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Disneyland Resort: Happiest Homecoming on Earth
Official Celebration Edition - Commemorative DVD Review

Disneyland Resort DVD cover art Disneyland Resort
DVD Details

Running Time: 28 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 & Dolby 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Studio: Walt Disney Parks & Resorts
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Retail Price: $29.95
Black Keepcase

By Richard Gray

Since its opening in 1955, California's Disneyland has become one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. Its success has spawned a whopping eleven parks around the world, including ones in Florida, Tokyo, Paris and, most recently, Hong Kong. This year, the original Disneyland Resort celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
Fifty years of operation has given Disney reels of footage to draw upon for a fiftieth birthday celebration, including the archival footage found on the now out-of-print Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland USA. The forthcoming Secrets, Stories & Magic of the Happiest Place on Earth DVD, originally announced for release this past July and now indefinitely delayed, sounds like it will fulfill this role nicely. Sadly, this park-exclusive DVD does little to hold us over in the meantime.

Despite the historic-sounding title, Disneyland: Happiest Homecoming on Earth is essentially an extended advertisement for potential guests. There is no historic footage of the park, and regular visitors - and even us irregular ones - will already be familiar with much of the information that is offered up on the disc. That said, there are still a few interesting facts inserted in the form of "pop-up" trivia. For example, "The Jungle Cruise was inspired by the film The African Queen."

After the promotional voiceover finishes its introduction, the lovely and incredibly perky Karen serves as our guide through the Happiest Place on Earth. For people who have yet to visit a Disney park, this section will offer the most entertainment. For those who have already been there, it may only serve as a stroll down memory lane. After wandering down Main Street, U.S.A. and past a few convenient shops, Karen takes us straight to Adventureland. Here we see brief in-ride video of the famous Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones Adventure. The next stop is the heart of Disneyland, Fantasyland. Although there are arguably more rides and attractions per square inch in this land than any other area of the park, only the briefest amount of time is spent here. Rides and attractions mentioned include the Sleeping Beauty Castle, "It's a Small World", the Storybook Land Canal, King Arthur Carrousel, the Mad Tea Party and the Matterhorn Bobsleds. I know that this is purely promotional, but surely neglecting to mention Casey Jr. Circus Train and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is tantamount to sacrilege? The brief section on Fantasyland is indicative of the problems with the feature generally - it is all too brief, and doesn't give you a sense of the sheer density of the park.

Karen is your ever-chipper host to Disneyland. Look at these original creations. Perhaps Disney should make a movie with characters from Splash Mountain!

The ever-chipper Karen then gives us a look inside Critter Country. The first stop is naturally Splash Mountain, the Song of the South-inspired ride that ends with a 52-foot splash. As Karen
helpfully informs us, "You'll know why they call it a waterfall!" This was the first on many instances where the desire to punch somebody on my television screen became apparent. After this, we are taken on a brief ride through Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes, one of the three modes of transport that takes guests along the Rivers of America. Finally, we are given a look at one of the newest additions to Critter Country, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. While they don't mention just how trippy the ride is, we do get a few shots of the bright colors and sounds that populate the ride. From there it is on to the adjacent New Orleans Square. The brief segment focuses on the shops and restaurants at first, but it is hard to avoid the two big attractions in this area: Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Neither are really given the attention they deserve, although the new high-quality footage gives us another all-too-brief look inside the popular and enduring rides.

Tomorrowland is the next destination. The Monorail, Star Tours, Astro Orbitor and Autopia are the "highlighted" rides, although I use the word "highlighted" in its loosest sense. As with all of the other sections, we only get a few glimpses of these attractions. Notably absent from this section is Space Mountain, quite possibly the most popular ride in the park, and certainly a giant feature of Tomorrowland. Although the ride had been closed for renovations since 2002, it re-opened in July 2005 for the 50th Anniversary. While it may not have been completed at the time of filming this promotional video, I would have expected at least a passing mention of this wildly popular monument, even if only to say that it would be reopening in 2005. Once again, this is meant to be a fiftieth anniversary celebration, and all of the major parts of that celebrations appear to be strategically overlooked. As many of you may have guessed already, this DVD seems to be a cheap repackaging of a previous tour DVD under the guise of a anniversary celebration.

The final look at the original Disneyland Park gives us a look at Disney "after dark." The footage of Fantasmic! and the anniversary fireworks is spectacular. Both shows are definitely things that need to be seen up close to fully appreciate. Unfortunately, the program refers to the "Imagine" fireworks spectacular, which by my understanding, was a previous display that predated "Remember...Dreams Come True" (the 50th Anniversary fireworks show). At the end of a trip, these fireworks are a great way to finish your Disneyland experience. On this DVD, they are an outdated way of concluding a less-than-comprehensive look at the park in just under ten minutes!

