Tokyo Disney Sea Photo Report

After looking around Tokyo Disneyland in earlier photo report, I’m now going to show some of what Tokyo Disney Sea has to offer.

The sea is something that is an important aspect of Japanese life, being that the nation is an island surrounded by water.  Using that as an underlying theme to tie the various sections of Tokyo Disney Sea is both clever and meaningful.  As we continue to lose theme in many of the other Disney “theme parks,” makes Tokyo Disney Sea more than just a collection of rides and attractions.

BTBTDS01At the entrance to the park is a giant rotating globe called the Aquasphere.  While it is an impressive icon onto itself, for the 15th anniversary of Tokyo Disney Sea, they created a gigantic ship with the Disney characters that actually dwarfs the Aquasphere.  It’s am impressive display for a singular event.

BTBTDS02To enter the park, you actually go under the Hotel Mira Costa, which is inside the park boundaries.  There are an assortment of shops on the ground level, making this entrance much like the more-traditional Main Street.  Note that there is more anniversary decor with banners and such to announce the celebration.

BTBTDS03Once inside the park proper, you come across a massive body of water.  Mediterranean Harbor represents the grand scope that Tokyo Disney Sea offers.  Being performed is the summer entertainment, “Minnie’s Tropical Splash,” a 20-minute show that features music and massive streams of water.  Fantasmic is performed in the Mediterranean Harbor at night.

BTBTDS04The “wienie” of Tokyo Disney Sea is Mt. Prometheus, a giant erupting volcano that houses the Journey Into the Center of the Earth attraction.  It is visible from every one of the ports of call that make up Tokyo Disney Sea.  At its base in this picture is the Fortress Exploration, a full-size fortress that is like Tom Sawyer Island on steroids.

BTBTDS05You actually pass through the mountain to get into the Mysterious Island section of the park.  I loved the steampunk vibe of the area complete with Nautilus submarine.  One thing that struck me about this section of the park was the absence of background music, though there was an industrial buzz about the place.

BTBTDS06Did I mention that Mt. Prometheus erupts?  It’s a really cool effect and one that I would be surprised to find in a stateside Disney theme park that has trouble to maintain or a desire for cost-cutting of such an impressive throwaway.

BTBTDS07There was plenty of 15th anniversary decor around the park to indicate that they were celebrating the milestone.  This marker was located across from the Mermaid Lagoon section of Tokyo Disney Sea.

BTBTDS08Mermaid Lagoon is impressive day or night.  Night shots are more difficult, however, because of the ban of traditional tripods throughout the Tokyo Disney Resort.  I’ve always loved nighttime at Disney theme parks and Tokyo Disney Sea delivers.

BTBTDS09Day or night, the inside of Mermaid Lagoon always looks like you’ve gone under the sea.  It’s basically a giant warehouse filled with aquatic-themed attractions, a theater, eatery and shops.  This was a nice respite from the rainy day we encountered on our visit and was a hit with the littlest member of our traveling party.

BTBTDS10One of the rooms inside Mermaid Lagoon was Ariel’s Grotto, pretty much a life-size replica of Ariel’s secret hiding spot in the movie, complete with thingamabobs and dinglehoppers.

BTBTDS11Perhaps my favorite area of Tokyo Disney Sea was the Arabian Coast.  Again, impressive in size, decor and upkeep, it could easily have been a theme park unto itself and yet here it was as only one part of a more massive theme park.

BTBTDS12Under the dome is a double-Decker carousel.  Though not necessarily an E-Ticket ride of its own, the size and scope of it set it apart from any other carousel I’ve ever visited.  My favorite of the ride characters was the Genie from “Aladdin.”

BTBTDS13Perhaps I like the Arabian Coast the most because it was also the home of my favorite attraction, Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage.  A combination of Pirates of the Caribbean and it’s a small world with an ear bug of a theme song, it was a great attraction that everyone in the family could enjoy.

BTBTDS14And though it looks like we’ve gone into some jungle in Central America, it is only the Lost River Delta section of Tokyo Disney Sea.  This pyramid hosts the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull.  Like several attractions at Tokyo Disney Sea, it shares the basic ride infrastructure with other Disney parks but with its own particular theming and storyline.

BTBTDS15In Port Discovery was the Aquatopia, a fun, little trackless ride that piloted you around various obstacles in the water.  While it looks like you are in deep water, it is only several inches deep.  We laughed at the fact that they cranked the wetness level up to absolutely soak guests in the summer heat.

