Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is from guest blogger, Elaine. Elaine was able to take the Lights, Camera, Magic one day tour offered by Adventures by Disney on April 27, 2012, before her amazing cruise on the Disney Wonder to Hawaii. Thanks Elaine!
When Tracy found out that my Mom and I had booked the one-day Lights, Camera, Magic Adventures By Disney excursion for April 27, 2012, she asked if I would write a review for her travel blog. I immediately said yes, but now that we are back and I am sitting here about to write my review, I’m thinking…how much detail should I give, should I give away all the surprises we received along the way….or should I just give a basic recap that will allow readers to get an overview of the stops on the tour without giving too much away. I decided to give a basic recap because some of the surprises make the trip but if you have any specific question, please contact Tracy.
So…. here’s my review of the most amazing day…..
Let’s start with introductions: I’m Elaine a 43 year old Disney fanatic and I was traveling with my 76 year old Mom, Margaret, but everyone just calls her Mom. While she is 76, she is a very active 76 and also loves all things Disney. I had always wanted to take the 5 day Backstage Magic ABD excursion, but the timing just never worked out for us so when I heard they were offering the one day Lights, Camera, Magic ABD excursion and it was going to be available when we were at Disneyland prior to our 15 day Hawaii DCL cruise, I knew I had to try to book it. I was super excited when I called ABD and was able to get the tour on the day I wanted – April 27, 2012. The cost is $199 for adults and $189 for children (ages 3 – 9). There is a $10 discount if you are an annual passholder.
Here is the Itinerary I received for our “Adventure” from Adventures By Disney. Please note that since we took the tour the Kodak Theatre has since been renamed The Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Centre and the Renaissance Hotel has also changed names and is now known as Lowes Hollywood Hotel.
The Kodak Theatre or Grauman’s Chinese Theater (based on tour date)
Visit the Kodak Theatre, the home of the Academy Awards, OR Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, best known for its extensive collection of celebrity footprints and handprints. Both are located on vibrant Hollywood Boulevard.
Hollywood’s Famed Sunset Strip
Catch a glimpse of such famous spots as Chateau Marmont and Whisky a Go Go.
Farmers Market & The Grove
Immerse yourself in the original Farmers Market at Third & Fairfax where you’ll enjoy great shopping and an amazing array of restaurants – all in an authentic atmosphere which offers family fun, and frequent star spotting! And just a short trolley ride away is the fabulous open-air shopping center, The Grove.
Beverly Hills’ Famed Rodeo Drive
Explore Beverly Hills’ world-famous shopping destination, known for its haute couture boutiques.
The Walt Disney Studios
Go behind the scenes on an exclusive tour of The Walt Disney Studios — which is both a working studio AND the headquarters of The Walt Disney Company — followed by a special reception in Legends Plaza, where Disney’s many gifted animators, Imagineers, songwriters, actors and business leaders as have been honored. This is truly an exclusive experience that’s only available to the public on the rarest of occasions!
Your tour returns to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at approximately 7:00 p.m.
Our tour started in the lobby of the Grand Californian with an 8:30 am departure. Our itinerary advised to arrive between 8 and 8:30 am. Our ABD tour guides were Michael and Christian. Let me just say that Michael and Christian were fabulous.
Here’s a picture of Christian (on the left) and Michael.
Please forgive me as I cannot recall the number of people on our excursion but I want to say it was 15 in total and that included a Disney executive and another ABD guide who was with the Disney Executive. It was all adults and we got along great. On our tour were 2 couples who would be cruising with us to Hawaii (Dale & Carol and Ann & Albert) so it was nice to get to know them a little better before the cruise.
We left the Grand Californian promptly at 8:30 am and headed to our very own bus…our bus driver was Don and we found out that Don does all the bus driving for the 5 day Backstage Magic ABD’s as well as the one-day Lights, Camera, Magic ABD. While driving to our first stop, we were able to see the sights of downtown LA from the freeway. Michael and Christian pointed out such sights as the Staples Centre and the Walt Disney Concert Hall (okay, we could just see the tippy top of the Walt Disney Concert Hall but I can say I saw it!!!) as well as some of the expensive hotels in downtown LA.
At our first stop, we parked at The Renaissance Hotel, which is the hotel you would stay at if you took the Backstage Magic ABD (the lobby area looked amazing….I could just imagine the rooms!!!). Michael and Christian gave us a guided tour of the courtyard outside the Kodak Theatre and from here we were able to see the famous Hollywood Sign. Christian provided a lot of information regarding the history of the Hollywood sign, but to find it out, you’ll have to take either the Lights, Camera, Magic ABD or the Backstage Magic ABD.