An aerial look at the Disney park, amusement-style. Golly gee! I wonder if it's free!

Karen then takes us over to the gates of Disney's California Adventure (DCA), where she introduces us to Mike, our guide for the next part of the tour. Decked out in the same checkered vest that Karen is wearing, Mike is slightly less annoying than Karen, although just as upbeat. Less chipper, but definitely still upbeat. After giving us a look at the monuments that grace the entrance area of California Adventure -- including the working replica of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and the giant titanium Sun that graces the square -- Mike takes us straight to the heart of Disney's California Adventure: the Hollywood Backlot. Kind of based on the Disney-MGM studios in Florida or the equivalent in Paris, the Hollywood Backlot area is designed to be a "behind-the-scenes" look at film production. However, like every other area of the park, it is aimed primarily at younger children, and this feature plays up those aspects. While lip-service is paid to the Disney Animation building and the phenomenal "Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular" playing in the Hyperion Theater, the Playhouse Disney Live show is given equal footing on this disc with the excellent Muppet*Vision 3D, one of several 3D shows that can be found throughout the Park. However, the big crowd-pleaser in this part of the park is Tower of Terror, which is given "last but not least" status in this tour. The next few minutes bounce us back and forth through the other California Adventure "lands" - Golden State, Paradise Pier, and A Bug's Land. It is interesting to note that almost all of the attractions in DCA are mentioned in a few minutes, where only half of Disneyland Park's rides were covered in the same amount of time. Highlights include Soarin' Over California, the Grizzly River Run, the deceptively friendly Sun Wheel and the California Screamin' rollercoaster. The latter was a highlight for me, as it is was closed during my own trip to Disneyland this year. It is reassuring to know that it does actually do something the rest of the year. As with all of the other areas of the park, there are no mentions of the unique fiftieth anniversary proceedings happening in DCA, such as the Pixar Block Party.

If there was ever any doubt that this DVD was designed to target your wallets, it is confirmed when the mighty touring powers of Karen and Mike unite to take us through the Resort's hotels and Downtown Disney areas. Despite Mike's assurance that "we covered everything" in California Adventure, I wasn't so sure. Karen still seems upbeat at this point, so we can only assume that she took some more of her happy pills while Mike was "showing us everything" in DCA. Naturally, the look at Downtown Disney is a clever way of advertising a bunch of shops under the guise of them being highlights of the Disneyland Resort. If Mike and Karen weren't so chipper, I'd be feeling very cynical about now.

Owl experiences some hallucinogenic side effects from Mama Heffalump's special rumpledoodles. Mike and Karen fight to the death to see who is the most artificially cheery host.

Disneyland: Happiest Homecoming on Earth is the equivalent of reading the crib notes when you've got the novel at your disposal. More accurately, it is the equivalent of reading a superceded set of notes for a book that is now into its next edition. The fine print on the back of the DVD reads: "DISNEYLAND RESORT is a living experience and as such, specific events, attractions, rides, programs and other materials portrayed in this video are subject to change without notice and may not be available during your visit. Please accept this program as a snapshot in time." Fair enough, as Walt Disney himself said, Disneyland is forever changing and will never be complete. Being a 50th Anniversary presentation, there will naturally be countless features available over the year of celebrations that won't be available at any other time.
Sadly, these features are not mentioned on this disc. Despite the giant 50th Anniversary logos plastered on the front and back of this DVD, the program footage appears to have been filmed some time prior to the announcement of the Anniversary celebrations. Admittedly, the visuals are quite impressive, but there is so much that is skimmed over that you hardly have time to appreciate it all.

While this feature had the promise of so much more, it really only serves to advertise the park. Despite the Disneyland: Happiest Homecoming on Earth moniker, there is no vintage footage on this feature, nor is there any attention paid to the fact that 2005 is the 50th anniversary. This is quite a disappointing reality, after all, for a disc purporting to be "The Official Celebration DVD"! There is so much that could be said and show on the Happiest Place on Earth, but this is not the DVD to do it. The fact that the entire Disneyland Park is dealt with in only ten minutes is an indication as to just how superficial this feature is. None of the rides or their origins are dealt with in any depth, save for a few moments of pop-up trivia. Almost as much time is spent discussing the Downtown Disney area and the hotels, giving us further proof that this DVD was not designed to be a keepsake or a collectable, but rather an advertisement that somehow escaped and disguised itself as a pricey Commemorative DVD. Indeed, this is substantially similar to the holiday planning DVDs that are typically circulated through travel agents and Disney Holiday Planning. The footage will only give potential visitors a taste of the park, and really won't satisfy those who have already been. I often found myself thinking "why doesn't the camera just go over to the left a bit" so a particular attraction would be revealed. A quick look at my Holiday Planning DVD actually revealed more goodies than the ones on display here. That said, the photography in this feature provides one of the most unique views of the park, and the trivia pop-ups give us a little more information that your average travel brochure.

