Monday, July 24, 2006


Updating this blog is so passe, or so I was told. Then I realized it wasn't.

Actually, the real reason I haven't posted is because I've been held prisoner against my will in a foreign land. My nights were spent in wailing horror and my days in a wallowing solitude.

I was held at the Disneyland Main Street Jail. The jailor was that demon himself, Mickey, and a heavy crop he wielded, and painful.

But enough of that- I'm here to describe that "Magic" Kingdom to folks who have never visited the place (With the Disney Relocation Plan, that will soon be remedied, by the way).

As an overview, Disneyland is the realization of a dream, which is immediately and effectively absorbed by children, and somewhat more cynically viewed by adults. It's the world as viewed through a brightened lens, in which the soils of our world are stripped away and the resulting remnant is the ideal of a half-century ago. That is to say, Disneyland takes us back to a 50's ideal, and makes boatloads of money in the process.

Case in point is Main Street, U.S.A., the first section of the park in which colorful storefronts line a street of dreams that is perpetually celebrating the 4th of July. Horse-drawn carriages ride triuphantly down the road and double decker buses toot their horns gaily. The entire scene is incredibly appealing and bears about as much reality to any main street in any town in the US as the world of Mary Poppins does to the UK. Still, it's an appealing fantasy and one could easily get lost in it. Apparently, Mickey and his friends have moved to the town, because they wander around hugging children in their peculiar cephalopodic way. Bright flowers and shining fountains abound, as do humongous tourists.

What's that? Fat people? In America? If you had suggested the idea to me prior to going to Disneyland I might have vehemently disagreed with you. But after...well, the evidence abounds. That is not to say that I dislike or loathe them, but there's so many, and everywhere.

To be sure, Main Street does nothing to provide healthy meals for these people. The ice cream shop is next to the candy shop which itself is next to the soda fountain. One can safely assume that none of the aforementioned sell a small green salad with light dressing.

Fortunately, if you do find you've had ten too many sundaes, you can head next door to the dozens of clothing shops that will outfit you in all of your favorite clothes (provided your favorite clothes all have some sort of Disney-inspired logo on them). Are you mainstream? Go with a classic pair of Mickey ears. Are you a rebel? Don't worry, Disney will cater to your needs as well, offering apparel with all of the nefarious villians.

Once you've passed all of the shops, assuming you don't go into hyperglycemic shock, you have an important decision to make: which land within Disneyland do you visit?

In Adventureland, you visit a vast tropical jungle, without the pesky natives or malaria. Here, you can go on rides with Indiana Jones and on a boat throughout an animatronic river. "Anamatronic" is a key word that means that many of the creatures on the rides are robots rigged to move realistically, which by 1960's standards when the park was built means "jerking back and forth like a raver having a seizure". You may believe that the staff is also made up of animatronic robots, but they're real. They're just realllllly high.

Further along in Adventureland, you'll get to Tom Sawyer's Island, which has lots of fun paths to run on and things to climb and explore, making it the second least popular attraction at the park. The least is canoeing- for some reason they thought that getting into a boat with 19 heavyset people and dragging their asses around in a boat (ostensibly they should help, but unfortunately Disney axed out the guy in the back with the whip, which means there will be slackers). The waterway is very crowded as well: You have to share the river with a paddleboat and a pirate ship that make their way around. Alongside the river is a quaint representation of a New Orleans long past. There's the obvious hurricane joke, but I'm going to ignore it.

Adventureland does get some high marks for having two of the most popular rides in the park inside of it: Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted House. The former puts you in with a dozen other people who conveniently ignore the multiple signs stating not to use flash photography. You can get your revenge by splashing some of the river water on them, which probably is acidic enough to burn. The latter takes you through a creepy mansion full of the living dead- the perfect way to scar a child emotionally for a long time. Nonetheless, these rides, while not the fastest, are still classics. Though they should really kill someone on each of them every once in a while, just to shake things up.

In Frontierland, re-create the old west as it should have been, with spaghetti western music blaring out of speakers hidden along the well-demarcated path. Head over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of two good coasters at the park and entertain yourself by watching the man at the head of the line have a screaming child drag him off the ride. So much for your 30 minute wait, sucker!