BTBTDS16The American Waterfront at Tokyo Disney Sea featured two sections.  This one was themed to Cape Cod and was the home of Duffy, the Disney Bear, and his friends.

BTBTDS17The other section was the New York Harbor and was just absolutely amazing in its scope with full-size cruise liners, bridges, docks, etc.  In the background is their version of the Tower of Terror, though not themed to “The Twilight Zone.”

BTBTDS18Probably the most popular attraction at Tokyo Disney Sea was Toy Story Mania.  A FastPass attraction that was out of tickets early in the day, wait times were more than an hour and a half to ride this one attraction that really is a clone of its American counterparts.  Though the entrance through Woody’s mouth is both cool and creepy.

BTBTDS19And back at the entrance to Tokyo Disney Sea was the Venetian-inspired architecture of the Mediterranean Harbor, complete with gondola rides.  This area was home to Gelatoni, an artistic cat friend of Duffy the Disney Bear.

Many call Tokyo Disney Sea the best Disney theme park in the world and it is hard to disagree.  I think I still prefer the original Disneyland and even Epcot more but Tokyo Disney Sea is beautiful, massively scaled and yet intimately detailed.  We only had a couple of hours of non-cloudy and rainy weather, which is too bad because it is a place screaming to be photographed.

Traveling internationally may not be for everyone but I’m glad that I had the chance to go to Japan itself and the Tokyo Disney Resort specifically.  I would seriously consider another trip there as much as I would consider a trip to Walt Disney World at this point.  And it’s been really hard being back to visit Disneyland and comparing cleanliness and maintenance levels, which really are unmatched as part of Japanese culture vs. American culture.

Hope you enjoyed my very limited photo tours of two amazing places!

Tokyo Disneyland Photo Report

On our last Beyond the Berm podcast, we talked extensively about my trip to the Tokyo Disneyland Resort.  I could easily have continued on for much longer than the hour I covered because there aren’t enough words to convey what it is like to be there.  In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the photos I took around Tokyo Disneyland.  Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, these images also cannot showcase the wonder that is Tokyo Disneyland.  Truly, if you’re interested in a potential visit and have the means to do so, go.  But until then, enjoy these pictures.

TDLEntranceThe entrance to Tokyo Disneyland is unlike entrances to the two domestic Disney parks.  There’s no elevated train surrounding the park with a Main Street Station to walk under.  In fact, there is no Main Street.  Here is their version of the Mickey floral and beyond the entrance into World Bazaar.

WorldBazaar2For all intents and purposes, World Bazaar is Main Street USA.  Same types of shopping and dining that might be found in Disneyland or Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom but with some subtle differences.  Notice the lack of tracks running down the middle of the road because there are no horse-drawn streetcars.  No vehicular traffic of any sort actually.  And the most distinguishing feature is the glass canopy overhead, which is helpful on rainy or even snowy days.

WorldBazaar3Another view of World Bazaar showing typical “Main Street” activities of balloon selling and band performances.  Perhaps there is a more elegant way to have a covering over this section of the park but it certainly is unique.  In addition to a straight-away to the main hub, there are also side streets taking you into the Adventureland and Tomorrowland areas.

CinderellaCastleTokyo Disneyland shares Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle.  It’s large and impressive, as is the entire Tokyo Disneyland park.  In the forecourt, there is tons of seating for performances in front of the castle, which have to be won via lottery.

SummerFestivalTokyo Disneyland has quite a bit of seasonal entertainment and decoration.  The banners and lanterns were part of their Summer Festival.

SummerFestival2These full-sized displays were quite popular with guests wanting to take their picture in front of them.  I like them because, with Cinderella Castle in the background, they gave a nice sense that you were someplace other than Walt Disney World.

PoohsHunnyHuntI’ve been hearing for ages about Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and its trackless ride system.  It is quite impressive and the “cute” factor that the Japanese love make it a popular ride.  I know they weren’t working with the same space (or budget) but Disneyland’s and Walt Disney World’s Winnie the Pooh rides definitely pale in comparison.

MonstersIncThe other truly unique attraction that is considered a must-see is Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek!  The queue for this place was awesome as it truly looked like you were preparing to visit Monsters Inc. headquarters and head towards the Scare Floor.  A cute ride and the interactive nature of using flashlights to activate figures is a nice touch.

