In this episode Daniel and Tommy give a trip report on their recent visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando. We also discuss Halloween Time, Tower of Terror, and more!
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE:
Sir Elton Will Debut the Title Track from His Upcoming Release “Wonderful Crazy Night”
Fans at Home Can Participate in the Evening’s Interactive Light Shows via Sync Capabilities in the Disney Applause App; a Virtual Reality Experience From Key Park Destinations Will Be Available in the Jaunt VR App and on ABC.com
One of the most successful solo artists of all time, Sir Elton John will perform two sensational songs on “The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60.” The multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician will captivate audiences in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park by singing the Oscar®-nominated song “Circle of Life,” from Disney’s “The Lion King,” and his new song “Wonderful Crazy Night,” from his upcoming album. “The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60,” airs SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 21 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network.
Aloha! When I first heard about the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau, my immediate reaction was happiness and excitement. However, upon seeing how much it cost for admission ($150 per person!), my heart sank a little. On one hand, I wanted to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime event that brought back childhood memories. My father had a deep affinity for Hawaii and the Pacific Island culture. As such, we went to the original Tahitian Terrace restaurant at Disneyland during the 1980s. At the same time, I wasn’t sure if it was worth high price. In the end, my heart won over my wallet.
This event is part of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration. It included food inspired by the original Tahitian Terrace restaurant menu, drinks, a Polynesian revue and special merchandise. There were four opportunities to see the show: August 10-11, 5pm and 7:30pm. I went to the 5pm show on August 11th.
At first, there was a bit of confusion on my part. Last year, I went to the Mahaloween event that took place at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. I assumed it would be the same venue. However, they instead created a space in the back corner lawn of the Disneyland Hotel near the Frontier Tower. People did check-in near the Trader Sam’s entrance though.
Check-in for this event went a lot smoother than Mahaloween. I just showed them my ID and they gave me an envelope with vouchers and a special surprise. The “special surprise” was a plastic kukui nut lei (queue the trombone sound – wah, wah, wah). There were four vouchers included: one for self parking validation, one to purchase two additional Diamond Luau Tiki Mugs, and the final two could be exchanged for a select number of adult beverages.
The line getting into the venue was not bad. A little before 5pm, cast members let in guests and were greeted immediately with a tray full of non-alcoholic beverages. There were two choices, one was the original Tahitian Terrace punch and I forgot the second one (I was excited for the punch!). One thing I noticed upon entering was the mixed sizes of tables. Instead of packing everyone together at large rounds, there were more intimate settings for couples and families of four.
Another great thing was the inclusion of two bars and two buffet stations. My assumption is that Disney learned from the crowded Mahaloween experience of having everyone get food and drinks in a single location.
Overall, the area was decorated quite nicely. A notable fact was that they procured many rare props from the Oceanic Arts warehouse. For those of you who know anything about Disneyland history, this company provided a lot of the decor in Adventureland. The stage was setup for the Polynesian revue, which took place around 5:30pm.
After grabbing a seat, I proceeded to use one of my adult beverage coupons. To my delight, they had Hinano beer! While not the greatest beer of all time, it did add ambience to the event as it is a drink from Tahiti. Other choices included many standard domestic beers, as well as Kona Big Wave Golden Ale. Two wines were available as well.
The buffet was opened minutes after arrival and featured “distinctive bites inspired by favorites from the original menu” (per the Disney Parks Blog). This list included Coconut Glazed Shrimp, Meatball with Sweet and Sour Sauce, Polynesian Vegetable Cone, Barbecue Pork Belly Sliders, and, for dessert, Butterscotch Pineapple Coconut cupcakes. I will not go into a details of each dish, but I will say that Disney played a bit fast and loose with the term “inspired by” the original menu. For a comprehensive review of the food, check out my other story here: Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau Food Review.
About 30-minutes after opening, the Polynesian revue group came on stage. They actually provided two performances with a break in between. I thoroughly enjoyed the show. It brought back a lot of fond memories from my younger days. You can check out the video below to see some of the performance.
In between the two performance segments, an Imagineer gave a video presentation about the history of the Tahitian Terrace. It was about 18-minutes long and chockfull of great photos and stories. I did shoot some video of this presentation (be forewarned it’s not the best visual quality). You can see the awesome vintage pics and hear about the evolution of the Tahitian Terrace restaurant.
At the conclusion the stage performances, guests exiting the venue were presented with a gift bag. It contained a Tahitian Terrace poster, a special edition Tahitian Terrace Tiki Mug, and a recipe card for the original Tahitian Terrace punch. We also had the opportunity to purchase two additional mugs using the voucher from earlier. However, the extras were not special edition versions and slated to be publicly released the following day.
Marcus Gonzalez and Scott Tolleson were on hand to sign their works. Marcus designed the Tiki Mug and Scott was the artist responsible for the poster. Both pieces of art were stunning and will be part of my permanent Disney collection.
So, you may ask, was it worth the $150 price of admission? That’s a tough question. My heart says ‘yes!’ but my bank account says ‘no.’ What I loved most were the Polynesian revue, historical presentation, and artwork. The drinks were okay and I’m glad I got to try the original Tahitian Terrace punch. However, the food was a tad disappointing overall and lacked the variety normally associated with a luau. And, let’s be honest folks, this shindig was really a merchandise event in disguise.
