Your Souvenir Guide

Disneyland Ex Machina

Category: Attractions in Review (page 1 of 3)

Orange Clockwork: Soarin’ Over California, in review

In February 2001, I was invited to attend the press opening of Disney California Adventure. Disney paid my way, but the offer was only good for a single journalist acting alone. If I was to bond with anyone on this working trip, it would be with the media representative Disney had assigned to guide me through the brand-new Anaheim theme park.

It was not a good week for me to visit what had been freshly re-named “The Disneyland Resort.” I’d just broken up with a girl two weeks before, and I truly wasn’t feeling up to the single-rider experience. (Solo Disneyland can be fun, but Doombuggies and Mad Teacups are meant to be shared.) But work is work, and if Las Vegas Life magazine was to get the travel and lifetstyle piece it wso richly deserved, I had to mouse up, paste a convincing fake smile on my face and try to have real fun. There was no other way to approach it.

Days one and four were “travel days,” during which I enjoyed half-days in Disneyland proper, forlornly riding the train around the Park over and over again. On day two—February 7, 2001—the gathered press was invited to preview the bars, shops and restaurants of Downtown Disney, as well as some of the DCA attractions. That night was a party for B-list celebrities and other dignitaries, a sneak preview before the new park opened to the public on February 8.

I was not amused. I liked Downtown Disney’s bars and restaurants—finally I could get a Cuba Libre withing staggering distance of Pirates of the Caribbean!—but the breakup painted everything dark, and Disney’s nice gestures (including a comped room at the Disneyland Hotel, complete with swag bag and the latest issue of Brill’s Content) only served to make me feel worse than I already did. If a swag bag lands on a hotel bed and there’s no Facebook to share it with, did it really happen?

And there was something else, a truth I was loath to admit even to myself: Disney California Adventure paled terribly in contrast with its neighbor. I didn’t dislike the new park then, and I never have — but even then I could see that a tremendous opportunity had gone only partially recognized. There were too many shops and restaurants and not enough attractions. Dark rides, the bedrock of any Disney park, were in critically short supply; DCA only opened with one, the justly maligned Superstar Limo (now replaced by a Monsters Inc. dark ride). The bulk of the new park’s attractions were either films, which you could watch once and be satisfied, or carnival-style attractions that were best enjoyed in summertime. (Disney California Adventure opened in the midst of a cold winter downpour.) Such were DCA’s failings that, a scant five years on, Disney would commit upwards of a billion dollars towards “fixing” the park — a process that will be completed this June, with a “grand re-opening” that I hope I’m invited to.

Anyway, on that preview night, I was mostly unhinged. Disney was serving up free vodka martinis and I slammed seven of them in quick order. I was wounded, spoiling for a fight. (Finally, I heckled the Brian Wilson-less Beach Boys, which got much of the bile out of my system.) I was in a perfect place to receive one of Disney’s patented magical surprises, and to my delight, I received one in Soarin’ Over California.

If you haven’t experienced this flight simulator attraction, either at DCA or at EPCOT, I advise you to skip the rest of this paragraph; it’s really something you have to enjoy firsthand. Its component parts are simply understood: a large, curved IMAX screen, an innovative gondola system that hangs you above that screen, and a magnificent score by the late Oscar-winning film composer Jerry Goldsmith — to my mind, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written for a Disney theme park. Taken individually, these things give you a notion of how Soarin’ Over California works, but they can’t tell you how Soarin’ feels. For that, you need to wait in a 70-minute line, chuckle through the Patrick Warburton safety video, and take a seat in one of those suspended gondolas.

Soarin’ Over California is a dream. Pure and simple. In one guileless, inspired stroke of genius, Walt Disney Imagineering has managed to capture the sensation of flying in your dreams. The California scenes, sun-dappled and perfect, are projected at a sharp 48 frames per second, and the suspended gondola places you inside of them; your vision is deliberately fixed on the screen. almost without distraction. (You can see the dangling feet of riders above you, but that only enhances the experience; it’s fun to watch other riders “running” over the Pacific coastline, and lifting their feet to clear the harmless, projected obstacles.) Evocative scents are sprayed into the gondola at key moments: pine, ocean, orange groves. And as cheesy as it all must look from the ground (or on YouTube), there’s something that happens to you in those five minutes that can’t be explained by simple mechanics. You come to believe.

