This weekend, Gene and I spent three days in Disneyland with Jack and Dan and their whole family. I was initially nervous about this plan, as I’ve never spent more than a day at a time in the magic kingdom (TM). But, as you might expect, it was wonderful. Disneyland is a place where all your dreams come true (TM), and if you spend three days there then your dreams come true three times as much. I would like to share a few vignettes from my trip with you, the internets.
My favorite part of Disneyland is seeing the characters walking around. I don’t have this kind of reaction anywhere else — characters you see in parades or at Great America, for example, leave me cold. But the Disney experience is so masterfully crafted, with every detail of the park designed to contribute to the illusion, that I find I get really excited when I see a character.
However, my excitement was nothing compared to the kids, and it was almost as much fun to watch them as to watch the characters. For example, while waiting by the carousel in California Adventure, four princesses walked up arm-in-arm (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel and Belle, if you care) and boarded the carousel. You would not believe the expressions on the faces of the little kids in line when they realized that they were about to get to ride the carousel next to the princesses. They were transported with excitement and awe. (I, also, was transported, but old enough to realize that by staying off the carousel I would be able to actually see all the princesses as they went around.)
My favorite, though, was the little girl standing in front of me at the Parade of Dreams (TM), which is a sparkly extravaganza in the traditional Disney style, featuring characters and music from many of their best animated movies. This little girl I speak of was beside herself as the Ariel float came around. Clearly a mermaid worshiper from way back. After Ariel came the Ursula float (Ariel is the heroine and Ursula is the villain from The Little Mermaid, if you’re not up on your Disney), and the little girl cowered in terror. “Ursula!” she gasped, and her eyes got huge, and she sort of crouched down. She waited until the float was well past us, and then she stood up. With what was clearly a tremendous courageous effort, she yelled “Too bad, Ursula! You’ll never catch Ariel now! She’s too far ahead of you!”
I especially enjoyed this because, while Ariel was a real person, the role of Ursula on this float was played by a giant balloon.
This is not my parade.
People and their kids. Where to begin. Mostly, parenting is not a great spectator sport. If you’re seeing a family in public, the parents (it seems to me) tend to look harassed and stressed, and I get the impression that their kids are spending most of their time trying to fling themselves in front of buses and light themselves on fire, and are kept alive only by ceaseless parental vigilance. (I’m not making fun. I really think most kids are constantly on the lookout for lighters to play with.)
At Disneyland, I saw parents looking a lot more relaxed. Disneyland has plenty of ways a kid can hurt himself, lose himself or kill himself, but it also has roughly ten thousand staff members whose only job is to make sure you are enjoying yourself, i.e. that your kid is not trying to doorbell ditch at Death’s door. And I think that at Disneyland, kidless adults like me have a higher tolerance than usual towards the younger generation. I find most kids who aren’t related to me to be really pretty irritating, but at Disneyland they’re an important part of the overall experience. This means people like me aren’t always scowling at these poor harassed parents, which in turn means the parents can relax when their kids are squealing and running around and generally being kidlike.
The only weird parenting thing is the picture taking. Sometimes this takes the form of character pictures: I saw a lot of parents manually manipulating their childrens’ limbs into cute poses with the characters, and sometimes grabbing the character’s arms as well to pose them for the shot.
I also enjoyed the parents who were posing their kids in the giant cage of (fake) human bones (TM) on the newly-branded Pirate Island which was once Tom Sawyer’s Island. It was a lot of parents putting their kids’ heads next to grinning skulls and going “Oh, now that is perfect. That is just adorable.” Mortality! So cute.
All of this was enjoyable for kids and parents, I think. The only exception was the lady next to me at the parade, who kept forcing her little boy to pose in front of the parade for her — with his back to the parade. His long-suffering expression was both miserable and resigned, making me think he’d probably spent a lot of his six years of life standing with his back to stuff that he’d really have enjoyed looking at.
This is not my cage of bones.
Out With The Old
Yes, you read it right back there: Tom Sawyer’s Island is no more. Actually, the way the Disney website puts it is “Beware! Pirates have overtaken Tom Sawyer Island!” The Island has been themed to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which is kind of funny, given that those movies were based on a different Disneyland attraction.
I actually like the new theme, because it means there are hot pirates roaming the island. I posed for pictures with two of them — one distracted me while the other one rummaged in my purse. And I was crossing one of the island’s wobbly bridges when I heard “Can I clean that for you, miss?” I glanced up and Jack Sparrow’s face was about an inch from mine, and he was also trying to get at my purse.
Yes, it is weird to have an actor portraying a live-action character. This is a guy who looks like Johnny Depp looking like a pirate. But the weirdness disappears when he is right up in your face, trying to steal your purse, because everything is transformed into handsomeness.
Here’s a picture of one of the Sparrows kissing his girlfriend, one of the Ariels. He was later fired. Dreams do come true in Disneyland, but remember that a dream is a wish your heart makes. If other parts of you are wishing, there’s no guarantee.