Nevertheless, in the end, I’m glad I went to the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau. Sometimes in life you cannot put a price on memories. In a sense, this event helped me recall the great memories of my father and his love of Hawaii. Mahalo nui and aloha ‘oe.
In this episode the DisGeek crew talking about the launch of the Diamond Celebration 60th Anniversary and the 24 hour party.
Two days before the 24-hour kickoff party for the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, Disneyland hosted a merchandise event where people could pre-order certain items for the 60th Anniversary. Some things were exclusive, while others were offered as pre-sale to the big hullabaloo on May 22nd. You can view the complete catalog here: Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event catalog. The cost to attend was $100 per person.
Now, before I get into my full experience, many people might ask, “Why would someone pay money to spend even more money?” The answer would likely vary from those in attendance. Some folks are out to make a quick buck on eBay, while others were there as a once-in-a-lifetime spending spree. As for my wife and I, it was a matter of exclusivity, comfort, and convenience.
Anyone who’s attended a 24-hour event at Disneyland can tell you that it gets jampacked. Given that this particular occasion was to celebrate the 60th Anniversary, we anticipated the crowds would reach capacity quickly. As such, our goal was to get the things we wanted without having to wait in 1-hour+ lines.
Arrival and Registration
Registration for the Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event started at 7:00 am on May 20th. It was held at the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall. As Southern California residents, we opted to go a bit later to avoid traffic. This decision turned out to be a smart one as the drive was smooth all the way to the hotel.
Upon entering the Exhibit Hall at around 10:30 am, we were shown to the registration table. They had everything lined up and ready. The majority of attendees had arrived much earlier, so there was no waiting whatsoever. We were presented with a bag full of information, vouchers and some high quality swag as well.
The information packet contained all the particulars about the event including the itinerary, guidelines, silent auction process, and a list of newer merchandise not shown in the online catalog. We also received a lanyard with an event pass. This pass was absolutely stunning and attracted a lot of attention. My wife and I got second looks while walking around Disneyland during the three days of our stay.
There were also vouchers to obtain four different perks. The first was a PhotoPass to get a free commemorative picture. Second was a pin trading card, which you could use up to six times per guest. The third was for a treat, which was to be distributed the following day (May 21) at 1:30pm. Lastly was a voucher to obtain an “Exit Gift.” This was redeemed at the end of the final day after the “Dreamers and Doers” Panel Discussion at the Magic Kingdom Ballroom.
As for the swag, let me just say that the $100 we spent per person was easily worth the items we received. There were two gifts inside our bags: an exclusive pillow and Arribas Bros crystal paperweight. As of the date of this writing, the pillow was selling for $100 on average through eBay. The crystal had a starting bid price of $120. If my wife and I sold both, we could at least double our money.
Upon reading that they included a pillow, one might assume something cheap. This is not the case. The pillow is crafted really well and its front design emulates the first admission ticket to Disneyland. Flip it around to the back and it has Walt Disney’s famous quote: “To All Who Come To This Happy Place, Welcome!” As you can see by the pictures, the detail is outstanding and is absolutely perfect for any home.
The Arribas Bros crystal paperweight is a thing of beauty. This high quality piece is etched with Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the words “Disneyland Resort 60 Diamond Celebration” with the date of the event: May 20-21, 2015. In my opinion, this alone merited the price of admission.
One of the first things we did after registering was go to the event store. Some of the limited edition items had not sold out and there were other things available that we wanted to pick up for friends and family. Many people were in line, but nothing close to what we encountered on May 22nd. We saved a ton of time by buying stuff at the event store.
The merchandise pickup area for pre-sale items was smooth. We only waited about 10-minutes before having a cast member get our bags of goodies. Everything was packaged up nice and neat. The only issue was the inspection of certain high-dollar goods such as paintings and cels. This caused a slight delay, but wasn’t really a big deal.
A number of artists were on hand to sign their works. This group included Manuel Arribas, Tyler Dumas, Susan Foy, Dana & Melanie Harvey, Hiko Maeda, Tim O’Day, Cody Reynolds, Javier Soto, Kurt Raymond, Tim Rogerson, and Adam Throgmorton. As you can tell, there were a lot of artists missing. Nevertheless, it was nice that these people made time to autograph their respective pieces.
Pin Trading and Silent Auction
Event coordinators set up a pin trading area inside the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall. Dozens of tables were available so people could sit down and relax. It was also an opportunity to inspect your newly acquired merchandise. The décor was done up quite nicely. There were projections all around the room and in the back was an arrangement of vintage Disneyland ride vehicles.
Speaking of the rides, the display was quaint. The list of attractions being represented were Autopia, Space Mountain, Matterhorn, and a open truck from Main Street, USA. All in all, it was a nice touch.
As for the projections, a feeling of warmth came over me to see Disneyland icons all around the hall. The signature image was Sleeping Beauty Castle with fireworks. It was cool how they used higher intensity yellow lights to symbolize an explosion. Space Mountain, Mark Twain Riverboat, it’s a small world, Jungle Cruise, Tarzan’s Treehouse, and Star Tours were all depicted.
