THIS is not “The Happiest Place On Earth”. Disneyland revisited.

WOW, what a statment from this CritDick. However, I did have a decent time; if to say my enjoyment revolved around crowd avoidance and the overly occasional whaling (high-pitched screeches) 3-year-old I had to step over to get to my destination.

I kept repeating to myself, “The Happiest Place on Earth, . . . The Happiest Place On Earth,  . . . The Happiest Place On Earth”. Just why do they call Disneyland “The Happiest Place On Earth”? Today, I’m not quite feelin’ it. The staff had indicated the day of our visit was the busiest since Labor Day. We had “special” group tickets that I was told reserved for a special day, only for the special members. I think what I got was the ol’ “special”. I think in all, we rode 5 rides. Average wait time per-ride was about 40 minutes. That’s almost 4 hours of our 8 hour day. Sucked! The rest of the time we wandered aimlessly deciding which line was the shortest.

We immediately hit The Haunted Mansion at about 5pm once arriving at our “special” time (4pm). The place (entire theme park) was packed. The Haunted Mansion was all decked out in holiday cheer as it set tone for the “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme. I have never seen that setup as it is a complete ride “reset”. All of the displays for the theme had been redone for the holiday season. I know this has been going on for many, many years . . . even since the existence of the ride possibly; I just have never seen it.

Another fascinating aspect of my adventure was seeing all of the changes to the rides of the past. We moved to “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Now, the creation of the movie was based on the original ride. Now . . .  the ride has elements of Davey Jones (I don’t remember those), and Captain Jack Sparrow made several appearances (definitely new). The ride has now catered to the demographic of the movie watcher.

The “Submarine Voyage” (short line – 30 minutes) was changed to reflect “Nemo”, the fish-based story. Kinda neat as I stared closely out of the small portal window. How do they do that effect?

Another thing that has changed recently was the firework display (9:30pm daily). This may have changed long ago, but I don’t know if I’ve been there in the evening recently (past 15 years). The display was entirely simulcast to music and literally was executed (launched) from every corner of the park. I would here a small explosion from behind me, while walking around, and flares would cross in the middle of the sky. I thought it looked like it was something from the “Shock and Awe” while bombing Iraq. Very cool! Bad-ass firework display!!! The best I’ve ever seen!

I did eat at one restaurant and had some pretty good food. The Hungry Bear Restaurant was way in the back past Splash Mountain. I saw they had a “fried green tomato sandwich”. I’ve never had a fried green tomato and the sandwich had other interesting flavors to complete the nosh. Things like Havarti cheese and some kind of remoulade. I thought it to be quite delicious. The sandwich came served with the best sweet potato fries I’ve had. I don’t normally order sweet potato fries because I find them to frequently be about the same. These were crispy and flavorful. Other stuff ordered on the table we claimed to be just “ok” by the other party members. Things like a hamburger and a turkey sandwich. I guess when your level of expectation is unknown (heck, I wasn’t going to order anything), things can go pretty well. Then again, I’ve learned that my expectation is often times where I set my standard in which to CritDick.

There were a couple great shows that I watched. Fantasmic was a nighttime show featuring many different aspects of theatrical production. I was watching the staff set things up before hand. The fantastic sailing ship was being rigged for swinging pirates and the pyrotechnic were being placed along the water by flack-vest wielding specialists. Having a strong industrial safety background I carefully watched each worker to see if they were in compliance. They really ensured each worker operated safely . . . fall protection, head protection and even waders for the pyro guys that got into the water for securing the rigs. By the way, the show was very good. Sound was amazing!

It’s not everyday I go to Disneyland, and I don’t know that I’ll every return. Having lived in Southern California almost my entire life, I used to regularly frequent the theme park. Now as an adult and having older children, I have come to realise . . . I hate theme parks!

As the day progressed I began to have an understanding of what it meant to be in the hospitality business. I began to realize, but I know I could never really fathom the breadth of the operation that entails running this operation. Everything from security, stage setup, food operations, menu design and execution, safety, technology . . . the list could go on for a while. Just think about the employees’ training to “be nice” at all cost. Maybe that’s why they call it “The Happiest Place On Earth”. Smiles everyone . . . Smiles!

All in all a long day. I wasn’t that friggin happy, and I spent a butt-load of money. Heck, $15 bucks just to park off site. Why don’t they just charge me the entire $20. Not like $5 bucks is going to buy me anything other than a $3.50 bottle of water.

Smiles everyone . . . Smiles!



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