Goldsmith reportedly came down from his first ride on Soarin’ in tears, and truth be told, so did I. I couldn’t believe that Disney had found the place inside of me that wanted to fly and played directly to it. When the ride ended I burst into spontaneous applause, and I wasn’t the only one. All the assembled guests cheered wildly, and guests continue to applaud the conclusion to Soarin’ to this day. While Disney California Adventure was not a perfect theme park when it opened its gates, it did boast one perfect attraction—one that reminded me there’s always a blue sky above low-hanging clouds.

Writer Dave Hickey once complimented Disney’s ability to “invest anything with the pulse of human aspiration,” from mice to rocks to hanging gondolas. The machinery that runs Soarin’ thrums with that lifeblood. For all of Disney’s talk of “dreams” and “magic,” it has been a rare occasion these past 20 years that Disney has built an attraction that is truly dreamlike, magical. Soarin’ Over California, pardon the pun, rises to the occasion.

Two Minutes in Heaven: Disneyland’s dark rides, in review

Several years back a friend of mine visited Disneyland for the first time. His girlfriend wanted to go; he didn’t. My friend is over 40, sharply literate, and not one for whimsy. He likes his punk rock fast and arty, his movies slow and thoughtful, and his corporations engulfed in flames.

Shortly before he struck out for Anaheim, I gave him the advice I give everyone who doesn’t want to visit Disneyland but is compelled to go for reasons beyond their control: Look at the details and the artistry, and to try and divorce Disney now from Disney then.  Walt Disney didn’t build a theme park to compete with other theme parks, or to sell more monogrammed Cars 2 crapola; he built it because he wanted a place he could enjoy as much as his two preteen daughters. I told my friend to visit that Disneyland, the one Uncle Walt built without consulting a single focus group.

And he did. My friend loved Disneyland. He wasn’t wild about the crowds and the double-decker strollers, but he loved the architecture, the lay of the “lands, “ and nearly every single attraction he tried. One kind of attraction, however, engaged him above and beyond all the others.

“At some point, I decided that any one of the dark rides would be worthwhile,” he said, “and I was right.”

Disneyland’s dark rides are the gold threads in the Park’s tapestry. Other Disneyland attractions may enjoy more prominence, more pride of place (even my friend lavished fervent praise on the E-ticket attractions: Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, et al)—but without the dark rides of Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown and Critter Country, none of Disneyland’s marquee attractions would exist. They’re what Walt Disney started with: A trio of Fantasyland dark rides (Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride), plus a steam railroad, a riverboat and miscellaneous spinners, train and boat rides. Imagination-wise, those dark rides did most of the heavy lifting in Disneyand’s early years: They are sealed worlds within Disneyland’s sealed world, and nothing of the outside world penetrates those painted scrims lit by backlight. You can’t even bring your own ego with you. You are a spirit, floating free through the storybook, enveloped in whimsy and wonder and fear.

One thing I couldn’t give my friend before his trip was a top-to-bottom rating of Disneyland’s dark rides, but I can give you one of those. For the sake of this list, I am defining “dark ride” as a two-to-three minute attraction based on one of Disney’s animated films, excluding those attractions that are too epic in scale to be called a simple dark ride (it’s a small world), more midway game than dark ride (Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters), or not located in Disneyland at all (Monsters Inc.: Mike and Sully to the Rescue). These are the attractions that caused an old, crusty punk to regress back into a teenage theater geek, and he’s far from being the only one.

The Critic

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

GRADE: A

If the purpose of a Fantasyland dark ride is to put you inside the animated film upon which it’s based, this three-and-a-half minute dark ride is Disneyland’s most faithfully realized.  It truly is the real-life analogue of Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland: the trip down the rabbit hole, the garden of singing flowers, and the marching playing cards are all represented here, and they make about as much sense as they did in the 1951 film. Love or hate the animated Alice, there’s no denying that it was a series of colorful and lunatic episodes without the heart Disney’s animators gave Snow White or Pinocchio. Oh, sure, the film has one of Disney’s plucky heroines at its center, but it’s not really about Alice: She stumbles into situations and scenarios without fully understanding or wanting to understand what’s happening to her, and she seemingly hasn’t learned anything by the end of the film. She has no character arc, just an inexplicable lost-time episode—and the ride reflects that, with your caterpillar-shaped ride vehicle bursting through a succession of seemingly disjointed set pieces, each one more fascinating and claustrophobic and terrifying than the one before it. In other words, this Alice a flawless translation from two dimensions to three. Alice, the dark ride, is everything it needs to be: a shot of candied hallucinogen, vividly colorful and manic.

