Well, here we are back in Disneyland nearly a year to the day from when I took Goddaughter Amelia May for her first visit. On one hand, it seems excessive to make two trips this close together. On the other, time is running out. I mean The Magic Time, that time when Disneyland isn’t just a great amusement park, but a fantastic world where Princesses and Fairies and talking mice and animals all live and are REAL. My brother, my parents and I missed Magic Time. I think I was ten or eleven and my brother was nine when we went to Disneyland. It was fun, it was exciting, but we knew Goofy was just a college kid sweating out under the sun in a big costume. With Amelia May, at six, it’s still Magic. Goofy dropped by our hotel lobby and she had to run up and give him a big hug — because she loves Goofy and she’s convinced he lives right near here. Maybe just a few floors down from us. The wonderful thing is, the Magic is infectious. Because it took about a nanosecond and I was believing, too.
The next great thing about doing Disneyland with a six year old is that they are completely on board with all the retro rides that I remember from Disneyland in the Sixties. And, if I want to really date myself, that I remember from the 1964 New York World’s Fair that Uncle Walt put together and where he debuted many of his most famous attractions.
How many of today’s sophisticated kids, brought up on special effects and 3-D gaming, are going to be impressed with a ride that’s all about animatronic dolls in stereotypical native dress endlessly repeating a syrupy sweet song about universal peace? They wouldn’t even buy it if you told them the ride also includes drifting past topiary shaped like bears, moose and deer. It completely works for a six year old. No lasers, light show or special effects needed. I am thrilled to say that, with the exception of sprinkling a few animatronic children dressed as various Disney characters, It’s a Small World hasn’t changed a bit since 1964. Except the line is about five minutes, since most kids are much too cool to even consider it. But for those of us who stepped into the boats and floated past the topiary, it took about one minute before we were all singing,
It’s a small world after all.
It’s a small world after all.
It’s a small world after all.
It’s a small, small world.
Whew! My friend,Susi, and I didn’t know what we’d have done if Amelia had rejected “It’s a Small World”. The two of us grew up living and traveling in many places and countries, my Dad as a career Army officer, hers as a professor of Economics. But our first taste of the International life were the wonderful stereotypes of “It’s a Small World”. And really, no matter how much you travel, don’t you secretly believe that French people are always doing the Can-Can, Middle Easterners charm cobras and fly around on carpets, Dutch people wear wooden shoes and pop out of tulips, Germans are yodeling out on some Alp with goats, Mexicans are doing hat dances? And Amerians, well, according to “Small World”, we’re all about cactus, cowboys, deserts and Indians.
With the retro theme set, we found it easy to convince Amelia that she needed to do “our” Disney. We hit the submarines, which were 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in my day, but are Finding Nemo today. I have to say, the Nemo theme is much better, more oceanographically correct and the new technology and special effects far exceeded our expectations. I sure didn’t miss that giant squid from the old 20,000 Leagues days.
Another low-tech, topiary-heavy ride, Storybookland, also still stands up. At least for late Baby Boomers and six-year-olds. You do get to float through a whale’s mouth, but mostly you float on a slow boat past miniature villages from various fairy tales surrounded by amazing Bonzai landscaping. Elsa’s Frozen castle and the Kingdom of Arundelle have been added, but otherwise, it’s still the Storybookland I remember. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is still the same. And again, since none of these are cool rides, not one has more than a five or ten minute wait. Of course, in our book, the Disneyland Railroad counts as a ride, especially when it takes you to the Grand Canyon and back in time to dinosaur days. We rode it around twice. And Sleeping Beauty’s castle? Well, here’s how we measure progress. Last year, we barely got up the first staircase when Amelia panicked at the thought that the Wicked Queen was going to jump out at her. We had to make an emergency retreat back through the entrance. This time we went around THREE TIMES. And we laughed in the face of that old Wicked Queen. We were armed with a special vial of Pixie Dust, which we took to Pixie Hollow and had confirmed as particularly potent. So we knew we were well armed enough even for meeting Malificent.
So that’s our Disney and we’re sticking to it. You can have your Star Wars Experience and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. In fact, you can have the whole danged California Adventure Park. If it wasn’t standing in Uncle Walt’s day, we’re not interested.
Tomorrow, we go on the ultimate retro Disney trip and hit the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room. With a Dole Pineapple Drink, thank you very much.
Good on you for taking her back while it’s all still real. I didn’t go until my 20’s and, although I loved it then, it wasn’t the same as it would have been when I was a kid. I still loved Autopia and the Teacups, however, and admired how clean and fresh the park felt even many years after it opened.
Ahhhh, the rosy-eyed six year old believer in magic; such fun for a little kid whose bubble hasn’t been burst by reality yet. Plenty of time for that in cynical adolescence. I was once was one of those little girls, although I think if the Small World exhibit had been open when I was first there, my parents would never have left the bar at the Disneyland Hotel! Now for the buzzkill: Team Rodent (read the Hiassen book of the same title) has just seen fit to replace many of their IT folks with overseas workers with H1B visas who will work for substantially less money, and Disney management has helpfully allowed their soon-to-be former employees to stay just long enough to train their replacements. I am in favor of allowing talent from other countries to come here but not solely because they will work for less at the expense of longtime employees who have proven their worth. What’s next? Goofy, et al. replaced by robots? It’s the Corporate American Magic Kingdom!