Whew! That is a lot of links for the first paragraph alone. I'll break the rest of the story up into two parts: friends and what's new.
For us a trip to Disneyland is like a family reunion. We spend time with friends we met on past trips, friends we met outside of Disney, and brand-new friends we meet for the first time. This trip was no different.
We enjoyed listening to Ragtime Robert, especially while Ashley played Musical Chairs. It is always a treat.
Ashley always adores seeing Brianna. We met her on one of our very first trips to Disneyland when she was an art student home on winter break (January 2006?). She would sit in Coke Corner and draw pictures of the characters. Since then she has only gotten better. Now-a-days Ashley shares her artwork with Brianna. The best is when they both go to the Animation Academy and draw together.
Marilyn is a former Disneyland character host, and a friend. We met up for a bit to see another friend, Fawn. Fawn is one of Tinkerbell's friends. She is an animal talent fairy. Ashley loves animals. Over the years, Fawn and Ashley would tell recurring stories. One year she helped Tinkerbell "tinker" something for Peter Pan. She and Ashley tell Mimomite adventures to each other (mimomites are mythical creatures Ashley invented, but Fawn has illustrated). It turned into one of those magical moments, as so often happens for us at Disneyland.
Kimberly is a "Dreamer" -- one of the Year of a Million Dreams cast members who spread extra magic. Kimberly now works backstage. Back in her days as a dreamer, though, she carried an autograph book with her. She would ask kids in costumes to sign her book. We bumped into her a couple of times on that trip. That year (2007?) she was Tiger Lilly (not, Pocahontas, because she was wearing braids) and Iridessa (another one of Tinkerbell's fairy friends, she is a light talent fairy). Since that trip we have contacted Kimberly to come in the park to play with us after work. She has since seen Ashley dressed up a Mary Poppins, Wendy Darling, Alice in Wonderland, and finally as Ashley. Each time she added an autograph to the book. Kimberly has since moved, but when she heard we were coming, she made sure she could find the autograph book so Ashley could add to it.
This time we also briefly met her fiance, John. Hopefully next time he'll be able to hang with us at the Animation Studio. Kimberly and Ashley drew Steamboat Mickey, Steamboat Minnie and Oswald the Rabbit -- old school characters.
Dave was Don's "little" in their college fraternity. He was in our wedding back in 1992. Since then he has met Lisa, got married, moved to California, and had Siena. Siena is like the little sister Ashley does not have, and Ashley is like a big sister to Siena. She certainly looks up to Ashley with those enormous eyes of hers, and holds her hand as they dance through Disney. While Ashley is by no means, ancient, seeing Disney through the eyes of Siena brings back some more magic. Within 30 minutes of hanging out with Siena, Dave and Lisa, Ashley posed with 5 different characters and danced through Town Square. It just doesn't get better than that.
We've seen East Coast friends in Disneyland other times (most notably in 2011 when Hurricane Irene trapped Neil and Patty in California for a few extra days), but this was the first time we spent at Disney with Heather and Jolie. Heather, Jolie (and Dan, of course) are huge Disney World fans. The girls met up with some other friends in California at the same time we were in California. It was very magical being able to share our Disney park with them.
While hanging out with them, Alice came up to Ashley and said "you grew," code for it has been a while since I last saw you last. Other times it has been phrased as "you ate a magic mushroom" or simply "AAASSSHHHHLLEEEEY!!!" Ahh... that is what makes Disneyland so magical for us. It doesn't matter how long it has been, we always bump into someone we know and catch up as if time has not passed at all.
Well, the biggest "new" for us is that this was Ashley's first trip without costumes. I once read 10 is the cut off, and as it is on our last trip to Disneyland when Ashley wore her Alice in Wonderland costume heads were turning and at least one person almost asked her for her autograph before realizing his mistake. I wanted that experience to end on our terms and not with Disney getting upset.
Meanwhile, we learned about a new trend called "Disney Bound" where you take clothes found in your closet or at a thrift store or with your imagination and dress like the character. It seems to be an extension of Dapper Days. On most days we saw people doing this, of course it is greatest on the weekends when the locals have off from work. It was super, super hot each day, so I give them a lot of credit for dressing up. Anyway, this gives us some ideas for ways Ashley can dress up in the future without actually dressing up. She did admit that she missed wearing a costume, but it was so hot it was probably a good thing.
Carnation Plaza is now part of Fantasyland. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how it was before. Our fondest memory from the past was having Ashley play hide and seek with Peter Pan. With the new transformation came moving Princess Fantasy Faire, and some of the princesses (Snow White, Belle, and others) are back to roaming instead of being penned up. Being "penned up," though is not as bad as it had been. Now the area is air conditioned, they announce who will be seen, and the line maxed out at 30 minutes when we were there, instead of the 2 hours we used to stand in line. We swung through a few times, but it just wasn't the same.
Now that the old Princess Fantasy Faire space is empty, they added in a show called "Mickey and the Magic Map" -- a show filled with singing, dancing and a lot of characters. Something else new -- Mickey and Minnie now blink and their mouths move when they talk and sing. Two year ago this was in the testing phase, but we were not lucky enough to see it in person.
On Main Street inside the gallery is the Ink and Paint studio. Not only can you watch an artist create a cel as he would have in the early days of animation, he will explain to you what he is doing and all about the history of animation. I was really surprised Ashley did not want to spend more time talking to him.
New for that week, was watching the transformation from Fourth of July bunting and summer to Halloween. Wish we could have stayed an extra couple of weeks to be there on Friday, September 13 when Jack Skellington took over the Haunted Mansion. I know, not realistic, but I can still dream about teleporting back and forth to Disneyland on a whim.
Merida from "Brave" was the only new character we saw on the trip. As we had already met her in Florida, I'm not sure if she counts as new.
This is definitely not new, but rather a thing of the past. Not long after we left, the Court of Angels in New Orleans Square was taken out in order to expand Club 33. It was one of those few always quiet spots at Disney (except as I tried to take this picture!). A beautiful place to take family pictures. But, alas, not a place where they made any money. One Christmas they did take over the space with a Christmas shop, but that was temporary. This change is permanent.
And something else not new ... rising ticket prices. Ouch! We paid much more this time for our Run Disney discounted 5 day pass than we did in 2005 for our first Annual Pass. As always, I'm glad we were able to go as often as we did when it was all still so magical for Ashley. Having been to four out of the five parks, this one will always remain my favorite.