Sunday, July 22, 2012

Disneyland Dream Suite - Friends arrive

Not long after 7pm, our first guests arrived! Monica and Scott!

They had their own fun experience leading up to July 14th.
Monica - When Ruston had asked if I’d be available if he “hypothetically” invited me to the Dream Suite, I said YES without losing a second.  When he said I could invite a guest, I knew exactly who that guest would be – Scott.  Despite me dating someone, I knew no one else would appreciate it the way I knew Scott would.  We had annual passes for years, had shared many a Mickey waffle (or pancake!), celebrated the park’s 50th Anniversary, dined at Club 33 and gone to Leap Day overnight – invited him was a no-brainer.
The weeks and days leading up to the big day were filled with exciting anticipatory texts and emails from Scott proclaiming how many days we had left till July 14th.  Unfortunately, I had so much going on that I didn’t have the chance to get as excited as Scott was but once the day came, I could hardly contain myself.  Scott picked me up and coincidentally we both wore our Mickey tees and grey Converse.  Apparently, great minds think alike.  He kept making reference to two characters – from Die Hard I think, who knows – when we discussed having to find the clue.  Whatever.  Boy thing, I think.  Here’s what happened next:
We found the locker!

3 envelopes left!

Excited to open our clue!

Scott kept thinking the answer to our clue was fried chicken but I insisted that chicken wasn’t tangy…good thing I saw the menu board – top of the menu – PICKLES!!
Despite a cast member (or two) almost preventing us from making our way up those magical stairs, we made it up and gave it a buzz.  Scott couldn’t stop repeating PICKLES! PICKLES! PICKLES! while the aforementioned cast member started making his way up the staircase with a disapproving look of “Get down from there you two!”  And then the magic happened…as the door opened it was all I expected it to be and more.  We couldn’t stop smiling. 
Now if there's anyone who could be considered a huge Disney fan, it's Scott. I asked him to provide me with a write-up of his experience, and he did not disappoint.
Scott - For weeks the excitement has been growing in me about the visit to the Dream Suite. I was texting and emailing Monica almost daily with the excitement level increasing with each tick of the clock closer to the adventure. Then on July 9th the first official from Ruston! As I had replied to Monica in the email....
oh dear god!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
this just got kicked up a couple notches.
I had heard of and seen a couple of pictures of the Dream Suite but decided not to research anything so I could just experience it as new as possible. Then the second email from Ruston came in.

Here are the TOP SECRET details you’ll need for Saturday evening.
I have your mobile phone number. On Saturday morning I will text you the number and combination of a locker located just outside of the Disneyland main entrance.
Inside the locker you will find a small stack of envelopes.
Locate the envelope with your name on it. You are welcome to pick up your envelope at anytime during the day.
Inside the envelope you will find a clue which will lead you to a top secret password for the Disney Dream Suite.
Once you have the password and the clock has struck 7pm, climb the stairs you see in the picture below (the rounded stairs above the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean).
There is be a doorbell/buzzer beside the door, push that and wait for the password prompt. For example:
Voice from box: “What color is the Raven in the Haunted Mansion?”
Your reply: “Black”
The door will buzz open, and your evening of Disney Dreaming will begin.

This is the point that everything becomes hazy, the anticipation was too much to handle. I was freaking out.

Once the day came and I picked up Monica for our awesome adventure I felt like John McClain and Zeus Carver were on a mission (from the movie Die Hard), me being John McClain of course and Monica as Zeus. I felt all life hinged in the balance of us getting that envelope, figuring out the code, and getting into the Dream Suite. I almost went as far as to remove my t-shirt revealing the white tank top I had underneath.

We sprinted to lockers with the speed of Usain Bolt, I punched in the code that Monica dictated to me like bomb squad agent deactivating an IED in the base of the Nakatomi plaza. With a click the door swung open and the envelope with the clue was revealed. I tore open the package, read the clue to Monica and we made quick guesses of the possible answer and headed to the location where we could get the definite answer, Carnation Cafe.

Once we got the answer we took a bee line to the Dream Suite. First we checked the left side entrance. No attendant, no one to give us permission to ascend those glorious steps to our palace in the sky. So we headed past Pirates to the other set of stairs. Again, no one there to tell us to go up. I finally stopped a Cast Member, but with all my excitement I don't think I did a very eloquent job of explaining myself and he really didn't offer much help. So we took it upon ourselves to jump the chain and head up, with our code word at the ready.

We hit the button, and heard......nothing. I started yelling "pickles" into the speaker. Nothing. Pickles! Pickles!! A million times, at the top of my lungs. Dear God why isn't pickles opening the door? I could now see the Cast Member coming up the stairs motioning us to come down and leave the VIP inhabitants of the Dream Suite alone.

