August 27, 2009

My Disneyland Birthday!

August 22nd is my birthday, and since I registered for Disneyland's FREE Birthday Admission, both Tommy and I spent Saturday playing in the Magic Kingdom! But, of course, even though I was getting in for nothing, we still had to purchase a $72.00 ticket for Tommy. Can you believe what they charge now? And that only gets you in the gate! You still have to eat and drink... If I remember correctly, water alone goes for almost $4.00 a bottle! So, obviously, I didn't really go to Disneyland for FREE. That was just another one of Disney's many illusions!

Don't get me wrong, I loves me some Disneyland! I just also happen to be a realist, therefore I tell it like it is. And what it is, is expen$ive! However, it's also a whole lotta fun!

We started my special day by arriving at the park around 9 am. When we redeemed my admission and paid for Tommy's, the ticket booth lady gave me a big "I'm Anthony and It's My Birthday!" button to wear. She also gave Tommy one that said "I'm Celebrating with Him!" or "I'm with Stupid!", something like that... My instinct was to not wear mine, but Tommy suggested that it might get us special treatment, maybe even front-of-the-line type treatment (wink, wink). So we pinned 'em on, and began our adventure!

As I'm sure most of you can guess, or may even know from experience, we were not allowed to circumvent any of the lines, and had to wait just like the common folk. Oh, well. At least, everyone that worked there who saw my magic button (except one or two, and they will be reported) said, "Happy Birthday!" to me. It's pretty funny how obvious it is that all of the "cast members" must have been programmed to say it as part of their basic training. Several of them even delivered their line in a bored, robotic monotone. After a while, it wasn't funny anymore. And besides, we weren't getting any real privileges, so we took off our birthday badges and blended right into the crowd.

Actually, one special thing my birthday badge did get me was a li'l cup-o-chocolate mousse with whipped cream and a candle. That was presented to me after we finished our "nighttime" lunch beneath the glowing lanterns of the Blue Bayou. Located in New Orleans Square, Blue Bayou is easily the most beautiful and atmospheric dining experience to be had in all of Disneyland. Imagine dining alfresco under moonlight (even though it's actually sunny and about 90 degrees outside) on the banks of a swampy Louisiana bayou, complete with fireflies and chirping crickets. And the occasional sound of screaming tourists, as their boat plunges down the first drop on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. That is what the Blue Bayou experience is like! The menu is a bit pricey, but I think that it's well worth it... at least, once! If/when you do go, and you're not a vegetarian, make sure to try the Monte Cristo sandwich (the crispy, battered ham & cheese one that you dip in jelly) because it's absolutely wonderful, and probably the best thing they serve! It's also quite obviously not for the health-conscious! But it was my special day that only comes once a year, so I said, "Screw it!"

Photo via Google Images

For those who've never been, this is a good shot of the Blue
Bayou's (exterior) interior. The lanterns are more colorful
in person, and the actual (artificial) bayou is to the right. It's
like you're dining on the veranda of a southern mansion,
somewhere along the Mississippi River...

Photo via Google Images

This must be an official Disneyland press release photo, or
something. It might even be from around the time they first
opened the restaurant? It just has that perfect, unique Disney
quality. Whatever the case, it's a good shot of the bayou view
that diners get to enjoy. Only, it's a bit darker than this in reality.

Not the best shot from a technical standpoint (nor the least
bit flattering), but we had to document the moment. It was
my FREE special birthday treat, you know! Also, being that
it was so dark and atmospheric, we didn't want to risk ruining
anyone's fine dining experience by using the flash. Besides,
we thought this might look pretty neat.

We had a blast on all 11 of the rides we managed to cram into our day. Some of the highlights included the carefully (Thank goodness!) updated It's a Small World and Haunted Mansion. On It's a Small World, they've added several iconic main characters from Disney animated film classics like Pinocchio, Lilo & Stitch, Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story, Cinderella, The Three Caballeros, Little Mermaid and others I can't recall. When I first heard about this "embellishment", I was a bit scared that it was going to completely ruin the ride, but now having actually seen it, I'm relieved to say that it's mostly unobtrusive. The people at Disney really worked at trying to match the art style of the original doll/puppet/marionette children, and for the most part they do blend in quite nicely. There was only one or two that made me cringe a little. Woody, from Toy Story, comes to mind. That one just plain sucks, and whoever worked on him must have been lazy!

