My goal for this blog is to validate my opinions, and sometimes the thing which I like and surprisingly gets the most scrutiny is not Inglorious Basterds, Drive, or my affinity to melodic metal-core, instead it’s my love of the Disney Travel Destinations which seems to get me the most confused looks. People will say (or at least I hear them saying it in my head) “You’re going to Disneyland again?! haven’t you been there already?” And while it is true that I’ve spent over a month of my lifetime in the house of mouse, I never get tired of it. I’m going to tell you why. This is my validated opinion of the Disney Parks.
I went to Disneyland twice last year. The first was a family vacation and the second trip was a graduation road trip that I payed for on my own dime (for the most part). For me, the decision to go to Disneyland has always been an easy one. I can’t get enough. I’ve been to the Redwoods, Crater Lake, Hawaii, and Yosemite, but there’s something about Disney that I really connect with unlike any other. I believe this may have to do with my passion for film and media arts. The Walt Disney Company has created a theme park which so richly envelops you into their world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy that you begin to feel feel like you’ve stepped into a movie.
Walt Disney and his team of imagineers were all filmmakers and animators. This is why when the parks first opened on July 17th, 1955, they had countless structural problems. They knew how to build a temporary movie set, but a permanent theme park with 28,000 visitors tramping through in the first day alone was not something they had prepared for. Many of these structural problems were combed out in the first years, but traces can still be found of the structural testing that was happening in Disneyland before opening day, or “Black Sunday” as it’s also referred to. This all goes to say that Disneyland was made by filmmakers and as a result, the parks have a distinct movie “feel” to them which, until the opening of Harry Potter World in Universal studios, was unmatched by any theme park.
If you’ve ever been down one of the many “Main Street USAs” in the Disney parks around the world, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. The sounds, the smells and the sights are all so precariously managed to control your experience as you walk through any part of the park. Some might find it unsettling that Disney pumps the scent of waffle cones through a vent on main street but for me, this not only enhances the experience but also is so much better than the alternative. People get sweaty in the summer heat and if Disneyland wasn’t regulating the smells then you’d have a hard time smelling anything nice in the tightly packed summer days. There are also rumors that Disney has cloud makers to almost control what the sky looks like, and as skeptical as I am, I saw a hidden Mickey in the sky once and I’m still gathering my thoughts on that experience.
Perhaps the best way to explain my love for the Disney parks is by telling you why I love the Indiana Jones ride. If you haven’t been on it, The Indiana Jones ride is an intense dark thrill ride unlike any other (except it’s dinosaur themed twin in Florida). The queue area is so well themed to the Indiana Jones franchise that you truly feel like you’ve walked onto the set of a previously unreleased film. An eery temple stands looming above the entrance and as soon as you enter the details get richer and richer. It all culminates in a jeep tour gone horribly wrong through the interior of the temple’s passages. The entire experience is extremely cinematic. It’s loaded with special effects, booby traps and actual film paraphernalia. Disney takes you for a few minutes out of reality and puts you into a completely 4D environment which is, in the words of Sallah himself, an experience “unlike anything you’ve experienced I assure you.”
Finally, there’s something about being in Disney that escapes all explanation. In Sam Genneway’s Book Walt and the Promise of Progress City, Austrian Architect Christopher Alexander is quoted calling this “the quality without a name… a central quality, which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building or a wilderness [or a theme park?] This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.” When you are standing in the middle of Adventureland with the sounds of “Jungle Boat Tours” on one side and the smells of tropical pineapple Dole Whip on the other, with your complete circle of vision taking in all the sights of this manufactured jungle, you feel something that doesn’t have a name. It’s similar to the feeling you might get from watching a movie from your childhood or perhaps it’s the feeling you get when you are completely enveloped in a book that you are reading. It’s a sense of everything being just right, even if for just a moment. Either way, it can’t be distilled to simply being labeled nostalgia or anything else. I’m not saying this only happens at Disneyland because everyone is different. I’m not trying to convince anyone to feel the way I do, but rather help you understand my perspective. If you love going to concerts or Hawaii then by all means, do what makes you happy. But if you’ve never been to a Disney park, then I would encourage you to make it a life goal to visit at least once. Who knows… It could change your life. It certainly has affected mine.