Well, I’m happy to report that the vacation to Disneyland was (Plus or minus the odd hiccup.) a success. Four days of thrill rides, fatty foods and Disney Princesses ogled from a respectful distance. I can honestly say that the trip has beaten the stress out of me with the tire iron of childlike enchantment.
What follows is some of the highlights of the trip.
-The two rides that pulled me back multiple times were Star Tours and The Indiana Jones Experience. Given Disney’s recent Borg like assimilation of Lucasfilm, (Which along with their other acquisitions, Marvel and The Muppets reveal an almost terrifying desire to own everything we loved as children. If they acquire the patent to Fudge and the likeness rights to Danny Kaye, The Justice Department may have to step in.) it’s no surprise that they feel a need to produce Giant E-Ticket versions of Uncle George’s big franchises.
And unsurprisingly, both rides share with their movie versions the same virtues. Like the Star Wars movies, Star Tours uses state of the art CGI and 3D effects coupled with the same kind of Motion Simulator tech you see at State Fairs and Science Museums (But amped up to 11.) to put you smack dab in the middle of a sprawling space saga. Minus the clunky dialogue and dodgy plotting. And while the ride itself has a fairly predictable three act structure, they’ve made several different planetary experiences that swap out for each ride, rewarding multiple ride throughs. (The down side of the random swap out is that it plays ducks and drakes with the Saga’s timeline. You may easily find yourself barely escaping the Ice Planet of Hoth from “Empire” and getting thrown into the kingdom of Naboo from Episode One. For old school fans, it’s a little disconcerting but I’m guessing that Disney hopes that most people will be too busy trying to stop their spleens from bouncing out of their bodies to notice.)
Meanwhile, Indiana Jones uses old school animatronics and projections to create a tactile sense of space as you’re hurtled through a cursed temple filled with hot lava, flaming idols, booby traps and enough Spiders and Snakes to make Jim Stafford regret ever writing that damn song.
Both attractions are superior examples of the Thrill Ride art. Able to deliver the experience of danger without anyone actually getting hurt.
-I also treated myself to lunch at Ralph Berman’s Jazz Kitchen. A New Orleans styled restaurant located in the newish Downtown Disney area. And I can honestly tell you that the lunch I had there was easily the best meal I have ever had in my life.
For the starter I had the Southern Garlic Cheese Bread which was easily The Best Garlic Bread I Have Ever Had. (And believe me, Garlic Bread is my carb of choice so I know from where I speak.) Eight pieces of bread cooked in a Olive Oil Puree, each piece separated by a slice of Mozzarella and topped with Garlic and Basil. And each bite tasted like a garlic infused cloud.
For the main course, I had the Southern Fried Chicken which had the perfect Breading to chicken ratio. Crunchy on the outside, moist and succulent on the inside. It was so good, I would up cribbing Ossie Davis’ line from “Let’s Do It Again”. “I tell you, I knew this bird in another life.”
It was so good, I couldn’t even finish my side of Corn Bread and thoughts of desert caused me to replay the Mr. Creosote scene from “The Meaning of Life” in my head. (It should be noted that the Corn Bread was a substitution for the original side dish in the menu which was Mac and Cheese. I can only assume that in certain parts of Louisiana, eating Fried Chicken and Mac and Cheese at the same sitting constitutes some form of manhood ritual. Like a more delicious version of walking on hot coals or having your foreskin removed.)
So yeah, damn fine meal and for under forty dollars. You’ll be burping garlic for hours afterwards but it’ll be totally worth it.
-Most of the non ride related attractions were enjoyable. “Muppetvision 3D” was a hoot and a half. The Golden Horseshoe show in Frontierland had a script that was cornier than an Iowa Farmer’s Stool but the cast of three were such strong knockabout comics that they were able to pass by the occasional groaner with ease. (And if you spend enough time in Disneyland, you begin to realize that Cornball Humor is central to The Disney Vision.)
The two disappointments were “Captain EO” and the Aladdin Stage show. “Captain EO” was clearly remastered in the latest 3D process but the print still looked splotchy. Jackson’s big song was surprisingly forgettable. And the effects (Even allowing for the period it was shot in.) looked they were done by ILM’s C team. And the whole thing felt like something Sid and Marty Kroft would have slapped together over a long weekend. I loves me some Coppola but this feels like he did it because he owed Lucas a favor. Frankly, I would have preferred to see a 3D remastered version of “Bad”.
Meanwhile “Aladdin” managed to turn a solid animated film into a fair to middling stage show. The sets were colorful and some of the staging was enjoyable. (I bet every time we saw the puppeteer handling Iago the parrot, Julie Taymor got a nickel.) But they screwed the pooch on the Genie. The guy playing him had the comedy chops but the people adapting the film forgot to write him any actual jokes. Instead, he merely shouted out random Pop Culture references. If “Aladdin” the movie is “Community”, “Aladdin” the stage show was “Family Guy”.
In fairness, the audience I saw it laughed. But I prefer to think that they were just grateful for the Air Conditioning. (Because seriously, Anaheim decided to demonstrate while I was there why California is in year two of a drought. It was in the high nineties my last two days.)