SmallWorldAs I mentioned in the podcast, it’s a small world’s entry is somewhat of a hybrid of Disneyland’s and Walt Disney World’s.  There’s the iconic clock tower, complete with marching children, but the flume is inside the building where you load.

NOSGiving more of a deja vu feeling to Tokyo Disneyland is a replica of New Orleans Square, even though this section of the park is in Adventureland.  The Blue Bayou restaurant is like Disneyland’s as it overlooks the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.  Walt Disney World’s Castle?  Disneyland’s New Orleans Square?  In the same park?  Takes a bit of getting used to.

ROATDLTokyo Disneyland may not have a Main Street USA but they have a Rivers of America as part of their Westernland (not Frontierland).  In this picture is Tom Sawyer’s Island, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Mark Twain and the Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes.

MississippiAnd even though they don’t have a railroad around the perimeter of the park, there is a railroad within the park.  The Western River Railroad goes through Adventureland, Critter Country and Westernland.  It has only one station where you have to board and unload.  And it goes through Primeval World, like at Disneyland, though not the Grand Canyon diorama.

TrixieTokyo Disneyland also has the Country Bear Jamboree, though all the bears speak Japanese.  You haven’t lived until you hear Trixie sing “Achy Breaky Heart” in Japanese.  What was really impressive about Tokyo’s version, as with much of the parks, was that it was in pristine operating condition.  All the lights worked as intended, figures moved like they should and the sound system was flawless.

DreamLightsAnother familiar-yet-unfamiliar attraction was Tokyo Disneyland’s Dream Lights Electrical Parade.  Hands down the best parade I’ve seen at a Disney park.

GenieAnd perhaps most impressive of all the impressive floats was the Genie, whose LED lighting allowed him to turn multiple colors and into several other characters, such as Pinocchio, Mr. Incredible and others.

VendingMachineI mentioned that Japan is a vending machine-based society and to get bottled drinks at Tokyo Disneyland, you had to use a vending machine rather than buy them at an outdoor cart.  This one was outside of the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall in Fantasyland.  Well themed!

DumplingsWe enjoyed a lot of food offerings available at the Tokyo Disneyland Resort and these might have been our favorite — Little Green Alien mochi dumplings.  The outside is pounded rice and the insides were chocolate, strawberry and custard cream.  Very cute and delicious.

DearDannyI mentioned how the Japanese love their minor characters, especially animal friends.  In a store in World Bazaar, there was an entire display of “Dear Danny” merchandise.  Danny is a lamb from the little-seen Disney movie “So Dear to My Heart.”  The variety of merchandise was impressive, as was the fact that much of it was only available at specific locations rather than the same stuff at every store like we tend to see Stateside.

PrinceJohnAnd speaking of minor, or seldom-seen, characters, Chelsea and I couldn’t help but take my picture with Prince John from “Robin Hood.”  He, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Friar Tuck were all meeting guests at the front of the park.  I loved the Japanese love for these characters.

DuffyMonorailI had also mentioned that the monorails that took you around the resort were themed to different, for lack of a better word, promotions.  Though he’s never really caught on here in the U.S., Duffy and friends are huge at Tokyo Disneyland, as is evident from this Duffy-themed monorail.

TeddyBearPeltsAnd as I mentioned, the seats of the Duffy monorail are covered in teddy bear pelts.  Kathy and Chelsea are sitting on fluffy, furry and clean teddy bear pelts in the Shellie Mae section of the monorail.  I love the themed hand grips too for those that have to stand.  (And yes, the window is a silhouette of Mickey Mouse.)

Again, words and pictures don’t do Tokyo Disneyland justice.  The place truly is amazing.  I’ll post more pictures soon of Tokyo Disney Sea.

Where Is Beyond the Berm?

Recently, the Beyond the Berm World Headquarters has been flooded with calls, cards, and letters asking where we have gone. No, wait – those are just bills and junk mail.

But never fear – Beyond the Berm hasn’t fallen off the earth. That would be impossible, because we believe the earth is round and therefore with its gravity it is impossible to fall off of it. No matter how high we jump.

Anyway, Beyond the Berm is taking a bit of a break due to some interesting schedules that we are having right now. But we will return. Really. Just probably not for a few more weeks.

