Monday, May 22, 2017

Imagineering Theory: The Range of Mountains

Disney likes to set thrill rides in mountains. One possible reason is pragmatic—the conical shape of a mountain makes a good base structure for a track, and the protruding peak is a natural “weenie” making it easy for guests to find the exciting ride. Another could very well be thematic—mountains are places of adventure. They are the lairs of monsters, the strongholds of villains, things to climb or cross in the name of exploration. A mountain is a semi-self-contained environment, a perfect canvas for the theming that Disney so excels in.
I've identified three key ingredients that make each of Disneyland's “mountains” unique. Each one has a distinctive Setting, an exotic and memorable environment. Its track has a particular characteristic, a Track Quirk, that harmonizes with the setting and imparts a little something more to the kinetic aspect of the ride than a standard roller coaster. And it offers a Threat, turning a simple fast and/or bumpy ride into a story with the riders at the center.
So this week, I'll summarize how the five mountains of the Disneyland Resort use these ingredients, and then propose a couple of entirely new variations on the recipe.

Monday, May 15, 2017

It Came From the Fandom: SALUG Models at Supertrain

It's that time again...that time when I, your humble Dilettante, am short on material and have to turn to my fellow fans to provide content on schedule.
I love backup plans, don't you?
This time around, the subject is...well, it involves LEGO. (This seems to keep happening.) See, there's this organization in Canada called SALUG: the Southern Alberta LEGO User Group. And there's this annual model train convention in Calgary called Supertrain. Since LEGO model trains are a thing, the group has been known to build elaborate model train layouts for the convention.
At least twice, there was a Disneyland fan on deck.
For Supertrain 2005, they ran a train not entirely dissimilar to the good old Disneyland Railroad through a lovingly detailed plastic brick recreation of New Orleans Square and Splash Mountain. The following year, if anything they outdid themselves with a magnificently accurate model of Main Street, including the park's Main Gate, the entrance to Tomorrowland, Sleeping Beauty Castle, and even a sliver of the Fantasyland Courtyard. As a bonus, to the right of the Main Gate they decided to include...well, just have a look!
Sadly, I can't find any evidence that SALUG continued this tradition past 2006. But at least we have these wonderful photos to remember it by. Perhaps someday their example will inspire me to assemble something I wouldn't mind sharing with you!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Source Materials: The Wildest Life in the Wilderness

Gather 'round, boys and girls, and I'll tell you a True AnecdoteTM from the life of the Disneyland Dilettante.
I think most children discover the joy of roller coasters as soon as they're tall enough to get on one, pretty much. Call it age four. But I? I was a bit of a coward during my early childhood. I wasn't afraid of being thrown from a roller coaster car—I was bright enough to know that wasn't a real risk—but of being scared, of finding the bumpy motion too much for my peace of mind. I had nothing to fear but fear itself.
When I was about eight years old, I finally mustered up the courage to try out Disneyland's coasters. And loved them, of course. But there was a snag: I had a little sister who looked up to me. I had convinced her that roller coasters were too scary, and she didn't trust the sudden turnaround. “It's okay,” I told her. “They're actually not scary,” I opined. Nope. No sell.
At least try this one,” I said finally. “You'll like it...it has animals on it.”
That did the trick. Roller coasters became, finally, fun for our whole family, because one coaster had the right carrot for the youngest member thereof. The ride in question? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
The wildlife presence on this ride is probably part of the draw for a lot of people. One of the main reasons people visit real wilderness areas is the hope of encountering animals they don't get to see every day. Big Thunder is far from the only ride at Disneyland to heavily feature wild animals, but it's one of the only ones to offer a mostly realistic, straightforward take on them. These animals are not cartoon characters, they're not space aliens, and they're not being pointed out to us by a sarcastic college student. They're just...present, adding interest to an already exciting landscape.
But you know, it is a fast, bumpy ride, and some of the critters are more noticeable than others. It's entirely possible that you've missed some of them, reducing the quality of your experience.
But that's why I introduced Source Materials to this blog—to catalog and perhaps provide an explanatory look at these details from the outside world that add detail to the world inside Disneyland.
So let's talk animals!

