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Closer Observations of Disneyland
Energetic, wide-eyed tourists fill the park to its capacity. There are numerous brochures in anxious hands, bent and turned in ways suitable for their enthusiastic eyes to try and follow the twisting and turning of the pathways. Mickey Mouse t-shirts and mock mouse ears bring character to the gawking faces of the men, women, and children from nearby and faraway homelands. They arrive in bus loads—hundreds upon hundreds each day. The arrivals pour from Bayside, Alpha, Karmel, Econo-Ride, 3R Express, SuperShuttle, Prime Time, and Sky Car. Instantaneously, each unique individual blends together, becoming one crowd pursuing the joys of the sun-drenched day in the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
Clusters of smiling, jumping children point to attractions; not a minute goes by that terrific screams do not resonate off of bulky attractions throughout the park—screams of enjoyment, of anxiety, of adventure—and set hearts pumping with delight and anticipation. The “Wildest Ride in the Wilderness” lay in wait with its trains full of forty-five people each, chugging outrageously around eight hundred and fourteen meters worth of track. “Oh my God” is repeated in English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, and French as the vehicle stops at the pinnacle of the track leaving its visitors to react with meaningless curses, laughs, and playful screams. Across Big Thunder Mountain, the elaborate, whitewashed “Mark Twain” Riverboat takes starry-eyed tourists around the Rivers of America in twelve minutes. The “Mark Twain” is a genuine paddle wheeler guided by an underwater track so that it does not require a captain. Upon departing the landing, the riverboat makes way for the Sailing Ship “Columbia”, an alternate mode of exploring the Rivers. Rather than a romantic and easy journey, the authentic-looking vessel offers a more thrilling and upbeat ride. On this windjammer’s travel, a fiery demonstration of a 12-gauge blank from a canon leaves the sightseers to “ooh” and “ahh.”
Awestricken families gather around, encircling the porch of the Golden Horseshoe to watch a simulated fight every few hours where a man dressed as a mayor’s daughter wins over the audience. The comedic music of Billy Hill and the Hillbillies turns the room into a thriving party and entertains all ages with imitations of Elvis to playful jabs at Small World and attractive women. The saloon serves as a family-friendly reminder to what was a huge focal point in the towns of the old west. It is delicately and sophisticatedly constructed with gold trim and distinct designs to draw in the wandering eyes of the passersby; and stepping inside gives vacationers the overwhelming feeling of being a part of the old west. Blood red velvet is draped in the entranceways of four private tables, set apart by the stage, giving the few families a sensation of importance. Looking outside at the riverboat and windjammer, it does not feel like the twenty-first century.
Beyond the heavy wooden doors of the saloon is a greeting area for characters like Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Jesse the Yodeling Cowgirl. Rickety looking, old fashioned wood fences protect great trees from being trampled by animated kids. Children line up with autograph books and cameras to remember when they met their favorite, world famous Disney character—to remember when their “dreams came true.” Bright smiles and lasting memories characterize Frontierland as a truly magical place.
The enchantment continues when folks get the chance to dress up and have cameos painted of them. Gun shots ring out from a game stand and cash registers ding from within the copious gift shops that decorate the trails of the traditional town, sending more buzzing into the air. Hardly anyone walks out of the shops without a plastic, dark blue Disney bag held securely in their hand and satisfied grins plastered on the shoppers’ faces.
The distinguishing Disney blue overruns the vast walkways from Frontierland to New Orleans Square in the form of t-shirts, hats, jackets, and gift bags. As opposed to the tan and largely simple old west, this imitation bayou jumps with live music, the aroma of authentic Louisiana Cajun foods, and the daily celebration of Mardi-Gras, which includes the throwing of vibrantly colored plastic bead necklaces. The necklaces are worn with glee while Disney-goers sit down to eat. Gumbo, crawfish, jambalaya, and diverse desserts coat the plates of guests continually throughout the course of the day in equal abundance. Different families are on different schedules, ensuring that the restaurants are always bursting with life. Small, two-story buildings serving as restaurants and stores are pressed together with common household objects of the Mardi-Gras era decorating the windows.