It is fairly obvious that waiting is an integral part of the Disneyland experience. In fact, waiting patiently in line is a skill you will rapidly develop here, because you'll be doing it for everything: tickets, food, rides, bathrooms- all of them have waits, and chances are you'll be behind someone whose body odor is above reproach.

Tomorrowland takes us of the future of the 70's! Imagine that you could drive a horrendously slow car around a predefined track- well, Autopia lets you do that, today. To add insult to injury, they flash fatally unfunny jokes on a big screen, such as "Why did the auto go to the hospital? Because he was having car-diac arrest!" Put up with this long enough, and you'll experience another time honored Southern Californian driving tradition: the drive-by shooting.

If that's not enough, you can head over to the Starcade, which has all of the greatest video games in one place. I certainly know that I would be fine with my kid wanting to play some Dance Dance Revolution when I just paid 65 bucks for an admission to the park. There's the Buzz Lightyear ride, which rewards years of playing violent video games by letting you shoot at targets on the walls, and Space Mountain, a roller coaster which can be best described as "turning left really fast in the dark". Still fun, though. Star Tours is a ride where they put you into a box and shake you around, but it's a Star Wars themed ride (I bet you didn't see that coming). Sadly, Michael Jackson's 3d performance in Captain EO has long since perished from the world, and we are lessened by it.

Straight across from Main Street is Fantasyland, whose entrance is the iconic castle in all of Disney's products. Defensively, it's a poor structure, whose drawbridge doesn't even close in case of an attack by the godless heathens of Knott's Berry Farm. Inside is the idyllic medieval setting where Characters-who-have-become-Disney-products like Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty dwell, and the rides bearing their name. It is here that you will find most of the parents of young children, tired and bedraggled from riding on the Mad Hatter's teacups for the fifth time. This is also the home of the Matterhorn, whose line could probably extend up the side of the real mountain.

Each land has a plethora of food and shopping options, lest you take a break from spending money like water for even a moment. Of course, each shop and restaurant has different things, so if you want that clam chowder, you're hiking over to Adventureland. See a hat you like? Better get it now, because this store is the only one that has it.

At the end of Fantasyland is the infamous 'It's a small world" ride, whose music blares like an unholy cacaphony, deafening the lucky ones, and driving the rest insane. Inside, a slow boat takes you through a myriad of nations, each singing the same song, perhaps in a hope that all people want the same thing in life; peace and joy. Then the German puppets invade the French puppets and a miniature carbomb explodes in the Isreali section.

The final land is Toontown, where Mickey and his pals really live. Everything is presented in bright, cartoony colors and is shaped perfectly for young ones, and you'll be telling yourself "Finally, something for the children." My heart could not bear to be here for too long, so I couldn't tell you much about it, but I do know one thing that resonates with truth throughout every fiber of my being: When I die and my immortal soul is judged, and weighed down by my sins here on Earth, I will be dragged to the pits of Hell for all eternity. And it will be Toontown.

So this is Disneyland. It is a refuge for that place within each of us that yearns for the good old days, when Main Street was more than just a road, when adventurers and frontiersmen were revered, when the hero saved the princess and when the future seemed to hold infinite promise. It is also a place where a bottle of water costs $3 and you are assailed at every point by mountains of cheaply-made merchandise peddled off at ridiculously high prices. Parades will serve to remind you of all the characters you loved as a child and which your child loves, but also that you can buy collectible plates with them in the store behind you. For some reason there are things called Disney Dollars which are equivalent to American dollars for fun's sake, but they are also non-transferable back to US Dollars.

This is the duality of the place: There is obviously a corporate machination here whose intent is to have legions of people swarming out of the place with mouse ears, but there's also the original intent- a place where we can go and believe again, relive our childhood again and see it through the unspoiled eyes of children, and perhaps unlock the child in all of us.

Except Toon Town. Seriously, that place sucks.


At 8:19 PM, Blogger ChickyBabe said...

This reminds me of a Simpsons episode! But I would have thought you would have been held hostage by Minnie. But whatever takes your fancy! :P

Glad to see you're writing again!

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Knows It All said...

You left out the parking nightmares. That place sucks and I am done with it. Done. They make it pretty damn hard to get good and drunk too.


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