After a couple days at Disneyland we boarded the Disney Cruise Line’s second ship, The Wonder. We’ve been lucky to cruise three times in recent years for almost no cost (thank you, various perks).
7 Day Mexican Riviera Cruise. After arriving and unpacking our bags in our windowless inside stateroom, Guest Services knocked on the door. “You have been reassigned to a different stateroom.” Whuuu? “Here are new room keys for you and the other couple in your party.” Ummm... this person/friend (you know who you are) made our week. We walked into the new “Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms with Veranduhs”. Boy do those private balconies make a difference. Especially when the upgrade was unexpected and free. Did I mention the guy at port check-in asked if we wanted veranduh room upgrades for $2,600?
Andreas Deja. The next highlight was the fact that animation great, Andreas Deja, was on board for the week. He gave two presentations while at sea. Both fantastic.
I’m a long-time fan of Andreas’ work. He is considered to be one of what some might call the “Nine New Men”. He was very influential in the “Second Golden Age of Animation”. His work includes many characters on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, King Triton in The Little Mermaid, Mickey Mouse (as both the Prince and the Pauper) in The Prince and the Pauper, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Jafar in Aladdin, Scar in The Lion King, Mickey Mouse in Runaway Brain, Adult Hercules in Hercules, Goofy in How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, Mama Odie and Juju in The Princess and the Frog, Tigger in Winnie the Pooh, and much more.
The first presentation was about “The Nine Old Men”. Part of Andreas’ animation credibility comes from having professional relationships with most of the the Old Men. He was wise enough to consult with them before they all passed away. He was more or less a student of these animation greats. And the stories he tells are first-rate.
On the last “sea day” Andreas shared stories from his own career. Aaaaannd he drew some stuff.
We saw some devolopment work for Belle.
And some of the evolution of Gaston.
Fantastic animal studies.
Excellent marker sketches. Later Andreas gave away the sketches to audience members who answered trivia questions.
I had a couple of great conversations with Andreas. We talked about the Little Mermaid ride. Since he had done so much on the film, I wanted his take on the new ride. He said he liked it but that it still needed work. It sounds like there will be upcoming improvement to the "going under the sea" effect as well as one or more of the Ariel figures. He said he wishes there were more scenes and that certain scenes were a little better represented. In a joking manner he said, "a little more Triton would be nice", seeing how he designed the animated character! Lasseter has given WDI many notes, many of which will be implemented in the Magic Kingdom version of the ride. Andreas also shared that he is reworking the Mickey on new Walt Disney Company logo along with the Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey on the new Walt Disney Imagineering logo.
A Real Life Adventureland. After we anchoring at the first port we took an hour-long boat ride to this beautiful jungle beach south of Puerto Vallarta.
A trained parrot circled the boat several times as we approached to dock. Exotic native-looking women and men greeted us on shore. A number of small monkeys climbed on our shoulders. The head salesman offered us two of his heads for one of ours.
Movie director from the 1940s-1960s, John Huston, owned the place until his death in the 1980s. After snorkeling (in very warm water), paddle boarding, coconut milk drinking, and kayaking everyone ate amazing ribs and Mexican food at Huston’s former house and surrounding buildings and patios. It reminded me of eating at Disneyland’s Tahitian Terrace. According to the posted memorabilia, Huston’s home was not entirely enclosed (same as today) which allowed for wild jungle animals to enter at will. He reported having jaguars enter the home at night while he slept.
Mickey Drawing Class. The guys decided to go to the character drawing class while our wives relaxed on the deck. I learned a few things about Walt Disney I had never heard before. Probably because they never actually happened. According to the instructor girl, Walt “forgot” to sign his first drawings of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit therefore “he lost all rights to this character he created”. Hmmm. Is that what happened?? “So sign your drawing of Mickey today so you don’t make the same mistake Walt Disney made”. I guess I own the rights to Mickey Mouse now. (My sketch on the right.)
Cabo San Lucas was beautiful. Puerto Vallarta is on mainland Mexico and is super tropical. Cabo is on the peninsula and is very much a desert. We went to Cabo twice because cruise lines don't go to Mazatlan anymore? For $8 we had a private boat tour of Arches. Sea lions were everywhere. The place was stunning.
The water was unbelievable. Not far offshore large rocks protrude out of the water. The water is as deep as 80 feet around the rocks. The snorkeling was outstanding– clear water, thousands of fish, colorful plants, and even dive-bombing pelicans.
Winnie the Pooh movie. We loved watching this movie. (All movies are free of charge in the two theaters on the ship.) The classic style, the traditional animation, the simple and charming story. It was also a treat to watch an animated film in the same room as one of the supervising animators of that film. Andreas was there. I had asked him earlier in the week if he enjoys watching his own work. He said he didn’t. He said he loves watching the work of other animators but doesn’t revisit his own past animation much. But there he was. I also loved Pixar’s Bud Luckey as Eeyore. You might recognize his voice from his Pixar short Boundin’. The Ballad of Nessie short that preceded Winnie the Pooh was also fantastic. I loved the style that resembled old shorts like Johnny Appleseed and Pigs is Pigs– two childhood favs.
Our new former Jungle Cruise Skipper friends. Most passengers got all hyper-silly-giddy when they saw some “magical” thing happen. I would guess that very few of these passengers are deeper than surface-level Disney fans. I mean few really seek out the deeper geek side of Disney and its history. And that is just fine. But it’s always nice to know that there are fans out there that like some of the things I like. Fans of say, old EPCOT Center. One of these three guys was wearing a great vintage EPCOT t-shirt. Turns out they did the Walt Disney World College Program a few years back, skippering the Jungle Cruise. And they’ve kept in touch ever since. How cool is that.
Character meet-and-greets. You gotta meet Mickey and Minnie on the Disney Cruise. And the Flinstones.
All in all it was a fantastic week. The Mexican Riviera was surprisingly as great as the Caribbean. In some ways it was even better. Who knew? My once apathetic views of Disney's involvement in the cruise industry have definitely changed. The ships are classy (save for a few small areas). The itineraries are great. The live shows were grand, although the writing was quite terrible. I don't know much about pricing, but I imagine it's rather high, but perhaps worth it. We had only excellent service. Wish I could say that about Disneyland the week prior!
Trip Report- Disneyland/Disney Cruise 10-2011 [Part 1]
A Disney Artist's Designs for a Hanna Barbera Land
Original Visions of CalArts
Magic Highway U.S.A... It doesn't get much better than this.
Walt Disney Studios Post Production Behind-the-Scenes