Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Night of the Magical Popcorn

By C.J. Hirschfield

Fairyland’s final sleepover of the summer season on Aug. 19 was a sell-out. By sunset, 164 happy guests had arrived, set up their tents in our meadow, and prepared for an evening of family fun. Dinner was served, the rides were all operating, and my team was setting up for the 8 p.m. puppet show and 9 p.m. live performance. Our volunteers had rolled out the popcorn machine and were preparing to make popcorn for the shows. All was going well.

And then, the unthinkable: The popcorn machine failed. No popping kernels. No irresistible aroma of freshly popped corn.

Imagine it: You’re responsible for 164 guests who expected to be treated to one of life’s great pleasures – enjoying popcorn during a show. We’d made a promise, and it looked like we wouldn’t be able to keep it.

But this is Fairyland, after all. Magic happens here on a regular basis, and magic is what occurred that night.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Where There's a Will...

By C.J. Hirschfield

When Will Lewis was about 2 years old, he discovered the joy of puppets. His parents were indulgent – his dad built him a little stage for his productions – but they assumed that his interest was “just a phase.”

“It obviously wasn’t,” says the well-spoken Will, who is now 13 and will premiere his puppet version of “The Frog Prince” at Fairyland’s Puppet Fair Aug. 26 and 27. It will be his first full theatrical production. We can’t wait.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eating the Impossible

By C.J. Hirschfield

A classic dry martini, a retro wedge salad with bleu cheese, and a burger. That’s what I enjoyed for dinner after a tough day last week. Something old, something new. The “new” was that my burger was the highly-touted “Impossible Burger,” the disruptive vegan patty that will soon be manufactured by Impossible Foods in East Oakland, providing up to 80 new jobs. I enjoyed my meal at KronnerBurger on Piedmont Ave.; the burger is also on the menu at Umami Burger in Uptown.

Impossible Burger had been in the news last week. The New York Times reported that the Food and Drug Administration, which had been asked by Impossible Burger to confirm that the patty’s secret sauce was safe for human consumption, had “expressed concern.” The sauce is made from soy leghemoglobin – “heme” for short – which is found naturally in soybean plant roots and created in the company’s laboratory.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Taking a Movie for a Ride

By C.J. Hirschfield

It was just announced that megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will star in a new Disney live-action movie based on Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise ride. A script is currently in the works. The attraction, which has operated since the park’s opening in 1955, and which simulates a riverboat cruise down several major rivers of Asia, Africa, and South America, features jungles filled with “dangerous” Audio-Animatronic animals and reptiles, and a skipper who fires his gun to scare off a rogue hippo. (The original plan for the ride was to use real animals, but the animals would have been sleeping during the day.)

Entrance to Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride.

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Musical Is Underwater!

By C.J. Hirschfield

Twenty-five years ago, a sparkly but selfish fish made its debut in the world of children’s books, and soon captured the hearts of countless kids all around the world.

Rainbow Fish is inordinately proud of his multicolored scales, to the point of putting off all of the fish who would otherwise be his friends. A starfish and a mysterious octopus help him understand that only by sharing the beauty of his scales will he be rewarded with good friends.

Now that story, originally written in German by Marcus Pfister and later translated into English by J. Alison James – has been transformed into a shimmering, song-filled live entertainment. And the only place you can see it right now is at Children’s Fairyland, in our Aesop’s Playhouse.

Neal Pascua as Rainbow Fish.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Twelfth Dragon

By C.J. Hirschfield

Interactive play is what Fairyland is all about. Everywhere they go, kids can engage in a hands-on way with the park and its attractions. With a playful adult by their side, kids can stimulate their imaginations and even learn. An extra plus — it’s fun!

For years, Fairyland has invited kids to discover Fairyland’s 11 dragons, who live all over our park. Some of our dragons are big, some small, and some are over your head—one is even covered all over with leaves. (We’re coming up with rhyming clues to help kids find them – stay tuned!) But none of our dragons was alive. Until now.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Home Is Where the Heat Is

By C.J. Hirschfield
The decision to locate Children’s Fairyland in downtown Oakland was made long before my time here – in 1948, to be exact. Ever since we opened in 1950, being in the heart of the city has had its up and downsides. It certainly is never dull.

Last Friday was one of those not-dull days.

Early in the morning I was awakened by the sound of helicopters over my Adams Point neighborhood – the same neighborhood in which Fairyland lives. There was a fire a few blocks away from the park, at the site of a building that was to include market-rate apartments and retail shops.

The Valdez fire as seen from across Lake Merritt early on the morning of July 7.