Archive for October, 2011

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham City

When Batman: Arkham Asylum was announced, it was met with almost unanimous groans in pain. Superhero games up to that point had been almost unanimously awful and why would this one be any different? Over the next few months, everyone quickly realized that this game was not only going to be better than almost every other superhero game, but that it was going to be genuinely good. When Arkham Asylum was released, it was met with rave reviews and numerous game of the year nominations. So when Arkham City was announced in 2009, people had unrealistically high expectations for the sequel. Luckily, those unrealistic expectations were actually met. Batman: Arkham City is a better game in every conceivable way than Arkham Asylum but manages to not make the predecessor not look absolutely terrible (unlike the jump from Assassin’s Creed to Assassin’s Creed II)

Arkham City occurs a number of months after the events of Arkham Asylum when former Arkham Warden now mayor of Gotham Quincy Sharp shuts down the old asylum and walls off a section of Gotham and throws all of the criminals (and people who dare to oppose his new police state) inside a world with no order or security. A world where supervillians run homicidal gangs and are forever engulfed in massive, bloody turf wars all under the supervision of the new warden, Hugo Strange, and his TYGER Guards.

Bruce Wayne is highly opposed to this sudden and horrifying change to his city, so he gets political, which leads to him being thrown into Arkham City as a political prisoner (this is actually only half true, Hugo Strange knows Batman’s secret identity and he wanted Batman inside the walls of the prison). Wayne is immediately captured by Oswald Cobblepot, also known as the Penguin, over a feud that the Cobblepot family has had with the Waynes for a few generations, but old Bruce-y is able to fight off the goons and escape to a rooftop where Alfred dropped off the batsuit and the game really starts. Batman must get information from various super villains about the prison and Strange’s secretive Protocol 10 all over the course of one night in Arkham City.

There is another major plot arc that I won’t speak about, as it is spoilers for Arkham Asylum, and that is a game that everyone should play despite Arkham City being a better game.

Arkham City is much more of an open world game than it’s predecessor. The prison is huge, but that’s not a problem for Batman, as he can glide, grapple, or zip line across buildings with ease and speed. The larger size of the world increases the Riddler trophies and challenges, though. The Riddler scattered 400 trophies, riddles, and challenges throughout the city and unlike the previous game where you could just find maps that would show you the approximate location of each item, you now have to find the henchmen working for Riddler and interrogate them to get the locations added to the map. This adds a level of added strategy to the game as the henchmen are interspersed throughout the various gangs and you can’t interrogate them unless they are the last ones standing. The need to keep one of the goons conscious adds a new level to the thought process behind how you fight.

Combat got a massive overhaul in Arkham City. The game continues with the timing and counter based combat, but adds a lot more options to the fighting through the new quick select items. You can be punching one bad guy, counter one of his associates, knock him out, fire your Batclaw at another guy to pull him towards your fist, shock another one with a pipe to make him swing it around and hit everyone around you, and then finish the combo with a flurry of bats that surround you. The combat possibilities are almost endless with enough practice and it makes the combat honestly one of the most fun parts of the game. Luckily for this game, you start with almost every item you had in the previous game, so you start with the remote explosives, remote controlled Batarang, Batclaw, but there are plenty of new items like smoke bombs (which honestly should have been in the original game) and the remote electrical charge, which is essentially a taser that shoots out balls of electricity. It’s just a shame that I kind of suck at the combat (as my friends will tell you with much enthusiasm), but that skill will come from playing through the Riddler Challenge Maps.

The story is better, the world is bigger, the combat is more varied, and even side quests are more interesting. Really the only side quest in Arkham Asylum was the Riddler challenges, but now there are additional ones that have Batman team up with Bane to destroy TITAN canisters, or have you track down Deadshot or a serial killer who surgically removes people’s faces. These really help to make the gameplay longer, but keep it interesting to play. A New Game + feature (which guarantees a second playthrough for me) helps expand the single player experience and makes it considerably harder with more difficult enemies appearing from the beginning and Batman’s counter Spider-Sense going away.