From there we ventured down the grand staircase of the Kodak Theatre. I had no idea all the preparations that went into Oscar night. One little tidbit of information I will share about the grand staircase of the Kodak Theatre is that the height of the stairs is approximately half the regular height or a stair so that on Oscar night when the ladies are walking up the stairs in their ball gowns and high heels, they are able to walk gracefully. Another thing we learned was that the riser part of the stair was tiled in red glassy tiles, so that when the camera showed the staircase, it looked like the red carpet continued up the stairs.
Here’s Michael in front of the grand staircase for the Kodak Theatre.
We then left the Kodak Theatre and saw some of the stars on the Walk of Fame. We learned how someone gets a star and the cost ($30,000) and we also found out that since Barbra Streisand “snubbed” the acceptance ceremony, all people receiving a star must now attend the unveiling ceremony.
We also found out that there is one person who received a star but their star is not actually “on” the Walk of Fame. The star belongs to Muhammad Ali and his star is located on the right hand wall just as you enter the Kodak Theatre. The reason his star is not on the Walk of Fame, is that the name Muhammad should not be walked upon.
We also found out that Disneyland has a star on the Walk of Fame…but it really isn’t on the Walk of Fame because Disneyland is not a person – the star looks just like an official star but it is located just off the Walk as you enter the Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store, which is across from the Kodak Theatre and next to the El Capitan Theatre.
Next, it was off to Gruman’s Chinese Theatre to see all the famous foot and hand prints.
We saw the foot and hand prints of older stars such as Bing Crosby, John Wayne, Sidney Poitier, Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Clark Gable and Julie Andrews ….and more recent stars like the cast of the Twilight and Harry Potter movies. We also saw the hand and foot prints of Michael Jackson, but it appears that they may have re-dedicated the block since it was dated 2012.
I was so overwhelmed with all the hand and footprints that I missed the gift shop at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. For anyone that knows me, they know that is unbelievable.
After our visit to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, we headed back to the Kodak Theatre for an exclusive 1 hour behind the scenes tour. No pictures were allowed as the security in the Kodak Theatre is very tight. Some of the interesting things we learned during our tour:
- Cirque du Soleil’s IRIS has a 10 year contract with the Kodak Theatre
- It takes on average 1 hour for the celebrities to traverse the red carpet on Oscar night
- There are approximately 300 body guards on night of Oscars
- There are 30 dressing rooms in the Theatre
- Private lounge for big name celebrities
- “Oscar” is a nickname
- The Oscar statute weights 8.5 lbs
- The Oscar is manufactured in Chicago
- All Oscars are engraved the night of the event at the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball at the Renaissance Hotel.
- The stars have 45 seconds for their acceptance speech and can come to the Theatre prior to the event to practice
- It takes 5 weeks to set up for the Oscars
- No one can leave the Theatre during the telecast except during commercials
- The columns in the Theatre hide all the cables etc for the broadcast
After our tour, we headed back to the bus to head to The Farmer’s Market. Along the way we traveled along Sunset Blvd and Don, our incredible bus driver, pointed out all the sights to see such as The Jim Henson Studios, the original In ‘n’ Out Burger, Kat Von D’s LA Ink Tattoo Parlor “High Voltage”, the infamous “Pink’s” , the original Johnny Rockets location and the CBS Studio building where they film The Price is Right.
When we arrived at the Farmer’s Market and The Grove, we were each given a $15 certificate for lunch in the Farmer’s Market and then we had about an hour of free time to walk around both the market and The Grove. Michael & Christian informed us that at 1 pm, the TV show Extra would be filming in The Grove with Maria Menounos and Mario Lopez and they would be interviewing Rita Wilson (Tom Hank’s wife). Since we had not seen a celebrity yet, we decided to head over to where they were filming after we had our lunch. Sadly, Mario was not there and since they were running behind, we did not get a chance to see Rita Wilson. We did get to see Maria and she was very pretty but “appeared” to be a diva and very demanding (just my perspective from what I saw).
After lunch, we re-boarded the bus and headed to Rodeo Drive. Along the way Don pointed out the Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, The Viper Room, Wolfgang Puck’s original location of his Spago Restaurant, one of Marilyn Monroe’s first homes and of course the infamous Beverly Hills sign.
As we started our drive down Rodeo Drive, Don pointed out the store that was used in the movie Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts goes to shop and they first refuse to serve her and then she goes back and tells the sales girl she made a “Huge” mistake. He also pointed out a $2.3 million dollar Bugatti car that was parked in front of the Bijan store. We were given about 20 minutes of free time to look around and shop. Wanting to get a closer look at the $2.3 million dollar Bugatti car our bus driver pointed out, Mom and I headed towards the 400 block of Rodeo Drive to the Bijan store. Along the way we passed Coach, Prada, Gucci, Frendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Cartier, Chanel and Hugo Boss before reaching the Bijan store and getting a close up look at the Bugatti. I realize that the Bijan family had the paint job specially done, but I would have insisted that the interior brown leather be changed to black to match the exterior of the car (that’s just me – thought the brown was out of place – but hey, what do I know, I drive a $20,000 minivan not a $2.3 million dollar Bugatti!!!!!)