PETER PAN’S FLIGHT

GRADE: A-

Though shorter than the Alice attraction by more than a minute and fifteen seconds, the dark ride based on Disney’s 1953 Peter Pan routinely draws much longer lines; it’s not unheard of to wait longer than an hour for these two minutes and twenty seconds in Neverland. Themepunks and Disnerds cite a number of reasons for this: the enduring appeals of the film and its characters, a lower hourly capacity than other Fantasyland attractions, blah blah blah. The real reason for the monster success of Peter Pan Flight is that its ride vehicles are suspended from the ceiling, and this novelty—which is pretty goddamned unique, really—has yet to lose its allure in nearly six decades of near-continuous operation. I don’t precisely recall what Peter Pan was like before all the Fantasyland dark rides were refreshed in 1983, but I do know that the pirate ship ride vehicles have always hung from the ceiling, and they have always taken their sweet time soaring over moonlit London and starlit Neverland; the “You Can Fly” portion of the ride accounts for nearly half its running time. Frankly, I could spend hours drifting over those “streets” and through those fiber-optics stars, but minutes is all you get, and perhaps that’s the real secret of Peter Pan’s hour-long queue: It is the only one of Fantasyland’s dark rides whose excitement is still building even as it ends. That’s a stunt worthy of Hitchcock.

SNOW WHITE’S SCARY ADVENTURES

GRADE: B+

Two of the best effects in Snow White’s Scary Adventures occur even before you hop into one of the dark ride’s mine car vehicles. If you look at the window in the tower of the attraction’s castle façade long enough, you’ll see the Evil Queen part the curtains to glare at you. Touch the golden apple at the queue entrance and you’ll hear her cackling. There are other special effects in this effects-heavy dark ride that are just as surprising—the Evil Queen’s transformation into the Old Hag is clever and scary as hell—but none of them are quite as potent as getting the stink-eye and being laughed at. Don’t listen to your parents: The Evil Queen is real, babies.  She’s the true star of this aptly named two-minute dark ride, despite the ingénue’s name on the marquee; she is the Terminator wearing the leathery hide of Amy Winehouse. (Too soon?) And when the Old Hag “dies” at the end of the ride (some business with lightning; it’s all very ambiguous), it’s as unconvincing as Olivia Wilde’s death at the end of that cowboy/alien mashup. Run outside and look at the tower; the Queen lives on, unbroken, just as Wilde lives on in her own “House.” Please make the scary women stop. Actually, don’t. Not ever.

A Codger Called Winky

MR. TOAD’S WILD RIDE

GRADE: B-

As I said of the Peter Pan dark ride, I don’t remember exactly what Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was like before it was gutted and rebuilt in 1983, but I do recall one thing with absolute certainty: it was better. The two-minute dark ride, loosely based on a 1949 animated short film that I guarantee most of you haven’t seen since childhood (if at all), is indeed a wild ride—you literally crash through it, banging through one set of painted flats after the next, never really getting a sense of what you’re looking at. I suppose a joyride is a joyride, but I’m old-fashioned: I like to know a little bit about the people and animals I’m running down with my car. What color are their entrails? How mellifluous are their screams? Mostly, I’m bothered that one of the ride’s best set pieces—the pitch-black “train tunnel”—is over so quickly that you never really get a chance to be scared. Then again, the next set piece is Hell … yes, that Hell. It’s red and steamy and demon-riddled and kind of wonderful, and it makes up for every last thing that came before it.

ROGER RABBIT’S CAR TOON SPIN

GRADE: C

Everything Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride does wrong, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin very nearly does right. The winding indoor queue is atmospheric and packed with story details. The ride vehicles can be spun 360 degrees, helpful if you’ve missed a detail or simply want to ride backwards. The effects, the animated show figures, and the set design—every last bit of it is impeccably done. So why is it that this three-and-a-half minute dark ride seems so alienated from the witty 1988 film on which it’s based? Of all Disneyland’s dark rides, this one feels the least Disneylike to me; it replicates the frenetic pacing of Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s action sequences, but lacks the film’s emotion and sentimentality. It’s a pretty bloodless exercise, and while it’s easily to look at Car Toon Spin (and from nearly any angle, thanks to that usable steering wheel), it’s tough to make yourself feel one way or another about it. Dizziness is not an emotion.

