It opened at 6am with a straight shot down to Anaheim from LA. For fellow Angelenos and brave treaders of the 10 freeway – we went from Robertson to the 5 and passed just one car. ONE CAR in six miles. If you ever have a lot of errands to run in LA, see if you can put them off until first thing Christmas morning.
The day’s turnout was, to pleasant surprise, relatively light. Common wisdom suggested otherwise, as the general trend is that the closer to Christmas you go, the more of a crowd you’ll face. However, Southern Californians have a strong aversion to all sorts of weather precipitation, so a mild 40% chance of sprinkles in the afternoon deterred half of what we anticipated. Plan to go when it’s expected to rain!
That being said, the first ride we hit, Smuggler’s Run, set in the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge park expansion, was still a daunting 60+ minute line even at 8:15am. There weren’t ten thousand guests mad dashing across the park after gates opening either, so I’m still not sure how so many people got there that fast. Guests at the adjacent Disney hotels get into the parks an hour early though, so those were likely a majority.
The ride was a lot fun, with room for a party of six in a Millennium Flacon cockpit: two pilots, two gunners, two engineers. It’s like an interactive version of Star Tours in Tomorrowland, if you’re familiar. Speaking of, that one had a recent facelift, now featuring Episode IX content and locations. It helped to see the film prior, which I thought was a valid conclusion to the episodic series / Skywalker storyline. Sure, the entire sequel trilogy became bloated with carryover burdens from the original trilogy and staunch fanbase disdain for The Last Jedi, but I really can’t think of a more appropriate way to have wrapped it up. Okay, short tangent ahead…
General Leia’s partitioned yet substantial role is a stunning feat of CGI. While I am totally against the inevitable flood of digital necromancy that now lies before us with this technology, it seems appropriate for a case of this magnitude. It was suggested her part were to be much larger, before Carrie Fisher’s untimely death at the release of Rogue One, but her part here fits fine in the finale. Otherwise I think Luke’s inclusion could have been retooled creatively, not just to hand-off her lightsaber, but still in a similar Dark Night of the Soul kind of moment just as Han’s appearance was for Ben. After nine films of epic space fantasy, while retaining more characters than reasonably possible and still indulge their biggest fans, it’s no surprise this reached a certain level of absurdity. Despite some dialogue too on the nose and half a dozen minor characters that were impossible to care about, Rey’s climax and ending are all I needed or expected at the precipice of this franchise. How else do you dock a ship so large?
Anyway, back to Disneyland. Apparently Chewbaca isn’t a very good pilot… during the Smugger’s Run interactive ride I crashed into multiple spires on our destination planet. Nevertheless, we still celebrated our space heist with a glass of blue milk, readily available outside, which is essentially slushy-meets-milkshake but tastes better than it sounds.
Those itching for their next Disney fix with a Star Wars twist should wait another two weeks though, until the latest ride opens in mid-January… the Rise of the Resistance, which has been billed as the biggest, longest and most elaborate Disney ride ever.
As much as that sounds like a cash-grab to sell a bunch of repeat visitor tickets in early 2020, the lowest hanging fruit in this merchandising galaxy was nowhere to be found… there were ZERO Yoda Babies! None. Just some lame iPhone cases and a bumper sticker with his face. Did the Mouse House really not expect the little bugger to be the biggest thing since Tickle Me Elmo? I could care less about getting one later this summer, but would probably have at least three if they were already on sale.
After leaving Galaxy’s Edge we headed to Frontier Town for Thunder Mountain. Our second ride of the day faced a comparably daunting line, just under an hour, as our first mobile fast passes weren’t ready until 11am at (Hyper)Space Mountain. If you’ve never done Disney, or forgot about the daunting lines, the extra fifteen bucks per ticket is highly recommended.
Better yet, having a single person with Max Pass allows bulk fast-passing, which cuts every ride’s line wait time (usually between thirty minutes and two hours) down to a fraction per ride. I’m not sure of the least packed park days of the year, but these upgrades are almost mandatory for someone who wants to make the most of single day.
So we trudged it up through Thunder Mountain, got sprinkled for about ten seconds, and that was it for rain until much later in the evening. Once our fast passes started cueing up it became more of a speed run through the park. We made a bold attempt to spin our teacup as fast as possible, to reach a point of nauseam which would have defeated lesser riders.
Admittedly the plan was indeed to push our guts past the brink of human tolerance, but we came up just a few spins shy. Perhaps that’s why they keep the ride as short as they do? The caterpillar crawl through Alice’s Wonderland nearby was a pleasant change of pace afterward.
Long story short, rain held off until fireworks… or the lack thereof. Even Fantasmic was cancelled due to accompanying wind; inclement weather that terrorized half the remaining park goers into a seemingly sudden mass exodus. We held off for the first wave to leave, but the storm only grew. My only regret on the day was missing out on Splash Mountain, which was a hilarious five-minute wait most of the evening, given a nip in the air, but we certainly lived through one during the ride home.
An unleashed Christmas monsoon dominated the freeway, forming small ponds all along the route, making it a yuletide miracle that there weren’t any accidents while hydroplaning between six strings of traffic at 60 miles per hour. For any international readers… that’s fast. Thankfully, Chewie can drive better than he can fly.
I hope you all had Happy Holidays, too. Disney was a blast. Don’t underestimate the power of the fun side.