Kevin Conroy returns as Batman and Mark Hamill gives his last performance as the Joker, and while the rest of the Batman: the Animated Series voice cast didn’t return, the new voice actors do a fantastic job. The most surprising one was Nolan North’s Penguin, as he doesn’t just do his normal “I’m Nathan Drake” voice. The always amazing Corey Burton’s Hugo Strange is made to be very calm and calculating, but also menacing through Burton’s very deep voice.

Batman: Arkham City is one of the best games of the year and everyone should play it, you don’t even need to be a big Batman fan to enjoy it, either.

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Adventures of a Lost Boy in Disneyland (Part 13): Aladdin: a Musical Spectacular

“Welcome to the Hyperion Theatre, you’re about to embark for the land of the Arabian nights. A land of magic and mystery, a land of no visual lighting, flash photography, cell phones, or pagers, so please do not interrupt our journey with such distractions.”

California Adventure never got the crowds that Disney wanted it to, hence the redoing of the park. When Aladdin: a Musical Spectacular opened in the Hyperion Theatre in 2003, replacing the Blast! show that never really got the audiences to fill the 2000 seat theatre that Disney wanted, it started showing off the future of the park back when the future of the park was completely uncertain. It quickly became the best attraction in the park and developed a substantially large fan base that would see the production every time they went into the park. This fanbase was actually so large that when Disney announced plans to replace the show with Toy Story the Musical from the Disney Cruise Line, there was an overwhelming amount of backlash and Disney put the plans on an indefinite hold.

The show is a 45-minute long Broadway-style retelling of the Aladdin film that manages to cover the story fully in a condensed manner. They did this by shortening the time between major plot points (for instance, Aladdin meets Jasmine and they immediately bump into the palace guards and Aladdin is saved by Jafar in disguise all within a manner of 3 minutes and in one setting). They also removed the character of Abu completely, which was disappointing the first time I saw the show, but it was quickly realized that his character is rather superfluous and it allowed the producers of the show to shorten the story to a manageable point for the actors to perform it 4 times a day.

One of the aspects of the show that makes it very special is the character of the Genie. Most of his lines throughout the show are completely ad-libbed, which makes it so that the consistently pop-culture aware Genie to riff off of current events. Popular topics in the 3 times I saw the show while I was at California Adventure this trip were Lindsay Lohan (“Where’s all my stuff? I had a whole bunch of stuff here and now it’s just rocks. Did Lindsay Lohan take all my stuff too?”), Avatar (“Are you kidding? I’m blue, I have pointy ears! I’m your Avatar!), Pirates of the Caribbean, the Godfather, Star Trek (“There’s no wishing for more wishes, capische? I just can’t do it, captain! I don’t have the power!”), Dr. Phil and the Kardashians (“Just like Dr. Phil, I can’t make someone fall in love with you. I used up all that magic on the Kardashians.”), and the iPhone (“I can’t bring people back from the dead, but if you have an iPhone there’s an app for that!”). Also note that all of these jokes happened between when the Genie first appeared and the beginning of “Friend Like Me.” The actors who play the Genie manage to pull off Robin Williams’ quick-fire machine gun style of comedy perfectly and it really adds a lot to the show. Some of the actors even interact directly with the crow by reacting in humourous ways to their responses.

The best line the Genie got off, though, was “You guys are just like Bella and Edward from Twilight, except you’re not depressing!” There is also a line about Iago being a “Tiki Room reject”, which at this point in time is made even funnier with the Enchanted TIki Room: Under New Management being completely gone.

The music in the show is the music from the film almost to a “t”, with only a few small changes here and there to help the shortened running time flow better. The biggest departure music-wise is the inclusion of a new song written by Alan Menken. The song was written for Jasmine and uses her theme from the movie, “To Be Free” is a surprisingly sad song about how Jasmine has everything in the world at her beck-and-call, but what she really wants is to be free and live her own life. This song really adds to a strengthens the whole theme of being trapped from birth in your life and the desire to become something more.