In the meantime, feel free to go back and listen to our past episodes. But don’t go backwards, because we think that we have gotten at least slightly better as we have gone on. So if you listen to the episodes in reverse order, you might think we are getting worse.

Sorry for the lack of new episodes lately. If you desert us, we understand. And if you dessert us, we like chocolate cake and ice cream.

Video: Recording a Podcast

The other day, I shared this video at Burnsland as part of the Burnsland Boring Video series. But because it is Beyond the Berm related, I thought I would share it here as well, just in case you don’t visit Burnsland very often.

Quite a while ago, this Behind the Scenes post revealed how we do things around here. And this video shows one side of that. Just in case you are curious.

But don’t worry – this video compresses a 50 minute podcast into about 30 seconds, thanks to time lapse photography. Because who would want to sit through a 50 minute video of me apparently talking to myself?


Program Alert: More Treasures from the Disney Vault on TCM

This Sunday, March 15, brings the second wave of Disney programming on Turner Classic Movies, or TCM as we usually call it, in their “Treasures from the Disney Vault” series.

This time around, the schedule includes “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” which of course is very fitting, since St. Patrick’s Day is two days later. Also included is the episode of the Disney television series “I Captured the King of the Leprechauns,” which features Walt Disney and Pat O’Brien giving a bit of backstory to Darby O’Gill. I have always enjoyed that show every bit as much as the movie that it is promoting – an effective way of using television to drum up business for a movie, something that Disney excelled at with their television shows.

darby ogill

Also included this time around are the short “Babes in the Woods,” the television episode “The Story of the Animated Drawing,” and the swashbuckling “The Fighting Prince of Donegul.”

But one of the other highlights of the evening is the recent documentary “Walt and El Grupo,” which examines the trip that Walt Disney and several of his artists made to South America, resulting in the movies “Saludos Amigos” and “The Three Caballeros.” And even better, “Walt and El Grupo” is preceded in the evening by “The Three Caballeros,” too.


Be sure to watch or set your DVR! For more information, check out the Treasures from the Disney Vault page on the TCM website.

runDisney Shots & Thoughts

Episode 49 featured a good amount of detail about my experience during the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.  I wanted to include a few select pictures of my trip around the world, in addition to a brief recap of my adventures the next weekend for the Star Wars Half Marathon.

WDWMarathonCastleOne of my goals was to run fast enough to get to the Magic Kingdom before dawn so that the Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle would still be lit and visible.  Running through castles is one of the best parts about Disney races.


This was the first Disney race that I dressed up and the first that I stopped for pictures with characters.  Taking a picture with Mickey while dressed as Mickey was one of the highlights of the marathon for me.


And I finished the race much like I had run it — with jazz hands.  Not sure why I feel like Mickey would run a marathon with jazz hands but I did.  It still doesn’t quite seem real to me that I ran 26.2 miles.  I might not ever run that distance again but I’m proud to say that I did it once.

Running a marathon almost makes running a half marathon seem like nothing.  Thirteen point one miles is still a good amount of mileage to run though.  The Star Wars Half Marathon was my third half marathon, having completed two Disneyland Half Marathons the previous two years on Labor Day Weekend.  It is easier to compare Star Wars run to those rather than comparing to the events of the previous weekend in Florida.

As a big Disney fan as well as a big Star Wars fan, I thought this would be the perfect event for me.  And while I enjoyed it, I think I preferred the Disneyland Half better.

Event pickup was the same — going to the bottom parking level at the Disneyland Hotel to get my bib and pre-purchased pin.  Having done this in the past, I’m now familiar with how it goes.  I was excited to see the Coast-to-Coast designation next to me name in the sign-in book and received my wrist band that allowed me to get my bonus medal at the end of the half marathon.

The pickup and corresponding expo had begun Thursday but I couldn’t make it down until Saturday, the day before my event.  There hadn’t been a lot of preview of the merchandise but what I had seen, I wasn’t that interested in.  The design of much of the stuff was done in a comic-book style, which didn’t do much for me for the most part.  The Disneyland Half has animated Mickey and gang and Avengers was well suited for this style but I didn’t feel it worked as well for Star Wars.  I’ve heard a lot of stuff had sold out early but it didn’t affect me much because I wasn’t that into it.  I was happy with my “free” participant shirt, which featured Chewbacca, and I picked up a Coast-to-Coast shirt I had passed on in Florida.  Seeing runners who had just completed the 10k with their medals around the neck made me wonder whether I should have done the Rebel Challenge though.

