Friday, November 30, 2012

Polish & Tarnish

appeared in my mailbox unassuming. As I pulled a large parcel apart from my bills, the silver lettering printed on the envelope glinted before me as it spelled out the words “THANK YOU” and “DISNEYLAND”.  A free gift... for me?? In that moment, and with that word combination, I almost felt as if the white crisp of the thick envelope may just be the clean slate the optimist inside of me was starving for. It wasn’t long before I recognized that the only vacated space here was what they believed my head was full of, and they were right to a degree; as I delved further into this sparkling snare, the look on my face gradually fell to a complete blank. I sighed. It was sweet while it lasted.

This FREE GIFT I speak of turned out to be a propaganda pamphlet, huffing pixie dust, disguised as a “Special Edition Commemorative Book” entitled ‘A Celebration of a Wish Come True’, and clothed in the kind of textured cover that those extra nice art magazines or pricier plastic cell phone cases are coated with. Right away, I recognized that the pamphlet’s size (8 1/2'' x 11 3/4'') and design was comparable to an infamous series of Disneyland souvenir guides, and to any seasoned Disneyland fan, their reputation preceeds them. These guides, first available in 1955 and last truly seen in the late 1990’s, were filled with hand-drawn, park-inspired art, live action photos of real guests enjoying fantastical attractions, explanations of exactly what Disneyland had to offer and were always ended with a teasing taste of what was soon to arrive at Walt Disney’s Disneyland. Initially, Mr. Disney had these guides mailed to residents all throughout the country prior to Disneyland’s Grand Opening. His intentions were to showcase his newest love-labored endeavor to the America he adored and wanted to entertain so much - and perhaps reach homes that didn’t have TVs yet and couldn’t follow ABC’s “Disneyland” TV Show, debuted in the Fall of 1954, hosted by Mr. Disney himself, and heavily featuring documentation of Disneyland's creation process and progress. Upon Disneyland's opening and until his death, Mr. Disney sold the souvenir guides within the park at a price lower than the cost of production (much to the chagrin of the miserly bean-counter) because he wanted every household in America to know about the park and have a copy on their coffee table. In that sense, I can appreciate the marketing homage, here, with this pamphlet– the Disney company has now repaved the Parking Lot (AKA California Adventure) with a significant facelift and wants to make sure everyone runs to the polished parks to see what’s ‘new’ and spend all their money. A nice attempt, but for me, the buck stops here.

Also included was a separate letter from the Disneyland President, himself, Mr. Not Jack Lindquist . Not surprisingly, the letter included with this pamphlet instantly reeked of the manure I am much more accustomed to smelling as opposed to their silver typeface tomfoolery. Written carefully and with utmost simplicity, Mr. Not Jack Lindquist told me how much he appreciated my support over the past [fiscal] year that instead of the fall edition of Backstage Pass (the quarterly one-sheet about park updates that is included with an Annual Passholder membership and delivered via snail mail – or not at all sometimes, depending on who you ask…), I get this COMMEMORATIVE BOOK, INSTEAD! I should have been elated, and like I said, I was indulged for a moment. But after giving this letter a read, and before even cracking my 'book' open, I knew I was about to catch a coach to Pleasure Island and leave feeling like an ass. Uh, thanks for the warning, at least…

... And onto the pamphlet. It has been clear for a long time that the Disney company would like to disown itself and start anew - sans the monetary profit Mr. Disney’s name garnishes the company’s feast pig with, of course. The “nostalgic” charm of the hand-drawn craft (also known as ‘art’ according to history and old-fashioned, unenlightened curmudgeons like myself) is one of the reputations they would seemingly like to break free from. “Computers are the future!”, they perpetuate with their modern portfolio. Given Tomorrowland’s stagnant, catastrophic state of “cleanup in Aisle 6!”, it’s easy to see that the future is very important to them. In non-sardonic dialect, I mean to say that the pamphlet I received in my mailbox did not spend much time in the Art Department (maybe because no one was there). Meanwhile, over in the CG department, it sure had quite an adventure in Photoshopland! Did you know that Sleeping Beauty Castle is now located in the center of the Hub and surrounded by Walnut trees in place of the Partners statue or that the ‘it’s a small world’ Clock Tower is the color blue again, a la the 1980’s? Or that they’ve relocated the ‘Critter Country’ sign to the other side of Splash Mountain? Yeah, me neither. Before this pamphlet got to the CG department, though, it needed images to trick-out. In rolls the Photography, and here is where that modern Disney propaganda kicked in with a flash.

