'Land Sakes (Our Trip to Disneyland, Part II)
Okay, where were we?
I had just forced Amanda to watch small children waving plastic lightsabers at teenagers melting under plastic armor.
Well, by this point we realized it was early afternoon and we’d gone on very few actual rides. So we headed out towards Frontierland …
The big attraction there is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but that comes with big lines. Luckily, Disney has invented the Fastpass system. With this, you can swipe your ticket through a machine and get a receipt telling you when to come back and skip most of the line. Since this was my first time really dealing with lines at a Disney park (I’d always been on weekdays before), this was a real godsend. We still had a couple of long waits, but by and large we had a pretty zippy time.
So, while we waited for our time on BTM to roll around, we went on
THE MARK TWAIN RIVERBOAT
Something of a filler ride, though it’s kinda fun how it gets incorporated into the whole park. You get on a riverboat and Mark Twain and Tony the Tiger narrate what you’re looking at as you go along. (Seriously, it’s Thurl Ravenscroft as the voice of the pilot) This means they point out a scary haunted house (The Haunted Mansion), a crazy mountain full of laughter (Splash Mountain), and a bunch of stuff on Tom Sawyer Island. There are also some displays set up just for the Riverboat – an Indian village, audio-animatronic animals, etc.
Amanda was most intrigued by the underwear, of course.
We didn’t go onto Tom Sawyer Island … it’s kinda just for exploring. I caught a few seconds of a performance by, I think the Laughing Stock Players. Bittersweet because of my fond memories of Vassar’s Laughingstock comedy troupe, felled by inaccurate charges of racism. Anyway, I didn’t really see enough of this western-themed sketch group to really know what they were doing, though it involved jokes about ugly women, which tend to be a turn off for me.
BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD
This was a very fond memory from our last trip, mostly because of the ride’s claim to be “The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness.” This is a taped message you hear many times while waiting in line, to warn you to hold on to your belongings. This just plain tickles Amanda, so while we waited I asked her such questions as “Are there any wilder rides than this in the wilderness?” and “This is one of the more tame rides in the wilderness, right? Anyway, a terribly fun ride for me, as a guy who doesn’t love (but doesn’t hate) rollercoasters – I think I just like them more dressed up, as Disney does, so there’s more to the experience than just a fear of death and motion sickness. I spent parts of the rest of the day thinking of what the plot of the inevitable Big Thunder Mountain Railroad movie will be. Roughly …
The mid 1800s. Owen Wilson (I’ll be using the actors names, rather than characters to help you keep everything straight) is the ne’er-do-well son of a Railroad Magnate (Christopher Walken). One night he’s living it up in San Francisco and gets into trouble with the law. His father will only help him get out of town if he agrees to head out to the frontier to supervise the construction of a new rail line going over Big Thunder Mountain. Walken sends the family lawyer (Steve Carell) along to supervise. They don’t know that they’re also both pursued by an overzealous Pinkerton Detective (Ben Stiller). The arrive and quickly see that this isn’t going to be easy. A crazy old prospector (Will Ferrell) warns them of an old Indian curse and sure enough, before the know it they’re meeting ghosts (Jack Black, and others), dinosaur skeletons are coming to life and wacky hijinks ensue.