Race day started fine.  Got down there early enough and saw a little performance by the announcing crew and R2-D2 and C3PO before being told that we could head to our corrals.  With a different route than the Disneyland Half, we had quite a bit of walking to do from the staging area to the corrals.  Waiting for the race to start, they showed clips from various Star Wars movies, which was neat.


I was in Corral B so I didn’t have to wait long after the race began to start my run.  I was surprised how slow the start was with supposed “faster” runners in the corral but it was an OK pace to start.  I had worked hard to get the better start time but perhaps it was a bit of a curse rather than a blessing.

During the Disneyland Half, the sun rises earlier in the morning and the course is run outside of the parks for the first couple of miles but in January, it remained dark for the first part of the race, which headed pretty quickly into the Resort.  Running backstage was done completely in the dark and they didn’t seem to have any floats or other things of interest on display back there.  There simply wasn’t much to see until we made our way into Disneyland.

I love running through the Disney parks and this race was no exception.  Having enjoyed stopping for pictures with the characters in Florida, I had intended to do so again if I saw anyone I wanted to take a picture with.  We headed down Main Street and into Frontierland.  The first photo opportunity was near the dock of the Mark Twain.  It was “Luke” and “Leia,” though they didn’t quite look like them.  I kept going into Fantasyland where there were some Stormtroopers near the carousel.  We ran towards Tomorrowland (no running through the castle … a big bummer) and a cast member was directing people to another photo op near the Matterhorn, though I couldn’t tell who it was (later found out it was Chewbacca).

I wanted my picture taken with Darth Vader and was excited to see him in front of Star Tours but the line was prohibitively long.  They were using the queue of the attraction for the photo line and I honestly thought maybe the ride was open it was so long.  It must have been at least a 20-minute wait when I went past so I decided to skip it.  I read at least one report about someone waiting more than 30 minutes for a picture — much too long in the middle (or rather start) of a race.

We headed through more backstage areas and out the front gates.  I heard my name called and was pleasantly surprised to see my mom.  I stopped for a quick hello and picture before continuing.  The Darth Vader breathing in the underpass between the two parks was pretty cool.

In DCA, there were some Jedi.  I knew that Boba Fett had been here for the 10k and I was interested in a picture with him but his line was at least 10 minutes.  Too long again to wait.  I did stop off for my picture with some Stormtroopers near a bug’s land.

SWHalf03I would have stopped for the characters from Star Wars Rebels, as I saw that they were there during the 10k, but I never encountered them.  I only saw one more group of Jedi before heading out onto the streets of Anaheim and Garden Grove.

One thing I didn’t think I’d like about this course wound up being pretty cool.  Part of Harbor Blvd. was used twice during the race — going and coming.  I didn’t want to run the same stretch twice but as I was passing Katella, the leaders were coming down the other side of the street towards the finish, which I thought was neat to see.  Had I been in a later corral, I wouldn’t have seen this.  Though, if I had been in a later corral, I would have caught an incredible sunrise inside the parks instead of on the streets of Anaheim.  (The lack of sunlight in the parks also led to horrible pictures from MarathonFoto, so I didn’t buy any).

During the Disneyland Half, I look forward to going to Angels Stadium and running the warning track but this course didn’t have that offering (there was a motocross event happening at the stadium so it was all torn up).  Unfortunately, that meant there wasn’t anything to look forward to during the last 10 miles of the race.  We just ran.  Honestly, it was kind of boring.  There were spectators throughout and one stretch had members of the 501st but I didn’t really get to appreciate their costumes as I ran by.

My knee held up pretty well, which I was pleased with.  There was some illnesses going around Kathy’s school the week before the race and I started feeling a little ill myself during the race.  I don’t like using the restroom during a run but after passing by a few port-a-potty stations, I decided I needed to take a bio break.  I felt much better afterward and was able to complete the course a lot more comfortably.

I was happy to hear my name from the announcers as I came across the finish line — the first time they’ve called my name.  Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention but I didn’t see any characters at the finish line as I was crossing.  Perhaps they were in the middle of a shift change?  I got my Star Wars Half medal and my Coast-to-Coast and was finished with yet another long-distance run.