PINOCCHIO’S DARING JOURNEY

GRADE: C-

Considering the richly detailed and breathtakingly gorgeous world painted into Disney’s 1940 Pinocchio, the Disneyland dark ride based on the film is surprisingly slight. The three-minute Pinocchio’s Daring Journey is a pleasant enough diversion; the Pleasure Island portion of the ride is suitably lurid, and Geppetto’s workshop is so cozy that you could swear you feel the heat from the “fireplace.” But there are no special effects really worth the mention (the “Pepper’s Ghost” effect that allows the Blue Fairy to vanish is used to far superior effect in the Haunted Mansion, which preceded Daring Journey by longer than a decade), and the story is even more difficult to follow than even the nearly plotless Alice dark ride, and it pivots largely on Jiminy Cricket yelling directions at you: “Don’t go in there! Look out! This way!” It’s like the time just after you got your driver’s license, when you thought it’d be fun to drive your parents to Applebee’s. How wrong you were.

Rogue Heffalump

THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE-THE-POOH

GRADE: D

I must confess that I’m coming at this three-minute dark ride from a disadvantage. The character of Winnie-the-Pooh never made much of an impact on me—not in A.A. Milne’s charming books, not in Disney’s 1966 featurette Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey Tree (released almost a year to the day before I was born), and not in Disneyland, where Pooh merchandise sold gangbusters even before 2003, when Disney finally saw fit to give the tubby ursine his own dark ride. Still, I suspect I’d find The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh underwhelming even if I had drank the honey. There isn’t much to recommend the ride: the character animation is limited; the effects are modest and copied largely from Disneyland’s other dark rides; and the sets are pleasant but forgettable. I understand how it might appeal to very young children, being moderately paced, sunshine-bright and not the least bit scary, but little kids grow up, and there’s nothing here for older children, teens or parents. Two things in the ride’s favor: the wait to get on is rarely longer than five minutes, and as the Disnerds and Passholes are fond of saying, the air conditioning is nice and cold.

Regarding that “it’s a small world” revamp

It's a Stitch World After All

I, um, I kinda love it.

I finally had my chance to experience the new, enhanced it’s a small world three weeks ago, during a crowded spring break visit that saw the line for the venerable boat ride swell to nearly 40 minutes. Every set has been repainted, redressed and re-lit, the audio has been sweetened — and in a controversial move, Disney has added doll versions of some of its characters to the mix. Yes, that’s Lilo and Stitch riding that wild surf. The dolls are created in the Mary Blair style (and in the case of older characters like Alice and Cinderella, some are created directly from Blair’s character sketches), and to my eyes, they belong. I’m learning that I’m alone in feeling this way, but whatevs.

Funniest thing. Almost halfway through IASW’s 13 minute running time I was stricken with an unfamiliar feeling, which I recognized after a few moments of reflection as delight. I haven’t felt anything but polite respect for IASW for years now, but in monkeying with the ride, Imagineering has found and pushed the buttons I’d forgotten I ever had to begin with. Even my father, who rode the original IASW at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and has had literally decades to grow tired of it, was impressed by the refurb and favororably compared this most recent ride to his first.

The thing about it’s a small world that most people, even some hardcore Disney freaks, don’t seem to get is that IASW stands completely alone among Disney attractions. There are no thrills, and there is no real story. But there is a magic to it that other Disney attractions don’t have: We love it, or love to hate it, because of its otherness. We identify it as one of Disney’s finest accomplishments because only Disney could have created it. It’s not a ride; it’s a float-through art gallery. Looking at it through that lens, it’s little wonder that that it’s a small world is so polarizing, and no wonder at all that I should be so happy to see it restored. Now, when I experience Disneyland’s it’s a small world, as if I’m seeing it created before my eyes.

Into Discofied Space: Space Mountain 1977, remembered

Space Mountain 01

We’ll never have another 1977. It was the year of the New York Blackout; the year that punk and disco exploded in our big, fat, stupid faces; and it was the year that George Lucas’ “Star Wars” and Disneyland’s Space Mountain opened within two scant days of each other. Holy shit. “Star Wars” opened on Wednesday, May 25, and Space Mountain on Friday, May 27.

If there’s anyone reading under this bl-g who’s under the age of 30, I want you to fully understand and appreciate what life was like in those medieval times. I won’t say life was better — most popular music was every bit as trite as the new stuff, and we wore some ugly earth-toned clothes — but listen: There was no Twitter, there was no Ain’t It Cool News. There were no spoilers, so we had no idea what a Chewbacca was, or what superspace penetration felt like.