The sets are the real star of the show here, though. They manage to pull of the over-blown and grand style of old-school Broadway shows perfectly (which will fit perfectly into the 1920’s styling coming to California Adventure in the near future). The sets range from being deceptively simple flat shapes, to exceptionally gaudy light-up stair-cases, to surprisingly convincing giant tiger-headed entrances to certain Cave of Wonders. The sets look very good “up close, but they look even better from Jafar.” The show also uses puppets very well with both Iago, puppets representing different countries in “A Whole New World”, and a giant snake puppet for Jafar’s transformation at the end.

Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, even with all of the changes going on at California Adventure, continues to be one of the best attractions at the park and is probably in the running with Festival of the Lion King for best stage show at a Disney Park (at least state-side. I can’t say anything about the international parks). Now if you’ll excuse me, “I’m going to go find Nemo.”

Cinematic Adventures: Captain America: the First Avenger

I meant to review this over the summer after I saw it in theatres, but for some reason (I’m putting the blame squarely on the 51 Days of Disney) it never happened. This is an issue that will now be remedied.

Captain America is a damn good movie. Unlike Thor (which was a good movie in it’s own right, but it basically just existed to introduce people to the character of Thor) this movie is a complete origins story that not only introduces the character, but provides a very entertaining cinema going experience.

The film chronicles Steve Rogers transformation from a tiny, asthmatic wimp with a heart of gold to a super powered super soldier in order to fight HYDRA (HAIL HYDRA!) and the Red Skull. The plot is exceedingly simple, but it is honestly part of it’s charm. The movie was specifically written and designed to resemble the pulpiness of the original Captain America comics and to represent the 40’s in general in all it’s sepia toned glory. This design decision is precisely why the movie is special. It is heavily similar in both tone and style to the Indiana Jones films and really helps to set the time frame convincingly.

The movie has some great performances from Chris Evans as Cap, Tommy Lee Jones as his commanding officer, and Hugo Weaving as the sinister Red Skull. Weaving’s Red Skull manages to both be exceedingly comic book-y in his mannerisms and performance, but still be very evil and menacing. Chris Evans manages to bring some humanity and warmth to the super-human boy scout while balancing out the more action hero side of the role. Tommy Lee Jones was… Tommy Lee Jones. Nothing really new there, but he easily had the best and funniest lines in the movie. The real surprise of the bunch was the relative newcomer Hayley Altwell. She is really shaping up to be a great actress and I hope that she is brought back as Peggy Carter’s grand-daughter in Captain America 2, as her chemistry with Chris Evans was rather fantastic.

Quality-wise, I consider this movie to be slightly better than Iron Man (which is honestly the best superhero movie out now besides the Dark Knight, which really isn’t a superhero movie. It’s a crime movie that happens to have a superhero as it’s lead). What manages to put this movie over Iron Man for me is the music. Alan Silvestri did the score for the movie, and it is normal Silvestri (which is not a bad thing) but there is a musical number in the film done by Alan Menken. Yes, a musical number in a superhero movie. Trust me on this, it works perfectly within the story of the film.

When I saw Captain America in the theatre, I saw it in 3D and it was surprisingly worth it. It’s rather odd that all of a sudden, the film studios seemed to have figured out 3D post-conversion, as starting with Cars 2, there were 4 movies this year that were actually worth paying for to see in 3D (those movies were Cars 2, Captain America: the First Avenger, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, and of course the Lion King). This actually gives me hope (and makes me rather happy that my family got a 3D TV) for the future of 3D movies.

My only problem with the film is that it needed more punching Hitler in the face. Also, it made me want a Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos movie, and unfortunately that will probably never happen.

