Your Souvenir Guide

Disneyland Ex Machina

Category: Site News

Ah, but I have been writing about Disney

We change the picture by observing it

I've posted a number of Disney-related pieces over the past few weeks. It's only that none have them have been posted here, where a Disney fan might have read them (or might not have, judging by my stats). Today in The Spellout, my Seattle-based bargain entertainment bl-g, I have a short review of "Walt & El Grupo," Ted Thomas' documentary film of Walt Disney's 1941 goodwill trip to Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Yesterday in Monkey Goggles — a literary site from Archie McPhee, the novelties company that brought you the Yodelling Pickle and the Fuzzy Pink Skull (for girls!) — I wrote about "Captain EO," and why I think we'll never see it in a Disney theme park again. Also in Monkey Goggles: I reviewed the "Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair" CD set, cracked wise about Disney's acquistion of Marvel, and wrote an homage to the late, great ABC Family show "The Middleman." Collect all five!

‘Disneyland for Haters’

Boom Boom Room

A few weeks back I got a voice message from my father, who to my certain knowledge is the only person on this planet who bothers to check this bl-g from week to week. He commented on the last post — my hat-tip to Pogo’s luminous “Expialodocious” —  with a Wally Boag imitation: “Buenos dias, senor. Your entries are getting chorter and chorter.”

And further and further between, yeah, I know. The thing is, the life of a freelance writer is one of constant, er, writing, and I’ve been focusing my energies on writing assignments that get me paid. Also — and here I’ll appropriate Al Lutz’s tired refrain — I only post entries here when there’s something to post. In Lutz’s case, that’s when he has a tall-enough stack of third-hand information, while I only make posts when I’m feeling it. I started this bl-g because I was missing Disneyland, and I thought that writing about the place would bring me closer to the Park.

I don’t imagine I’m your only conduit to the Anaheim?Orlando/Burbank megalopolis, and there are plenty of other excellent Disney theme park bloggers out there to keep you current, from the Disney Blog crew to Those Darn Cats. If you’re keen to read about Disneyland on a daily or weekly basis, visit them, along with the many fine sites listed in my sidebar. if you’re keen on reading me every single day — hey, stranger things have happened — read The Spellout, my Seattle-based guide to keeping yourself entertained for $25 or less.

Having said all that, I didn’t start this post to tell you that I’m too busy to write this post. I have been writing about Disneyland, just not here. The latest edition of the Las Vegas Weekly features a travel piece, “Disneyland for Haters,” that I wrote in response to the many people I know who refuse to go to Disneyland for reasons either material (“too expensive”) or ideological (“I hate the way Disney sanitizes fairy tales”). In the piece I make attempts to refute the more popular arguments against — the cost issue, the crowd issue, the “I heard Disney’s California Adventure sucks” issue — and to get these Disneyland haters to drop their guard long enough to get a Dole Whip and a ride on “Pirates of the Caribbean.” In my experience, that’s all you need.

I wish the piece could have been longer. There’s a strong chance that this idea — a Disneyland guide for stuck-up hipster assholes with a core of pure nerd, like myself — could expand into a full guidebook, if I ever manage to find the time. There’s a bunch of stuff, including a novel that’s going through first edit, queued up before it. But I wouldn’t rule it out. There’s a lot of Disneyland haters out there, and I’m never too busy to take one under arm, lead him to Dole Pineapple’s fountain of Castalia, and make him drink.

Read “Disneyland for Haters” here.

My six Disneyland-related resolutions for 2009

Your Souvenir Guide, Winter 1977

1. I will redesign and re-launch Your Souvenir Guide.All I have to do is procure a TypePad Pro account, to design a nameplate evocative of the typeface used in Disneyland’s mid-1970s guidebooks, and to finally put the swell custom domain I purchased early last year domain to use. And oh yeah, I should put a forwarding message on the old Blogger account, encouraging readers to change their syndication feed. I’ll get right on that.

2. I will renew my annual passport. Done. Did it in October, when I suspected I might be laid off from my journalism gig. (I was, three weeks later.) Now I only need find a way to get to Anaheim on the cheap to take advantage of that nearly-free admission. I reckon all I need to do is raise some freelance writing jobs, in the midst of the worst economic climate we journalists have known in a generation. Um, yeah. I’ll get right on that.

3. I will finish “Project X.” This bl-g is actually the by-product of a project I’ve been laboring on for several years. Both the project, and this bl-g, have languished for long enough. It’s time to make the churros, baby.

4. I will run in the Disneyland half-marathon. Late last year, when my abdominals made a surprise first-time appearance from underneath years of accumulated Dole Whip-gut, I began to wonder, hey, why can’t I be one of those forty-something guys who runs a marathon? I mean, we see them all the time in prescription drug ads, and they seem happier and healthier than we did in our twenties. Couldn’t I be one of those guys, radiantly glowing as he runs through a frenetically-waving crowd of underpaid kids in Disney character suits?
Could happen. I’m going to run a half-marathon in Seattle this June. If I finish with a good time, it’s on to Anaheim in September.

5. I will visit Walt Disney World in December, the financial climate permitting. I told my family and two darn cats that I’d be there, even if Disney did take away my beloved Adventurer’s Club. I’ll find other ways to hoopla.

Number 6. is kind of obvious: I’ll post to Your Souvenir Guide more frequently. Hey, I gotta find ways to keep these post-layoff idle hours usefully occupied. At least one article per week. I’ll get right on that.

Last week at Disneyland: Licence Renewed

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I went to Disneyland last week — you guys know that I’m into Disneyland, right? — and right on schedule I present the obligatory free picture from Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters to prove it. The goth babe to my right is my sister. Heeeeeeyyy Jahmai!

