Who’s a great big birthday boy?

While I was getting my annual pass from the Disneyland Bank, the effusively friendly lady behind the counter took my ID and got all excited. “Happy birthday!” she exclaimed while grabbing a sticker and asking me what name I wanted written on it. I tried to point out that Monday was my birthday and wearing a sticker on Thursday felt like cheating, but she said, “That’s your birthday on the outside. From now on, today will be your Disney birthday!”

So she wrote “CHUCK” in big letters with circles on the ends and drew stars all over it, and the rest of the day I got to walk around Disneyland with a big birthday sticker. All day people kept wishing me a happy birthday — cast members and other guests both — and would point out where to get free stuff or just take extra time to be social. What could’ve been a boring day walking around theme parks alone turned into a pretty awesome Disney birthday. And people wonder why I like Disney so much.

The “point” of the whole trip was to check out what had been done for the 50th anniversary and, secondarily but just as important for tax purposes, to see if anything conjured up ideas that seemed applicable to the project. The park looks really nice, and they’ve done a great job of making it feel like a big event is going on. The emphasis is on Disneyland itself, instead of the characters or movies that usually take the focus, and since I’ve always been a bigger fan of the parks than the movies, it all worked for me.

“Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” has been replaced (I asked the host if it were permanent, but he said that Mr. Lincoln would definitely be back after the 50th) with a display on Disneyland history and a short movie hosted by Steve Martin and Donald Duck. The movie’s very clever and well done; they avoided the schmaltz and corny humor and just went with the “Disneyland is pretty cool” angle. And the display wasn’t just a repeat of all the same stuff they always drag out; most of the pictures and models and such, I’d never seen before.

And the new fireworks show is just great. Again, they kept the “Remember the magic of the dreams of a child’s wishes and imagination” stuff to just the beginning and the end, and kept most of it related to the park itself. They used lots of audio from the original rides and have a segment of the show themed to each of the lands. All of the effects are spectacular, like the huge fireballs for the Indiana Jones segment; and many of them are really clever, like the sparklers and fx going off all around the castle representing the Frontierland shooting gallery.

It was exhausting (I ended up just falling asleep when I got back from the airport & lunch on Friday), but a lot of fun. Now I just have to head back once they’ve re-opened Space Mountain.