Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Great and Powerful Wizard of Disneyland

Other than the occasional 'log jam' while waiting to disembark, I can't recall ever having been stuck on a broken down amusement park ride. No elevators or revolving doors. Really just traffic and the occasional airplane while it sits on the tarmac and pumps fresh jet fuel-laden air into the cabin.

That's what I would have told you 10 days ago. Now, however, I can recall quite a number of occasions, all within the very recent past, in which my presence was the common denominator in the malfunction of several attractions. 

This is one of the newer attractions at Disneyland, and it is very original, I think. It's like a hybrid roller coaster/standard ride. You ride in a giant Jeep with third-row seating (must be a Commander), seated four across. The Jeep rolls along a track at varying speeds to coincide with the events taking place in the attraction. The part I think is clever is that the Jeep itself moves up, down, forward, backward, and side-to-side, as in the 'road' is a smooth path, but hydraulics in the Jeep make for a very bumpy ride.

The premise is that Indiana Jones has made a new discovery that includes some kind of idol which grants wishes. But if anyone looks directly into the idols' eyes, they meet their end. Consequently, people have been flocking to the dig site (AKA the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland). Indiana, however, entered the temple several days prior and has yet to emerge. Uh oh!

We had gotten FastPasses, as the lines are typically quite long. The FastPass allowed us to go through a special entrance and walk right past 40 minutes worth of waiting patrons. Standing in line isn't so bad. The lines are staged in corridors of the archaeological dig. There are torches on the wall, wooden trunks, scaffolding, chains, and a slew of other artifacts strewn about that make for an entertaining wait. The last stage of the line collects people into a large room within the temple (50 people or so). They show a black and white old-time news reel film about the dig, the idol, Indiana, the wishes that have been granted. They also show a safety video for the ride in the same style. I'd say it's about a 3 minute loop so that everyone sees it as they pass through that area.

That is where the trouble began. Our FastPasses let us skip directly to that room. Sara, Djeryd and I were going to ride while Sean and My were watching the little kids, then switch (Sean and My had FastPasses, too). When we were approximately 15 people away from getting out of that room and into the Jeep-loading lines, everything stopped. The special effects stopped. The ride stopped. The background music stopped. Everything stopped - except for that newsreel film! First we were told that the ride had gone down twice before on that day, and that both times it took about five minutes to recover. We waited the five minutes. Then we waited five more. And another five. Some people started asking about accommodations should they exit the line. The rule was, as laid out by our guide, if you leave the line on your accord, you've given up your place in line and must start at the beginning upon return. If you are asked to leave by the ride operators, you will be given a FastPass good anytime for the remainder of the day. FastPasses generally specify a one hour window of validity. A couple of people left. They'd waited in the 40 minutes line and then an additional 15 minutes in the room with that newsreel playing over and over again. I can't really blame them. After about 20 minutes the guide announced that everything was coming back up and it would take a couple of minutes to cycle through the 'log jam'. We didn't make it that far. You know that moment during a power outage when you hear the refrigerator power up again, maybe the furnace and some lights? And then a split second later everything cuts out again? That's what happened. A few more people exited the line, including a couple ahead of us which made us feel like we were getting closer.

FINALLY, after 25-30 minutes of our 'FastPass' wait, and 25-30 minutes of that maddening film, the ride really did get fixed and we rode it, and it was great, and Djeryd only liked some parts. Not the cockroaches and not the bumps and not the "waiting in that one room" so much, just the parts with Indiana Jones in them.

When we finally made it out of the cursed temple alive, the FastPass line was actually longer than the regular line. Sean and My decided to save their adventure for another day.

Astro Blasters is also fairly new, though it was already there two years ago. It is also a unique/hybrid-type ride. You sit in what I presume is a Buzz Lightyear spaceship, two per. There is a laser blaster for each person and a spin control knob. The spaceships are all mounted on a moving sidewalk - think baggage claim with the U-shaped segments that can turn corners. The best part about this design is the waiting line is constantly moving as people load onto the constantly moving spaceships. There is something like a freeway merge where the people standing in line step onto a moving sidewalk that runs parallel to the conveyor toting the spaceships. Then just grab your blaster, buckle up and go. 

Here's the hybrid part. Not only are you riding in the spaceship through Buzz Lightyear-themed sets, but you're also playing a gigantic one-sided game of laser tag - nobody is shooting at you. There are targets located everywhere throughout, and you collect points for hitting the targets. Some of them move, some are stationary, and some only appear for a split-second. In other words, this is a great ride to be on when it breaks down. When the conveyor stops, you can keep shooting and racking up the points - not that you win anything as a result; it's just fun. UNLESS, you happen to get stuck where My was when I broke the ride. She was in a pitch-black tunnel with no targets. Bummer.

There are hundreds of great places one could run aground on Pirates. In the middle of the splashing cannonballs, perhaps? The treasure room? The wench market or, Brookie's favorite, the dog with the keys in his mouth? Any of those would have been fascinating.

Our boat stopped in the middle of the long, 30 degree climb back to sea-level at the end of the ride.

Different ride, same story. Except on Spash Mountain the long climb is immediately before the long fall. Kinda took the buzz out of the ride. Normally, you're cruising along through the middle of some rocky river basin, no decorations, just your log and the people in it. Then you float past some singing bears, foxes and birds on a steamboat. These are the tolls one must pay if one wants to take the 52 foot plunge down the front of the mountain, which of course one does, or one would not have waited in the long line.

So Sara, Madison, Erik and I made it through the line and all of the silly stuff and the anticipation was building for our big splash. Then we stopped near the top of the lift and waited for a few minutes, wondering if we might soon be using the emergency exit stairs adjacent to our log. It was not to be. We soon started moving again and went over the top and down to the bottom. Sara was hoping they would immediately let us run through it again as we had heard was the case on Indiana Jones that fateful day. That was not to be, either.

This was the strangest of them all and finally put an end to speculation that Sara might somehow have been the source of the curse. Up until Monsters, Sara and I had been together for all of the mishaps.

Monsters is located in California Adventure. It is a fun little ride where you ride inside taxi cabs all through the city of Monstropolis. All of our favorite characters are represented - Sully, Mike, Randall, the CDA guys, Mike's girlfriend, that pimple-faced skinny monster that is starstruck by Sully, and of course, Boo. On our last day we were close by, and the line was short so I suggested to Sean and My that we should all ride it (it is little kid and infant-safe). Our adventure was cut short maybe 100 feet in. And I do mean cut short. The ride was out of commission. Everything turned off. Lights, music, animation, everything. They brought up the house lights and we could essentially see behind the scenes - stuff you can't see when the ride is running and everything is dark. 

They ask you not to take flash pictures while on the ride. It is nearly impossible to take non-flash pictures in near darkness. But when the ride stops and the regular lights are turned on, it becomes much easier to dial in that perfect scene.

This video clip didn't happen at Disneyland, but it captures many of the thoughts and feelings we experienced each time I broke one of our rides.

1 comment:

Sierra said...

That video is so funny! I loved reading about the whole Disneyland experience. It was very entertaining. Thanks for sharing with the poor souls who didn't travel in your enteurage. See you guys at the Halloween Party, unless I have to sit on a jury and I'm secreted in some sticky motel somewhere so I won't talk about the trial.