Definitely go out and check out Captain America: the First Avenger. It’s a pulpy superhero romp that manages to introduce the character, set up for the Avengers, and be a genuinely good film. I would say that I am eagerly awaiting Captain America 2, but the Avengers is a much more pressing beast to be looking forward to at the moment.

 

It should be noted that there is now a Tumblr for Adventures of a Lost Boy. It can be found over here and I mostly just post stuff related to Disney, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and Pokemon. Also, be expecting some Ponies and Pokemon content in the coming weeks, as I don’t know how I held off this long not talking about them.

Adventures of a Lost Boy in Disneyland (Part 12): Blue Sky Cellar


Part of the ongoing Calfornia Adventure fix-up is the idea of re-appropriating attractions that really never caught on to new roles and experiences. The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure was built in the building that once held Golden Dreams and some bathrooms (the bathrooms were a more popular attraction than Golden Dreams ever was), the Sun Wheel became Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Mullholland Madness became Goofy’s Sky School, the Orange Stinger became the Silly Symphony Swings, and one of the first of these conversions to happen was the Seasons of the VIne show becoming the Blue Sky Cellar.

The idea of the Blue Sky Cellar is not a new one to Disneyland. There was once an exhibit in the Main Street Opera House called Disneyland Presents a Preview of Coming Attractions that ran until the Walt Disney Story opened in the building. The exhibit exists to show people what is coming, and this is something that should be put in at every Disney resort around the world. Sure you can see concept art and models online if you are so inclined to search around the numerous Disney news sites to view them, but actually being able to see models up close and personal and view each tiny detail or being able to look at notes and blurbs about each piece of artwork is something really special and allows you to learn more about the background and making of the attraction or show.

Each attraction that has opened at California Adventure since Mickey’s Fun Wheel has had an exhibit in the Blue Sky Cellar, when I was there, the exhibit was mostly focused on the Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and Goofy’s Sky School, but since I have been there it was changed over to Cars Land and Buena Vista Street. What would make this attraction so interesting to have at other resorts is the idea that it would change frequently, so if one were to go yearly, it could be a completely different experience every time they visit. There would only need to be one version per resort and it would have to be placed in a central location (for example, it could be put in at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World and could operate for the entire resort).

There really isn’t much to say about the Blue Sky Cellar, so here’s some pictures (and a video of a “living” California Adventure map (I actually filmed the map myself, but I lost the video when I had to blow away the harddrive on my computer over the summer)):

Cinematic Adventures: the Thing

I love horror movies, but I have to make a qualification to that statement. I love straight up horror movies, no torture porn like Saw and Hostel, and slasher films are really just action movies without any sort of moral compass. They’re enjoyable, but not horror movies. John Carpenter’s the Thing is one of the greatest horror movies ever, it decides to focus more on the paranoia that would come from the idea that the enemy could be right next to you and you wouldn’t know it more than the idea that there is a thing from beyond the stars and we have to go kill it (that aspect is still there, but it plays second fiddle to the crushing paranoia). When this new Thing was announced, I immediately thought that it was a remake. Seriously, who would make a prequel to a movie and give it the same name as what it precedes? Well, it turns out that Universal would and did exactly that to some surprisingly excellent results.

Before we go any further, I’m going to assume that everyone here has seen John Carpenter’s the Thing. Seriously, it came out in 1982! Why haven’t you seen it yet? It’s even on NetFlix Streaming! I’m not going to spoil that movie, but I’m going to assume that you know how it begins, as that’s how this movie ends. I’m not going to spoil the 2011 Thing either, this shall be relatively spoil free so you can enjoy this immensely gruesome movie.

The Thing begins with a part of a group of Norwegians falling down a crevasse where they find a crashed alien ship. The rest of the crew meets with them and they find a frozen alien species and naturally take it back to their camp for further study. Kate Lloyd (played intelligently and level-headedly by the always lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an American Paleontologist gets invited to come down and study the creature that the team established is over 100,000 years old. The alien, of course, escapes and starts eating, assimilating, and copying members of the crew in order to survive which leads to an intense feeling of paranoia and some rather morbid and graphic transformations, impalements, and feedings. This movie is not for the faint of heart, as the depiction of the people/Thing hybrids is not a very pretty sight to see and there is quite a lot of blood.