The Mad Tea Party spinning teacup ride is one of my favorites,
not only because of its dizzying fun, but I also really like the
look of it. All the eye-popping colors... and those lanterns!

Tommy, being a teacup cutie!

Me, just taking the cup out for a spin.

Here we both are, about to take off on Peter Pan's Flight.

The update in the Haunted Mansion was well integrated, too. There may have been more done than what we noticed, but here's what Tommy and I compared notes on: In the hallway, right after exiting the elevator, a few of the changing portraits on the gallery wall have either been tweaked or replaced. So if you have a particular favorite, you might be disappointed. One that I'm fairly confident is popular among fans, and was not there any longer, is the one of a pretty young lady that morphs into an ugly old biddy. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember it being called 'April-December'. It was one of my faves, as well, and the gallery just didn't feel right without it. Once on the ride, the main changes we noticed were in the attic. It was almost completely different, in fact. There are now 5 (?) wedding portraits of the bride with each of her doomed grooms, so to speak, and as you pass each one, the groom's head disappears. In case you don't know, this ties in nicely with the background story of how the bride beheaded all of her husbands. Then, you see that the bride herself has gotten a total make-over. She even has an animated face now, done in much the same way as the singing busts out in the graveyard. It's a neat effect, and executed (No pun intended) quite well. She's also been moved from the right side to the left. Purist fans of the Haunted Mansion will probably have issues with these revisions, but I found most to be very well done and kind of cool. Tommy did, too, I think.

This shop window display, in New Orleans
Square, caught my artistic eye. I'm drawn
to this kind of collage-type arrangement.

Here's the same window, a bit closer.

And even closer, yet!
This particular half-bird/half-child trinket just
pulled me right in. I think that dressing a shop
window in this style would be a lot of fun!

Well, I could go on (and on...), but this has already become another one of my MEGA-posts! That being said, I will now pick up my toys and go. Thank you, for letting me share my exciting Disneyland birthday adventure with you!

August 20, 2009

My New Zoo Review! (w/Family Foto Fun, Too!)

The San Diego Zoo isn't new, but this review of our family visit last Saturday is. And actually, the Elephant Odyssey exhibit that's there is a beautiful new addition, only a few months old. But I think, now that I've seen it in person, it's a bit overrated.

The 7-acre habitat is quite impressive. However, the way that it's designed does not allow for any kind of close-up encounters with the elephants. Not even nearby encounters! They were way off in the distance, and even if they wanted to come closer, they couldn't. Their enclosure, and the landscape within it, prevents them from doing so. There was an area where, thanks to fortunate timing, we were able to witness one of the pachyderms getting a bath in fairly close proximity. Well, a shower was more like it because the animal keeper was actually hosing it down. And, boy, did it like the attention! You could just tell he was loving it so much that it must've felt like a Burke Williams spa treatment!

We came along just in time for Ranchipur's shower.
And if you listened real closely, you could hear
him quietly singing this cute little song:
"A sprinkle a day helps keep the odor away...
Have you had your sprinkle today?"

A hydro-massage and a pedicure?
Now, that's what I call service!

Among other animals featured in the same exhibit, and one of my favorites, is the capybara. I'm not real sure what it is about those guys... it has something to do with their cute, bloppy shape. They sorta remind me of Moomins, I guess. And they are certainly cute!

Capybara and Moomin via Google Images

See, don't these two look similar?
Well, I think they do...

Speaking of cute, after we walked out of the Odyssey exhibit we came across the meerkats. I could sit and watch those little guys for hours! And they're just always so busy... I was particularly taken with the designated sentinel of the mob. He sat atop the highest rock formation attentively watching for predators, his tiny head twitching in every direction. I wish that we had spent more time at their enclosure.

I was glad to get this meerkat shot! His little
noggin was jerking all over the place, looking
for anything that might be a threat...

I felt this was an interesting shot, too, because it shows
some of their many digging holes. They were all very
busy scurrying around, or digging. Lots of digging.

