Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Well, It's About Time

’m often asked how I don’t get bored of going to Disneyland.

In fact, that’s cleaning it up quite a bit; a more accurate statement would describe my constant battle to defend myself from a barrage of cynical chastising, questioning how I could be so warped as to enjoy the same ‘kiddie’ park day-in and day-out, year after year. I could probably write a book, bullet-pointing everything there is to love about visiting, or drag a soapbox under my feet and preach the values of appreciating a good thing as it is while not giving in to our society’s ADD manner of losing interesting in anything that isn’t ‘new’, ‘fresh’, or (my now least-favorite term) ‘relevant’. But… *takes a deeeeep breath*……… In an effort to save on book costs, speech, and time, I simply state, “I don’t get bored of it,” and hope that I’m due the respect of being able to enjoy a hobby (if you will), just like anybody else.

That being said, a few truths are brought to surface when faced with these sorts of questions. There is some truth to repetition wearing out the senses. However, it’s not as though I go to Disneyland every day or even every week. I guarantee this to you – I see much less of Matterhorn’s abominable snowman than many people see of their office supervisor. (…and really, given the choice, which do you think most would prefer?) Which leads to another truth: People are jealous. That’s right, I said it. I go all the time and they don’t get to. Snap!

Sadly, there is another truth – one I don’t often respond with in the company of casual friends, family, or coworkers – one I don’t even like to think about… At the risk of going off on a tangent (there will be plenty of opportunity to rant in the future of this blog), I will point out that the Finding Nemo attraction is nowhere near as fun for me as the original Submarine Voyage through Liquid Space was. I don’t think anyone would prefer dragging themselves through Innoventions over sitting back and watching America Sings or the Carousel of Progress. Certainly, the Skyway was much more fun to ride than staring up at a forsaken loading station from the roped-off base of the hill. The sad truth is that over time, Disneyland is running out of things to be enjoyed. Classic attractions get treated to marketable facelifts with a hit-or-miss success rate, if not completely replaced in favor of Disney’s current fad-of-the-day, (see our previous entry) or simply abandoned. This is, for the record, as objective as I can be in describing the modern state of Mr. Disney’s cherished playground. There I go cleaning up statements once again.

"A" or "B"?

When movie-goers are presented with forgettable films or lackluster remakes, critics can hearken back a more golden age of cinema. Many eclectic types with a wide familiarization of music would sooner turn to the oldies station than MTV. Disneyland by design should theoretically attract sentimental folks with a taste for nostalgia, class, and true Americana. So where do these lost souls turn to when faced with unattractive franchises and tacky souvenir stops thrown up all over their beloved park? I mean, let’s face it – Disneyland is like a former beauty queen with a frightening skin peel and a botched boob job, and we’re now expected to accept these cosmetic changes or be chastised for suggesting the Emporer has no clothes and weird boobs. Grin, nod, and pretend not to notice..? Hey Emperor, you’re naked and standing right in the middle of the Tomorrowland entrance!

Turning to a more glorious past seems to be the best way to relive Disneyland’s golden age. My cohort, Ginger, and I have found a lot of comfort in reading old books, 'Walt Disney's Disneyland' souvenir guides, exploring the internet for photos and trivia, and watching yesteryear features like ‘Disneyland After Dark’ (1962), ‘Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair’ (1964), or our FAVORITE (and I mean favorite film EVER):

‘People and Places: Disneyland U.S.A.’ (1956) 

To relive the 1980’s Disneyland which we remember from our childhoods is always accompanied with a special kind of warmth, but to experience Mr. Disney’s original Disneyland through these vintage specials has unparalleled magic – a harmonious marriage of retro-charm, innocence, and best of all, an unsullied version of Disneyland hand-crafted and 100% supervised by its own visionary creator. There are so many attractions and shops (“and things,” as Mr. Disney would add) we were personally unable to experience. The further we would envelop ourselves in this history, the more fascinated we would become with its mysteries and unattainable delights, to the point where it just became frustrating! WHY?! Why can’t we ever take a mine train through Nature’s Wonderland? Why can’t we ever eat tuna sandwiches behind the Chicken of the Sea pirate ship?? Why on EARTH were we doomed to never breathe the same air as Mr. Disney himself????? If only we could go back somehow…

