Disneyland was, as it should be, a highly surreal experience. The peak of this is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, in which you, as Toad, take a threatening journey culminating when you die in an explosion of dynamite. The ride then moves into a Hell room complete with small furious demons and a leering cartoon Satan. Then, without resuscitation or redemption, the ride is over. I can’t think how parents are explaining this one to their young. I wish I had thought to listen in on a post-ride conversation, but I assume it would go something like this:
Toddler: Mommy, why we have to go to hell?
Mom: Well, honey…uh…
Toddler: Look, Mommy, Wee the Pooh!
Mom: Thank God.
Michele and I made up a song about it, as follows:
“Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride:
You know it’s over, ’cause you’ve died.”
Terse, yes, but I think it gets the important point across.
Apart from surrealism, the other important thing to notice about Disneyland is its overwhelming, unapologetic WASPishness. They’ve got the park all dolled up for Christmas, with almost every surface covered in lights, ornaments, and greenery. Even the rides are Christmas’d-out: A Small World alternates its theme song with “Jingle Bells,” and the Haunted Mansion has been combined with A Nightmare Before Christmas to effectively suck the last vestiges of scariness out of the park. Now, being commercialian, I love Christmas, so this was all very exciting for me, but I kept wondering what happens to the Jewish smallfry who visit in the winter months.
The rides are just more of the same. I don’t think I need to go into the spear-chucking headhunters on the Jungle Cruise, or the unilateral national snobbery of A Small World. And we all know where Splash Mountain’s Brer Rabbit comes from. If this were not enough, the entrance to the park is decorated with large signs declaring “Chinese and dogs not allowed.” Ok, that one I made up.
I’m certain that California Land more than makes up for this stuff by its clear, honest look at California history. My favorite ride is the Internment Fun Coaster. You start off owning several acres of fertile Californian farmland, and by the end of the ride you are just one among thousands of imprisoned, disenfranchised Japanese living in horrible conditions outside the state. I hear that Big Recall Mountain is also very good. And let’s not overlook the ’89 Earthquake Squeeze, where the upper span of the Bay Bridge collapses on your head, crushing you to death!