground in DL, but, as mentioned, trash was a big problem in all of the parks in WDW.  More than that, the people in WDW just seems more pushy and less likely to help out.  I watched several groups just push past others to get into lines.  One group cut me off in line, separating me from my dad and my sister.  When a member of their party tried to stop me from squeezing past them, I had to mention that they cut me off from the rest of my party.  Even then, they seemed annoyed that I wanted to get past them to ride with my family.  One of the people in my group was walking down the street and an older couple refused to unclasp their hands so he could walk through them.  They literally let him walk straight into their joined hands and kept walking without saying or doing anything.  He could have walked around them, true, but for anyone who hasn’t been to WDW during the Christmas holiday, the streets are packed with people.  It’s difficult to walk around because there are people on all sides of you.

The people at DL seem more friendly, polite, and willing to let you meet up with your party in line without giving you attitude.  Although, I will give people in WDW props from not using their flash on rides.  That is a much bigger problem in DL.

The food

Let’s end on a positive note.  WDW has some of the best food I’ve ever had in a Disney park.  Cream cheese filled pretzels aside (and if you haven’t had one of those, you are missing out, my friend) WDW had amazing selections of food.  We didn’t have a bad meal there (except at the hotel).  From Yak and Yeti at the Animal Kingdom to the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom to the many offerings in the World Showcase at Epcot, it was all good.  The dining plan also allowed us to eat larger than usual portions, so we only needed to eat twice a day with some snacks in between.  The sampling of food was fantastic, though.  DL has some good food as well, but the sheer range of foods you could eat at WDW was a treat.  We had French one night and Moroccan the next with some Norway in between for lunch.  There was seafood and grilled food and healthy food and not so healthy food (I’m looking at you, pastries).  We definitely did not go hungry.

Our WDW trip was super fun and I am definitely going back in the next few years, but I still think DL will always be the special park in my heart.

Why I’m not sick of Disneyland 

I go to Disneyland. A lot. I have an annual pass so I go to Disneyland almost once a month. I often post pictures and tell friends and my students when I’m going, mostly because I’m super excited. Every time I do, I seem to get the same questions: “Aren’t you sick of Disneyland?” “Again?” “Why are you going to Disneyland again?”

I kind of find this funny and amusing. I want to ask these people “Do you get sick of (enter sport here)?” Or ” you’re listening to that song again?”.  Because that’s how I feel about Disneyland. This is my happy place and my passion and my relaxation. If you’re not sick of watching football every week, why do I have to be sick of going to Disneyland every month?

“Welcome to Disneyland!” This is my fan chant. I get tingles and tight in the chest and short of breath when I here this. I walk through that turn style and am transpired into my own heaven, where my brain stops over thinking everything and I just am. There are very few places where I can just be. Disneyland is one of them.

I walk down mainstreet. I can’t describe the smell: churros and baking and Disney. It’s sugar and spice and everything nice. The music, the shops, it all adds to the ambiance.  It doesn’t matter that there are a million people. It doesn’t matter that I wait in line for hours for my favorite ride. It’s a magically place where I feel at peace.

Please stop asking if I’m sick of Disneyland. I’ve been an annual pass holder for years and I’m not sick of it yet. It’s the happiest place on earth. It’s my happiest place on earth.

4 Life Lessons Learned While Owning a Disneyland Premium Pass

disneyIt’s no secret that I love Disney and everything the mouse has to offer.  I’ve seen every animated movie multiple times and can still sing along to with all the songs.  I have a “shrine” in my office – the walls are littered with prints, posters, collector pins, stuffed animals, toys, and figurines.  The only thing I’m missing is a Disney tattoo and I’m working on that.  The crown on my Disney obsession came in August of 2011 when I went to Disneyland with a group of friends, all of whom had an annual pass.  They knew of my Disney craze and decided to gift me with my very own annual pass.  And the tradition of going to Disneyland, a place I have all but worshiped since I was 5, monthly became a reality.

Every time we get back from a break at school, my students ask “Did you go to Disneyland?”  The answer is usually yes.  Last year, I went 8 times, which is more than I have ever gone in a single year before.  And while there, I have stopped taking pictures and started to just look around.  That’s the beauty about having an annual pass: I’ve seen the castle and have so many pictures of the castle that I can put the camera down and just focus on the magic of Disney.  Here’s what I’ve learned, in no particle order:

1) Details Matter

Next time you go to Disneyland and you’re walking up Main Street, U.S.A, look around you.  I mean, really look.  The buildings are all different, down to the material they are made out of.  Walt wanted it to look like a small town main street and he wanted it to be realistic.  There are store names written over some of the second story windows.  If you take a trip back to the lockers, there are sounds of pianos playing and a man visiting the dentist.  There’s even a small pouch with a rocking chair (prime parade watching area if you can get it).  Nothing is out of place.  Head over to Adventure Land, and you’ll find the same thing.  There are cracks in the bazar walls, making it look older.  The open air fruit stand has packing crates and faded paint.

