Tag Archives: MYWTM

What Makes Disneyland So Magical?

So back when I solicited questions, Kristin wrote this:

What do you think it is that makes Disneyland so friggin magical? Because it is! We fight the crowds, wait in long lines, pay a ridiculous amount of money for tickets/passes, make a visit in a heat wave and/or rain, etc., etc. all for that little piece of magic you just can’t get anywhere else. How the heck do you think they do that?!

I know, you probably thought I was ignoring her, but actually I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I mean a LOT. As in “Le Fou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking–a dangerous passtime–I know!”

Because it’s actually a really, really good question. I mean it’s true, through wind or heat or rain or crowds or price, we’re still willing to go, and we still love it. Well, I still love it. And I’m assuming if you’re reading this blog you love it. Or want to love it. Or are trying to convince someone else to love it. Or typed something like “Home coffee bar” into Google, clicked over here, and decided to stick around.

But regardless of how we got here, the fact is that I’m spending a tremendous time at Disneyland after having already spent a tremendous time over the last few years, yet I still can’t wait to go again. I still get a little catch in my throat when I come around look down Main Street, and see the castle. The fireworks still make me teary. And the churros…man, the churros. You KNOW how I feel about those.

But why? Is it because the park is clean? Yeah, that’s definitely a great part of Disneyland, especially when you walk around something like the county fair and feel like you’re wading in litter. Is it because the rides are awesome? Yeah, that’s another great part about it. Is it the theming? Sure, definitely. I love some good theming. And attention to detail? Yep, that too. Happy employees? Absolutely–the Cast Members are fabulous. Nostalgia? Holy heck, yeah.

But all of those explanations feel…I don’t know…lacking. A clean park with detailed theming and happy people just doesn’t seem to cover it when thinking about Disneyland Magic. It’s something different.

Something more.

And you know what? I wanna figure out what it is.

So let’s do it! Let’s do everything there is to do at Disneyland, and MORE. What makes Disneyland so magical? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.

Will you join me?

Innoventions Part 1

Once upon a time, there was an attraction called the Carousel of Progress. The CoP was built by Walt and featured at the 1964 World’s Fair, and then moved to Disneyland. It was a big, round building. It was also discontinued at Disneyland the year I was born (1973). Apparently Walt liked the CoP.

Replacing the CoP was America Sings. As I recall, this exhibition had a great deal of animatronic animals singing songs about America. It was lame, and it closed and many of the animals moved to Splash Mountain where they now sing songs from a movie that has never been released on home video (and I mean video, like VHS, or Beta if you unfortunately chose the wrong format) because it’s completely racist. Yet despite this racism, Disney used Song of the South to create Splash Mountain and invited some of America Sings’s animals to the party. Go figure.

Anyway, replacing America Sings was Innoventions. Let me just make something clear first. The best part of Innoventions is the fact that it’s air-conditioned. The worst part is, like, everything else. Innoventions has two floors. Originally you entered on the first floor, but they have recently switched it and you now enter in what used to be the exit.

Doesn't this look like an exit? That's because it was.

Innoventions is supposed to be a huge display introducing us to the wonders of the future. This has become problematic, since the wonders it is introducing have already come to pass, and in some cases, have been surpassed by more modern technology.


Since you’re entering through the former exit, you have to climb a lot to get to the top. However, the climb does lead to some nice park views.

It's the Matterhorn. How beautiful.

It also gives you a fantastic view of something that is long obsolete, yet still very visible in an un-Disney-like fashion. I’m talking about the Peoplemover tracks.

The Astro Orbiter rocket ship ride used to be on top of this building, and it was totally awesome. Now it's on the ground, which is not awesome.

Innoventions welcomes you to the second floor, formerly known as the second part of Innoventions.

Come on in! No, really, please come in.