Despite the fact that the movie is a prequel to the events of John Carpenter’s the Thing, the 2011 Thing is also something of a remake. It is a very similar film in many ways. The story is more-or-less the same until the third act, there is a very similar feeling throughout, and the effects in the new film were definitely inspired by the effects in John Carpenter’s version (although they are a bit more liberal with showing the Thing in the 2011 film). Kate fills the role of Kurt Russel’s MacReady from the original, but ends up feeling more like Ripley from Alien than the obvious connection to Kurt Russel’s character.

The film is not without it’s flaws, though, even though there aren’t that many. The CG effects can be kind of silly at times (like the alien Tetris column, which is a statement that will not make any sense unless you’ve seen the movie), and the fact that the Thing is shown off so many times throughout and even rather early in the film makes the movie not be as scary as it could be (the level of paranoia is claustrophobic, though), and of course one cannot review this movie without mentioning that the prequel truly wasn’t needed. What is more important than asking whether it was needed, though, is asking if it was a fun movie to watch, and that answer is a resounding yes.

As has been stated numerous times in this review, The Thing is a prequel, and it ends up tying in perfectly with the first film. All of the things that MacReady and his team find in the Norwegian camp at the beginning of John Carpenter’s the Thing are there, the wreckage is the same, and you even see the characters getting on the helicopter to try to kill the escaping Thing. What made me squeal with geekish delight, though, was the fact that the Universal logo at the beginning of the film was the one from the 80’s, the text in the opening credits is the same as the original film, and the movie ends with the theme from John Carpenter’s the Thing as the events start to directly play into each other.

The Thing is a very entertaining and scary prequel to a classic horror film that manages to not only tie in with story and design (and be very similar, but also different), but also with an exceptionally familiar feeling of terror that comes from the idea that anyone you know could be the enemy waiting to strike.

Adventures of a Lost Boy in Disneyland (Part 11): the Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

Sorry about the lack of posts over the weekend and on Monday, there was a death in the family an that took up all of my time that weekend.

Moving onto happy things now, last week I covered some of the cosmetic changes going on in California Adventure, this week it’s finally time to start talking about some of the attraction changes. I’m starting with one that is one of the most entertaining: The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

As you walk towards the building, the first thing you will notice is the massive size of the show building and it’s general opulence, the building is meant to be reminiscent of aquariums from the early 20th century, and they definitely captured that concept. The entire building is covered in nothing but a sandy tan, blues, aquas, and bronze paint and fixtures and features numerous sweeping and arching forms that not only sell the idea of water, but manage to fit in with the rest of Paradise Pier through similar architectural forms and the use of a massive amount of lights at night. It manages to look incredibly regal, but also fit in with the boardwalk theme.

If you look at the roof over the area where the main entrance to the building is, you will see the statue of King Triton that used to reside in Ariel’s Grotto in Disneyland until the Disney faeries forced the mermaids out of their home. One can also view various bas reliefs of mermaids on the arch that holds Triton and even some conch shell/trident weather vanes on various points on the building representing Ursula and Triton and their troubled relationship in the past. Throughout the queue, you can see touches of various aspects of marine life such as bubble designs in support arches with bronze clamshells connecting both ends, the main entrance to the building features a massive window that has beams running across it simulating waves, inside there are chandeliers made to look like bronze seaweed and paintings, murals, and even tile work representing different forms of aquatic life. Of course, the main eye catcher in the inside section of the queue is the massive mural of the characters from the film on the wall of the load area.

When I was going through the queue, I was geeking out and only wondered how the attraction itself would be able to hold up against how beautiful the queue was, and it makes me exceptionally happy to report that the attraction did not let me down in the slightest.