I don’t really have much else to say about this photo. I just wanted to show off my score, which — while not half as good as that of the common ten-year-old — is my personal best so far. Depressing, I know.

Guest Day on the MMC

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DISNEY

Those Darn Cats!, the only Disney podcast that you’ll ever need to pour into your delicate ears, recently had me as a guest. Little old me! Can you believe it?

Now, by “recently,” I mean that it went up last night, and by “had me as a guest,” I mean that Jenn and Lisa humored me as I stammered nervously through a 40-minute Skype call, fighting back a hangover and forgetting some 70% of what I intended to say. I even forgot the name of my favorite Disney’s California Adventure attraction, the dreamy Soarin’ Over California, for ten to fifteen torturous seconds.

Next time I’ll be better prepared. Maybe I’ll even write something down beforehand.

Gaffes aside, I enjoyed our chat thoroughly. Jenn and Lisa keep Disney bl-gs whose tone is very much in line with mine — Broke Hoedown and My Life on the WDW D List, respectively — and it was all kinds of fun to geek out for a while. Few of my friends and associates know how deep my Disneyland jones goes, and it’s not often that I get to babble about My Weird Theme Park Thing. And oh mai oui, I babbled. Like a god-dammed brook. Babble babble.

Anyway, the podcast is here. I’m unlikely to listen to it again — I hate the sound of my recorded voice, always have — but you ought to give it a listen. Once again, I thank Jenn and Lisa for having me as a guest, and I hope it won’t be the last time they do. Plus, I hope my mom and my sister forgive me for not giving them a shout-out, as I did my dad. And I hope that you, savage reader, fully understands that I was hung over. Six Negronis, virtually no food. I make my Fun Land wherever I can, sweetheart.

“OH YEAH … EXPLAINING MY POSITION.” If you’ve found me through the podcast, welcome. Before you proceed any further, please read the disclaimer on the “About” page — the one about dirty words.

For your convenience, here are my positions on Disneyland and DCA:

1. Favorite Disneyland attractions, present day: Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Temple of the Forbidden Eye, The Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world and the Disneyland Railroad. These are a must for every visit, and I’ll enjoy them all even if it takes me all day to do it.

2. Favorite DCA attractions: Soarin’ Over California, Disney Animation, the Sun Wheel, California Screamin’, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I haven’t rode Toy Story Midway Mania yet.

3. My position on the it’s a small world redux: Opposed to the removal of the Rainforest Scene; ambivalent to the addition of Disney’s animated characters. I’ll wait. I’ll see.

4. On the money: Admission prices are fair. Food prices are not. The Cast Members are underpaid. Outdoor vending is fine, in moderation. So-called “merchandise events” are tacky and may end up killing the Park. Locals shouldn’t get admission discounts.

5. Management: The “nebulous cloud of idiot” I refer to in the podcast doesn’t refer to people, but to bureaucracy and red tape. I don’t think accountants should be castigated for doing their jobs. I think upper management should be castigated for fostering an environment where everyone feels like they need to cover their asses to stay employed. Also, I stole the phrase “nebulous cloud of idiot” from Tristan Farnon, who’d probably kick my junk into orbit if he knew where and how I was using it.

BEAUTY, EH? The big news out of Disneyland this past birthday week actually was kind of big: The Sleeping Beauty Diorama is coming back. The walk-through attraction was closed in 2001 under mysterious circumstances — some say post 9-11 fears, but most say the Mouse was too cheap to make the attraction ADA-compliant — but the upcoming release of “Sleeping Beauty” on Blu-Ray has apparently stirred Burbank’s financial and creative will.

According to Disney’s press release:

The crafting of the 1957 walkthrough show fell to Walt Disney Imagineer Ken Anderson and animation art director and color stylist Eyvind Earle, credited with giving the motion picture “Sleeping Beauty” the distinctive and colorful look of storybook illustrations in medieval style. An entirely new look appeared in 1977 when the attraction’s redesign featured miniature dioramas, including moving figurines similar to the window displays in the shops on Main Street, U.S.A.

When the attraction is unveiled later this year, the “show” will differ from the dioramas of the 1980s and ‘90s, returning to the unique style of the original 1957 show and motion picture. Enhanced with new scenes and special effects magic, the re-Imagineered attraction will employ technology not available in the 1950s to represent scenes from the story of Sleeping Beauty, including the magic of good fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, and the more sinister spells of the evil Maleficent.

They had me at “we’re bringing back Eyvind Earle.” Look at the picture at the top of this article. Not only is it a stunning representation of the six-Negroni party I attended last week, but it’s a breathtakingly beautiful piece of art. The promise of seeing Earle’s distinctive work at Disneyland again is exciting indeed.

By the way, Imagineering figured out the ADA angle: They’re creating a “virtual walk-through” — probably a home theater kind of deal, like the one they made for the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. It will be located in one of the former castle shop spaces.

I will repeat that: Disneyland is closing retail space to expand an attraction. If I close my eyes and hold my breath, I can pretend that the 1990s never happened.

YOU GOT NO REGARD FOR “THE MIDDLEMAN.” And by God, you ought to. The Javier Grillo-Marxuach show mixes the best parts of “The X-Files,” “Get Smart,” “Doctor Who,” “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai,” “Moonlighting” and even “Igby Goes Down” into the smoothest, creamiest, punchiest, most est-iest comic sci-fi concoction you’ve ever ingested. Don’t believe it? Read what I wrote about the show in my other crappy bl-g. That’ll show you.

I’ve no idea why Disney chose to dump their best new show since “Pushing Daisies” into the tweeny ghetto of ABC Family, but it’s there now and it needs your eyeballs to stay there. Get a free taste of the show here, and then start watching it Monday nights at 10. Don’t risk the wrath of Ida.

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