CJ's Disney California Adventure
Actually this should really be called CJ's Granny's Disney California Adventure because CJ and her parents have annual passes to the Disneyland parks and CJ knows just what she wants to see and do. But I am so out of touch with the newer Disney characters and films that for me this was a great chance to catch up on the Disney culture, especially as seen from a child's perspective.
We planned to spend most of the day in the California Adventure Park but it only opened at 10 am and CJ, her Dad and I were on the parking lot shuttle heading to the park shortly before 9:30.
CJ had two special plans for the day - see Tinker Bell and her fairy friends, and seeing "Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage" - for the 4 th time!
Disneyland opened earlier than California Adventure so we decided to start our day by visiting Pixie Hollow in Fantasy land where CJ could visit Tinker Bell and the other fairies.
Because it was so early the wait in the line up was only 10 minutes. The path wound through a water feature and we noticed hundreds of pennies thrown into the water. Each penny represents a wish. I wonder how many of those wishes ever materialize?
CJ wanted a penny to throw but neither her dad or I had any loose change. The next thing we knew the man just ahead of us held out three cents to CJ for her to throw into the water and make a wish. She thanked him with a shy smile and went ahead and made her wishes.
While we waited we got into a discussion with a family with two young girls who were behind us in line, about who the Disney fairies are. Thegirls came up with 4 names of those they thought are Tinker Bell's closest friends. They were Fawn, Silvermist, Rosetta and Iridessa.
Finally we had edged forward enough that we were next to enter Pixie Hollow. The first fairy CJ met was Silvermist. I had absolutely no idea what story she came from and realized I should have done my homework befoe I visited the Park. Fortunately it did not seem to matter too much to CJ.
Next we came upon Tinker Bell and her male companion whose name I learned was Terence. CJ had her photo taken with both of them. Alas I had never heard Terence either. So I really needed my laptop!
After CJ was satisfied that those were the only fairies she was going to meet that day, we walked back down Main Street and headed across the centre concourse to begin our California Adventure.
But before we enter California Adventure Park I thought I would share some Disney Fairy trivia that I looked up for those who can't recite all the names and talents of the fairy crowd. I love the idea from J.M.Barrie that when a baby laughs for the first time the laugh breaks into a million pieces that go skipping about and become fairies. Actually when I watch my baby grandson chuckling I confess it almost makes me believe that thought.
But back to Tinker Bell's coterie. Silvermist is an optimistic water fairy, always helpful. Iridessa's talent is luminescence, Fawn is a happy, animal fairy who wears orange and brown clothes and Rosetta, not surprisingly is a flower fairy. I was going to say "who knew?" but I guess everyone who has read the books and seen the movies, knows. Terence by the way, is a charming male fairy (is this politically correct terminology?) whose job is to distribute pixie dust to all the fairies so they can work their magic.
California Adventure Park
Our first priority on entering this adventure park was to head to the "Soarin' over California" ride. From the description it sounded the same as the ride "Soarin" that I had really enjoyed on a visit to Epcot when I was at a conference in Orlando several years ago.
The stand-by wait was shown as 20 minutes so we decided to go for it. The time went quickly as we moved past photos of aviation memorabilia and we were soon standing at the entrance to the ride. We were lucky to be assigned to the front row of three rows of seats. We stashed our bags in the mesh containers under our seats and then strapped ourselves and CJ into the seats, settling in quite comfortably.
As the theatre darkened I could feel the seat rising and I was lifted up into the air, feet dangling in space. The rows of seats stack vertically so if you are in the front row and the highest up, you are unaware of the other rows of seats below and slightly behind you. It's the best row to get, although the other two rows obviously work fine too.
Then the most amazing photography was projected on the huge screen in front of me. I felt as though I was really flying above the snow covered mountains, the vineyards of Napa, spectacular scenes of desert, river and sea. The sensation of soaring in a hot air balloon brought back memories of another conference outing long before CJ was born when her adventurous grand-dad convinced an unadventurous and very reluctant me to take a balloon ride with him, and that turned out to be a truly magical experience.
Back in the Soarin' theatre, as camera angles changed and the camera banked and turned, the chairs rotated and moved so I really felt the sensation of flight. The only minor quibble was that the occasional puffs of scented air that I think were supposed to add an olfactory touch to the sensory experiences, all smelled the same to me - of oranges.
But the magical aspect is that it gives an opportunity to millions of people to see and experience something that they will probably never have the chance to do in reality. I know I will never go hang-gliding or ski down those steep slopes but how beautiful it was to see those vistas.
All too soon it was over and we were outside the theatre. I think the ride lasted just under 5 minutes though my probably faulty memory had remembered the Epcot ride as longer.
We all three loved it so much we were tempted to get right back in line but the wait time was now showing 40 minutes and we had too much else to do.
So we strolled along past the Grizzly River Run rafting ride and came upon the mini-roller-coaster ride "Mulholland Madness" described as zipping around L.A's famous Mulholland Drive. CJ had been on the ride before and we knew she met the height requirements so we joined the stand-by line which indicated a 15 minute wait and in less than ten minutes we were at the start of the ride.
