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Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Fantasyland Pt. 1

Fantasyland is perhaps the happiest place in Disneyland. It was definitely my favorite land in the park, with an amazing number of classic rides--some of which are one-of-a-kind, of course--and that wonderful Disney band organ music coming from the carousel. This post will skip the Fantasyland dark rides, which will be covered in the next post.
Now that our trip is months in the past, I've forgotten about some of the pictures I took, like this shot of pretty clouds behind Sleeping Beauty Castle.
With pathways running through the castle to Tomorrowland and Frontierland, Fantasyland feels closely connected to the rest of the park.
The Snow White Wishing Well seemed to be overlooked by many guests. It's another peaceful spot that makes Disneyland special.
We saw many roaming characters during our five days at the park. I'm very happy that visiting Disneyland is still spontaneous in some ways, even after the pandemic.
I love the little gardens and old rockwork making up the quaint moat of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Although I know some people are not fans of its new paint job, you can't complain about it not standing out against the sky. 
Looking at all of the carefully trimmed hedges around Fantasyland, I wondered about the hundreds of hours put in by the park's horticulture and maintenance teams that go unnoticed by most people on a day-to-day basis. It's cool to think that this side of the castle was originally intended to face Main St.!
Early morning in Fantasyland is really something special. With most of the crowds off at the E-Ticket attractions, I rode every darkride and Casey Jr. in almost less than an hour one day.
It's hard not to miss Tinker Bell's zipline coming from the Matterhorn! I don't know how she avoids this narrow collision with the carrousel tent every night.
I like that these merchandise stands use duplicates of a few of the horse heads on the carrousel.
I took this picture from the Mr. Toad queue line, and the worker in a blue shirt is going to attend to an URGENT maintenance issue. He's hauling butt.
Although the King Arthur Carrousel horses have been heavily modified, the ride is an amazing amalgamation of different carousel artists, like this astounding work of master carver Daniel Muller.
While the Storybook Land Canal Boats is uniquely stuck in the past (for the most part), this low-capacity ride has more charm than you'll find in an entire Six Flags park.
I'm amazed how Disneyland experiences like the journey through Monstro's mouth were directly experienced by Walt Disney... yet simple things like this have had a profound impact on millions of people.
Riders enter the dark cavern of Monstro's mouth, and some never return.
I was surprised that they still allow kids to sit on the bow of the boat.
If you couldn't tell, I absolutely adored Storybook Land, including Casey Jr.
This quick jaunt through Storybook Land has to be one of the most carefree rides in the park, with that wonderful upbeat soundtrack.
It's cool to think that these cars were originally created using molds of the original Carrousel chariots.
"Wild Animals..." such a classic!
Even though there's hardly a guest who has heard of the Silly Symphony that inspired the floral patchwork quilt, Disneyland still keeps it looking immaculate, much to their credit.
I took two rides on Casey Jr, one in the rear of the train. Of course, I had to closely inspect the lift hill mechanism near the start of the ride.
The forced perspective of the Sleeping Beauty Castle model just doesn't work when you're this close to it.
A canal boat guide is in training in this shot. Any attraction with a live tour guide has to be a great ride to work.
I'd love to know the care put into the landscaping around these models daily. I've seen the videos of Disneyland Paris' Storybook Land where they're not taken care of well, and things can certainly go downhill fast.
A mutant duck is wreaking havoc on London Park!
Once again, the Mad Tea Party is slightly different from the Magic Kingdom version, but those little differences make it so much better. The vines covering the ride, the abundance of lanterns, and the variety of delightful paint schemes are all improvements over the Magic Kingdom's steel pavilion.
I love the pastels, and the work it takes to keep them looking this good is definitely overlooked by most people.
I also couldn't pass up on the ride that sparked legions of imitators, Dumbo the Flying Elephant. I took a ride near closing at midnight, and it gave me a great perspective on the atmospheric lighting of Fantasyland. (Nighttime photos will be the focus of the final post in this series!)
I do have one complaint about Dumbo though. They should get rid of that ugly fountain around the base of the ride. I fell into it four separate times while I was getting in and out of my elephant.
The Motor Boat Cruise loading station remains, a ghost of Fantasyland's past. I entered the dock and sat down with a smile on my face for a few minutes, taking time to reflect on the once-great attraction that called this area home. Then I promptly stood up and left.
"it's a small world" is peeking through the greenery, but you'll have to wait until the next post, when we'll cover it and the rest of the Fantasyland dark rides. I still have a lot of great images left to share!

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Knott's Berry Farm Pt. 2

The Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride were my two most anticipated rides at Knott’s. It was surreal seeing the iconic fa├žade of the Mine Ride for the first time, with the trains winding their way through the mountain.