Now, imagine what it was like to be ten years old in that world. That was me. I rode Space Mountain shortly after it opened — one, maybe two weeks — and saw “Star Wars” not long afterward at the Big Newport. Since then, I’ve seen “Star Wars” and its lesser derivatives so many times that I scarcely recall the emotions that accompanied my first viewing. By comparison, every time I go on Space Mountain, I feel it.

From the first time I laid eyes upon it, I was awestruck by the “Mountain” itself. The John Hench-designed structure, like Oscar Niemayer’s similarly-shaped Brasilia Cathedral, is the Taj Mahal of Googie architecture. In his 2003 book “Designing Disney,” Hench says that the attraction’s conical shape and exterior beams were dictates of the track layout.

Space Mountain begged to be cone-shaped; it wanted to echo the expanding spiral of the ride inside … In the construction of the building, the engineers selected precast concrete and steel T beams for the main roof structure. They wanted the beams facing inside the building, but I wanted them facing outside, to provide a smooth surface on the interior on which we could project images.

The exterior of Space Mountain looks much the same today as it did in 1977, with a few unfortunate cosmetic changes. The second-story queue used to overlook an open-air theatre, where Da Doo Ron Ron and Kids of the Kingdom played neutered uptempo rock for same-sex couples to dance to. It was roofed over and enclosed in 1984 to accommodate “Captain EO.” I don’t miss particularly the theater itself, but in enclosing a space that was not designed to be enclosed, some terrific views were cut off and the queue level was awkwardly transformed from a balcony to a roof. They’ve never quite fixed it.

Anyway, as the queue rounded the balcony, I peered down into the theater and into the two-story video arcade (would it kill them to reopen the Starcade’s second level again?), and before I knew it I was inside Space Mountain for the first time. I can clearly remember its silver, diamond-shaped hallways, antiseptic blue rubber flooring, and the constant, nerve-wracking audio drone that still plays inside the Mountain today. (“You are go for Earthside launch.”)

I remember peering into the “sneak preview” windows — walled over in the recent refurbishment — and watching the green-glowing “rockets” whip past. I started to get nervous. By the time the queue reached the expansive “Space Port,” I was ready to launch into orbit without help. The tight spaces, low lighting and that everlasting ambient wash of voices and synthesized bleeps do an outstanding job of building tension. (You’re barely aware of the queue today; thanks to FastPass, they run you through it at a sprint.)

At the head of the line I asked for, and got, a front row seat. I raised my hands aloft through the first lift hill (red arrows pointing the way upward), the “meteor tunnel” (also changed in the last refurb) and an early iteration of the second lift hill (very low-tech, with blue-tinted mirrors creating a “to-infinity” effect. Then the coaster reached the top of the Hench’s cone, and my hands slammed down on the handrail and stayed there.

If you’ve never been on Space Mountain and aren’t sure you’re brave enough to try it, here’s a test which you can do in your own home. Simply spin in place for a minute or so, then shut your eyes and fall to the floor. (Or do as I do: Drink an excess of gin shortly before bedtime.) This will result in a disorientation that feels something like floating, ass-over-teakettle, in a weightless void. Disney’s Imagineers simply figured out a way to replicate that sensation for 2,100 riders per hour.

The new Space Mountain, gutted and reconstructed in 2004, is so much like the old that there’s little point in comparing the two. The track was exactly rebuilt and the effects updated. The “com chat” is the same, and the space port looks more beautiful than it ever did.

Space Mountain 02

In the final analysis, though, it affords the exact same experience I had three decades ago. I still feel the same fear, joy and wonder as I once did. For an attraction that predates some 90 percent of the parkgoers who queue up to ride it again and again, that’s nothing short of remarkable.

There is more I could tell you about Space Mountain 1977, but it wouldn’t mean all that much to you. I could tell you that the on-ride soundtrack — both the current Michael Giacchino composition and the Dick Dale vamp that preceded it — was not part of the standard equipment the ride came with; it was added in 1997. I could tell you about the all-too-brief period when the ride’s exit was themed to “The Black Hole.” I could tell you about how it felt to exit the building without being forced through a souvenir shop.

But none of that is what makes Space Mountain great. Disneyland’s Space Mountain is “Star Wars” and punk rock and “Saturday Night Fever” and the New York Blackout, all made one single, glorious whole. It’s all about believing, just for a moment, that you are riding the engine at the center of the universe. At that moment, you are ten years old, like me.