Disneyland is truly a magical place to visit, and I say that as the most cynical person on Earth. Millions of people visit the park each year, and they usually take away wonderful memories, photos and other treasures that will last a lifetime. This Commemorative DVD is not going to be one of those treasures.

This isn't promotional video footage - it's exactly what "Soarin' Over California" is like. Anyone smell pine trees? Imagine the electricity bills!


Despite the packaging proclaiming "Widescreen and Full Screen", there is no evidence of the former on this disc. Given that this is an extended promotional video for the park - presumably aimed at the family market intending to take a vacation - I'm not surprised in the least that there is no Widescreen option on this disc. This isn't really a problem per se, as I doubt that there is anything here that would have really benefited from a wider scope. That said, the wider aspect ratio may have given a casual viewer more of an idea of the sheer size of the place. As seems to be the case with most of these promotional features, there is a softness present to the picture, although this is hardly an insurmountable obstacle. For the most part, the video is clear and sharp, with bright and vivid color throughout. Given that this is promotional in nature, and not a classic film, it is difficult to hold this to the same standards as other Disney releases. However, for the most part this is an exceptionally clear and bright presentation.

The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track. If it seems a little lifeless at first, that's most likely because the two-channel Dolby Stereo track plays by default. Switching after a few minutes of watching it this way, and you'll surely notice the difference. Whether or not it was needed, it is a welcome offer. Naturally, though, you are not dealt an engulfing big-screen sound mix. Most of the sound comes from the front and center speakers, whereas the rear speakers are merely called upon to echo music and create the illusion that bustling crowds could be around you. Overall, either track provides an adequate presentation for a largely dialogue-driven feature which, though almost always accompanied by some music, was never really designed to blow you out your back windows.

Fellini carefully frames his leading lady in "Making the Video Guide." Jerry Bruckheimer Presents Disneyland. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Time Lapse compresses many months of progress into 30 seconds.


One wouldn't ordinarily expect a promotional DVD to be packed with bonus features, although given that this is a "50th Anniversary" offering, it is hardly surprising that there are a few things listed in the Added Attractions section. Unfortunately, despite the number of bonus features, they don't seem to add up to much.

The first offering, "Making the Video Guide" (7:44), is an odd one. Hosted by Executive producer Bruce McCoy, we get a brief explanation of all the talent involved behind-the-scenes in the making of a promotional video, far more than a wander through the park would seem to imply. The equipment, the editing techniques and the filming are all discussed, showing that far more effort went into this than the end product would suggest. The mini-helicopter mounted with a camera was the piece of equipment that every idle filmmaker wanted this Christmas! Although I was ready to dismiss this as a fluff piece, this is more interesting than the main feature in many respects.
(Though you have to wonder what gives. For all the great Disney films that you'd want to see some making-of material on and don't, the one with a behind-the-scenes featurette one-fourth the length of the feature is a promotional piece of junk. And from the sincerity of this supplement, you'd think that Fellini, Hitchcock, and Kurosawa collaborated on this cinematic gem and that Karen and Mike were originally to be played by Ingrid Bergman and Toshiro Mifune.)

"The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Time Lapse" (0:30) is brief, although fascinating, footage of the Tower of Terror in California Adventure being constructed. Although this is said to be the lesser of the two towers (Lord of the Rings pun not intended), it is evident that a lot of effort went into the construction. A companion feature, "The Twlight Zone Tower of Terror Special Feature" (0:43) would be more appropriately labeled as a television ad for the attraction. It would have been nice to see more of the ride, although I guess that would spoil the mystery.

"Two Great Shows" (1:01) is another extended advertisement that highlights the stage shows "Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular" and "Snow White - An Enchanting Musical". Although some behind-the-scenes elements have been included, this is an all-too-brief look at some of the highlights of the park.

The final crop of bonus features are aimed at specific guests. "Traveling with Preschoolers" (2:36) highlights those parts of the Disneyland Resort that are catered towards children. However, some of these areas seem catered to children of all ages, not just those who are yet to start school. "Holidays at the Disneyland Resort" (1:08) focuses on the transformation of Disneyland for the Christmas holidays. Although this is another one designed to get you to go to the park at a specific time, it was nice to see footage of the park with its Christmas decorations up.