The attraction starts with your clam shell omnimover entering the ship-wreck of Prince Eric’s ship only to find Scuttle sitting amongst the ruins trying to tell Ariel’s story, but not quite knowing where to start. This is actually brilliant from a constantly moving ride perspective, as the Imagineers managed to create an endless loop that doesn’t just say the same thing over and over and over again, but actually manages to get the main information told no matter which section it is. The late Buddy Hacket was not able to reprise his role as Scuttle, but Chris Edgerly (who also voices Timothy Q. Mouse on Dumbo the Flying Elephant and voiced Peter Potamus on Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law) does a fantastic impression of the late comedian. After passing Scuttle, our clamshells submerge and we encounter Ariel, first as a projection, and then in her grotto singing “Part of Your World”.

The Ariel audio-animatronic is absolutely amazing. It moves fluidly and realistically and the Imagineers even managed to animate her hair to make sure to sell the idea that we are under the sea. What is even more astounding is that the Ariel figure is only about 2 or 3 feet away from you. Some taller guests could probably reach out and touch her if they were so inclined and wouldn’t mind being ejected from the park. If you look throughout the scene, you’ll see items that actually populated the area in the film, and you can also see Sebastian popping out of various areas with a condescending look on his face. Jodi Benson actually came back and re-recorded all of her audio for Ariel for the attraction and that woman still has it. She can make herself sound almost exactly like she did almost 25 years ago and because of that the inclusion of Benson really adds some serious credibility to the attraction. Our clamshells then move right into the biggest scene of the attraction, “Under the Sea”. There must be at least a hundred animatronics in this scene, there is just so much going on that it would be impossible to see everything the first time through, and Sebastian is conducting all of it from a raised platform in the centre of the whole party. If there was a character in the “Under the Sea” scene in the movie, then they are in it in the attraction, so even my favourite clam drum playing lobster is present. There is even another Ariel audio-animatronic, but this one is rather weird as she looks like she has a beehive hair-do, I fully understand that this is something direct from the film, but it looks very bizarre when translated to a 3-dimensional attraction.

Unfortunately, the party is ruined with the arrival of Flotsam and Jetsam and the entering of Ursula’s lair, but this isn’t a problem as the Ursula animatronic is easily the most impressive one in the attraction. The Sea Witch stands at around 8 feet tall and is able to squash and stretch exactly like she did in the movie, the programers of her even managed to fully replicate her unique facial expressions and ticks such as the very particular way she smiles. There is even a massive amount of variation throughout her loop that has her arms doing various different movements and her hands making different gestures. This honestly is the best part of the attraction, which makes it so disappointing that it is as short as it is. I unfortunately got stuck on the attraction right as we were transitioning between the “Poor-Unfortunate Souls” scene and the upcoming “Kiss the Girl” one. I really just wish that I could have stopped in front of the Ursula figure so I could watch her movements more.

The attraction just movies downhill from here, but don’t get me wrong it never gets bad, it’s just impossible to follow up the 8-foot-tall Ursula. The “Kiss the Girl” segment is surprisingly static, but I very much enjoyed the fact that Sebastian is using a reed as a microphone, that the fish are creating fountains by spitting water out of their mouths, and that the kiss-y faced frogs and duck drummers are present. Ariel and Eric keep almost kissing, but Eric always pulls away and the Ariel figure actually manages to show visible rejection on her face, which is rather astounding as it was not present when they were about to kiss. After this scene, Ariel gets her voice back and we see a massive Ursula in the background, but no Eric/Ursula fight or even any sight of Ursula being defeated, it just moves right into the marriage scene. This part really isn’t anything special, but it marks the first time we have seen King Triton in the entire attraction and there is another appearance by Scuttle, which is always entertaining.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is a master-work. It managed to knock Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular out of it’s rank as best attraction at California Adventure, which is really saying something. The version coming to the Magic Kingdom is going to be essentially the same attraction, but with a completely different external and internal queue, and this is going to really be something for us East Coasters to look forward to when it opens in late 2012 as part of the New Fantasyland.