Each corner of the room had a pin trading station. Boards were displayed containing a variety of pins you could exchange up to six times using the aforementioned voucher. Some of the pins were really nice, while others were not so great. There were a number of Walt Disney World pins, which I didn’t expect or desire. In any case, the selection was good and they exchanged the boards at various intervals. This provided an opportunity to find something you really wanted.
In a surprisingly delightful twist, my wife and I discovered the boards each had an unique pin that came with a special gift. We had gone up to one and I noticed a design for the “Village Haus” restaurant. My wife selected it and the cast member told her that she chose the winner. This particular pin came with a commemorative box from Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary. We were very happy and made our experience much more memorable.
To the side of the trading area was a display of merchandise for the silent auction. A number of rare and unusual goods were on display. Unfortunately my camera was having issues and I do not have photographs. Nevertheless, the things on display included a complete set of Diamond Anniversary pins, unique Vinylmation dolls, leather purse, and other works of art. We didn’t bother placing any bids as the prices were geared towards the 1-percenters.
Disneyland Resort Ambassador Program Panel
Besides it being Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary, this year also marks the 50th Anniversary of the Disney Ambassador Program. To honor this unique occasion, they had a special Disneyland Resort Ambassador Program Panel at the event. Basically, it was a number of past and present Disneyland ambassadors who spoke about their experiences. Two current ambassadors played host and on the panel were seven former cast members who worked at the resort dating back to the 1960s. In fact, one of them (Connie Swanson) actually interacted with Walt Disney in person. Everyone had interesting tales to tell, but Connie had the most interesting stories because of Walt. I was able to shoot video, which you can watch below:
This panel discussion took place at the Magic Kingdom Ballroom. There were four opportunities to see it, which was convenient. Each of the ambassadors brought pieces of the past to display. It was like walking down memory lane. It was wonderful to see the uniforms, memorabilia, pictures, and other mementos showing how Disney spread its brand across the globe during the past five decades.
Like the pin trading area, the ballroom was illuminated with fabulous projections on the walls. It was really cool to see all the artwork of the Disneyland Ambassador Program. Each decade had its own individual style. The stage was nice, but pretty straight forward. Just nine director chairs, two tables, a blue curtain backdrop and a cutout in front.
“Disneyland Dreamers & Doers” Panel Discussion
The highlight of the merchandise event was the “Disneyland Dreamers & Doers” Panel Discussion. It took place toward the end of the second day at 5:30pm and lasted an hour. On stage were a number of Disney luminaries who shared their experiences working at the Happiest Place on Earth. The following is a list of people shown in the picture below (from left to right):
- Tom Morris (WDI, Imagineer)
- Stan Freese (Talent Booking and Talent Director, Disneyland)
- Marilyn Magness (Director Creative Entertainment)
- Tim O’Day (Moderator, Author)
- Kim Irvine (WDI, Art Director)
- Don Dorsey (Production Consultant)
- Shari Allen (Mickey Mouse Club, Mouseketeer)
- Bobby Burgess (Mickey Mouse Club, Mouseteer)
Before the discussion began, the Dapper Dans came out on stage and sang. This was a fun surprise for audience members, including myself. It was truly delightful to see them perform. In the video below, you can watch them go through a variety of musical numbers paying homage to Disneyland attractions. As you can tell by the reaction, everyone thoroughly enjoyed this spectacle.
Tim O’Day had moderated the panel discussion. He asked each person about their history working for Disney. I won’t go into detail of the whole affair, but here are a couple of questions posed: “What does Disneyland mean to you” and “What is your proudest moment?” To see video of them answering, you can check out the following clips from the Parks and Cons YouTube channel:
Once the “Disneyland Dreamers & Doers” Panel Discussion ended, the audience was greeted outside the Magic Kingdom Ballroom with their Exit Gift. The final voucher was exchanged for a bag containing a Mickey Balloon popcorn bucket. It was totally awesome to get one of the most highly sought after souvenirs of the Diamond Celebration. My wife received a red one and I got a blue bucket. This meant we only needed the purple version to complete the trifecta (which we purchased the following day).
So, was it worth it?
The answer to this question is completely subjective. Looking at it from an economic perspective, a price tag of $100 per person is rather steep. However, the swag alone can easily sell for double the amount on eBay if so desired (although we will be keeping ours). Plus, if you factor in all the pre-sale exclusive merchandise, a person could potentially make a handsome profit.
Furthermore, I’ve been to another merchandise event in the past (Mahaloween 2014) and wasn’t sure if it was worth the cost. Having said that, I firmly believe the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event was an absolute value by comparison. The two panels were both entertaining and informative. My wife and I had a great time at each. Moreover, we saved a ton of time by avoiding lines to purchase items at the 24-hour kickoff on May 22nd. There were only a few specific things we couldn’t get during the two days.
If someone were to ask whether or not to attend a merchandise event, I can only say that this one was well worth it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences and may it be helpful the next time you consider going in the future.