Time froze. Was this a joke? Was Sir Ruston the jester playing a cruel joke on me? Toying with my emotions knowing how much I had been looking forward to this, how involved and excited I was. A millisecond elapsed; everything happening at once, flashes of the Cast Member about to escort me out of the park, guests laughing at the shell of a man who was taken on this emotional roller coaster only to see the track broken right before the loop and death his only relief.

Then, in what seemed to be a year later..........CLICK it was the greatest sound!!! Like the Disney Choir upon steps of the Main Street Train Station in blissful unison singing Hallelujah, the door unlocked. I grabbed the handle and started my journey into the Dream Suite. One final look over my shoulder at the Cast Member and as if to say "Not today sir, Today I am VIP", then Monica and I crossed the threshold. Once inside I thought the anticipation excitement would subside, but it only got worse. There was so much to see so much to experience. I only wish I had 20 sets of eyes to drink it all in.

We explored the whole area with Scott and Monica and caught Scott just in time before he pushed that "Goodnight Kiss" button. If you watched the private tour video, you'll know that we only get to push that button 3 times during our entire stay. Our plan was to wait until everyone arrived, gather everyone in the room, then push the button.

Next to arrive was Bruce and Roger.

Memories from Bruce
Bruce - I was embarrassed and a bit nervous about going up to the Dream Suite. A feeling that was only heightened when I realized there was not a cast member there to welcome us and we had to take down the chain in front of the steps as well as open a gate part way up. I bolted up as quickly as I could, not wanting to attract any attention but Roger had stopped to take pictures. I turned around to see what he was up to and noticed a woman near the stairway looking up at us with an astonished look on her face and trying to get the attention of whoever she was at the park with. “Stay calm” I told myself. “Just act like you’re supposed to be here, because in fact you are.”

Roger made it up the stairs and I rang the bell immediately. No response. Again. No response. I stooped down to the bells height partly in case the park noise was masking a response on the intercom but mostly to hide from anyone else who might be staring at us. There was no way I was going to look to see if that woman was still there watching but in my mind she was and I just wanted to get in quick.

Suddenly the door opened and we were walking in. What’s that strange noise? (turned out it was the fireplace) Am I really here? Oh my god, someone is taking my picture. I’m sure I looked a fright in that moment, but very quickly I adjusted and was trying to see everything all at once.  I was here – in the Dream Suite!

Later we would learn that the intercom at the front door wasn't working very well, which led to a bit of confusion for our guests trying to tell them the password.

Bruce and Roger started exploring by themselves, and as I walked into the Frontierland bedroom I noticed the lights were dimming and music was playing! Bruce pushed the "Goodnight Kiss" button! We started yelling "He pushed the button! He pushed the button!" and all ran into the room. None of us had seen this before and we didn't know what to expect. The train that looked like it was in a glass display case started traveling around the room. As it passed other items in the room, it interacted with them and made them light up, make music, or more around.
Bruce - Looking around the what I assumed was the master bedroom but was in fact the kids or secondary bedroom I saw a weird little switch on the wall labeled “Good Night Kiss.” That looked interesting so I pressed it and room started coming alive with lights and sounds as a train started a trip around the perimeter of the room. Other guests started yelling “Hurry!” and “Quick!” and “He pushed the button!” I thought everyone was just really excited to see something that they must’ve seen many times already, but I soon found out that Disney limits the button presses to only two or three a stay.  Oops. I sure felt stupid. Only five minutes in the Suite and already I’m messing things up. But boy, was it a magical experience!

Alright, new rule for new guests, no pushing buttons! Bruce might have been a little embarrassed about pushing the button, but we all got such a huge laugh out of it.

Jacob even considered it one of his favorite memories from the night.
Jacob - The "Goodnight Kiss" buttons played a big role in the night's amusement. The effects were great, but that's not what I mean. It was the other visitors that we hadn't warned about pressing the button. One would press it, and suddenly people were screaming "Get in here...they pressed the button!!" It was fun, and everyone came running!

Steph and Farman showed up next.

Commenting on the awesome invitations Ruston created.

And comparing clues.

Watching the fireworks appear in the fire.

We were cautioned about having too many people over for the party. There were lots of expensive items throughout the suite that could be damaged if it got too crowded. Here Ruston is holding a $1200 waste paper basket. I think there were 2 or 3 of them throughout the Suite.

