Spaced Out in the Magic Kingdom

I spent yesterday with a couple friends at Disneyland.

Before going back last May, due to the insistence of a visiting college friend, I had no interest in Disneyland. Possibly because I had last been there as a grumpy teenager on a high school band trip in 1992. But I try to accomodate my guests from Vancouver, and this one friend only wanted to go to, “the fashion district, Venice Beach and Disneyland.”

Despite much grumbling about having to go, I was shocked at how much I loved the park as a grownup. When I was thirteen, I was looking for everything that was wrong with the illusion. Now, fourteen years later, I’m enthralled by the details in the illusion, and by the effort that went into creating it.

Disneyland_New_Space_Mountain_PosterWe picked yesterday to go because we could all take the whole day for it, and because we figured the park wouldn’t be too busy on Superbowl Sunday. And just to let you all know – that’s a total myth. It took us almost ninety minutes to get from the I-5 off ramp, park, buy passes, and get into the park. Which cut down on the time we had to accomplish our goals:

1. Ride Pirates before it’s changed forever to “synergize” with the movie
2. Ride the new Space Mountain

Since I hadn’t been on Space Mountain since about 1991, I didn’t remember it, at all. My friends, however, were both SoCal kids, who were discussing it in great detail. Apparently, the ride’s a bit faster, but very similar to what it was before, right down to the 70s music and early space era space-station theme. Which kind of fits in with Tomorrowland’s sort of “future of the past” theme – they’ve given up trying to keep up with a real future, and have just left much of it as the Future According To 1978.

We also got to go on the ride twice in a row, thanks to a fortuitious malfunction. The ride stopped suddenly, and the lights came on midway through. So we got a great look at the track and the girders and the structure of the ride. And then we got to ride it again, for a total of two-and-a-half times over the day. Combine that with four runs on Big Thunder, two on the Matterhorn, one on Splash, and two tours each through Indiana Jones and Star Tours, and we packed in a lot of big rides in one day.

We also rode Pirates three times over the day. And usually, we’re that pack of annoying twentysomethings yelling pirate epithets at the back of the boat. Which led to the following patter, directed at the patrons of the blue Bayou:

ME: “ARRRR, ye landlubbers!!! Ask ye server if that thar be chicken!”
FRIEND: “D’ARRRR!! I hear it may be ‘gator!”

I’m wondering what’s going to happen to Pirates after the rehaul. Part of the fun of those rides is finding the outdated offending animatronics. I doubt the Wench Auction will survive. I’m kind of torn on things like that, too – there’s a lot of racist, sexist stereotypes in places like Disneyland (don’t even get me STARTED on “Small World”: ever notice that there is NOT ONE JEW on the ride?), but it seems like sanitizing history to update them. Part of the interest for me is that the rides are a snapshot of a bygone mentality, even if it was a horribly bigoted mentality.

But Disneyland isn’t about education, or history, except in the sense that it changes the perception of the past. As a history fanatic, I should hate it. It’s totally against most of my ethics and morals. And yet, I’m absolutely in love with the park. I love watching the parades, looking at all the scenery, going on the rides, and smiling and waving back to the cast members. I love the nostalgia that goes with all those episodes of “Wonderful World of Disney” that I used to watch as a kid, before I found out that Disney had a “No Jews Allowed” policy at his studios in the 50s (my grandmother was terminated there when her religion was disclosed). And I really love the FastPass system.

Disneyland, as a grownup, is somehow way more fun than it was as a kid. I’m not quite sure how that happened – but it’s not a bad place to spend a Sunday. Annual passes are still $149 for SoCal residents, too, so I picked one up, and will be spending next Sunday at the much less absorbing California Adventure, riding Soarin’ over California five times in a row.

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10 Replies to “Spaced Out in the Magic Kingdom”

  1. Space Mountain only feels faster. It’s what Disney Imagineers might call an ‘audio’ illusion. The headrests in each car play a fast-paced, discoesque soundtrack that gives riders the impression that the vehicle is racing faster and faster. In fact, an ‚Äúunofficial‚Äù Disney Website reveals the shocking truth: ‚ÄúGuests are amazed that the maximum speed is 28 mph, because the attraction delivers high-speed thrills.‚Äù Amazing, eh?

  2. That cheap annual pass blocks out the whole summer just about though. My wife and I spent a bit more for the next level up which only blacked out summer weekends. Maybe now that we don’t live a couple miles away, we’ll go more often.

  3. One of my friends told me today that he and his wife were also in line when the ride went down, and we were on it. But he agreed that the line was worth it.

    You guys are indeed kicking some ass. Nice work.

  4. I went on Sat @ 10 am, in the park under 25 minutes (@ 3 minutes to buy tickets), so maybe the myth should now be the day before the Super Bowl.

    Everything had 15-20 minute waits posted on the board, which held true for at least two hours.
    The new fireworks were great!

    Have fun at DCA and the new Monster Inc ride (I love all things PIXAR) but am I the only one who thinks Soarin’ over California is the biggest waste of time and space?

  5. Yes, Robert Dean, you are the only one who thinks that Soarin’ is a waste of time/space. I took my sister last year, and we went on Soarin’ for the first time together, and loved it. So much that we got right back onto the 30 minute line for it. I think it’s amazing how perfectly the ride is created, and how convincing the illusion of flying is. Both of us pulled our feet in when we thought we were going to skim the treetops. I read that it took over a year, and $6MM to get the footage right – and I think it’s worth it, to fly like that.

    So yes, you are the only one who doesn’t like it ;-) But I DO agree with you that the new fireworks are AMAZING – especially as seen from Big Thunder.

  6. Ooh. Good call. I’m going to have to do some research – we’re all planning to play some hooky this year for Disneyland and/or the waterslides.

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