Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Why Western River Went South" by Jim Hill Media

A while back I linked to one part of a series on Jim Hill Media, titled "Why Western River Went South". I was looking for links to the proposed theme park development in St. Louis that Disney considered, then dropped, before putting all the corporate eggs into the Florida basket.

The discussion in that segment that interested me in that post was mostly about how they would have built a cold weather, indoor amusement park along St. Louis' riverfront. But today I went back and reread it, and realized that there was an incredible story that I had just touched upon by reading that post. It was the story of an attraction called Western River Expedition, the brainchild of Imagineering Legend Marc Davis, that never got built.

Today I read the entire article (I had a long period of inactivity at work) and found it to be very interesting. It's in ten parts, and there is quite a lot of detail in the story.

I'm linking to the "search" page on the Jim Hill Media site where you can see all nine parts, and go from one to the other. The parts are not listed in order, so remember which one you just read before you go back to look for your next target.

Give it a read if you have a bit of time and haven't read this already.

"Why Western River Went South", Jim Hill Media


A Visit to Michigan's Adventure Amusement Park

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we decided to take a quick jaunt to Michigan. We enjoy the southwest corner of the state, with its quaint towns and beaches, attractions and especially the wineries. We usually seem to end up there at least once a year, and this was our first trip to the area of 2009.

This year we decided to go a little further north along the Lake Michigan coast to Muskegon, Michigan. We didn't find much around Muskegon to recommend it as a destination, but our real purpose for going that far north was to visit Michigan's Adventure Amusement Park, which our kids were excited about doing.

Michigan's Adventure is one of the Cedar Fair parks, which include Cedar Point, King's Island, and Knott's Berry Farm among others. I've never been to any of their other parks, though I've heard really good things about Cedar Point (in Sandusky, Ohio) and Knott's Berry Farm (near Anaheim, California). It was, on this Sunday before Memorial Day, very uncrowded. Almost all the attractions had no wait, the lone exception being the Shivering Timbers wooden rollercoaster. (Once was enough for me on it, anyway. It shook so much that I had a headache and a neck ache when I got off it.) They have several coasters, none overly large. Their biggest (besides maybe Shivering Timbers) appeared to be a suspended coaster called Thunderhawk. There were several others, including the Wolverine Wildcat, the Corkscrew, Zack's Zoomer, one called the Mad Mouse (not running when we were there) and a kiddie one called the Big Dipper.

There was also a nice selection of other rides, including a Ferris Wheel, a swing ride, a driving ride, a whitewater raft ride, a log ride, and a whole bunch of spinning rides. They also feature a nice water park which is included in your admission, with plenty of slides and tube rides, a lazy river, and three wave pools.

The park was very clean, and there were a whole bunch of employees running around, including security and lots of management types. One sit down restaurant (a counter service place) was in the park, and plenty of other little stands and carts to buy food and drinks, including "Dippin' Dots". At $25.00 per person admission (less $3.00 per person because of a coupon we found in one of the brochures we picked up at the Michigan Welcome Center) with a parking fee of $8.00, I wondered how they can be profitable, especially if crowds like Sunday's are normal for a good part of the year.

I could see going back to this park on our next visit to southwest Michigan. Combined with attractions in Saugatauk and Holland, and with Warren Dunes State Park and Beach and all the wineries and shops, it wouldn't be difficult to fill up a week in the area.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

D23 membership stuff arrives...

I got my D23 magazine and my "special perk" today in the mail. It's the summer magazine; I'm going to run to the Disney Store tonight and see if they have any of the first issue left. I haven't had a chance to look at it in depth, but it looks nice on the flip through.

My special gift is a fan. It says it's a "souvenir of Disneyland", copyrighted by Walt Disney Productions, 1955. It suggests that I'm in for "acres of fun"! That's good, I guess. Among the attractions pictured on the fold-out blades of the fan are the Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Tropical River Ride (looks sorta like Jungle Cruise?), the Casey, Jr. Ride, the Pirate Ship, the Clock of the World (and Rocket to the Moon), the Mark Twain River Boat Ride, Astrojet (Fly-It-Yourself), the Skyway Ride, the Stage Coach Ride, and the Canal Boat Ride (Storybookland Boats).

I was hoping for something a little more ... collectible ... but this is kind of cool. We'll see whether this membership is worth the price. Only one way to find out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Off Topic - CD by Jeff Boyle

I know it's not really Disney-related, but remember, I reserved the right to occasionally post something about an non-Disney topic.