Anyway … we now had to make some decisions. We knew that Pirates of the Carribean, The Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and the Indiana Jones Adventure would all be very popular. Weighing the listed lengths of lines, we decided to Fastpass Haunted Mansion and wait in line for Splash Mountain, since it was starting to get dark and we wanted to get the wet part of our day over with. So, off to Critter Country for …
An incredibly long line, yes. But a fun ride. Yes, it’s just a flume ride, but a very good one. The weird part about this ride is that it’s decorated with characters and scenes from the animated segments of Song of the South, a film that Disney has all but disowned. There is currently no plan to rerelease the film in theatres or video. Now, yes, the film has some pretty disturbing racial stuff in there. You’d think they could maybe release a non-commercial edition for collectors and educators – maybe donate all the proceeds to the United Negro College Fund or something. The movie does contain "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"one of the most beloved of all Disney songs, and the cartoon segments are fun – yeah anything featuring a “Tar Baby” is worrisome, I realize. Anyway, it has to be weird for kids to see this ride, which has a semi-clear narrative, and some interesting characters, and have no way of knowing what the whole story is (okay, they could read the original Joel Chandler Harris stories, but, c’mon). Anyway, we shared our log with some people slightly older than us who were having a weekend away from the kids and apparently looked at us as themselves a few years earlier and more carefree. We had fun, we got wet. This is a ride where they take a picture of you as you go over the big drop and try to sell it to you later. I was amused to see that some of the pictures (of other logs, not ours) didn’t show up on the video screens at the end of the ride, and we were told they had been “washed away.” Now these may have been technical errors, but I assume some portion of the “washed away” pictures stem from women turning the ride into “Flash Mountain.” Like I said, we got pretty wet. Amanda wound up in the very front of the ride (whoops) and got rather soaked. I tried to shield her a little by spreading my arms out, causing the riders behind us to make a series of Moses jokes. Oh well. I did my best.
Back to New Orleans Square and …
PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN
Oddly, not that long a line. Disney has clearly gone pirate-crazy with the success of these movies, and pirates are everywhere. You can by dreadlock-and-kerchief hats in stores, and we saw two pirates sweep into New Orleans square trying to recruit pirates to join them in an attack on the castle. I don’t know what happened if you “joined up” with them, but I was highly amused by their oath in which you promise to cheat and steal, etc., since it was the exact opposite of all the lessons the kids were taught in the Knights and Princesses thing we’d seen that morning. Kinda playing both sides of the issue, eh, Disney? As for the ride itself … as you may have heard, the ride has been changed to reflect the movies, with an audio-animatronic Johnny Depp running away from an audio-animatronic Geoffrey Rush. Presumably if they ever want to revert to the original ride, they can turn the robots into a “Shine vs. Scissorhands” attraction. I rode the original ride, and the PC’ed up version and … well, frankly I don’t remember them well enough. I know some purists are upset that the ride was ever messed with and wish it went back to being a merry ride through robot rape scenes. I feel like complaining that a ride at Disneyland is a movie tie-in is a little too ironic.
Oddly, the other ride that’s been Christmassed-up is
THE HAUNTED MANSION
Actually, it’s been Christmas-movied up in that it is now a Nightmare Before Christmas ride. No biggie, I suppose, though I miss the goofyness of the original and that “Grim Grinning Ghosts” song. The designs from Nightmare are certainly great, though I find that movie highly forgettable. It’s all awfully chaotic now. Oh well, after the holidays, it’ll go back to normal.
We had a pleasant dinner in New Orleans Square at The Royal Street Veranda (mass-produced but tasty gumbo in pretty-good sourdough breadbowls). Then we headed to Main Street for
"A CHRISTMAS FANTASY" PARADE
There’s always some kinda parade, but at the moment it’s Christmas-themed (still too early for me … but we’ll talk on Friday). When we first arrived, there was an army of red-shirted adults and children dancing to an endless loop of “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” which made me and Amanda worry that maybe that WAS the parade. But then the real thing started, after we were introduced to our “honorary grand marshals” (a family from Utah) about 30 times. The parade was actually one of the few times when we saw characters. In fact, the only characters we saw walking around who weren’t tied to a specific location (the Little Mermaid Lagoon, that Princess Thing, a scheduled Buzz Lightyear Meet ‘n’ Greet), were Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear in Critter Country and Mickey, someplace. We also saw Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore there, in Christmas clothes, but I think they had a particular kiosk. Anyway, the parade had all the usual suspects in Christmas-themed things. It was a nice surprise to see Clarabell Cow, not one I was expecting, and Mary Poppins and Bert (with a penguin). Amanda had never heard of Goofy’s son Max, and was surprised to learn of him.
And of course it all ended with the big guy …
Okay, I’m almost out of time here, so I’ll call it quits for today and finish tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
'Land Sakes (Our Trip to Disneyland, Part II)