This wheel bearing the name of Bud Hurlbut must be original or at least close to it, and it’s cool to know that you can still see the signature of a person who was so important to Knott’s history.
A few weeks after my visit, one of the trains had a bad derailment as it sped out of the finale scene. Luckily the ride reopened after only a few days.
As the train squeaked its way through this one-of-a-kind ride, I was amazed by how the interior felt modern thanks to the upgrades made in 2014 by Garner Holt Productions. The ride system, though, is wonderfully antiquated, all the way through to the flip-down seat on the car doors.
I love the rickety lift hill (which I’m sure has frightened many unsuspecting kids over the years… is this a roller coaster??) that ends in the awe-inspiring cavern scene. It's just as effective now as it had to have been decades ago.
The Timber Mountain Log Ride was by far my favorite ride at Knott’s. Riding it for the first time is one of my favorite memories of the entire trip. The first drop into the dark, waterfall-filled cave isn’t replicated in any video online, and I loved the catchy soundtrack added for the ride’s 50th anniversary.
I rode the flume three times, and this ride is pretty much worth the price of admission by itself!
One thing I found humorous about the Log Ride is the loud noise the log makes on the final drop, like an obnoxious zipper. No other log flume has that sound… if you know, you know!
The new Knott’s Bear-y Tales ride was enjoyable if a bit chaotic. I understand that darkrides that rely on atmosphere like the original Bear-y Tales are not as marketable today, but there are a few practical sets inside that go beyond the mayhem-filled screens left over from the former Voyage to the Iron Reef attraction.
The Thunder Cave sequence feels more vintage than anything else, and I think this scene may even be located in the same place as it was in the original ride, running along the back of the show building.
The exterior, queue, and surrounding area of the ride are all very well-themed. Knott’s did a good job of recreating a sliver of the old Roaring 20s themed area.
Coming out of the arcade that sits at the exit to Bear-y Tales, the neighboring gift shop has a great selection of merchandise on many niche subjects of the park’s history. I love that they use a former ride vehicle from the Wacky Soap Box Racers roller coaster as a display table.
The marquee of the Walter Knott/Charles M. Schultz Theater isn't real neon anymore, but it still dazzles at night. There weren't any shows here when I visited, but there was a roaming performer with a bike-mounted piano in front of the theater.
The biggest disappointment of my trip to Knott’s was that Montezooma’s Revenge had closed a few months earlier. I have always wanted to ride a classic shuttle loop, and Montezooma is the last one operating in America. When it reopens next year, it will be a completely updated experience, but it’s impressive that Knott’s was able to keep an old-school flywheel launch operating for more than 40 years.
The ride's loop had already been removed to be replaced when I was there in July, but the mouth of the dragon on the marquee was still slowly opening and closing, just to make me jealous.
Elsewhere in Fiesta Village, the Happy Sombrero ride is absolutely delightful, and the intricate paint schemes on the cars are really cool.
Jaguar! (the coaster with an unnecessary exclamation point) had the worst operations of any coaster I’ve ever ridden. A mass of people would come up the exit ramp, and the operator would say over the microphone that “we are boarding Fast Lane and boarding passes on this train.” The train would fill up except for two rows. “Opening gates.” BAM! The station gates would open. Four people would get on the train from the regular line. “Closing gates.” BAM! “Dispatch!” There has to be a better way to manage Fast Lane riders than that.
Xcelerator has been closed since March 2022, and it’s actually listed as “standing but not operating” on rcdb.com along with Montezooma’s Revenge. With the park recently investing in a full repaint, though, I can’t imagine that it will be removed any time soon.
The Dentzel menagerie carousel (meaning it has animals besides horses) was nice to see, especially given how Disney mutilates their carousels by replacing the legs of the standing horses. ;-) This patriotic Dentzel stander is similar to a figure I saw at the New England Carousel Museum, which I attached a picture of below. 
Though no two hand-carved carousel figures are exactly the same, designs were often copied from a master carver during mass production.
I made sure to not forget Independence Hall on the other side of the road, where we met up with a friend who knows a lot about Knott’s history. This musty old museum is a really peaceful respite in one of the busiest theme parks in the world.
It was sad that only a few people were touring Independence Hall on a day when the park was packed, but I'm happy that Cedar Fair continues to operate this important part of Knott's history.
I’ve been to the real Independence Hall and seen the actual Liberty Bell, but the version at Knott’s is way better, including the audio presentation in the assembly room. :-)
This is one of the last pieces of the original perimeter fence that Walter Knott built to keep out the "hippies," apparently!
I understand the hype about California sunsets now. I took this shot from the stairs up to Silver Bullet.
I love that they brought back the mission dioramas, a wonderful reminder of how Knott's used to be. I followed the story of their restoration on Yesterland.com with great interest years ago.
We did take a ride up in the Sky Cabin (in the background of this shot), and it was perhaps the only ride in the park with a short line. I took a bunch of pictures, but none of them are particularly worth sharing because of the fogged-up glass.
The dramatic lighting on the Mine Ride and Log Ride really helps this old rockwork shine.
That concludes our whirlwind trip of the rest of Knott's Berry Farm. I may have skipped some things, but I only included the best pictures out of the several hundred I took. Sorry to keep you waiting, but in the next post, we'll finally reach the happiest land of them all, Disneyland's Fantasyland.