Adventures of a Lost Boy in Disneyland (Day 10): A New California Adventure

Or alternatively titled: A Whole New Wooorrrllldddd! (S0rry, I couldn’t resist).

Or the alternative alternative title: Ryan Visits Construction Wall Adventure

In all seriousness, though, walking into California Adventure after a number of years (that combined with the fact that I had only gone into the park 2 or 3 times and only for a few hours) made the entire experience feel new. The first thing that anyone would notice walking in would be the obscene amount of construction walls at the first area of the park. When I was there, the new entrance way based off of the Pan-Pacific Auditorium was uncovered, but it was not open yet. People were still forced to work their way around the new gates and enter from the side of them. That being said, these were easily the best construction walls in the entire park that I saw.

What I find to be the most perplexing about the California Adventure redux is that the new entrance land, Buena Vista Street, is going to be one of the last areas of the park to open. One would have thought that a brand new front would have brought more people into the front, and not having tons of construction walls before you get into the park would have made more people think the park wasn’t closed. The idea of the immensely tacky (and not in any sort of endearing way) Sunshine Plaza going away and making way for a well themed area based on the past is an exciting one, and from some of the artwork seen at the Blue Sky Cellar (which will be a topic for another day), it isn’t just a rehashing of Hollywood Boulevard at Hollywood Studios. It is going to be based more off of the real Los Angeles of the past and less of of the heightened and almost fantastical version of Hollywood presented in Hollywood Boulevard.

Like the area surrounding the new gates, this area was another Construction Wall Land (the most magical land ever found at a Disney park!), but unlike the walls surrounding the gate, these were themed more to advertisements that would have been found in the 1920’s, but with the usual Disney slant. The largest inconvenience that this area presented, though, was the fact that the construction of the Carthay Circle theatre (which is acutally slightly to the left side of the new land) was taking up the entire area and one of the main throughways through the park was completely cut off. While the fixing of California Adventure will be great when it’s done, going while it’s still in process can be very frustrating. (Especially when you’re trying to manuver around the area to get to the Grizzly River Rapids FastPass distribution as so that you can get a FastPass for World of Color because that is totally the reason that you wanted to go to Disneyland in the first place)

Paradise Pier is an area that used to infuriate me, and it still slightly does, but enourmously less than it used to. Paradise Pier still has one of the same problems that it had before, the fact that all of the rides and attractions were just off-the-wall carnival/amusement park faire. There’s the flying swings, the ferris wheel (though Mickey’s Fun Wheel was easily one of the most fun things I did in the park, but only if you ride the swinging gondolas), and various spinning/dropping rides. The area used to have a few more attractions, but thankfully they were destroyed when the area started it’s refurbishment. Some more of these very standard attractions still need to go, but the Silly Symphony Swings, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, and King Triton’s Carousel of the Sea can stay, and need to be replaced with some more “Disney” attractions. They need to make more attractions like Toy Story Midway Mania that take the idea of something from a carnival or amusement park and turn it into something new and interesting. Putting that rant aside, the area is definitely much more aesthetically pleasing to look at, the new look for the land was started when Toy Story Midway Mania opened and everything else just fell into place. The Victorian style buildings and structures are gorgeous to look at and there are numerous little touches around the area that made me smile from ear to ear.

Unfortunately, the new eateries and Goofy’s Sky School were not open by the time I was there (they opened shortly afterwards, which really annoyed me), but the Little Mermaid attraction was open (for part of the day, it broke down for a few hours and actually scared me a little bit with the thought that I wouldn’t be able to experience it). Once again, though, different topic for a different day.

Most of the other areas in the park were just about the same, except for the Hollywood Pictures Backlot which was set up for ElecTRONica (and is rumoured to be in the next wave of improvements to the park). I did get to look in at some of the construction of Cars Land, and I’m pretty excited for that to open.