Once inside, you are immediately assaulted by the Wall O’Corporate Sponsorship. Now a lot of the attractions in the park are sponsored by corporations, but I can’t think of any more shameless than Innoventions. I mean, it’s like when a company buys a sports arena and changes its name. I’m looking at you Arrowhead Pond Honda Center and Compaq Center HP Pavilion. Anyway, Innoventions is very heavily sponsored.

The future belongs to Microsoft, et al.

Now that you’re really inside, you get to your first exhibit–the jet pack.

This just does not look safe

Which would be all cool and stuff, except that now our emphasis is on green energy and I’m having a hard time coming up with something less green than individual jet packs. Hybrid jet packs? I’m not feeling the love here.

Next is Honda’s robot, Asimo. It’s Asimov without the V. I know, you didn’t notice that until I pointed it out. You’re welcome.

This is like a theater or something. I don't know. I didn't go inside. I don't go to Disneyland to watch Honda's presentation about robots, no matter how much I loved my 1987 Honda CRX. And I SERIOUSLY loved that car.

Outside of the theater are these wall decorations of carved robots, except instead of looking all futuristically cool and stuff, they actually look quite terrifying–like Skeletor meets C3-PO and instead of dying an agonizing death in private, its final fatal moments are recorded for all time on a wall in Innoventions. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have nightmares about these things. Again.

Screw you and your creepy robot skeletons, Honda. I drive a Mazda now.

After that you can see the tree house thing that’s supposed to be, well, I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.  For some reason it reminds me of Avatar, but like Avatar in purgatory.

Sorry James Cameron, but your movie kind of sucked. Although a setup like this might have made it better.

On the other side of Honda’s Asimo theater, people come out and they look all blue. This is Disney’s way of letting you know that you’re in the future.

I have seen the future, and it's blue.

Then comes the world of interactive games. You can made a body using the Body Builder, which is not a workout supplement, but rather is a 3D game where you build a body.

What's with the Asian writing at the bottom? Are Asians supposed to have their fingers on the pulse of the future? Because that's kind of racist too.

There is a part that actually looks really cool. It’s a projected image on the floor and there are these puck things that you use your stick to move around. I mean, it looks like a fun-ish game but the stick things don’t always work and people often look like they’re curling or something. Also, there’s always a line to participate. Pass.

Cruise ships all over the world are replacing their shuffleboard fields with these things.

Then there are video games, pretty much all of which you can play at home. And at first I thought “now who comes to Disneyland to play video games you can play at home?” but then I thought about how there used to be an awesome two-story arcade outside of Space Mountain with things like air hockey that I spent a lot of time playing with, but then again, very few people have air hockey tables at home. I’m so conflicted. It makes me long for the days of 25 cents Ms. Pac Man. Life was so simple when all we had to play with was a rock.

Please tell me this is not what our future will look like.

OMG, the blue is EVERYWHERE!!!

And then, for some inexplicable reason, we leave the world of blue and video games and enter what seriously reminds me of the Health section of the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles, circa 1980’s, where they told you to do some revolutionary things like brush your teeth.

Strangely enough, this section is sponsored by St. Joseph’s hospital. Which really is the hospital you want to go to if you are sick or injured at Disneyland. If you ever find yourself in an ambulance leaving the Disneyland resort, which I have because I’m all weird like that, ask them to take you to St. Joseph’s.

Don't forget to brush your teeth, kiddies!

There are also some strange things in that part, like apparently in the future we’re going to have some wacky thing called “journalism.”

This ridiculous idea will never catch on.

I think the point of that exhibit is to show the “newspapers” at the bottom that actually have little screens where you can watch the news. Unfortunately, this has already been invented. It’s called television.

Despite the fact that this is all about the future, there are some decidedly non-futuristic elements like these retro designs.

But I thought the future was blue?


This machine thing asks “How will you look at your reunion?” and I think it’s supposed to take your picture and time warp you or something.

Dear Alumni Association--stop sending me mail!!!