The final bonus feature, "50th Anniversary at the Disneyland Resort" (5:55), is virtually a mini version of the main feature. A combination of vintage and new footage shows how the park has grown over the years. It then highlights what events and attractions will be running for the anniversary year (well, year and a bit). Once again, this is an extended version of the ads that are currently playing on high-rotation on California television stations. A great way of seeing everything that you will only be able to see during this anniversary period. Although this is the second longest bonus features, it really only gives us a taste of what Secrets, Stories & Magic of the Happiest Place on Earth might be.

"Holidays at the Disneyland Resort" shows what you can expect to get out of a Christmastime visit to Anaheim. A hug from Mickey in a Santa hat and a snowman gleefully watching. The super cool animated Main Menu screen. Oh, the possibilities of the Chapters Menu. Too bad each segment lasts about 18 seconds.


The animated menus are both easy to use and fun to look at. On each of the menu screens, footage highlighting parts of the Resort plays in the background. Each of the buttons on the main page has a floating and sparkling Mickey head above the title, and is simple and effective. On the chapter and bonus feature menus, a small segment of footage plays out in the boxes above the titles. We never have to sit through long animated sequences to get from one screen to the next, with a simple "pixie dust" motif serving as transitional animation between menus.


Disneyland: The Happiest Homecoming on Earth is sold exclusively at Disney theme parks (and perhaps only on Disneyland Resort, as I do not know if it is available in the Walt Disney World Resort). Although this is more of a promotional video encouraging people to visit the parks, most guests will pick it up as a souvenir of their travels. While I am not sure if this is available through the mail order service, previous park DVDs have been available through Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Merchandise mail-order service. In his Magic Kingdom review, Aaron Wallace reported that the service will gladly ship that DVD for the park retail price plus an $8.00 shipping charge. To increase that value, Disney can add just about any other item sold on Disney World property for no additional shipping charge. To contact the mail-order service, call (407) 363-6200, fax (407) 352-6369, or email wdw.mail.order@disneyworld.com.

This disc has been Region 0 encoded, meaning that any international visitor will be able to take home a disc they can watch on just about any DVD player.

Woody pulls a sneak attack on Karen. Mike tries to make a heart with his hands, indicating the love he holds for "Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular."


While I suspected that this may only be a promotional DVD, the fact that it promised to be so much more is the real disappointment. Fans know that Disney has been dangling Secrets, Stories & Magic of the Happiest Place on Earth in front of us for months, and this park-exclusive DVD does little to satisfy in the meantime. Indeed, I'm not entirely sure who this DVD is aimed at. As it is a park-exclusive DVD, people who buy the disc will presumably have visited the park by the time they get to view it.
This would seem to negate the promotional aspects of the DVD. People looking for a disc that allows them to warmly remember the Resort after they have left would do better to look at their own photos, and there isn't much more substance in this very brief feature.

Further, the $29.95 price tag is certainly not good value for the "50-minute color video adventure" described on the box, let alone the 28-minute adventure we actually get. Even if you factor in the bonus features, which I suspect Disney has done to stretch out the running time, they are also a collection of ads that provide very little in the way of souvenir value. As an examination of the park, it barely skims the surface. Furthermore, there is so much false-advertising on the back of the box (claiming a widescreen presentation, twice the length, with wrapping to suggest a celebration of the 50th anniversary), that you'd be forgiven for taking the matter to consumer affairs. Given that promotional DVDs such as these can be obtained via Disney or travel agents for free, and that this is essentially the same beast covered in a shiny new cloth, you may have a legitimate case. I had to travel half way across the world to find that my purchase was an extended ad. At least US viewers can have more instant disappointments!

If nothing else, I have learned to never complain about the lack of trailers on a Disney DVD again. When Disney wants to, they can provide a DVD with nothing but promotional fluff.

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Related Reviews:
Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic Magic Kingdom (Park Exclusive DVD)
A Musical History of Disneyland: 50th Anniversary (6-CD Box Set) Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland USA
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - 2-Disc CE, 3-Disc Gift Set; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Haunted Mansion Third Man on the Mountain Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition
Dumbo Alice in Wonderland (Masterpiece Edition) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Sleeping Beauty The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Peter Pan
Cinderella Pinocchio The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad Aladdin
Theme Park Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun Flik's Musical Adventure at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Theme Park Sing Along Songs: Beach Party at Walt Disney World Campout at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney Records: Summer 2005 CD Roundup (reviews of 50th Anniversary Theme Park albums)
Disney: The Music Behind the Magic (2-CD, 50-track album)

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Reviewed December 30, 2005.