Monday, May 21, 2007

Pirate Premiere = No Lines At Disneyland

Soon after arriving at Disneyland this past Saturday afternoon (2pm), I encountered a sign that said the park would be closing at 5pm. At this time of the year, the park is normally open 'til midnight-- why such a short day?!?

What to do??? Turn around and make the long hike back home?

How does a Dad explain to his three year-old that Disneyland is a 'no-go'-- especially after a week's worth of hype-talk?

Like a dork, I had accidentally plopped us smack dab in the center of the world premiere for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The early closing time was to accommodate the red carpet arrivals (the film would unspool on a giant, temporary, screen built at the foot of Tom Sawyer's Island).

The place looked crowded, but I decided to proceed with caution. Main Street was clogged with thousands of fans and dozens-and-dozens of TV crews. I was immediately in a tail-spin: the whole day looked like it was going to be a huge mess. Big, pushy crowds. Tight squeezes past the sun baked mobs and TV gear... and Disney's rope nazis with their non-stop, full-throated war chants ("Stay to the right, folks! Keep moving! Keep MOVING, people!). In my experience, big crowds never make for great memories at the Happiest Place On Earth.

Boy, was I wrong!

Bless the Pirate fans! Most of the bodies in the park were all clumped along Main Street waiting to eyeball a celeb. Meanwhile... Fantasyland, Toontown and Tomorrowland were mostly empty pieces of real estate. Overall, the park was lightly attended because -- I think -- of its shortened hours. Those in attendance were, as I said, gathered mostly 'round the red carpet.

In just a short time, we visited the following rides:

Peter Pan; Snow White; Pinocchio; Mr. Toad; Dumbo; Casey Jr. train; Storybook Canal Boats; Alice In Wonderland;
It's A Small World; Roger Rabbit's Car-toon Spin; Minnie Mouse House; Mickey Mouse Film Barn; Goofy's House; Donald's Tug Boat; Peter Pan (a second time around!); Autopia (TWICE-- we never had to get out of the car!); The Monorail; Tomorrowland Rocket Ride and Star Tours.

Wow! An all time high for us: 20 rides in a single visit. A perfect day for a toddler-- all because of a few pirates.

Saturday's crowds had to be among the smallest I have seen -- in terms of the length of lines for attractions -- in nearly three years. The "perfect storm" was stalled over Main Street, while it was smooth sailing on the 'east side' of the park.

As a side note, I never ventured near Main Street's crowds again until nearly 8:15pm (where I almost got knocked over by Maria Shriver & Arnold's HUGE (30+ folks) entourage.

While I cannot fathom waiting in the hot sun for nearly 16 hours (many people arrived at Disneyland around 4:30am!) to spot a celeb on a red carpet, I heard from MANY folks that the stars were VERY generous in signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans-- good for them!

Two final thoughts:

There's a new onslaught of pirates coming to Disneyland: this Friday (the 25th), Tom Sawyer's Island will officially be re-christened as, "Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer's Island." Rumors indicate that a second phase will be completed on the island sometime next year-- with the hand constructed lincoln-log style "Fort Wilderness" being torn down-- possibly to house a pirate stunt show. The speculation has the park's devotees in an uproar: Tom Sawyer's Island is considered the "Holy of Holies" as it is the only attraction personally designed -- top-to-bottom -- by the hand of Walt Disney.

Lastly, the new "Finding Nemo" attraction (at the site of the former submarine ride) is just two weeks away from its grand opening. The subs were undergoing testing on Saturday, and the buzz indicates a new form of animation that allows some of the film's characters to "follow" along the sub's portholes during the "undersea" adventure. Remember the overwhelming stink of diesel when you pressed your nose up against the glass? That's a memory of the past: the new subs are all electric. Catch the OLD subs here.