As many of you know, I recently had the occasion to stay at the Disneyland hotel for an entire week, with a pass to enter both Disneyland and California Adventure at any time except Saturday. A lengthy stay can make quite the difference, as Disneyland has so much stuff that it’s impossible to do everything in a day, and day-trippers are usually rushing to cram everything in. With a week on your hands, however, there’s more time to take it all in, noticing things you might not normally see in the hustle and bustle.
This list may be more self-indulgent than usual, if such a thing is possible. And, no, there are no X or R-rated honeymoon photos herein. Just some of the more intriguing things that caught my attention while enjoying the afterglow of wedded bliss.
1. Disney Has Not Forgotten the Rocketeer.
They remember. They just treat him like slave labor now.
Yes, Cliff Secord’s airfaring alter ego cranks out kernels of corn in a food cart nowadays. The sad li’l superhero can see the replica of a rocket outside of his glass prison, but may never use his again.
2. Accurate Baboon Ass.
Several restaurants in Disneyland allow you to enjoy your food while being visited by giant cartoon characters. Most of these look like giant, huggable teddy bears…
…but then there are some that make you go WTF. Like, this would have given me nightmares if I were a little kid.
Look, I know he’s Simba’s friend and all, but he was never meant to be blown up to six feet and peering over our dinner table. He is surprisingly accurate in a key way, though – I checked as he took his leave, and this mandrill does have the appropriate blue buttocks.
3. Speaking of Nightmares…
This decaying Minnie mask with a baby doll head inside – part of a display of merchandise throughout the ages – may just give me some tonight.
4. The TV That Talks and Transforms…
…and yet fails completely at its primary function. You can’t see it in this picture – or rather, you THINK you can’t see it.
That piece of wooden furniture, however, is no chest of drawers. It is a clever concealment. Hit a button on your room remote, and it talks to you in an English accent, informing you that “the television is in motion.” The top pops open, and the flatscreen TV rises upward from inside.
Which is great, except for a few things:
-the built-in DVD player didn’t work.
-the TV kept losing its signal.
-it would randomly switch to CBS whenever it felt like it. If it had been ABC, I’d have been suspicious.
To sum up: Disneyland can make a convincing robot Abraham Lincoln. But they cannot get a TV to work in their signature Fairy Tale Suite.
They can, however, fold your washcloths into octopi. Let us not underrate this skill.
5. Splash Mountain is Pretty Much the Woodland Critter Christmas Ride.
I know Song of the South. I’ve seen Song of the South. Splash Mountain has some of the same characters, but a waaaay different spirit.
Song of the South is about a white kid on a reconstruction-era Southern plantation whose parents are emotionally distant, so instead he learns life lessons via former slave Uncle Remus, who tells him stories of Brer Rabbit. Because it’s Disney, and everything is utterly PG-ified – and therefore not mentioning the Civil War or slavery even though most adults know what’s going on – Disney is afraid to release it again domestically for fear of racial insensitivity charges. They’re happy to show it overseas, where the historical context wouldn’t mean as much.
And yet Splash Mountain is kinda-sorta based on the movie, in that it features Brer Rabbit and his foes Brer Fox and Brer Bear. There is no Uncle Remus, and rather than the happy go lucky spirit embodied in the clip above, it’s full of creepy dioramas, talk of impending doom, and sudden drops. The songs also have new lyrics for some reason.
There’s something like the uncanny valley effect at work, where the human eye recognizes the fakeness of highly detailed replicas. Disney rides that represent cartoon characters as cartoon characters work perfectly, but the singing birds on Splash Mountain are halfway between cartoon and realistic animal, and the mix is subtly frightening. Especially when that one starts doing a high falsetto.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never explicitly credited Splash Mountain as inspiration for their “Woodland Critter Christmas” episode of South Park, in which cute wildlife turn out to be violent Satanists. But the parallels are there, especially with the big fall of a mountain at the end, which is based on a much simpler toss into a briar patch in Song of the South.
Seriously, tell me these fuckers don’t look demon-possessed.
6. I like My Evil More Blatant.
This is the Space Mountain ghost. For Halloween, he and his scary theme music take over the popular thrill ride, and via various video effects it looks like he’s attacking your vehicle, pushing you down drops, etc.