The thing is, for many of us we just have to look in the mirror to know how we will look at our reunion. I mean, take a look at this:

Me in 1985

Me in 2011

You know, a lot of people are concerned about how they will look at their reunions (older, fatter, balder), but quite frankly, I had nowhere to go but up, so I’m pretty happy.

But back to Innoventions, there’s one more thing on the second floor

Is this awesome or what?

There used to be a section here with Segways that you could ride on. I always meant to do that, but never got around to it and now its gone. I guess I’ll have to wait for my personal jet pack.

Looking Up

I started this blog with an idea of things I’d never done before, like riding the Main Street vehicles, or being at the rope-drop–stuff like that. But now that I’m into this, I realized there was one more really major thing I’ve never done:

Look up.

Particularly on Main Street, but elsewhere as well. Disneyland has all kinds of cool details that I really never paid attention to since I was trying to get on a ride or go see something in particular. So, here’s a post about looking up.

Main Street, U.S.A. is supposed to be a typical main street in 1908, except it would have been a very crowded main street because there’s all kinds of stuff on there. And also, Main Street is not very tall. I knew that it had been scaled down, but I couldn’t quite figure it all out because the upper windows seemed to be somehow even more scaled down than the rest of the street.

I mean, I get the idea of forced perspective and all. Like, that’s how you can take an averaged-height Elijah Wood and turn him into a hobbit by making him stand way in front of Gandalf, or maybe way in back or whatever. But then again, how tall is Elijah Wood anyway? I used my SRM (Standard Research Methodology = 3 minutes on Google), expecting to find a quick answer as to how tall Elijah Wood is. Alas, that does not appear to be definitive public information. BUT, Google did have this crazy statement at the top that said:

Best guess for Elijah Wood Height is 5′ 6″

FeedbackIs this accurate? Yes NoThank you for your feedback.Mentioned on at least 4 websites including celebheights.com, trueknowledge.com and yahoo.com

Which, REALLY??? I mean, when even GOOGLE has to guess, you know that’s some top secret information. And also, there’s an entire website devoted to celebrity’s heights?

Okay, I’m getting way off topic here, so let me just throw you a picture real quick.

This is a fake building with a door that doesn't open named after Walt's hometown of Marceline, MO. That's also our stroller.

So anyway, back to Disneyland and forced perspective and all, after applying my SRM to the question of Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. height, Wikipedia told me this:

Buildings along Main Street are built at 3/4 scale on the first level, then 5/8 on the second story, and 1/2 scale on the third—reducing the scale by 1/8 each level up.

And even though I know that Wikipedia is totally the best source for reliable information of any kind, it pretty much makes sense to me.

Although neither Wikipedia nor Google has any information about Main Street’s height in relation to Elijah Wood. Somebody should write a blog entry about that. Or make a whole website. Or just take a picture of Elijah Wood standing on Main Street in Disneyland. Next to Gandalf. Because that would be awesome.

Anyway, there’s a particularly large number of looking-up things in the alley behind the fruit cart by the lockers.

Canned Fruits, Beekeeper Supplies, and Guns. Now that's what I call "one-stop shopping."

Apparently Walt used the upper windows to commemorate his friends or Disney employees or Disney employees who were also his friends, or some other people he would probably be Facebook friends with if he were still alive today, and using the internet at 110 years old. I mean, I think that might even be more awesome than a picture of Elijah Wood and Gandalf on Main Street.

Tangent: I remember a couple of years ago the news did an interview with the oldest woman in the world and when they asked her the secret to her longevity, she said, “Bacon.” Dudes, I’m totally not kidding. And thank God for that, because given the amount of bacon I eat, I’m going to live forever.

But anyway…

More friends of Walt's, I assume. I wonder if the "Stone Mason" carved Walt's head stone, or just the ones in the Haunted Mansion queue.

I think my favorite is the Painless Dentist.

Laughing gas in 1908 from dentists in training? Sign me up!