-Two mildly embarrassing incidents occurred while I was there.
The first was on Space Mountain.
The last time I was in Disneyland, I had chickened out taking the ride and I’d always felt like kind of a candy ass about it. So, this time around, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and took the ride.
That experience did little to de-candify my ass.
For those who don’t know, Space Mountain is an Indoor Roller Coaster where the cars travel through areas lit to look like star systems. Think of it as a Lo-Fi version of “Star Tours”. Only if the movies consisted of star fields for two hours.
Anyway, I get into the car, stow my stuff away and try to hook up my seat beat and realize that I do not have one!
You see, most of the other big rides I had already gone on had proper seat belts. But they were newer attractions. Space Mountain is an older attraction and instead of a seat belt, it had a roll bar.
A roll bar that you would see on the cars at the Haunted Mansion or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
A roll bar that I was not entirely sure I had pulled down all the way.
A roll bar that at that moment, I firmly believed would come loose and send me flying out of the car, smashing against the walls of Space Mountain like a jar of tomato paste thrown by an angry chief.
Needless to say, this severely cut into the enjoyment of the ride.
I know that it cut into the enjoyment of the ride because the first thing I yelled when we took the first drop was “THIS WAS A MISTAKE!!!!”.
Which I’m pretty sure was heard by everyone in a five mile radius.
Anyway, the ride ends. I am somewhat happy to have survived. A happiness that is undercut when after the car reenters the start area, I say out loud “Well, I’ve done Space Mountain and now I don’t have to do it again”.
To which the guy in front of me replies, “Good”.
And I could tell that behind that “Good” was a desire to have me redressed in the garb of a Victorian Fancy Lad and given a giant lollypop for extra effect and then dropped into a pit filled with sexually insecure teenage males.
Not my finest hour.
An hour that was stretched out when I saw the photo.
I should explain. Some of the Disney Rides have photo kiosks where you can see pictures of yourself on that ride and gives you a code that you can write down and use to order prints.
I did not do that for this ride and I will tell you why.
In that photo, I have my chin tucked into my chest to protect my neck, (A technique I learned years ago, watching Stockard Channing in “Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story” on CBS.) and in the process, accentuating my neck and chin fat. Thus giving me an unfortunate resemblance to Jabba the Hutt. My mouth is wide open because I am screaming but my eyes are closed so I cannot witness my moment of death. These two things made me look simultaneously terrified and asleep. As if trapped in the grips of a psychosexual nightmare involving vaginas with razor blades.
I promise you, if that photo ever sees the light of day, it will get posted to Reddit and people will meme the fucking shit out of it!
The other occurred on my last day. I was heading for the restrooms down by Main Street USA. (Because the old saying is true, you only rent a Fanta.) And as I was closing in on the men’s room, I turned around and found my self face to face with Ariel, The Little Mermaid.
Well, obviously not the real L.M. but an actress hired by the park to play her. She was clearly playing the land walking version because instead of wearing a fish tale and clam bra, she was decked out in a turquoise ball gown. She had red hair, fair skin and had a smile that would have made August Strindberg rethink many of his life choices.
Needless to say, flirting with her was absolutely out of the question. (Ferchristsakes, I’m a middle aged man wandering around Disneyland alone. To quote a Sklar Brothers bit, I was already a red dot on a Google Map. Plus, she was being accompanied by a handler who, if I had done anything untold, would have blown a whistle. This would have been followed by me being grabbed by men dressed as The Beagle Boys and shoved into the rest room where they’d perform on me the Disney Version of the shower scene from “Born Innocent”.) So instead, I simply turned and executed a perfect smile and nod and received a very lovely smile back. A perfect moment…
That was ruined when I turned and slammed into the edge of the open men’s room door.
At that moment, all I needed was a football player to yell “Cool move, faggot!” and then dump my books to put the button on the moment.
Now keep in mind that one of the cardinal of Disneyland is that if you are playing a character in the park, you never, ever break!
So when the young woman saw me turn the restroom door into a metaphor for adolescent sexual panic, she turned around and said “Sorry, you must be having trouble with your human feet, too.” and then hustled herself into the backstage area.
Well played, mermaid lady. Well played indeed.
-Anyway, other then those two burps, the trip was a success. I had a very pleasant time and I think I was able to break out of the funk that’s been hanging over me for the past year. I bought back a Donald Duck Coffee Cup for Michael Bingham as a thank you for the lift to the train station in K Falls. And for me I got the Blu-Ray to “Frozen” and a pair of Mickey Mouse Slippers. (Both whimsical and comfortable.) And I have a ton of photos that I will be posting to the Photography Tumblr later this week. And enough video footage to cut together something for Vimeo.
But the important thing is that I returned ready to get back to work and start churning out the funny again…
Only to discover that Putin is still fucking around in the Ukraine.
Congress is still functioning as smoothly as a laptop running Windows 98.
And the Antarctica Ice Shelf melting is now irreversible, locking us into a rise in sea levels.
Gather Ye Rosebuds, bitches.
Gather Ye Rosebuds.
EDIT: 5/18 4:27 p.m. Added a link to the photography Tumblr. Fixed a grammar issue.