if ever a wiz there was

hogwarts castle universal studio
Recently we went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is part of the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood (well, Universal City). It was a surprise trip for our son who loves Harry Potter (so do we!). It was pretty great, and the butterbeer was lovely. Wands at Ollivander’s were expensive, but really cool – you can cast spells around all the windows and make things move about. This is the second Wizarding World built after the first one at Universal Florida, and has a cool Hogsmeade area. The castle itself is pretty cool, and I sketched it while sipping butterbeer as a chorus of toads sang to my right. Overall though, I think the Harry Potter tour of the original sets at Warner Bros outside London was better, but this was still fun. The ride inside the castle though was utterly mental, a total thrill ride. By the way, I got ‘sorted’ on Pottermore into Gryffindor, which makes sense. My son got Gryffindor as well. My wife however got sorted into Slytherin! So I got her a Slytherin scarf. We had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, and later I had a pint at the Hog’s Head. Oh, I didn’t sketch with a Quill, but I totally would have done.

hogwarts sign universal studio

Oh, this was page 1 of my second Stillman and Birn “Beta” landscape sketchbook (blue softcover). Those are nice. I also enjoyed the whole Simpsons-themed area as well, having a pint of Duff in Moe’s Tavern, getting a massive pink Lard Lad donut, eating chikcen and waffles from Cleetus’s Chicken Shack, popping into the Kwik-E-Mart, great fun. Oh, and here is a sketch I did on the plane down to Burbank in my Miquelrius “Lapin” covered sketch/notebook. .

Flight to Burbank March 2017

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disneyland

Disneyland Castle Dec2016

Before Christmas we took a family trip to Disneyland, down in southern California. I managed to get a couple of sketches in, namely the Fantasyland castle, and Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land, over in the California Adventure park. Christmastime in Disneyland is fun. Hey what is your favourite Disney movie? I’m not including all the ones owned by Disney like Star Wars and Marvel movies, but the cartoons, and some of the live-action ones like Mary Poppins and stuff. I suppose Pixar counts as well. Mine is probably Jungle Book, or maybe Aladdin.

Disneyland Cars Land Dec 2016

These were the first sketches in my new Stillman and Birn (Beta) softbound landscape sketchbook. That’s a mouthful, so we’ll just call it the Sm&B(B)SbLsSb for short.

gettin’ cozy at the cones

Disneyland Cars Land
Cars Land, aka Radiator Springs, the most popular attraction at the Disneyland California Adventure, and the main reason we travelled all the way to southern California. My son, who had his birthday recently, is mad about Pixar’s Cars movie, as are many kids his age. Cars Land is HEAVEN. One thing Disney does really well is attention to detail, nothing is done in a half-hearted way. It is expensive to go there, but you can see they spend the money really well. Above, I had about half an hour or so to do some sketching while my son, overwhelmed from a morning spent inside his favourite movie, rested for a bit. I stood at the excellent Cozy Cones motel while happy tow-truck Mater posed for photos with ecstatic kids. Every building there is an incredible and absolutely faithful recreation of the Radiator Springs in the film, from the rocky backdrop catching the warm light right down to the detailing of Sarge’s Surplus Hut or Luigi’s Casa Della Tires. Occasionally, the great car Lightning McQueen himself will ride through, and as the sun goes down, the neon lights of Flo’s V8 Cafe and other buildings come on to the music just as in the film. Every so often the DJ Car (one of the ‘”import punks” from Cars 1) rolls in and plays music while dancers dance with the kids. The Radiator Springs Racers ride is wildly fun, though my son preferred only the Junkyard Jamboree ride, in which the wild tractor cows dance around while riders sit in carts behind them. We went on that about ten times. Yep, for any parent of any Cars-mad kid, a trip to this place is worth every penny.

Below: our hotel room in Anaheim. Got to have the in-room sketch when travelling!
Marriot Hotel Anaheim

it’s a kind of magic

Disneyland Castle
We went to Disneyland at the end of last week, my son’s first ever visit, a fifth birthday treat. The main destination was the wonderful Cars Land, which I’ll write about next, part of the adjacent Disney California Adventure park, but the main Disneyland park is the original and really is a fabulous place. I first went in 2002, on my first trip to America, having wanted to go all my life. I was a big fan of Disney films as a kid and as a grown-up, the Jungle Book and Aladdin especially, and Disneyland is addicting. Expensive too, and you find yourself constantly forking out money, but it is Disneyland after all. The attention to detail is staggering. I particularly enjoyed the Star Tours ride, the Star Wars themed one, and the Jedi Training Academy for the kids was very entertaining. While my son went back to the hotel for an afternoon nap, I had some time to sketch so I sat and drew the classic Sleeping Beauty Castle. This has been here since 1955 (so it’s older than many buildings on the UC Davis campus!), the original Disney Land.
Sketching Disneyland

Here’s another sketch from the area inside the castle grounds, Fantasyland, which is full of very sketchable things. As I sketched, kids got on and off the King Arthur Carousel, lined up for the Peter Pan flight ride, strolled about with cotton candy and ‘churros’ looking for Mickey and his mates, while embarrassed daddies took their little girls into the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique to get dressed up as princesses and little boys found swords and shields to dress as knights and fight dragons. Happiest place on Earth.
Disneyland Fantasyland