Irons & Wine: Seasons of the Vine, in review

Wine Fugue

Jeremy Irons, we knew you when. We knew you when you worked on indie films with Cronenberg and Soderbergh. We knew you when you gave the needle to Sonny von Bulow. We knew when your name wasn’t synonymous with crap like “Die Hard 3” and “Dungeons and Dragons.” We knew when you gnashed your teeth and bit the recess lady’s breast. How can we forget?

And we knew you when you went to Disneyland. Irons has done three voice acting jobs for Disney of which I’m aware — the voice of the Von Bulow-like Scar in “The Lion King,” the narration of Spaceship Earth (now replaced by Dame Judi Dench), and the narration of “Seasons of the Vine,” a now-defunct short film at Disney’s California Adventure. (He also appeared as H.G. Wells in “From Time to Time,” a Circlevision 360 film that ran at the Magic Kingdom parks in Florida, Paris and Tokyo. Sadly, I never had the chance to see it firsthand.)

The first two voice jobs are listed in Irons’ CV on the IMDb. The third is not, even though it is an actual, live-action short film. Let’s clear about this: Irons’ IMDb listing includes instructional videos, video-game work and even his “Comic Relief” appearances, but not a film that ran at a Disney theme park for seven years.

The reason for this apparent oversight is simple, and embarrassing: No one knew it was there.

“Seasons of the Vine” had the dumb luck of being in the most anonymous part of Disney’s least-attended and most-maligned American park. It had little in the way of visible signage, was barely mentioned in park maps and promotional materials … and no thanks to some truly baffling operational choices, it was almost never open. (“Seasons” wasn’t run by the attractions division, but by foods — which meant that in order to get into the attraction, most days you had to find someone from the nearby wine bar and cajole him or her into letting you in.)

“Seasons” is gone now. Its former space is soon to be occupied by a “coming attractions” showcase like that which used to sit on Main Street (next door to the Hills Bros. Coffee House/Town Square Cafe, which really needs to come back). While I readily understand why a short film about wineries didn’t appeal to a crowd that was largely too young to drink it (and the prospect of a new Disneyland Showcase is exciting indeed), I do miss the film terribly. It offered a respite from the day, it put me in the mood to hit up the nearby wine bar, and by golly, it was a good Jeremy Irons movie. Much better than “Kafka.”

Gorgeously photographed in the heart of California wine country on Robert Mondavi’s nickel (the winery dropped its sponsorship of the attraction soon after DCA opened), “Seasons of the Vine” is a perfect example of Disney’s gift for the candy-coated sell. It reminds me of the films that debuted with EPCOT Center — the lyrical “Impressions de France,” the fanciful “Magic Journeys,” the epic “Symbiosis.” Every one of those films sells something — paycheck environmentalism, Parisian vacations, Kodachrome — but they do so in such an artful way that the golden glow of the medium lingers after the message had faded. As “Impressions de France” does for Le Tour Eiffel, “Seasons” makes you feel simply great about living in a world with winemakers in it.

See the film here. Obviously the effect is somewhat diminished when viewing it at home without the promise of a glass of wine in your future, but at least one of those problems is easily rectified. Enjoy Irons’ relaxed, avuncular narration; it’s the warmest reading I’ve ever heard from him. “A celahbraaation of liiiife.” To achieve it, he surely must have had a few.

Also, give a receptive ear to Bruce Broughton’s score. The Emmy-winning composer has penned his share of memorable themes fro the American West (most notably for Lawrence Kasdan’s “Silverado”). “Seasons of the Vine” is very much part of that tradition — after all, the vintners who took California’s wineries to victory in the 1976 “Judgement of Paris” were also cowboys after a fashion. And though the film never mentions that fateful wine tasting, the Spanish and French elements of the score tip their hat to it as they weave in and out of one of the Copland-like Yankee Doodle compositions at which Broughton excels.

The music, available on the official Disneyland/DCA soundtrack album, is all that’s left of “Seasons of the Vine.” Most people don’t miss it; even the rose-colored lens of Yesterland dismisses it as “just a film.”

Maybe so. But I’ll tell you this: I now hear Broughton’s lively score in my head every time I walk into a wine shop or cellar. And when I savor a glass of wine on my palate, I now think of the journey it took to get there. I almost never think of “Dungeons and Dragons,” no matter how drunk I get.

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