Heh. It’s funny: For the first time in nearly twenty years, I’m gearing up for a Disney trip that won’t take me to Anaheim or VMK. By this time Sunday, I’ll be at Walt Disney World … EPCOT Center, most likely. I haven’t been there since October 1988.
I’m looking forward to the trip, but I don’t feel as giddy as I do before a trip to Anaheim. WDW isn’t the kind of place you can hug. It’s big — twice the size of Manhattan. It’s smack-dab in the middle of the state that prosecuted Pee-Wee Herman and houses Ann Coulter. (Don’t get me started on my “Florida is the site of every miscarriage of American justice over the course of the last hundred years” rant.) Cory Doctrow may disagree with me, but the place just doesn’t have Disneyland’s whuffie.1
Fortunately for me, I was given a gift a few weeks back: I was made aware of Passport to Dreams Old and New, a bl-g “devoted to the serious documentation, study and discussion of facets of the unique methodology of themed ‘space’.” More to the point, it’s devoted to Walt Disney World’s themed “space,” and it’s easily the most intelligent writing about WDW I’ve read outside of Dave Hickey’s brilliant August 2005 essay in Vanity Fair.2
I know how parts of WDW make me feel, but Passport to Dreams offers a educated and refreshingly bracing perspective on why they make me feel that way. More importantly, the author explains why they make me feel, period. Passport to Dreams delves headlong into the many social and artistic elements that inspired the parks, the relationship of WDW’s structures to their environment and even the resort’s psychologically-loaded use of color from an educated, honest and even sentimental perspective. It’s terrific reading, and I may print out some of it to take with me into the snarky, self-deprecating heart of darkness that EPCOT has apparently become.
But, y’know, it’s good to have an open mind even if wind does blow through it occasionally. I’m going to Florida with an open mind and a Nikon D80 at the ready. I’m going to find the “vacation kingdom” that Walt Disney set out to build, and the modernist vacation resort that Walt’s survivors did build. And should I trip over the fiefdoms, sign pollution and “bad show” that Michael Eisner allowed to take root, I’ll just brush myself off and keep going. This is a voyage of exploration, man. Plus, I’m old enough to drink this time.
(1) I haven’t yet read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I’ll probably burn through it on the plane.
(2) Hickey wrote of the Magic Kingdom: “This goody-two-shoes American institution is promoting a primitive, animist religion dedicated to investing everything with life, to animating everthing from teacups to trees … with the pulse of human aspiration.”