Reading others’ reports after the race, it seemed like quite a few people liked the Star Wars Half.  It’s not that I didn’t but I didn’t feel it was great and am not sure that I’ll continue doing it in the future.  I think the race brought out a lot of first-time runners and a lot of people who were more fans of Star Wars rather than Disney, which may account for some of that opinion.  There were a lot of intricate costumes worn and the event seemed lively from that standpoint.

I’m not a typical runner either, so I think what I enjoy from a run isn’t necessarily what the typical runner likes.  I’m not a fan of cooler weather and actually prefer the warmer temperatures of the Disneyland Half.  I like the sunrise a little earlier so that I can enjoy the setting I’m running in a little better.  A lot of people liked the course but I thought we entered the parks too quickly and left them too quickly for what would then become a fairly standard road race.

I had planned for the Star Wars Half Marathon to be the end of my running career (and it may still be) but I apparently am not quite done with runDisney yet.  I decided that I’d do the Disneyland Half again this year since it is the 10th anniversary of the event and they sometimes do special medals to commemorate (plus it’s Disneyland’s 60th so who knows if there might be more surprises).  Next year, my daughter will be old enough to do the 10k’s and I told her that I’d run the Tinker Bell one with her.  Perhaps I’ll do the Avengers event at some point too to say that I did them all.

It’s not necessarily easy to do such long-distance events but runDisney does make them fun and accessible to a wide range of abilities with a fairly generous pace requirement.  They cost a bit more than the standard running events but honestly if they weren’t Disney-themed, I wouldn’t be doing them.  They’ve been a great way to challenge myself physically and I love the bling hanging from pegs on the wall of my office.  And like many things Disney, runDisney is highly addictive.  I don’t relish the thought of training for more events but I can’t help thinking which ones I’m going to do next.



runDisney Attire

On several podcast episodes, I’ve mentioned that I’ll be participating in the Walt Disney World Marathon and Star Wars Half Marathon. I’m often amazed at the creative attire that people come up with when running runDisney events. Usually, I just wear the tech T-shirt they provide as part of the event registration but this year I’ve decided to spice things up a bit and actually run in costume.

For the Walt Disney World Marathon, I’m running as the Big Cheese himself — Mickey Mouse. I’ll be sporting a solid black T-shirt, red shorts and yellow shoes. To accessorize, I’ve spray painted two buttons yellow and attached them to belt loops in my shorts. A pair of fuzzy white gloves and traditional Mickey ears completes the ensemble.

For the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon, I bought a Darth Vader costume T-shirt with cape from Target and will be pairing it with black shorts. I bought a Darth Vader helmet with Mickey ears at Disneyland and am borrowing my daughter’s Mickey light wand to act as a light saber. Black gloves, socks and shoes help me fulfill my turn to the Dark Side.

Neither of these outfits are particularly creative but are a fun way for me to participate in a runDisney event beyond simply running the distance. Of the two outfits, the regular Mickey is the most simple befitting the 26.2 miles I’ll have to endure while wearing it. I just hope the ears stay put, the 80-degree expected weather don’t make the gloves unnecessarily hot and the shoes turn out to be as much performance issue than just looking the part. The Darth Mickey will be more tricky with the rim of the helmet potentially striking my neck on every stride and the possibility that my light saber may be difficult to keep retracted. But as much as I’d like to pull decent times, I’m not running to win and these costumes will hopefully make the events even more fun than they already are.

~ Matt

Imagine My Surprise …

As mentioned in Episode 45, I saw one of my photographs of Sleeping Beauty Castle being used on a digital display inside the Grand Californian lobby. This came as a bit of shock to me as I’d never been asked for approval or had it licensed but there it was anyway.

The board with my image …

And my photo on its own …

Although I have this image posted on my Flickr account, I’m fairly confident that whoever posted this at the Grand Californian did not get it from there. This is the same image that a second-grade student had used in their project on Walt Disney at my daughter’s elementary school the year before. Doing a Google image search for “Disneyland” retrieves this image as one of the top returns but the link to the image doesn’t go to Flickr but to some travel website instead.

Short of watermarking my images — or keeping them to myself — trying to retain the right to my copy is probably a bit of losing battle. While I own the copyright to my images, my writings and even the recording of my voice for this podcast, in this day and age of “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission,” I’m sure I’ll see my work around from time to time. So rather than be upset that my Sleeping Beauty Castle image was usurped, I’ll feel proud instead that whoever was collecting images for the Grand Californian thought that this was one of the best representative images of Disneyland that they could find. But if the hotel wants to contact me and offer me the Presidential Suite for the weekend anyway, I won’t complain. ;)


Is a Disney Theme Park Ticket a Good Value?