Dude looks like a zombie made out of nebulas. If Disney made toys of him I’d be all over them. Matterhorn Yeti, too – D-land doesn’t market their two scariest monsters in any significant way.
7. The Souvenir Exception.
My wife knew what she was getting into with me – an office full of 20+ years of toys will do that in a hurry. She’s cool with that, but of course gives me grief if I buy a toy when I really don’t have the money to do it.
That said – she cannot leave a Disney park without having a souvenir. And given what the Disney park stores have, there’s a whole lot that can fit in that category. Here’s some of what I came away with.
Things I love about this haul:
(a) It apparently takes Huey, Dewey and Louie to just fucking dismember R5-D4 like he deserves.
(b) Artoo’s signature quote on the back of his package is literally, I kid you not, “Beep NEYoop whyEET bip beep boop!”
8. Captain Eo: Resistance is Futile.
Polarized 3D was state of the art back in 1986, and honestly, the 3D in Captain Eo still rivals that of many features today. What’s hilarious is the degree to which Claymation and stop-motion is also utilized, as if it were an effect that would forever be on the same level. It ain’t – but since we also all know Michael Jackson’s dead, nostalgia forgives many things.
More significant from a geek perspective is the way the Borg – and their future queen – were anticipated in this George Lucas – Francis Ford Coppola collaboration. Long before JJ Abrams tried to add the Star Wars touch to the Trek universe, Lucas was prematurely giving it ideas. Seriously, watch the movie and tell me he wasn’t.
Sadly, the movie is leaving Disneyland soon. I guess 3D Blu-ray probably ensures it a decent future.
9. A Ride Based on Tractor Pulls is AMAZING.
This will be the biggest leap of faith for many of you.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, at Disney’s California Adventure, features three spinning circles that intersect, around which ride “sentient” tractors from the Cars movies. The tractors go around the circle, then trade off to the next circle at the intersection point. You, the rider, are in an unsecured trailer attached to the tractor, and if you’re a bigger person like I am, this makes for some wild swings. Very simple, but fun as hell.
I warn you, though – you have to listen to Larry the Cable Guy sing country while you do it. I’m cool with that, but would never blame you if you aren’t.
10. Drunk at Disney.
Disneyland famously has almost no alcohol anywhere. Disney’s California Adventure is so scantily equipped by comparison that it practically requires it. So it was that at Carthay Circle – a restaurant/bar designed to look like the theater where Snow White premiered – I downed shots of bootleg Irish whiskey with regular TR commenter Calm-AV.
It was not, I regret to say, enough to get J and I on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride. Because during 9-11 week, the idea of fake-falling from the top of a high building for fun didn’t quite cut it.
11. Club 33.
The one place in Disneyland that does have a bar is the hardest to get inside. A few doors down from Pirates of the Caribbean, this fairly nondescript entryway gives you access to one of the most exclusive areas in Disneyland.
Members have to pay tens of thousands to join, there’s a waiting list of maybe 14 years – during which you may not change your address – and admission to the park is not included. So how did we make it? I can’t say for sure, but we pulled the honeymoon card, the Disney stockholder card, and the “Julia acts in a Blu-ray extra on a disc you sell in the park” card (that’d be the Blu-ray for Prom). Whatever one hit, it worked.
Lunch starts at a base price of $80, after which your entree is extra. But that base includes all-you-can-eat fresh lobster tail and crab claws.
This is a buffet where bread doesn’t come with butter, but multiple amphoras of infused oils.
Aside from the food, there’s a lot to look at. An elevator Walt liked so much in France that he tried to buy it outright, but settled for the rights to have his Imagineers replicate it exactly.
There’s a phone booth from the movie The Happiest Millionaire, from which you can call an operator and make an assisted call to an outside line.
This vulture was supposed to have been an audio-animatronic. Sadly, Walt never lived to use this club for entertaining or see the vulture completed. It still is not functional.
You can go out on the balcony and look out over the park.
Honestly, I could probably do a whole separate list on Club 33. But the bottom line is this: the food is amazing (macaroni and cheese with truffles, y’all) and the drinks are strong.
In case you wondered, Walt used to drink black-and-white scotch. It’s good, it’s actual – all the booze is satisfactual.
I’ll leave you with an image of the most non-threatening “other man” I can possibly imagine.