It’s safe to say that most to all of the pamphlet’s pictures are carefully staged, or at least loosely set up. The original souvenir guides did have some shots that appear set up, but they are far beween and quite a bit less overt about it. Many of the pamphlets photos are so saccharine that you can even hear the photographers in your head as they remind their subjects of their blocking or how to react. That’s a horrible thought to give readers - they don’t need to feel like someone has to egg Guests on to have a good time at DISNEYLAND, and besides, Disneyland is one of the best places to capture candid, happy moments. Then, there are the not-so-hidden ‘subliminal’ messages the pictures are holding. The little girls pictured are decked out with their glitter, tiaras and ‘Princess’ garb, the little boys are mini Padawans, practically every child photographed is wearing some type of Disney character tee and the images captured are almost all centralized around children because Disneyland has somehow become only ‘for kids’. Disney has even gone as far as placing a ‘Spiderman’ temporary tattoo on one little boy’s forearm as he tries his luck with Fantasyland’s currently-inactive ‘Sword In The Stone’ show prop. There are also no photos of Disneyland at night, anywhere – not even a few fireworks – and I know photography has repaired itself of that little hiccup since the 1960’s. When Cast Members appear in the pamphlet, they are strategically placed to balance pictures out (such as placing the hefty one in the center, which is a recurring theme in here) appearing mannequin-esque while posing in their streamlined costumes and wearing plastic smiles. It seems only the musicians have managed to eek by with their integrity. And by the time I found the last page of my pamphlet (with no promises of what was yet to come either!) I certainly felt like I had been robbed of my own integrity too.

 Call it a mourning phase, but the loss of my integrity goes in hand with why I’m parading around on a rant about this pamphlet in the first place: it is just an advertisement geared towards people who have either never been to Disneyland before or for the average Guest who visits a handful of times in their lives. Perhaps if it were placed in the hands of the appropriate people, the CG ‘enhancements’, the lack of art or the product placement wouldn't be as jarring to them - if at all. However, this was placed in MY mailbox simply because I am one of many Annual Passholders… and the last kind of people Disneyland should have sent it to. I find it incredibly insulting that Disney thinks I would prefer this “A Celebration of a Wish Come True” ad-book-hogwash over my HALLOWEEN edition of Backstage Pass. I visit the park on a regular basis (like Passholders usually do…)  and I was then left out of any seasonal information Disneyland had to offer during my very favorite time of year. Instead, I got a dumbed-down commerical for something I already have access to. To add insult to injury, I soon came to find that this pamphlet was sent to select non-Passholder households as well. Is this really the consideration I get after I dish out 33% more in renewal fees this year? If Disneyland wants to celebrate this "5 year expansion project" with their fans, they should have sent Passholders something a Disneyland fan would care about and make use of. A commemorative button like they used to constantly use for promotions or another type of inexpensive collectible would suffice. Passholders don’t get too many perks and the ones we do get are beginning to outweigh the increasing price we pay each year, so finding something like one of those babies in my mailbox would be amazing and refreshing. And honestly, if they had given me the courtesy of sending this pamphlet in addition to my Backstage Pass, I really wouldn't have any reason to be upset. My bottom line is, I love being an Annual Passholder, but I’m so tired of feeling continually ripped off.

 In the end, my travels as a Disneyland Optimist continue, though at a faltering pace. After observing the way Disney has misconstrued Cinderella’s silver dress, I should have known beforehand that the enticing silver typeface glittering in my mailbox would only but tarnish and make me turn blue.


  1. Well said! Ha, I just barely flipped through my copy when it came in the mail because I knew EXACTLY what it would contain inside. I had to go get it out just now and look through it a little more carefully. Yeah, I remember when they started having "posed" pictures in the pictorial souvenir guidebooks and also the larger hardback souvenir books. Very phony! I know an employee that was used in one of the nineties editions. He was given a fake "wife and kids" and they were all directed to make the most obnoxious faces for the photograph. It's like when they replaced "America the Beautiful" which used REAL people in the background, with "American Journeys" which used actors acting "naturally" in the background. You are NOT fooling me, Disney!

    I still miss Disney News Magazine which used to be sent free of charge to Premium Annual Passholders. It was replaced with that garbage-y Disney Family Fun magazine. I tried to get them to stop sending it to me, but they told me over the phone that there was no way to opt out of it. Sorry Disney, not EVERYONE has children! Come to think of it.....I haven't received that magazine for a month or two now. I'm sure somebody out there must have liked receiving it....oh, well! Disney probably can't afford to send it out now after mailing out all those glossy printed "souvenir" commercials. Oh, and yes....I have a friend that has never ever had an annual pass and he received one of those in the mail too. He also receives a copy of a glossy newsletter in the mail four times a year and it is NOT Backstage Pass. I believe it's called Main St. something or other. What Disney doesn't know is that his last visit to the park was in 1988 and he has no plans of returning to the park in the near future.

  2. Tokyo, you are a comrade. It is so nice to share Disneyland with the likes of you. We won't ever be fooled!