I like the “S. E. Bitz” name. Is that really someone’s name, or a play on “Yes, he bites”? Seriously, if you know the answer, leave me a comment.

You can also buy a bicycle.

This window is one of the few with an actual colored picture.

At first I thought “Wow, renting a bicycle at Disneyland would be kind of cool,” and then I immediately thought, “Wow, renting a bicycle at Disneyland would be a freakin’ nightmare!”

Still cute, though

And here’s another interesting one. That’s all I can think of to say about this.

This is a private investigator and a "I really should take notes because I can't read it from my picture and I don't remember what it says a week later"

I think I’ll make looking up one of my new hobbies. When I’m not riding my bicycle down Main Street.

*Edited to add–a reader let me know that according to imdb.com, Elijah Wood is indeed 5’6″. But I still want to see him standing on Main Street with Gandalf.

Pinocchio’s Daring Journey

Did you know that Pinocchio was Disney’s second animated film (after Snow White, of course)? Well this is actually one of those things that I DID know before starting this blog, and now you know it too. You’re welcome.

Pinocchio’s Daring Journey is one of the Fantasyland “dark rides” (those ones where you sit in a vehicle and ride around in the dark–if you’ve been to Disneyland you know what I’m talking about. If not, that’s all the explanation you’re going to get. Sorry.). I haven’t been on it in recent memory, recent memory being the last 30 years, so when it seemed like the line was short, I decided to go for it.

Are you man enough for this ride? I mean wooden doll enough? Or honest/short-nosed enough? Or whatever.

Pinocchio is located right by King Arthur’s Carrousel, which is Theo’s favorite ride. I’m interrupting this narrative to tell you that because right after I took this picture, Theo started saying, “Horse! Horse!” so we went for a spin on the carrousel first.

Satisfied with his horse-riding, a happy Theo and I walked back over to go on Pinocchio. I was a little nervous because it looked like there was a very short line, but sometimes what you see from the outside of the ride disguises the fact that there’s 56 miles of zig-zagging behind the scenes. So I was a tiny bit nervous, but it’s Pinocchio so I thought I’d take my chances.

Is there more to the line than this? Actually, no. This is pretty much all there is.

The dark rides aren’t called “dark” for nothing. They’re dark. Now I know that Snow White’s Scary Adventure is, in fact, scary (you can tell by the number of traumatized children coming off of it) so I’ve been avoiding that one when I have Theo with me. He’s not a huge fan of the dark and has, in the past, started getting very nervous/crying in extended dark and scary scenes.

Okay, so there’s no “scary” in “Pinocchio’s Daring Journey,” but I should have realized that “Daring” doesn’t mean “sunny! bright! cheerful!” And really, it’s not much of a sunny, bright, cheerful story either, is it? I mean, my basic recollection of the story is this:

Gepetto wants a kid so he makes one out of wood. The Blue Fairy comes and animates him or something. Umbrella-wielding Jiminy Cricket shows up on the scene because Pincchio is either in the habit of, or will soon be in the habit of making what adults call “Bad Decisions” using “Poor Judgment.” Also Pinocchio’s nose grows longer and longer each time he tells a lie, rendering a polygraph machine completely superfluous if he should ever commit a real crime. Something happens and Pinocchio goes out into the world and is in a puppet show with a bad guy. Then something else happens and Pinocchio uses his Poor Judgment to make some Bad Decisions and gets sucked into Pleasure Island, which I keep wanting to call Treasure Island and which also seems to be all awesome and fun but turns out to be like a time-share presentation from Hell. He also gets turned into a donkey. Then he is sad. Then something else happens and he goes home and for some reason, the Blue Fairy thinks he should become a real boy and turns him into one. The end!

I’m seriously wondering if I should brush up on some of my Disney classics before I go on these rides, because that was literally all I remembered going into the ride.