Intricate antiques can be found while looking carefully at the architecture and the interesting details on the doors, windows, and signs. Rubber, not cast iron, forms the railings of the second story balconies, providing rust free décor. Hidden within the buildings at the heart of New Orleans Square is the famous Club 33. Marked by an ornate plate, its address is 33 Royal Street, which sums the dining room up perfectly. Secretive and nothing short of expensive, the club is the only place in the park that offers alcoholic beverages. The members are undoubtedly wealthy and are required to press a concealed buzzer and slide their membership card before entrance. For an architect or designer, this themed land is inspirational; for a child or tourist, it is purely fantastical. Because New Orleans Square is also beside the Rivers of America, it provides the perfect partner to Frontierland. The alleyways are always jam-packed and boisterous, presenting a sense of ingenuity and reality. Darkly colored balconies are teeming with tangling vines and vivid flowers. Only two main distinctions separate New Orleans Square from the real New Orleans: the curve of the street and the colorful Disneyland trash cans. Venders dressed in brightly colored, genuine-looking garments offer bayou souvenirs ranging from embroidered umbrellas to fake flowers to plastic coins.
Contrasting with the convoluted facets of the heart of New Orleans Square, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction allows families to experience a pirate’s life up close and personal. Five rowed boats take them through pirate ruins, Tortuga, and ship life. The skeletons on display are bona-fide; rather than dealing with fake ones, Disneyland bought specimens from the University of California, Los Angeles. Adolescents dress as the cliché pirate featuring black eye-patches, torn trousers, striped shirts, a tattered vest and the key hat. They try their best to sing the pirate song, naively mispronouncing more than half of the twenty unsavory acts mentioned in it: plunder, pillage, rifle, loot, kidnap, ravage, extort, pilfer, filch, sack, maraud, embezzle, hijack, kindle, char, inflame, ignite, burn, beg, and drink. The young boys clutch plastic swords and bring smiles to surrounding people as they wave the phony weapons and pretend to battle with friends or family.
Pirates-in-training focus their attention on Captain Jack Sparrow, the fictional Disney captain in the popular Pirates of the Caribbean movie. He comes from Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island in the center of the Rivers of America by a small motor boat disguised as Huck Finn’s raft. The impersonator struts in a typical Captain Jack fashion down the brown concrete in front of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. With a witty remark to each of his fans, he signs autograph books and takes pictures. Small boys are not the only group magnetized to Jack; women ranging from young to old stop for pictures with their beloved captain. Cocking smiles and flailing arms, the imitation is indistinguishable to younger fans. For the more matured, the actor includes small faults in his posture, clothing, or make-up. Nonetheless, aficionados of all ages mob the sidewalk for their chance to see and meet Captain Jack Sparrow.
Whether slightly amused by the workings of imagination of Walt Disney and his successors or fully enthralled, millions of sightseers flock to Disneyland each year to experience the heart pumping thrill the “imagineers” provide. The bountiful crowd does not take away from the pleasure; rather, it adds a degree of exhilaration. Dodging the abundance of people becomes a sort of game to families that can end in both laughter and frustration. Observing the crowd’s habits can reveal shortcuts to lines: the left side is always shorter during prime meal hours; saving the most popular ride for last is more beneficial because once on line, employees make sure the families ride despite the time; and between Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas is the least busy time to go to Disneyland. Through the people, the brown cement of the pathways is hardly visible in Frontierland and New Orleans Square, which are both chief objects of focus for park-goers. Despite the pollution of the public, the birds still sing and the water still glistens. The Magic Kingdom evokes sensations of joy to anger, of happiness to sorrow, and draws curious eyes to each diverse feature of the park, ultimately interesting families further. The most characteristic feeling it evokes is fascination; and this unique attribute keeps visitors returning to the “Happiest Place on Earth” year after year by the millions.