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...



Monday, April 3, 2017

The Trains of Disneyland

Among his many, many, many interests, Walt Disney was passionately in love with trains. Rail enthusiasm is a fairly common hobby, of course, but even among the many people with the inclination to build model railways, only a slim handful are dedicated enough to build an actual steam-powered rideable one in their backyard. Small wonder, then, that one of the inaugural attractions Walt planned for Disneyland was a train ride even more impressive than the Carolwood Pacific. Or that many more trains joined it in the years that followed.
This is a post about those trains. That's all—no deep philosophy or scathing opinions, just some warm and fuzzy feelings toward this surprisingly common attraction type. Think of it as part After-Action Report and part Sentimental Paleontology, with a big dollop of See Ya Real Soon added to the mix.
To be clear, I'm only talking about trains that are presented as trains. The Space Mountain vehicles technically qualify as trains but are presented as rockets.
All abooooaaaarrrrrrd!

Monday, March 27, 2017

After-Action Report: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Here's how you can tell when a Disney theme park ride is really successful: It outlives its source material in the public's esteem. This can only occur under specific circumstances. Firstly, the source material has to become obscure despite a) having been well-regarded enough at one point to be adapted into a ride and b) having the ride around to reinforce it for millions of vacationers each year. Secondly, the ride has to be good enough to draw queues despite losing the power of brand name recognition.
As you can imagine, it doesn't happen very often. You can probably count the genuine instances on one hand. Splash Mountain is the big one, due to being a unique thrill ride based on a movie that is not just obscure by mainstream standards but actually banned. But let's not overlook Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, whose inspiring movie is hardly any more known these days. I mean, when was the last time you watched it?* As for how it survives despite its source material falling off the radar, the ride concept—joyriding around various parts of old-timey England in an old-timey horseless carriage—pretty much speaks for itself.
But I think there's more to it than that. I have been known, in passing, to use the word “transgressive” in regard to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, without going into any details. But how else to describe it? I can't think of another Fantasyland-style dark ride that breaks the mold the way this one does. The usual methodology for plotting out one of these things is to take scenes from the movie and rebuild them physically so guests can ride through. They don't always get the perspective right, but as a rule, you can hop on a dark ride and see events you remember from the movie.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride...does not do that. It kind of does the opposite, in fact. It focuses on events that drive the plot of the movie** but actually occurred off-screen.*** The ride has been around forever and we take it for granted, but it's pretty bizarre when you think about it. We must consider that when Disneyland opened, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was only six years old, well remembered by the public. Did it seem at all weird to 1950s guests that the other Fantasyland dark rides were fairly straightforward recreations and then this one was...well...fanfiction?

Monday, March 20, 2017

It Came From the Fandom: Disnerland

Aaaaarrrrgggghhh, I didn't want to have to do this again so soon, but stress and a busy schedule hit me right in the inspiration and I wasn't able to get a proper post ready in time. So here, have some more fan stuff!
This time the spotlight is on “Disnerland,” a Tumblr blog that spoofs Disneyland, Walt Disney, and occasionally Walt Disney World in the most quirkily specific way. What it does is, it translates the names of theme parks, themed lands, attractions, and even the wording of Walt Disney quotes into what I can only call “Disnerland dialect.” It's not lolcat-speak. The spelling is always correct, and so, mostly, is the grammar, if you allow that certain words change their part of speech in the translation. For example, the word “world” is always rendered, in Disnerland, as “global.” As in “all the global.”
Most of the dialect consists of weird, but somehow logical, substitutions like that. “Family” becomes “house bunch.” Thoughts, ideas, and imagination are all referred to as “head stuff,” while dreams, even the aspirational kind, are “sleep stuff.” Money is “coin.” The founder himself has been transformed into “Wald Disner,” and his most famous creation is “Man Mice.” It's absurd, but the absurdity is methodical enough that you can pick it up quickly.
It's also dripping with affection for the thing it's parodying. Disney parodies are almost embarrassingly common, but finding one as adoring as this is extremely rare. No one who actually felt any hostility toward Disneyland would bother to create such a pervasive jargon for their snark. No one aims sincere mockery at Space Station X-1 or the Tomorrowland Art Corner or the entry plaque. (For one thing, before you can make fun of something you have to know about it, and only dedicated fans of Disneyland are instantly familiar with all those long-extinct attractions.) No one would go to such effort to erase the lettering from attraction poster after attraction poster, match the fonts, and replace it with the aforementioned jargon, unless they enjoyed spending that kind of time with those posters.
More to the point...Disnerland isn't actually saying anything negative, or even wry, about Walt Disney and the Disney theme parks. There are no jokes about Walt's supposed anti-Semitism, how expensive the parks are, or how unsuccessful California Adventure (“Disner's Cooltown Vacay”) was at first. It's just posters, quotes, and ads, run through the Disnerland dialect filter but otherwise unchanged.
But I've rambled enough. Why not click the link up top and see for yourself?
I would.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Second Sense: The Townsfolk of Main Street, USA

Main Street, USA is themed as an idealized 1900s American small town, where everyone knows everyone else, children respect their elders, and folks are happy to help each other out in a time of need. You know...the kind that probably never really existed, at least not to the extent our national nostalgia supposes. But either way, you can't have such a town without the townsfolk.
Who are the residents of Main Street, USA? Are they just the Cast Members that we see manning the shops and eateries? You could take that assumption for granted and stop there, but if you did, you'd be missing the fascinating meat of the story. There are a number of small (but highly important to those involved) dramas playing out right under our noses in this town. You'll never find them if you merely look for them.
You have to listen for them instead.
Your two main sources are the party line telephones in the Market House, and the second-story windows of East Center Street. Pay attention, note the instances of recurring names and concepts, and you can get...not a complete picture, by any means, but some interesting—and potentially alarming—connections start to crop up...