Friday, August 26, 2011

The Heart of Disney

Having visited Los Angeles over a dozen times with the Little Goofs, the Disney corporation issued us an ultimatum: Take your children to Disneylandor face the consequences.

The ultimatum was unspoken, but it was clear and powerful nonetheless – like a prophetic vision of being subject to a Disney rendition, hooded for days and then forced to don a Tweedledee costume and suffer blows from an acrimonious Tweedledum for the amusement of children.

So, I visited the very useful Disneyland Vacation Tips site and took the Little Goofs (and their aunts Tias C & T) to Disney. Pictures from the day show me grimacing at the entrance. Theme parks aren't my thing and I was not looking forward to the heat or the crowds or the prices. I was hoping to get some blog-fodder out of it though.

On the way, we listened to the classic young adult novel Anne of Green Gables. Set on Prince Edward Island in the late 19th century, Anne is an orphan girl who very much wants to own a pretty dress with puffy sleeves. Although GoofGirl is a bit of a fashionista, she does not grasp why Anne so desires puffy sleeves. Still heading off future demands, I declare, “No daughter of mine shall have a dress with puffy sleeves!”

GoofBoy perked up, “You didn’t say anything about sons!”

Our running joke at Disney was that GoofBoy wanted me to buy him a princess outfit (or Tinkerbell). He is all boy, loves sports, comic books and fishing. But he really has no worries about girly stuff. He loves to sing, happily wears pink and when my sister-in-law Tia C hung out with GoofGirl to paint finger and toenails, GoofBoy volunteered his nails too. I am jealous at how comfortable he is in his own skin – as ten year old I shied away from pink and any hint of anything “girlie.” I was poorer for it.
So I was hoping to get and post a picture of him in a princess outfit, but he leveraged the situation well, refusing to try one on unless I actually purchased it.
This led to me, standing in the middle of a Disney store announcing, “Son I am NOT buying you a princess outfit so stop asking!”

Other dads looked at me sympathetically.

Then we got into a fight with the plastic swords.

The Rest of the Park
Visits to Disney inspire sociological analyses of the state of American culture, or is it cultural analyses of the state of American society, or post-modern takes on the spiritual emptiness of modern society.

But my primary interest, as always, is wearing out my children. For a blow-by-blow of our adventures at the Magic Kingdom (including pictures) follow Father Goof on Twitter (with great pictures!)

After a hard day of rides, GoofBoy and my other sister-in-law Tia T relaxed by shooting stuff at the arcade. Tia T is a surprisingly good shot. GoofBoy bought himself some toy guns – now that our semi-official ban is ended (it wasn’t that we opposed guns, but we really hoped he would go to the Jedi Academy while his sister attends Hogwarts.) Later on those toys became a source of stress because GoofBoy had them in his carry-on at the airport. He worried that security would detect them and we’d have a big problem. We were stopped, not because of GoofBoy’s arsenal but because the freezer-pack with our carryon meals had started to defrost and somehow this set off alarms. I would like to think this reflects highly sophisticated scanning technology deployed by TSA.

Anyway Disney was fun (except the Tiki Room where I had a bit of a breakdown – singing robot birds just freak me out – but on the plus side I was not required to go on a “It’s a Small World.”) It is hard not to marvel at how effectively Disney maneuvers crowds and sustains order. This has a dark-side. An old friend from grad school happened to be at Disney with her husband and son. Her son was banned from Splash Mountain for having a splash fight. But it is splash mountain, what do they think would go down there. This reflects the Disney ethos, you will have fun our way and our way only!

There were smaller indicators of Disney’s dark heart. In the restroom, the gent cleaning up engaged me with full eye contact and asked, “Are you having a good time? Can I help with anything?”

I really try to keep my mens room interactions to a bare minimum. I don’t need the experience improved upon, but for Disney’s motto could be, “Ve have vays of making you have fun!”

And in fairness we did and I got my blog post out of it. I also learned that at the neighboring Disney California Adventure Park adults can walk around with beer - I might really enjoy corny Disney humor that way. I guess they do have ways of making me have fun.

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