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Saturday, July 25, 2015

California Adventure

My own personal California Adventure began in 1965 when my parents decided to leave their home towns in western Illinois and move west for a life without winter in California. My love affair with the mouse in Anaheim began shortly thereafter as my dad starting working at Disneyland almost immediately after our arrival. He was a school teacher and I would guess about 80% of all teachers in Orange County work at Disneyland during the summer. He started out as a keystone cop, complete with the costume, and then moved to Main Gate security. He recalled that his biggest thrill at the gate was letting Judy Garland through the entrance! But his presence at the Main Gate meant that we could get in for free at any time. We still needed tickets for the rides, but we somehow had a zillions of them that were stockpiled through the years! It also meant that we were "in the know" whenever something new was happening at Disneyland and the time between visits was never more than a few weeks. I had no idea how special this part of my childhood was until I moved away from Southern California and met people who had never been to Disneyland! When I first brought Doug out to California to meet my family, I casually asked him if he wanted to go to Disneyland. He looked at me with disbelief and said, "Of course. I've never been."
So in 2001 when California Adventure opened, I had been living in Sweden since 1998 so had no idea that a new park was even being built.  I've only been to CA Adventure a couple of times and we'd heard that the new Cars Land, based on the film Cars, was pretty spectacular. So we spent our first day in Anaheim on our own CA Adventure.
It's a very different kind of park, focused mainly on the Pixar films and characters from other Disney films.We dashed to Radiator Springs right at 8.00 a.m. when the park opened and were amazed to find a line that was already a 50 minute wait. But I'm glad we waited because the line only got longer as the day progressed. The ride was excellent. Disney's creativity is unparalleled. They never just build a ride with tracks, but it's always filled with great animation and delightful surprises. This roller coaster type of ride in very cool little cars was a blast. I would have loved to go on it again but we didn't figure out the Fast Pass system soon enough and then it was just too long of a line later.
Unfortunately many of the big rides were having technical problems early in the day so that created a bit of a problem with the crowd. We did eventually get on Hollywood Tower of Terror, a drop type of ride that simulates an elevator plunging through the shaft and is based on a Twilight Zone episode. It was great fun and gave us our adrenaline rush for the day! The photo is taken at the top of the ride just as you plunge through the elevator shaft!
Another new ride is the Toy Story Midway Mania. Talk about bringing out the child in you! You sit in these cars and shoot lasers at various targets throughout the ride. Your score is recorded and you compete with the others in your car. We did get on this one twice and I managed to beat Doug both times, much to his dismay.
Other highlights included a 45 minute mini-musical of Aladdin. It had all the bells and whistles of a Broadway show and was a real delight. A big promo for the new film Ant-Man was on offer in the Bug's Life theater and it was a fun 3-D experience complete with other surprises like getting poked in your seat, having water dripped on you, air puffed into your face...great fun! The River Run Rapids ride finally opened and we jumped on it right at dusk. We got a bit wet. Not as bad as we were anticipating. The ride was better than I remember with spins and plunges that provided lots of fun.
The real highlight of the day came after dark with the World of Color show on the water. Years ago, Disney perfected the technique of showing images on water shooting out of the lagoon and this new show is a real dazzler. Combining film clips on the Mickey Mouse head that turns into a movie screen along with the water and light show was a real treat. Pyrotechnics, narration, music, film, this had it all! When Elsa from the movie Frozen came on, the crowd went wild. She sang the entire song, Let it Go, and of course, when the chorus started, the entire crowd joined in! The characters and music from Frozen are still amongst the most popular ever in Disney history.
You can buy a park hopper ticket which allows you to enter both parks on the same day, but there's not really enough time to see everything you'd want to in both parks in one day so we opted for a full day at both parks.
Soon it was time for this leg of our California Adventure to end. It was great seeing the park again, but I was excited for the centerpiece of our visit the next day...good 'ol Disneyland, still my favorite after all these years.