Wait a tic. Were we on to something here? Mr. Disney proclaimed that he was not the sentimental type. To a degree this is true, embodied in the original Tomorrowland and showcased in his progressive ideas such as EPCOT (that’s the projected city, NOT the Florida park). He always had one eye looking ahead at the future, but his soft spots for steam trains, American heritage, and especially his home town of Marceline – which we now know as Main Street, U.S.A. – suggest his one foot in the past. Surely the allure we found in Disneyland’s history and heritage was justified with appropriate irony. Neither Ginger nor I can accurately remember who said it first, as stating this rhetorical and inevitable question was simply verbalizing a fancy that had been developing in both of our brains… What if we visited Walt Disney’s Disneyland?

Without even sorting specifics, our like minds envisioned a trip to the park where we would only experience attractions, restaurants, and shops which were birthed from Mr. Disney’s own touch. For one whole day, "Walt Day", there would be no such thing as Toontown and no adventures for Winnie the Pooh. No Splash Mountain or Star Tours. There would only be original rides through the Jungle River and classic spins in a Mad Tea Party. We would not see Pixie Hollow or abandoned loading stations, but a glorious House of the Future and a thriving line of Skyway buckets. Sure, it would take some voluntary suspension of reality, but Mr. Disney had taught us well..! In the absence of any verbal coordination, we had even dressed in 60’s-style garments, paying homage to the era.

We were greeted in Town Square by a double-decker omnibus, which – I don’t know about you – NEVER happens to us! It was the kind of welcoming we had only ever heard about. We lunched at the Golden Horseshoe Saloon while taking in a show (starring Betty Taylor and Wally Boag for all you know), sailed aboard the proud Sailing Ship Columbia, ran through the former Swiss Family Treehouse, paying extra special attention to the leftover Robinson relics and tapping our toes to the Swisskapolka. We fished off of Tom Sawyer’s Island then hopped aboard a canoe. Visiting an old dock in Fantasyland, I swear we watched little Motor Boats take off for a Cruise around the bend, and nobody could tell us otherwise. We hit as many classics as we could, including the Disneyland Railroad, King Arthur Carousel, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and soaked in some good ol’ fashioned patriotism care of Mr. Lincoln himself. The evening was perfectly capped with a quick serenade at Snow White’s Wishing Well.

Now our friends have new questions for us, such as, “What is there left to do from Walt’s era?” A simple inquiry, because as it turns out… LOTS! Yes, there has been a lot of superficial mangling, but rest assured that Mr. Disney’s park is still in there, buried at the core. In fact, there wasn’t enough time to see it all! The Monorail, Peter Pan's Flight… some of these standards had to be left behind for another day. His superior talent and standards for quality may be masked – in certain places more than others – but his spirit still haunts the halls of Disneyland, U.S.A.; it just takes a keen eye and perservering faith to spot it sometimes.

We were tickled by the success of our time-traveling visit, so much as to say it may have been our favorite excursion to date! We were not only able to soak in that vintage charm we had so fervently sought after, but also honed in on something unique. We discovered a new, original way to experience something familiar and habitual. I now have a more satisfying response when asked how I don’t get bored of the park. Much to my surprise, my tale not only dispels skepticism, but also seems to intrigue both fans and critics of Disneyland.

This won’t be the last time we travel back. There are different years eras, various versions of attractions, lands, and shops… a sundry of findings we’re more than happy to bring back and share with you here. Given the overwhelming history waiting to be uncovered, we can’t wait to time warp again… and that’s a statement I don’t need to clean up one bit.


  1. Excellent post! Sadly, I will often hold off on telling people I have an annual pass or that I travel all the way to Japan for the sole purpose of visiting their Disneyland. If I determine that they can handle it, then I will eventually bring it up. It gets tiring explaining yourself to people when you really shouldn't have to...like you stated, it's MY hobby.

    I had no idea the original kettle was still "below deck" on the Columbia. Now I will have to go check it out!

    Keep suspending that reality!

  2. Thanks, Tokyo!

    When we took that pic with the kettle, I wasn't even aware of the shot with Walt. Little magical coincidences like that always seem to happen when you bend the space-time continuum... but more on that later.....

    It's too bad that sometimes we have trepidations about sharing our Disneyland nerdiness. Maybe one day we'll organize a Walt Pride Parade! That ought to stir things up.