Another of my favorite animals is the giraffe. They are so tall and graceful. I'm pretty sure I overheard a tour guide say that a newborn, on average, is about 6 ft. tall! Could you imagine if a human mother had to suffer such a burden? Of course, women are strong, and they would be able to endure it... The pattern on giraffe hides is beautiful, too. It's just those long, dark tongues that aren't. In fact, they're kinda gross! Oh, well. Nobody's perfect.

Tommy and me, posing in front of the giraffe enclosure.
"Where are the giraffes?", you say. Well, see, they're
not in the shot because Mom was taking the picture...

We also managed to see lots of different exotic birds, some bears (including polar), a monkey or two, snakes, a komodo dragon, a few tortoises, two rhinoceros, an anteater w/baby riding around on its back and a few other creatures I can't remember at the moment. Still, after being there for an entire day, we only managed to see about half of the zoo's inhabitants. We were there until almost 9 pm, too!

I feel bad that I don't remember the name of this
animal. It was some sort of hairy, piggish looking thing.
But how super cute are they, all cuddled-up together
like that, in a ditch?

Why, what do we have here? I don't believe it's
anything we've ever seen before! It appears to be
a tame creature, at least... Let's take a closer
look, shall we?

Yikes! Look out! Whatever it is, it's fierce and most
unpredictable! We must use extreme CAUTION...

It's real neat that they do the whole Nighttime Zoo thing in the Summertime, so you can see the nocturnal animals when they're awake and more active. The zoo itself is very pretty at night, with its lush landscaping of trees and plants dramatically illuminated. It was especially impressive from the vantage point of a Skyfari bucket. We rode one of those twice! Once during the day, and then again at night. Even the buckets were lit up all purty-like, in the dark.

It's a bit hard to tell because it's at night, but this
is Tommy & my mom in our Skyfari bucket as it
whisked us along, high above the "jungle" below.

Yours truly, "impersonating" a dorky tourist.

We all had a great time! It was a wonderful Saturday at the zoo, as well as an awesome birthday gift from my mom! If you've never been, I highly recommend a visit to the San Diego Zoo. But if you go, Mom says, "Don't forget the sun-block and comfortable walking shoes."

August 14, 2009

Lions, Jaguars, and Elephants? Oh, My!

Please, oh please, don't let us run into this guy, tomorrow! His name is Maynard Livingston, and he's the official Park Master & Greeter for both the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park. Ugh... Maybe, we'll luck out and he'll be over at the Wild Animal Park, instead.

Whatever the case, my mom, Tommy and I will have fun at the zoo on Saturday, anyway. The outing was my mom's idea, and it's also her birthday gift to me! She knows that I like elephants (and animals, in general), so she thought that I'd like to go check out the new Elephant Odyssey exhibit that just opened this last May. It's a $45 million, 7-acre addition to the main zoo that features elephants (obviously), lions, jaguars and California condors. The habitat has several pools for the elephants, including one that holds 137, 000 gallons of water and is 7.5 feet deep at its deepest end. That's certainly big enough for a swim, even for an elephant!

On these hot Summer days, I would love to join these guys.
I wonder if Esther is in the pool, somewhere...

Pinky TUSK-adero, taking a relaxing bath.

Lions are so majestically beautiful...
They make me proud to be a Leo.

I've always wanted to drive one of these.

It's probably crazy of us to go on a Saturday in August, what with Summer crowds and all, but it should be a fun family adventure! Then, the following Saturday (A.K.A. my actual birthday), Tommy and I will be going to Disneyland because I'll be getting in FREE! Did you know about that special promotion? They're letting people in for FREE on their birthdays, all this year! But you had to have registered for it by a certain deadline last year. They even aired T.V. commercials about the whole thing. I guess that it sucks to be you, if you didn't take advantage of it... (Hee-hee!)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

~All photos via Google Images~

August 13, 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser...

It's the first official Disney movie trailer for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland!

Actually, it came out a few weeks ago, but YouTube (or Disney) wasn't allowing any linking to it until now. You're not going to believe how "wonderful" it looks!

