Are We Going to Die at Disneyland?

I don't normally do two posts on the same day, so if you haven't checked the blog lately (and you are inclined to do so), check out the post below about my late night / early morning at Disneyland on Leap Day 2012.

So today was just supposed to be another day at Disneyland for our little vacation.  We are staying at Paradise Pier, which is one of Disney's hotels here at the Disneyland Resort.  It's a very cool, beach themed hotel.  One of the perks of staying at a Disney hotel is something they call "Magic Morning Hours."  On certain days of the week, people staying at Disney hotels can go into Disneyland an hour early and get to enjoy the park with other resort hotel guests.  Since there are only three Disney hotels here at Disneyland, it ends up not being a ton of people, so for that hour, the lines are short and you can experience more rides in a short period of time.

We've done these Magic Mornings before and have really enjoyed them.  But today, something strange happened.  Normally, after the hour is up, they drop the ropes on Main Street and let the general public in.  Then things start to get much more crowed - and quick.  But that didn't happen this morning.  My wife, Jennifer, was going to go over and get fast passes for Star Tours so we could go on it later in the morning and not have to wait as long.  While she did that, I took Ty & Ethan on to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Fun was had by all and we were waiting in line when Jennifer met up with us a Dumbo.  She was a bit frustrated because you couldn't get fast passes until Disneyland officially opened and so we'd have to go back after the rope drop.  That's when things started to get weird.  After the scheduled rope drop time, there was no huge infusion of people into the park.  We didn't see the expected throngs of people heading over to Star Tours and the Finding Nemo ride trying to beat the crowds.  Instead, we sat down and had some breakfast at the Jolly Holiday Bakery.

It was there that Jennifer got a text from a friend and co-worker who was also visiting Disneyland with her family.  They were outside of the gates waiting to get in, but they weren't letting anyone in.  Turns out they weren't letting anyone out, either (although we didn't know that at the time).  There were lots of rumors flying around:
  • There was a suspicious package somewhere
  • Some guy with a backpack rushed past security and got into the park.  Now they're looking for him.
  • There are bomb sniffing dogs trying to find something.
  • Disneyland's on lockdown!
  • All the guests inside the park are sequestered in Frontierland!
After all the hulabaloo, it turns out some idiot left a bag in a tree in the esplenade between Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure.  Inside the bag wasn't a bomb, but apparently some kind of "goodwill message."  I don't know if I entirely believe that, but I'll tell you what was going on inside the park.  [UPDATE:  After thinking about it for a while, a thought occurred to me.  One report said that the message was "rolled up."  If it had been rolled up and placed in a metal container of some sort, it could've appeared to be a pipe bomb.  If that was the case, the delay makes a lot more sense to me.  You don't mess around with a pipe bomb.  Of course, I'm only speculating after the fact.]

We decided that we'd try and get a family picture taken because there wouldn't be three hundred people in the background.  Here's the picture:

                                  There's not three hundred people in the background.  There's five.

Everywhere we went, people were acting like nothing was wrong, probably because most didn't know anything WAS wrong.  We were encouraged by any cast member we chatted up to explore the park as we normally would, but we couldn't all the way back to the front entrance. Jennifer and I were a little scared, to be honest.  We didn't split up, because we didn't want to be separated in case something bad happened.  If it was going to be a dirty bomb or something, at least we were all going to be together in this place that we love with the people we love most.  We didn't really dwell on those thoughts, but we both had them, for sure.

We kept all of our fears from the boys, who ended up thinking it was the best thing ever. Here's a panoramic picture of Frontierland / New Orleans Square at 9:30, a full hour and a half AFTER Disneyland should've opened.

Five minutes after I took this picture, Ethan and I went on Pirates of the Caribbean.  He and I were the ONLY people on our boat.  The boat in front of us was completely empty, while the one behind us had a grand total of three people in it.  While E and I were on Pirates, Jennifer and Ty went on Haunted Mansion.  Their elevator ride down to the ride had a total of nine people on it.  This was so strange.

Just to show how deserted Disneyland was, I took a couple more panoramic pictures, one looking south down Main Street - the other one looking north towards Sleeping Beauty's castle.  These were taken at just before 11am.

The entire time we were in the park, we were never approached by a cast member requiring us to do something.  They told us what little they knew, but again encouraged us to enjoy ourselves.  One cast member put it perfectly.  "If there was a serious danger to us or the park, they would have evacuated all of us through the safest location."  And they didn't do that.  They also didn't sequester us in Frontierland or anywhere else, for that matter.  Although if they'd have wanted to sequester me at Rancho del Zocalo with an endless supply of those awesome chile lime tortilla chips and Arnold Palmers, I'd have been cool with that.

For almost three hours, we had the run of the park.  We could go on whatever ride we wanted, virtually as often as we wanted.  We ran into some girls who rode Space Mountain four times in a row without having to get out of their vehicle.  Even though lots of people outside the park were freaking out (and with hour long waits just to get into the parking structure, I can understand why), nobody inside the park was.  It was one of the most surreal experiences I think I'll ever have at Disneyland.

All of the cast members handled the event professionally and with grace.  They helped us to still have a great time under stressful and strange circumstances.  We apologize to all of you who waited outside Disneyland for three hours while we were able to have the run of the place.  Although we had a lot of fun, we did so at your expense and that's just not fair.  So sorry about that.

Disney decided to keep both Disneyland and California Adventure open for an additional hour today to try and make up for the delay.  Sure it was only an hour, but it was a nice gesture on Disney's part.  Some people were really angry and took it out on whatever cast member was closest to them.  To those inconsiderate people, shame on you.  You're the ones who get mad at the TSA people at the airport for wanting you to take your shoes off, or who yell at the person at Macy's who has the gall to ask you for your ID when you give them your credit card.

For me, I'd rather these security people overreact to something that turns out to be nothing than to underreact to something that could end up killing people.  Maybe I'm just some naive idiot,

But then again, I'm still here, typing this all up.  So I like my chances, thank you.  And yes, tomorrow we're going to Disneyland.  Hope to see you all there.
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