My friend Jeff Boyle has released his 5th CD, titled DOWNTOWN. It's a collection of adult contemporary music demonstrating the varied and various influences on Jeff's songwriting. From the rocking EDISON WATCHED TV to the melancholy YOU DON'T PICK UP, it is a hook filled album of songs that I find myself humming at odd times.

If anyone is interested in checking this out, here's the link.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom

I touched on the comparison in a blog post entitled Compare and Contrast a few weeks ago, but thought it might make some sense to elaborate on the differences. Magic Kingdom is much bigger.

Other than that, Disneyland beats Florida's flagship park hands down, I believe. Oh, Florida has things to recommend it. The Carousel of Progress is really fun. I don't know why really, but both of my kids love it. And I appreciate it and what it represents for Disney, and I value the connection to Walt himself. We also really enjoy the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, with its slow paced tour of Tomorrowland.

I have to give the edge to California, however, on Fantasylands. I am amazed that they fit as much as they do into such a small space. Storybookland, Alice in Wonderland, Mr Toad, the Casey train ride, and Pinocchio's Daring Journey are all only found in Disneyland. Florida does have Winnie the Pooh, (which is in the California park but not in Fantasyland, and which I've not ridden there) and Mickey's Philharmagic (a major plus for Florida), but otherwise, there isn't much comparison - Disneyland wins the battle.

I don't much care where things are placed. I have read "complaints" (mild, but still offered as negative criticism) that the placement of Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad so close together in Frontierland at the MK is not ideal, but to me, who experienced the Magic Kingdom much more than, and prior to, Disneyland, the separate nature of the rides in California feels odd. I will say, however, that the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor seems really out of place in Tomorrowland, and that I don't like the Stitch attraction at all, but that's got more to do with theming than with location.

Pirates of the Caribbean is, hands down, better in California than in Florida. The Castle is better in Florida, so much more imposing. It's the first one I saw, so it remains the gold standard for me. The train ride around the park is better in California, if only because of those dioramas between Tomorrowland and the Main Street Station. There's no Matterhorn in Florida, so even though I think the rollercoaster itself doesn't hold a candle to something like, oh, say, Expedition Everest, we're not including Animal Kingdom for the sake of this comparison. Advantage California again.

The ride on Space Mountain in California is better, though that may change after this refurbishment that is going on in Florida. Disneyland has Indiana Jones with its theming and exciting ride, Florida has nothing really like it in the Magic Kingdom. Florida has the Country Bear Jamboree, which is fun, but, well, sort of old. California has the Nemo Subs, which might not be as good as the old 20K Leagues, but is still better than the nothing offered in its place in Florida. And the Aladdin Flying Carpets are nothing to get too excited about in Florida. A time filler that loads and unloads quicker than Dumbo (which both parks have).

Florida has Tony's, the Crystal Palace, the Princess thing in the Castle, and a handful of good counter service options for dining. California has the Blue Bayou, which has a very cool atmosphere, and a couple other table service offerings. I like the food choices at Tony's better, but have to admit that there isn't a huge advantage to the Magic Kingdom. In fact, I think Disneyland might have more offerings for table service, but I'm not sure. When in California we've generally eaten outside the parks.

Toontown in California is much, much better than its counterpart in Florida. Enough said.

The smaller size makes Disneyland feel very crowded, whether it is or isn't. (I think that both times I've been there, it actually WAS quite crowded.) This isn't as big of a negative as one might otherwise think.

Advantage overall: Disneyland. In fact, I don't think it's even close.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Port Disney - blog post from Progress City

FutureProbe pointed out this very interesting post at the Progress City blog, on the never built West Coast park originally known as Port Disney, which would have been built in Long Beach California.

Instead of building this gate, Disney focused on building Westcot, which morphed into Disney's California Adventure. When you look at this article, you can't help but pine over what might have been. Well, I couldn't help but do that, anyway.

Thanks to Futureprobe for pointing me to this post.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Paleofuture blog entry - Art from Horizons

There is a very cool post on the Paleofuture blog with an image of future "city in space". The image is concept art of a circular (toroidal?) world, sort of like the "free worlds" described by Isaac Asimov in his book Extraterrestrial Civilizations, based on the world of physicist Freeman Dyson.

Take a look if you haven't already. I personally think this would be a very cool concept to base a future Tomorrowland redo around.