Michael and Kenny arrived next.
Michael - Kenny and I were intensely scrutinizing Tilly the Ticket Taker, trying to unlock the secret to Walt’s past and find the top secret password.  We’d been standing there for a minute or two when a small boy coming out of the cinema saw us, and generously let us know we didn’t need to buy a ticket to enter.  Such a boy scout!  Walt would have been proud of this youngster, helping two confused ‘old’ men.  We didn’t have the heart to explain what we were doing, so we said thank and went inside the cinema for a few minutes of classic Disney animation.

We showed everyone the personalized remote.
"Disney Dream Suite Welcomes The Harker Family"

The screen lowers from the ceiling.

And a projector appears from behind one of the mirrored panels.

We tried to do a serious royal pose, but Theresa couldn't keep a straight face.

In the end, we decided on a smiling pose. That would be easier to do since we were all grinning from ear to ear during this entire evening.

We grabbed a few shots of different groups out on the balcony overlooking the park.

Mike, Janet and Paula all showed up around 8:15. Our group for the evening is finally complete!

With everyone gathered her in the parlor, it was time for introductions. All of us knew Ruston and maybe a few other people, but it was great to hear how Ruston knew everyone and a little story about each person.

Chelle came out to meet the group and answer any questions anyone had about the suite, but it just so happened that Ruston had a story about her as well.

Every year, Ruston sings in the Candlelight Processional at Christmastime. Chelle also sings each year. I looked through my photos and happened to find her multiple years. In the photo below, you can see Paula just one person away from her.

With Chelle as our guide once again, it was time to start exploring the suite with everyone.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was exploring the Dream Suite and seeing everyone's reactions to the rooms, the surprises, and just being in the room in general.

A couple of nice photos in the Adventureland Suite.

As I'm continuing to take photos of the room, the lights start dimming and music starts playing. Janet pushed the "Goodnight Kiss" button in this room! Again, everyone started yelling "They pushed the button! They pushed the button! Get in here! Run! Run! Run!" It was hilarious watching everyone pile into the room to see the magic.
Mike's memories - There were only a few of us in the Master Bedroom exploring things.  Everything is so interactive and just pretty much invites you to push here, watch this, touch that.  Well, when Janet pushed the large button marked Good Night Kiss, the room started changing… and suddenly there were loud shouts from down the hall “She pushed the button” and everyone was running from all areas of the Dream Suite into watch the room transform into a tropical oasis.  Janet was horrified at first for causing a commotion, but we all got such a kick out of seeing this amazing room transform, and everyone was in such a good mood and high spirits… well, I think she wanted to push it again!!
That painting above the bed of Mermaid Lagoon, suddenly transforms.

Where it was once empty, now mermaids have appeared!

Now, I'm not going to say for sure, but that mermaid up at the top looks like it could be a mermaid from a movie other than Peter Pan... Tough to tell for sure, and I know there were redheaded mermaids in Peter Pan too.

Along side the bed, we also see the Peter Pan's captured pirate ship flying in front of the moon.

About 15 minutes before 9, everyone gathered back into the parlor. The main room lights dimmed, the clock chimed and we saw Tiki room birds behind the clock face. "Let's all sing like the birdies sing" starts playing, and the animatronic bird on the fireplace starts singing. It was great to have everyone there in the room, and we all started singing "Lets all sing like the birdies sing" along with the music. Pretty fun!
Ruston - While I wanted to share this experience with as many people as possible, I did have to make some tough decisions. I invited those people in my life who I knew would appreciate this experience for precisely what it was and not just a party in a fancy hotel room. As the evening rolled along and my guests arrived, I'd see the pure amazement in their eyes as they stepped into the suite. And as each 'magical moment' occurred, my guests would shout excitedly for everyone to come watch. But when the Tiki Birds "sang like the birdies do" and everyone joined in without abandon or embarrassment, I knew my guest list was the right one.

With that, it was time to start getting ready for Fantasmic. We've got an amazing view from up here on the balcony. We'll continue there in my next post.

Click here to go to Part 6 - Fantasmic 9pm to 11:45pm

Part 1 - Two Months of Anticipation
Part 2 - Breakfast - 9am to 2:30pm
Part 3 - Welcome to the Disneyland Dream Suite 2:30pm to 4:30pm
Part 4 - Dinner 4:30pm to 7pm
Part 5 - Friends Arrive 7pm to 9pm
Part 6 - Fantasmic 9pm to 11:45pm
Part 7 - Our After Dark Disneyland Tour 11:45pm to 2:30am
Part 8 - Back at the Dream Suite 2:30am to 11:30am
Part 9 - Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Parlor
Part 10 -
Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Frontierland Bedroom
Part 11 -
Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Adventureland Bedroom
Part 12 -
Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Master Bathroom
Part 13 -
Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Balcony and Patio
Part 14 - Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Hallways and Hostess Area

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