Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Fake Disneyland

Next time you plan on visiting Disneyland, make sure you're going to the real Disneyland and not a carbon-copy.

Of course I'm talking about Nara Dreamland, the infamous park in Nara, Japan. Built in 1961, the park was designed to be an exact replica of Disneyland. Rumor has it that the developers of the park sent many of their people to Disneyland after its 1955 opening to take thousands of photographs, which they later used to design their park after.

LEFT: Nara's version of Sleeping Beauty Castle. RIGHT: The original version at Disneyland.

This bizarre park is essentially a dirtier version of the Happiest Place on Earth. It's got everything: Main Street Train Station, Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Monorail, even the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Unfortunately, the filthy state of the park reminds guests that they're not in Disneyland.

LEFT: An aerial view of Nara Dreamland. RIGHT: An aerial view of Disneyland.
The park has been described as "the world's finest play ground facility" in a pamphlet for the park, although visitors beg to differ. The people over at Theme Park Review described the park as "[the] alternate universe Disneyland...most of the place looks like [an] abandoned park."


Needless to say, Nara Dreamland closed permanently on August 31, 2006. It's safe to say that this is one park that will not be missed.

Then and Now: Main Street Train Station

A Disneyland original, the Main Street Train Station is nearly as popular as Sleeping Beauty Castle. Much like the castle, it has gone through several extensive refurbishments (even as I'm typing this, the building is being worked on), yet it remains a classic in the eyes of Disneyland fans.

There are few ways to enter Disneyland without coming across this landmark, and that's what makes it so special. The ever-familiar Mickey Mouse flower garden is one of the most popular spots for photos, and the station itself is home to the Disneyland Railroad, an attraction that Walter Disney himself was fond of.

TOP ROW: Train Station in 1955 vs. Train Station now; BOTTOM ROW: T.S. in the 1960's, T.S. being built in 1955.
One of the most notable refurbishments the train station has gone under was in 2005 for Disneyland's 50th Anniversary. The station received one of the famous "50" plaques, along with the floral garden in front being changed to celebrate the anniversary. In 2006, these decorations were all taken down and the building was returned to its pre-2005 state.

One should also note that the sign on the train station -- the one reading "DISNEYLAND" -- changes periodically based on the number of guests coming to the park. For example, in recent years the sign has been changed to read "POPULATION: 500,000,000," due to the 500th million guest walking through the gates in late 2004/early 2005.

Unlike other attractions in Disneyland, the Main Street Train Station is one that is practically guaranteed to never be removed. Next time you visit Disneyland, hopefully you'll think of the station in a new light.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Happy Birthday, Pirates of the Caribbean!

This Sunday, legendary attraction Pirates of the Caribbean will celebrate its 40th birthday. Opening on March 18, 1967, the attraction was one of the last Walter Disney himself worked on before his death and has become one of Disney's most well-known attractions.

In a press release today, Disneyland celebrated the attraction.
Disneyland Resort will mark a 40-year milestone Sunday, March 18, when the classic Pirates of the Caribbean attraction celebrates its 40th anniversary ... The Sunday anniversary will be observed with in-park autograph signings by Walt Disney Imagineers involved in the creation of the attraction, and with the debut of some new collectible Pirates-themed items.

315,000,000 Disneyland guests have experienced the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction since its 1967 opening.

"Yo Ho's" songwriter X Atencio ... said, "It's amazing to me how the show has lived for 40 years. It gets stronger every year. It just blows my mind."

Pirates of the Caribbean was first conceived by Walt Disney in the late 1950s when he wanted to create an attraction based on pirate adventures.
Initially, it was envisioned to be a wax museum and then as a walk-through adventure as part of a new land themed to New Orleans. But ultimately, it was actualized as a ride-through adventure that utilizes the type of boat system that the "it's a small world" attraction employs.
Here's to 40 more years, Pirates!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fire Causes Problems in Disneyland

As widely reported by various news sources, a vicious wildfire beginning on Sunday (March 11) hit the Anaheim Hills, forcing hundreds of families to evacuate their homes. Disneyland, located in Anaheim, was not in any serious danger, although the park did have its share of wildfire-related problems.

By Opus1guy, Mouse Planet member
Smoke from the fire, as seen in Tomorrowland.

Guests to the park reported problems caused from the fire, although mostly smoke-related issues. "There was...quite a bit of ash falling," one Mouse Planet user claimed. "[I] saw a couple [of Cast Members] working with masks."

While some guests shrugged off the fire, stating that it wasn't too big of an issue, others were irritated by the vast amount of ash and smoke. "My eyes are stinging quite badly today," a guest said, while another described her unique lunch at the Carnation Café. "By the time we came out of the Café, ash was falling everywhere," she said. "When we got to our cars...they were covered in a light coating of ash."

Fortunately, the fire is nearly completely contained as of today. In fact, the wildfire went from being 30% contained to 70% contained all in the course of yesterday. (The cause, in case you were wondering, was reportedly a car fire.)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Smells of Disneyland

A recent thread on ever-mentioned Mouse Planet had me wondering: If you were to bottle up a scent from Disneyland, what would you pick?

The scent at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean was a popular answer | My photo

One of the most frequent answers was the smell at the beginning of the popular attraction Pirates of the Caribbean, which was described as a "chlorine-like scent." Other answers included the scent of fresh churros, roasting coffee at Disney's California Adventure, and the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor in Main Street, U.S.A.

With that being said, what is your answer? I personally enjoy the smell of the first lagoon in Pirates as well, as it reminds me that I'm in Disneyland.

New Pirates of the Caribbean Disney Dollars

For those of you interested in Disney Dollars*, Disney recently announced new versions of the tokens, this time themed after the legendary Pirates ride.

One of the new Disney Dollars | Disney
The Dollars, expected to be released on March 18, will each feature the famous pirate skull and one of the pirate ships. Additionally, each Dollar will have a special 20th Anniversary seal on the front. (The Disney Dollar was first issued in 1987, hence the seal.)

*Disney Dollars, in case you didn't know, are a form of tokens used at Disney theme parks. The "tokens" are purchased for their value in USD. (For example, a $1 Disney Dollar is purchased for $1.)