Monday, May 1, 2017

After-Action Report: The Main Street Electrical Parade

This past Tuesday, it was my very great privilege to experience, for the first time in over 20 years, one of the true classics of Disneyland's live entertainment traditions: the Main Street Electrical Parade!
Yes, I had seen the iteration that appeared for a few summers in California Adventure...but it wasn't right, you know? I'm not talking about the digitally remastered soundtrack, revised floats, or even the fact that they had Tinker Bell in the lead instead of the Blue Fairy. It was that it was supposed to be the Main Street Electrical Parade. The full name was fundamental. Transplanting it to a park without a Main Street couldn't help but cheapen it a little...and that's not even taking into consideration the awkward changes to the recorded introduction.*
Now—for the time being—the Electrical Parade has come home. It's about damn time.
But what is it that makes this parade so beloved? There is no shortage of awesome parades in Disneyland's history, from timeless charmers like the Christmas parades to audaciously hip experiments like Totally Minnie or The World According to Goofy. What is about this one that makes it the darling of veteran parkgoers such as myself? It can't just be that it's the park's most long-lived parade, because it wouldn't have been allowed to run so long if it hadn't been a major hit in the first place. The Main Street Electrical Parade is a Disneyland institution, as much as Space Mountain or “it's a small world” or complaining about how long the lines are. All those years it was absent felt more like a mistake than like normal parade turnover.


Anything lampooned by The Simpsons is a cultural institution by definition.


Monday, April 24, 2017

After-Action Report: Mickey's Toontown

Mickey's Toontown doesn't seem to have too many friends these days. It's one of the Disneyland fandom's most popular candidates for demolition, usually to make room for a much-desired Fantasyland expansion.* The justifications for deep-sixing an entire land usually fall along the lines of: There's nothing to do there/no good rides. It's only for little kids. It's tacky-looking. It's not a Disneyland-worthy concept. (Huh?)
Surprising no one, I am not on board with this idea. I don't visit Toontown every time I'm in the park, but I think it works. So I'm going to sit here and explain why the above arguments are wrong/misguided and why Toontown should stay, and you're going to read it.
Or, you know, visit some other website.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Beyond Blue Sky: The Disneyland House

Bring Home the Magic.” One of Disney's many marketing slogans. It's usually used in conjunction with their home video productions, but people also take the expression a little more literally and decorate their houses with their favorite Disney characters and motifs. And sometimes with their favorite Disney theme park motifs, which Disney finally cottoned onto a few years ago, so now you can get official Disneyland attraction housewares. If you had about a grand to spare and a more advanced case of Disneyland-mania than even I have, you could go to Le Bat en Rouge and outfit your entire dining room with Haunted Mansion plates, placemats, drinking glass coasters, and even candlesticks.*
But what if more were possible?
What if you had basically unlimited funds and no sense of restraint whatsoever?
What if you could make your entire house into a mini-Disneyland of sorts? If you could, in fact, Make the Magic Your Home?
My sister and I had more-or-less this conversation the other day, fantasizing all kinds of what-if, and we came up with a rough plan for a Disneyland House, if only such a thing could be achieved. And then...I couldn't stop thinking about it. More and more details suggested themselves to my mind. And since it would be out of character for me to keep my thoughts to myself, I'm happy to share them with you here.
Read on, dear...readers, yes...and dream with me.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Kidnap the Magic: Wonderland Leaves

With Easter less than a week away, you might be thinking about spring and summer decorating motifs for your home and garden. It's the season of leaves and flowers, and for some people, there's no need to be weird about it—real plants and/or realistic silk floral will be fine. But some of us might prefer something a little more...specific. More stylized. More relevant to our unique interests.
More like the art of Mary Blair, amirite?

 Mmmmmm...artistic...