See for yourself what $2.3 million will buy…
Here’s a close up of the hood.
On our way back to the bus, we passed by Roberto Cavalli, Valentino, Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana and Harry Winston. I so wanted to go into Harry Winston but decided we weren’t dressed properly!!!!
We also saw Versace, Porsche Design, Bvlgari, Louis Vuiton and Tiffany & Co. We did venture into the Tiffany & Co. store but then again, the doors were open and the armed security guard didn’t give us a second glance when we walked through. The saleslady that approached us was very nice and I explained we were from Canada and just had to come into the store to say we were in a Tiffany’s. I wish we had more time to have shopped at Tiffany’s because they did seem to have some nice jewelry and I would have loved to have bought Mom something special for Mother’s Day.
Here’s the Beverly Wilshire hotel that was featured in the movie Pretty Woman.
After our visit to Rodeo Drive, we drove along Wilshire Blvd and saw the new location of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago (very secluded and out of the way) and lots of other famous landmarks that you have seen on TV and in movies.
Our final destination for the day was the Disney Studios in Burbank. This was the part of the trip that I was looking to most. When we arrived at the Studios we were all given “GUEST” badges that we had to wear during our tour. This was also a stop on the tour where we were only permitted to take pictures in certain areas. We saw the infamous Dopey Drive/Mickey Ave sign, the Animation Building, the Ink & Paint Department (where they have little bottles of every color of paint Disney has ever used), and we saw where Walt’s office was located. We also saw the Disney Water Tower, which we were told was visible from practically every corner of the studio lot. We were advised that while it no longer functions, it had originally held 150,000 gallons of water. We were also told that the Matterhorn mountain in Disneyland is approximately 11 feet taller than the water tower.
After we toured some of the buildings, we were then escorted to a sound stage where the TV show Body of Proof is filmed. I was really excited because Body of Proof is one of my FAVORITE TV shows and we were given a tour by a gentleman who was the senior manager of production operations for Body of Proof. We did not get to see much of the set because the sound stage had been re-configured for some pilots ABC was taping but I did get a peek at the morgue wall from the show and the elevators…. while I would have loved to have seen more, this was enough for me to be able to say, I saw part of the set.
Then we were off to a reception which was held in the Legends Plaza, which is between the Animation Building (also known to some as the Seven Dwarfs building) and the Frank G. Wells Building. The Legends Plaza is home to the original Partners statute of Walt and Mickey and the original statute of Roy & Minnie sitting on the park bench. Our ABD guides were fantastic as they were available to take pictures for everyone. It was amazing to be able to be so close to the Partners statute and to see the detail that there just isn’t visible when you see it in the theme parks.
Mom and I, up close and personal with Walt and Mickey.
After our reception, it was off to the Frank G. Wells building, which houses the Walt Disney Company Archives. Unfortunately the Archives were closed when we got there but there is a display case of Disney memorabilia that everyone had a blast looking at and all you could hear was either “I have that” or “I had that when I was a kid”. We also saw some costume displays and the multiplane camera that was used on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I would have loved to have been able to see in the Disney Archives, but I guess that just means I will have to take the 5 day Backstage Magic ABD someday.
Before returning to the Grand Californian, we were given 30 minutes to shop at the Studio Store. We were told that because we were on the ABD excursion, we were also able to shop at the cast store which was attached to the Studio store…so off I went in search of an exclusive pin for the Studios. I ended up getting 2 different pins. Then it was off to find a sweatshirt or t-shirt as a souvenir of our visit to the Studios. Unfortunately, Disney does not stock larger sizes so Mom ended up getting 2 t-shirts and I got the special Vinylmation for the Studios, which is Mickey dressed as a director, a book and some postcards.
After shopping, we headed back to the bus to begin the drive back to The Grand Californian. For the drive “home” they showed the movie “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t” starring Kurt Russell, because the movie was filmed at the Disney Studios and used some of the buildings, such as the Animation Building we had walked through on our tour.
We arrived back at the Grand California at approximately 7:30 pm and it was time to say goodbye to our fellow ABD’ers (except we would be seeing Dale & Carol and Ann & Albert on our DCL Hawaii cruise that left on Sunday), our fabulous ABD guides, Christian and Michael and who could forget our amazing bus driver, Don. As we left the bus, and said our good byes, we were given our last ABD surprises/mementos.
We were given a few special ABD surprises/mementos during the day to remember our “Adventure” and I don’t want to post what we received because it was special how the guides give them, that I want other ABD’ers to be just as surprised as we were.
In conclusion, this tour was an absolutely amazing day and I highly recommend the tour for anyone who loves Disney. I can definitely see a longer ABD adventure in our future, maybe even the full Backstage Magic ABD because Michael and Christian advised that there is so much more on the Backstage Magic that taking the one day adventure will not spoil it.