John Cawley's

DISNEYLAND: Tail Wags & Tail Tucks

I worked at Disneyland from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s. Ever since then, I have found Disneyland to be one of the most pleasant, innovative, imaginative places ever devised. I can spend all day just wandering around and looking at things, watching people, and of course smiling at the characters.

Over the years, many things have changed. This includes the adding of a new land (ToonTown), revisions of several lands (Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, etc.), new rides (Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, etc), and even a new park (California Adventure). Some changes were for the better, more often they were changes for the worse, or perhaps just less better.

Folks often ask me what are the things to do and to miss. So it was suggested I put together a page of suggestions. Rachel thought of using our kid's as a rating. So things that are fun, cost effective or just worth checking into get a tail wag. Things that should be avoided are given a tucked tail (and run).
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Friendly Fried Food: Tail Wag
UPDATE 8.29.06 - This place has gotten even better! Ate there today and found that the strips have been replaced by large pieces of white meat, almost a total boneless breast! And the sauces are now in their own sealed container for fresheness and neatness. Now, the four piece meal is almost too big for one of us. And still for under $8!
Found a nice fast food place in California Adventure - Strips, Dips & Chips. It specializes in fried food - chicken strips, fish sticks and mozerella sticks. Their are two sizes, and each comes with fries and a choice of sauce. The chicken strips have been quite good, and we usually save a few bites for our kids in the kennel. The fish strips are also good. The fries are really nice. The combos (sticks and fries) start around $7 and are a good fast food that you can sit and eat, or walk around the Parks and enjoy. Tried the funnel cake once, and it was a bit greasy. On our last visit, we found almost the same menu at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Saloon. [2.5.06]

Tasty BBQ Ribs: Tail Wag
Found another nice food place in California Adventure - Taste Pilot's Grill. It has a menu of barbeque ribs and burgers. We had the 5-ribs and fries and it was enough for both of us! The bbq sauce is very good. Not spicy, not sugary. The ribs were quite meaty, and the frys were well done. Total meal was $12.49, not bad for two. It also has a computerized ordering system that worked well. It even accepts the passholder for discounts. Quite impressive, even if it did reduce the need for staff positions. [8.13.06]

Monster Fun: Tail Wag
Have now taken several "spins" on the new Monster Inc ride in California Adventure. Often called, "where's boo", the attraction is a simple ride in which guests are guided through various scenes in cars. However, unlike more recent "rides" like the Pinocchio or Pooh attractions, this one has a number of clever ideas and visual tricks. As mentioned, have been through several times and enjoy it each time. From the cue in which there are various funny Monster ads, posters, machines, and such (including a vending machine that has a snack entitled "Sugar and Fat") to the little things you keep noticing on the ride, this is generally a fun time. [8.13.06]

Nixed Names: Tail Tuck
For the past year, we have noticed a spreading trend throughout the embroidery and etching shops. If you want to put a name on a hat, badge, shirt, whatever, you had better have ID. Yes, they Parks are stating they cannot do "nicknames" for tags. This is really sad. A few years back, we had a name tag made for Star, our foundation girl. Last year, when the 50th anniversary name tags were showing up, we decided to get one for another of our kids. Since the name did not sound "standard", the shop asked for ID. Thinking it was a fluke, we thought little of it. But several times now, we have attempted to get our nicknames put onto badges and hats. And have always been refused. The rule seems to be a way to combat rude names or gang issues. But it is really a sad day when you can't get your nickname put on a hat. [8.13.06]

Astro Orbitor: Tail Tuck
Tomorrowland's Astro Orbitor. This is the butt-ugly attraction at the opening of Tomorrowland. (When Disney announced the opening of Disneyland, he specifically commented on how the opening to the future was clear so guests could all the way to the end. Not so anymore.) Anyway, we finally took a spin on this disaster. While in line, I admit I giggled at some of the larger guests trying to squeeze into the little astrology-marked Orbitor rockets. However, when it was our turn I was shocked to discover how poorly designed the rocket's interior was. Rachel, being taller, sat in the back. With her spine against the seat back, her feet reached to the front of the interior! I squeezed in, ending up partially on her lap and partially on her leg! The seat belt barely held me in, and it was a struggle to hold on to our backpack. We both figured the rocket was best suited for one medium-small adult and one small child. Period! How they could be loading two adults or one adult and two kids in a single unit was astounding... and most likely a bit hazardous. The ride, itself, was somewhat typical of the rocket-ring type. But the up-down motion was quite jerky and made for a ride that could easily be a stomach churner. Generally, this attraction is quite deceptive. Despite a childlike "Toon Town" appearance, it is most uncomfortable both in sitting and in motion. Ugh! [1.9.06]