The cars seated 4, so CJ and her dad hopped into the back seats and I took the front. A teenage girl from the single-rider line got in beside me, and we were all clamped in securely.
I used to be a roller-coaster junkie. The faster and steeper the better. So I thought that a roller coaster suitable for a 5 year old would be a gentle ride - and so it was except for one unexpectedly steep dive. It came after I had been lulled into a false sense of security, enjoying mildly jerky swings around corners and the occasional rapid descent - but this sudden drop took me so unawares that an inadvertent "holy expletive-deleted" slipped out - and with some embarrassment I apologized to the young girl next to me. She just laughed. I guess her peers use worse language all the time.
CJ had such fun on this ride that she wanted to do it again and the standby line was still short so we agreed. We had been waiting in line about 5 minutes when they announced that the ride was halted to fix a problem and we should all come back later. So much for repeating rides.
Next on our route was the "Jumpin' Jellyfish". CJ and dad strapped themselves into the seats which hang from colourful parachutes that float in the air like jellyfish. The seats are slowly lifted about 40 feet into the air and then descend gently through a sea of "kelp". It's a children's version of the Maliboomer - which CJ's dad was determined to do later in the day. CJ was beaming when she got off.
It was getting close to lunch time. We came unprepared this time and so decided we would buy lunch at one of the many eating places.
Near by was the Pizza Oom Mow Mow that advertised pizza, pasta and salads. The name alone should have alerted me, or maybe I should have listened to the comments about the food choices from CJ's mom when i asked why we don't just eat on site.
But as we lined up to order I thought how bad can a slice of pizza be when you are paying 7 or 8 bucks a slice?
Well if I have one negative thing to say about these two days spent at the Disney Parks it is that the "lunch" we had of pizza and salad was the worst value for money of any meal I can think of.
The pizza base was an undercooked 1 inch thick mass of inedible stodgy dough with the thinnest scraping of sauce and a few scattered pieces of sausage and mushroom on top. I scooped the topping off and had a few bites of the doughy edges and discarded the rest.
I was amused to see the motto on the wall - if you can make it out in the picture it says "In crust we trust". All I can say is DON'T.
The lumps of dough sat like lead in my stomach as we left the Pizza Oom Mow Mow and continued our walk round the Park. When we got to the Maliboomer, 5 seconds observation was enough for my VERY intelligent brain to tell me that if it had wanted to be launched 80 feet up in the air it would have asked me to apply for astronaut training instead of medical school. So I should take a hint and not even think about it.
CJ and I decided that as I was with her, this would be an excellent time for her dad to try out the rides he normally did not get a chance to go on. So we sat and watched until he appeared at the base of the Maliboomer and sat down to buckle himself in for the ride.
Then I tried to video - MEMO to self - even if it is a vertical structure you can't turn your camera vertically to take video. DUH!! okay so we do not have a video of that exciting event.
En route to "Heimlich's Chew Chew Train" we stopped again so CJ could watch her dad take off on the "California Screamin'" roller coaster.Using the single rider route he was on and off it almost before we could catch him on video.
The line up for "Heimlich's Chew Chew Train" - no of course I did not make up that name - was about a 25 minute wait so we decided that was plenty of time for CJ's dad to pick up a FastPass to the third of his rides, "The Twilight Zone- Tower of Terror".
I remembered doing that ride on my Epcot visit so was quite content to stand and wait in line with CJ. She was absolutely determined that she would not get on Heimlich's train without her dad and literally as we were ready to board he came barreling his way through the line and to the gate, just in time to sit with her.
Next we were off to "a bug's land" where we all took flight in Flik's Flyers, soaring through the air in "a hot air balloon made of leaves".
We flew in a box of Casey' Jr. Cookies. CJ thought it was very cool.
We continued along to the Hollywood Back lot Pictures section where CJ and I thought we would try to do another session in the Animation Academy while her dad used his FastPass to the Tower of Terror.
But we realized that the timing was such that if we did the Animation session we would not make the Disney Playhouse performance.
So CJ and I hung out on the sofas in the Animation Foyer and watched clips from various Disney movies. I had forgotten how exquisite the pictures were and really enjoyed watching the brief clips. Great marketing of course because I really want to go out and buy the films now.
From the Animation building we walked as fast as we could to the theatre where CJ wanted to See Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage.
The line up for the 2:15 show was already quite long so we joined it and settled in for yet another long wait.
The energetic young host of the show did a great job and had the audience, young and older responding to his energy. He was cheerleader, puppet coordinator and scene changer all in one.
By the time we had sat through the 20 minute show which CJ loved, we were all ready for naps. It started to pour just as we left the grounds so we decided to take the shuttle back to the parking lot.
It was an excellent day for all of us. CJ met Tinker Bell, and saw Mickey Mouse on stage - again. Dad got to do the three scary rides. And I had the pleasure of watching the joy on CJ's face - all day.
It also got me thinking about things like - why and when do people develop things like fear of heights, or small dark spaces- or dislike of pizza.