By now you have probably heard that Disneyland raised its ticket prices this past weekend. The price for a one-day ticket went up $4 to $96, park-hopper tickets increased $13 to $150, and a Premium Annual Passport went up $30 to $699. And perhaps more importantly to many, they are suspending the sale of new passes for Southern California residents. All of that has been covered quite a bit by scores of amateur blogs as well as by most of the news outlets. You can read about it all over, but if you haven’t already, here is one link from Fortune magazine that I chose more or less randomly, because they all say much of the same thing.

However, one part of all of those stories caught my eye, and that is the following official statement from Suzi Brown, the director of medial relations for Disneyland:

Like any business, we periodically evaluate our pricing and make adjustments based on a variety of factors. A ticket to our theme parks represents a great value, particularly when you look at the breadth and quality of attractions and entertainment we offer and the special moments guests experience with our cast.

We have a running joke in our house that if they have to tell you that something is a certain way, then it really isn’t. Or at best, there is some preconceived notion by some that the thing really isn’t that way. For example, once a year or so when Jaylin gets a cold, we give him some liquid children’s cold medicine, and it always says on the packaging, “Great-tasting grape flavor!” I have tasted it, and it really isn’t great-tasting at all. But that’s what they tell you.

Of course, it is the job of advertisers in whatever form they take to convince you that what they are selling is good, or good for you, or something you want, or even a good value. That’s the nature of the business. But I don’t always take things at face value, and I often wonder what is behind the claims that are being made about a product. So for the Disneyland media relations person to make sure that all the news outlets got her quote about a Disney theme park ticket being a good value, it made me wonder.

Actually, that goes right along with what we were discussing in Episode 36 of Beyond the Berm just a few days before the price hikes were announced. Matt and I were already saying that, for us at least, the Disney parks weren’t the good value that they once were. Of course, some of that is relative, as Matt mentioned when he compared you get at Universal Studios Hollywood to what you get at Disneyland for around the same price per day. Based on that, most would say that you are getting more for your money at Disneyland than at Universal.

But does getting more for your money mean that it is a great value? Not necessarily. I could pay $1000 for one bowling ball from Bowl U Over, or I could go to Big Ben’s Bowling Balls and get two bowling balls for $1000 (just an illustration – I have no idea what bowling balls cost). So obviously I’m getting more for my money from Big Ben, but does that mean I am getting a good value?

You might say that part of this goes back to the “grumpy old man” syndrome. “I remember back in the old days when a 3-day ticket to Walt Disney World was only $42!” And yes, I do remember that. True, there were only two parks then. But there wasn’t an add-on cost to go back and forth between those two parks. And it only cost a fraction of the current charge to park your car, too.

I have here on my desk a flyer of Walt Disney World ticket prices from the Magic Kingdom Club which says, “Revised April 1995.” On that flyer, the general public price for a one-day/one park ticket is $37 plus tax. So in 19 years, the price has almost tripled. Does that mean that in another 20 years, it will be $300 for one day in one park? Count me out if it does.

And even at the current price, what are you getting? The chance to wait in an hours-long line to ride the most popular rides or meet some princesses if you aren’t able to get one of the coveted FastPasses? That isn’t exactly my idea of a good value.

I know it must seem like a good value to some, because attendance levels are soaring, and I know of more and more people that are going to Walt Disney World on their vacations. So perhaps that “good value” portion of the statement was to satisfy the press and bloggers who were likely to jump all over any new price hike, no matter how much, or how little, it was. We do have to keep in mind that “value” is subjective, depending on the person. If you want proof of that, go over to eBay to see how much people are paying for some things that you would consider “junk.”

So to me, the Disney park tickets aren’t really the great value that they once were. And that will affect my decision to visit in the future, just as it has in the past few years. We haven’t stopped going entirely, and I don’t know that we would reach that point, but we have greatly cut back from what we used to do some years ago.

What do you think? Are the tickets a good value? Or is Disney about to price themselves out of a lot of people’s vacation plans?

Sleeping Beauty Castle

(And yes, that is an old photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle if you are wondering. From October 1997.)