I can't wait, I can't wait... for its very important release date! The adventure will begin on March 5th, 2010.

Enjoy it, and try not to hit your head on the way down!

August 6, 2009

Summer Nights @ the County Fair

I'm excited! Tonight, the moms & sons are venturing out to the Orange County Fair for a few thrills and some bad, unhealthy food. Should be a lot of fun! I plan to take my camera, so I might do a photo doc as a follow-up post...

In the meantime, enjoy these evening shots at various fairs which I gathered from the internet. I picked ones that I thought really captured that whole "fair-at-night vibe" best. You can almost smell the popcorn and funnel cake. Thank goodness, we can't smell the carnies!

"Wheeeeee!" This looks so fun.

Oooh, how pretty!

Around and around she goes...

"Step right up, win a prize!"

These folks are really swingin'!

I totally want these vintage carnival prizes.

"Carnie" (Wilson) holding a chicken?

The fair at dusk, right before its electric transformation
into neon flash and flicker.

~All photos via Google Images~

August 1, 2009

San Diego Comic-Con... We Went, We Saw and We Conquered!

Well, we did it! Four days of comics, toys, lots of people, people in costumes and even more people! Did I mention the people? It's just insane. I wish that I'd taken more photos, but once you're afloat in that crowded sea of humans, you kind of lose your bearings and don't think about such things as cameras. Especially, if you're weighted down with bags of purchased goodies!

Speaking of goodies, we were anxious to get our hands on two of this year's Comic-Con exclusives: a My Little Pony that has two different sides (one side is green, the other purple), for Tommy, and a Littlest Pet Shop super-hero kitty, for me. We got 'em, too! It's weird, though, because on the first day, in order to buy them, people had to be somewhere at a certain time to get a ticket just so they could get in line, then they had to wait in that HUGE line which looked like something you'd see at an amusement park. But the second day was completely different. Tommy and I just walked right up to the Hasbro booth and bought both toys instantly! No tickets, no line. I'm sure glad we didn't have to go through all of that first day rigamarole. If we had, and then saw how easily people could get them the next day, we would've surely been pissed!

One side of Tommy's two-faced super pony...

... And here is the other side.

Look! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
No, it's my Comic-Con super kitty
from Littlest Pet Shop!

Another highlight, for me anyway, was shortly after we entered the convention on Thursday. We must've only been walking the floor for about 10 minutes when, suddenly, I spotted her... A lady dressed as Alice (in Wonderland) who also happened to look like Bette Davis! I mean, she could've been Bette's stunt double! Not that Miss Davis ever did a movie role that would require such a thing, but man, this lady could've done it! Check out the pics below, and then let me know if you agree...

Curiouser and curiouser... Is that Bette Davis in Wonderland?
I'm sure that must be the Mad Hatter on the left. And Bette
is clearly holding the Cheshire Cat, so who/what is that on the
right? A human Cheshire? Creepy.

She's ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille...

Of course, there were also real celebrities in attendance for various reasons. Among them were Zachary Levi (Chuck), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls), Robert Pattinson (Twilight, duh!), Kristen Stewart (Twilight, double duh!), Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas, super duh!), Johnny Depp (If you don't know what he's from, you probably aren't reading this because you're so out of touch with the world that you don't even have internet access, or a computer!), Lou Ferrigno (Incredible Hulk), Matt Groening (The Simpsons) and many, many more! I didn't get any photos of them, unfortunately.

Friday night, we went to an exclusive Disney Press cocktail party at a hip restaurant/bar in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter known as Bondi. It's really neat. They have these huge basket pods you can sit in, like private booths! We didn't get to sit in one because we were in the bar, but they were sure cool to look at. And the ones that weren't "in-service" were actually raised up and hanging from the ceiling. I'd never seen anything like it! Here, take a look...

Bondi basket pods. I sooo wanted to sit in one of these!
Oh, well. There's always next year...

That just about covers the main highlights. I could bore you with a day-by-day itinerary, but I will spare you. Maybe, next year I will manage to take more photos. Ones of real celebrities, too!

Have a great weekend, everyone!
And beware of humans disguised as cats... Cheshire Cats.

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