Nights at Disneyland: Tail Tuck
There was a time when nights at Disneyland were a truely wonderful experience. The park was beautifully lighted. The outside attractions all take on a new glow. A fireworks show always ended the evening. It could be quite romantic. Not anymore. A recent nightly visit reminded us of why we don't do the park at night anymore. Thanks to Fantasmic, parades and mega-fireworks, the park is a jumble of one way stretches, closed sections and crowd non-control. Basically, Fantasmic and the parades cause the main walkways in all lands by Tomorrowland and Fantasyland to become congested with folks trying to get to or from the events. You have ropes up all over the place and park employees out with flashlights trying to direct traffic. It becomes almost impossible to get around. Then, because of the huge fireworks, and the possible falling of sparks, sections all over the park including Small World and Fantasyland close up. Again, the result is dead ends and traffic jams. It all becomes frustrating, and so 'anti-Disney'. After all, the initial design of the park was to make traffic flow effecient. Now, nights at Disneyland have no flow... and much less fun.[12.28.05]

Turtle Talk: Tail Wag
This new attraction at California Adventure is actually cute. An interactive experience, it features a host who helps Crush (the surfer turtle in FINDING NEMO) talk to the audience. Crush is controlled by someone behind the screen who does dialogue and controls the movement. We have seen the show four times and each time has a number of variations from the chatter of Crush to the seqence of events to the (obvious) questions from the audience. Some "Crushes" are better than others, but the show is always pleasant. I have heard some folks claim the show is a bit 'youth' oriented, but it is easily as entertaining as such things as the old Country Bears show. Fact is, it is a fun rest from crowds, heat and sore feet. As Crush might say, "Totally sweet." [12.28.05]

Pin Trading: Tail Wag
One of the best ideas Disneyland has had since Walt created it. Begun several years ago at Walt Disney World, pin trading is now a key attraction at all the parks. We probably spend half our time checking lanyards and changing pin for pin for pin. We don't really collect, we just do it for fun. It gives you a break for the crowds and lines (usually) and a chance to chat with some of the cast members. We have found some real rare ones. And we do have several display areas at home for our favorites. Some folks take this very seriously, but if you just do it for fun, you will have it. It is also a great thing for the kids. Considering for the price of a lanyard with pins, usually around $25, you can trade all day, any day, it is one of the best bargains in the Park. [6.12.05]

Fantasmic Waste of Time: Tail Tuck
Though this spectacle, a good name for it, has been going on for years, I only got a chance to catch it recently. To see this event, one must endure huge crowds milling around the Rivers of America. What one gets for all this waiting is a show featuring film clips projected on fog, some costume characters, faulty audio and then a tidal wave of people exiting. How this bloated presentation has survived for so many years is a real puzzle. I cannot imagine word of mouth is positive. True, the robotic dragon is quite a nice piece of technology. But even it cannot make this sows ear into a silk purse. A friend of mine, who actually worked with Walt Disney, once stated the show was definitely "interesting, but something Walt would hate." I'd like to think that Walt would have had better sense than the folks who put this together. The only good thing about Fantasmic is that it draws a lot of crowd away from other park attractions. [6.12.05]

Sourdough - Pacific Wharf Cafe: Tail Wag
Food can always get a bit costly at the Magic Kingdom. But we have this place a real oasis. Attached to the Boudin Bakery tour, this spot offers a variety of sourdough meals. If it is a warm day, a loaf of the bread is only around $4.50 with butter and easily fills Rachel and I up. Sitting at a table, while we tear apart the bread is a nice break in the day. And leftovers can be nibbled on the rest of the trip. Their cheese and broccoli filled sourdough is also nice and under $8. Only 'tuck' is their deserts. Most are pretty dry and bland. [6.12.05]

Taffy Trouble: Tail Tuck
While at California Adventure, we bought a box of the taffy and upon tasting demanded our money back. It was dry and tasted awful. One of the worst things I have ever tasted at either park. This is a case of things taking a turn for the worse. As recently as the late 1990s, Disneyland made their own taffy and sold it in the candy shop on Main Street. The taffy was displayed in glass cases. You could make a bag of a single flavor, a few of your favorites or simply buy a pre-bagged assortment. This was some of the best taffy around. Soft. Smooth. Delicate of flavor. In those days we would often buy an extra bag to take home, or several bags as gifts for family and friends. It was that good. After the bad experience at California Adventure, we were really looking forward to getting some of "the good stuff" at Disneyland. It was on a recent trip we found the glass cases empty. All the store had was the pre-boxed garbage. When we asked the clerks, they stated several years ago the studio stopped making it themselves and importing it for both Disneyland and Disney World. One clerk stated she was new to the store and did not know about the old taffy. However, she said not a day goes by when someone complains about the loss of the old taffy. [6.12.05]

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text and format John Cawley