Even the rides pay attention to detail.  Let’s jump on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  The que line has old machines and generators running in front of the temple.  The status out front are of giant cobras and snakes.  The rickety bridge leads you up to the entrance, which take you down through a network of caves (watch out for bats!) and booby traps (don’t step on the wrong brick!) until you come into the temple itself.  There, you see vast murals painted on the temple ceiling with scaffolding for the archeologist to use.  Nothing is left out.  If you look really close, you can even spot a hidden Mickey or two.

Details matter and Disney knows it.  Somethings it’s the smallest detail that you didn’t think about that ruins the experience, no matter what that experience is.  It’s a lesson that I’m applying to my own work and life.  I often find in lesson planning that there is a small detail I did not think of that makes the work that much harder for my students and for me.

2) Whistle While You Work

Disney has a special name for all employees: cast members.  You are not an employee of Disneyland, you are a cast member.  It makes a little difference.  As a cast member, you are supposed to be on stage, ready to perform for the audience, aka the customers.  Disney cast members, for the most part, always seem happy to be there.  They smile, they wave, they chat politely with you.  You rarely hear cast members complaining about their jobs while they are “on stage”.  And the few times I have, it’s honestly ruined a little of the magic for me.  I have openly complained to cast members when I hear them ragging on their jobs.  I understand that all jobs have their bad side (I’m a teacher, after all), but I see no reason to complain about it in front of the very people who are helping to pay your wages.

But that’s not the point.  The point is most cast members seem to really enjoy their jobs.  It’s an important lesson to be learned.  There are lots of things about jobs that annoy and bother people, but I think people should at least act happy to be there while they are “on stage”.  Complain behind the scenes all you want, but show the customers a smile.

3) Scream Like You Mean It

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been on Space Mountain, I still scream every time.  It’s fun to yell  out loud as the roller coaster races through the dark.  I do the same for all the roller coasters at Disneyland.  Actually, I do the same for most of the rides at Disneyland (except Small World, I just sing along then).  To me, Disneyland is a place to let loose, to sing along, to dance in the streets, and to scream like I mean it.  I’m not worried about what other people  think because I don’t really care what other people think.  I’m having fun and that’s all that matters.

It’s harder for me to live like in this every day life.  I have to care a little about what people think about me (naming my bosses).  It’s also helpful as a teacher to have your students like you.  It’s not required, but it makes the classroom run a little smoother.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t be “me” though.  I can tell bad puns and be silly and enjoy life rather than just going through the motions.  Not only do I scream like I mean it, I laugh like I mean, cry like I mean, love like I mean it.

IMG_20184) Believe in the Power of Imagination

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a scientific skeptic.  Basically, I don’t take much on faith, I want to know the science behind it.  I don’t believe in ghosts, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy The Haunted Mansion.  I know the anatomy of insects, yet I still love Bug’s Land (probably my favorite of all the areas in Disneyland).  Just because I like science and want to understand how the world works doesn’t mean that I can’t also enjoy the magic of Disneyland.  That’s what Disneyland is all about!  I wave and smile and love getting my pictures with the characters because, when they are in that costume, they are the characters from my childhood.  I’m going to a character breakfast where I will be the youngest person in our party of 4.  And I’m super excited about it!

I can never understand the people who can’t immerse themselves in the story.  It’s the story that makes Disneyland the happiest place on Earth and my own personal laughing place.  And I’m excited that I get to keep going back.


I watched Big Hero 6 this weekend and it was so good!  Disney just keeps hitting them out of the park.  Whatever formula they are using, it’s working.  We are back in the golden age of animation and Disney is winning.  Mainly because of the feels.  Between Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen and now Big Hero 6, Disney has managed to make people really feel something for their characters.  In Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph is someone people can relate to because he’s just trying to do his job and have people recognize that he’s doing it well.  Frozen gets away from the typical princess falling in love story to make it about family and supporting each other.

Now Big Hero 6 does something similar.  It takes grief and healing and loss and weaves a beautiful story that is both funny and touching.  Baymax, the robot character, is just as lovable as other Disney robot characters such as Walle and Eve.  And Hiro, the teen genius hero of the film, is a nice change from princesses and thieves as a main character.  Plus, he is into science and engineering which is fun.

Big Hero 6 = so much win!

Disneyland season has begun!!

It’s that time of year again. It’s cooling down, kids are back in school. There’s a crispness in the air. Which means Disneyland trips are back on!!

I’m an avid Disney fan. I’m from the generation that was first shown The Lio King, Aladdin, and (my personal fav) Beauty and the Beast. I’ve been going to Disneyland yearly since I could walk. I have an entire room in my house devoted to Disney memorabilia.

And this weekend marks the first Disney trip since May. Just a weekend of Mickey, Minnie, Space Mountain, Star Tours, and two close friends to share the experience with.

Needless to say, I’m super excited!

Successfully Mad

Accepting yourself and your mental illness

NeuroLogica Blog

DaynaJD's Blog

Paleocave Blog

Trust us, we're scientists

Brachiolope Media

The best podcasts in all of SCIENCE!

Sara Dobie Bauer

bestselling author and book nerd