Anyway, back to the ride. So you and your unwitting, trusting, not-a-fan-of-the-dark toddler hop onboard your ride vehicle emblazened with a friendly-looking Jiminy Cricket leading the way. What could possibly go wrong?

The Disneyland website calls this a “4-person woodcarvers cart.” Just so you know.

Then you jump immediately to the Bad Guy’s puppet show.

Stromboli? Isn’t that a food? Yes, I’d love a stromboli with pepperoni and mushrooms!

Immediately I am faced with the biggest challenge of blogging this ride. It’s extremely difficult to take pictures inside.

It’s the Puppet Theater thing. Is that a can-can dancer or an early version of Lilo from Lilo and Stitch? No clue.

I have a number of other pictures that look like this:


Did I mention this ride was dark? Actually, Theo was doing really, REALLY well. He was snuggled in close but was still looking around and was quiet and not crying. He was really being quite brave.

Part of the problem with photographing this ride is that your  vehicle  woodcarvers cart actually gets moved around from side to side quite frequently, so you’re never really looking at any given scene for a long time. Like enough to take a picture with a point and shoot. I did start anticipating pictures, but the aim was a bit off.

It’s Pleasure Island and some lady’s hair!

Theo continued to do well until we started to get to the really scary part of the ride, heralded by this dude.

I have always hated jack-in-the-boxes. What’s fun about some terrifying clown or jester thing popping out of a box when you don’t expect it to?

At this point, our intrepid little toddler cuddled in even closer, but rather than crying, he simply started saying, “All done? All done? All done?” No sweetheart, just a little bit longer. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER BRINGS HER 2-YEAR-OLD ON A TERRIFYING RIDE???

Next, Pinocchio and his little friend who also uses Poor Judgment to make Bad Decisions get turned into donkeys.

It’s donkeys shooting pool. Of course!

And then we got to the really scary part–Monstro the whale. Now you may remember when Pinocchio gets swallowed by Monstro, but I had forgotten all about it. And incidentally, as a very young child, I always got the story of Pinocchio and Monstro confused with Jonah and the whale and continually thought “Pinocchio is in the BIBLE???”

Anyway, I had forgotten about Monstro until he came after us, growing increasingly larger as I got this shot.

I think the phrase that best describes this is “OMFG!!!!!”

And to his IMMENSE credit, Theo did not flip out at this point, which was very good because I almost did. What a trooper!

So somewhere along the line, Monstro disgorges you and you end up back in the toy shop (this is the part that’s all fuzzy in my mind) and the Blue Fairy, who is some kind of projected image that was impossible to photograph, turns Pinocchio into a real boy.

Look, Dad! I don’t know how I got here, but I’m real!

That picture kind of looks like it’s in 3D except it’s really just the lighting and the fact that I’m still moving. You can also see more of Gepetto’s toy shop.

None of these will become real

And then the ride is over. Theo survived, sanity intact, despite asking if we were “all done? all done?” for the entire second half of the ride. All in all, it’s not a terrible ride, but it’s very dark and not for the fearful.

Incidentally, because you care, my other experience with Pinocchio is that when I was very young, I was in a community theater’s musical version of Pinocchio that was not the Disney version. I remember that because our Jiminy Cricket was called “Geronimo” or something. My big role, I am not kidding here, was as a Leaf. Now, how on earth does a leaf figure into this story? Well, the Leaf was a very important role, because we (actually I was one of three Leaves) had two things to do. One was that every time Pinocchio told a lie, we held portions of the ever-growing nose and marched out on stage and attached them to Pinocchio’s existing nose. Obviously that’s the role of a Leaf, and completely inconspicuous too. Our other important role was that we had these stuffed fish, and during the Monstro scene, we stood at the side of the stage and threw fish at Pinocchio to emphasize that he was being swallowed (along with several stuffed fish) by a whale. It was serious high-tech theater.

I wish I was kidding people, but that’s the late 70’s/early 80’s for you.

%d bloggers like this: