Monday, April 4, 2011

The Unwilling Suspension of Disbelief

I was never a big fan of Disney growing up. Too cute, too soft, too cuddly. I liked the Warner Brothers cartoons: Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Wile E. Coyote. They were anarchists. Trouble-makers. Anti-social slackers. Not a cute one in the bunch (well, maybe Tweety Bird, but even she was pretty cruel to that cat).

I decided Disney was evil with a small "e" after learning that they hired an army of lawyers and lobbyists to change copyright law so they could own their creations for over a lifetime (overturning the notion that artistic work falling into public domain contributes to the public good).

Disney became evil with a big "E" to my admittedly biased mind with their hyper-sexualization of pre-teen girls and glorification of celebrity on shows like Hannah Montana.

But I digress.

Disneyland is great fun (to help insure this, I left my prejudices at the gate). It's great fun because they do several things very well. Lines are long, but they get you on and off the rides quickly and efficiently. And while you're in line, there's stuff to do, things to look at (the people watching alone is worth the price of admission). It a well-designed park, laid out with crowd-handling in mind, and something for everyone always within eyesight. It's cheaper than I expected (much cheaper than, say, a major league baseball game). And everyone there does their job very well. They are knowledgeable, polite, well trained. The Mad Hatter and Alice even knew why a raven is like a writing desk!*

Most of all, though, they make sure that the illusion they want you to buy into is so wildly appealing you are willing to suspend your disbelief. The costumes and makeup and sets and animatronics are all so detail-perfect you are more than willing to throw reality out the window and just go with it.

There was a moment, at the very end of the first day, with the fireworks display lighting up that famous Disney castle, when Tinkerbell appeared over the castle, amid the fireworks. I couldn't figure out how they did it. She was higher than the castle! How were they doing this? She must really be...flying!

Minutes later, all the cordite in the air revealed the cable tethered between the Matterhorn and the castle, and you could kinda see how they pulled it off. But it was too late by then. I had already bought into the illusion, hook, line and sinker. I was a kid again.

Damn you, Disney.

*because Poe wrote on both


slommler said...

Yes!! They do do a good job at illusion for sure!! Glad you could enjoy yourself!! Ha!

Laurita said...

The best part about Disney is seeing the looks on the kids faces. I'll never forget our five year old's expression as she watched the parade. That alone is priceless.

Glad to hear you had a good time, despite your reservations. I think Disney really knew that everyone needs to feel like a kid sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I regret to inform you that Tweety is a he. Actually, all of the Warner Bros original bunch are male. But you're right - they're far superior. I used to get up on Saturday mornings and watch Wile E. Coyote cartoons with my da. It was the only TV show my whole family could agree on.

I went to Disney only once, when I was about nine or so. Almost too old, maybe, but I loved it anyway. And I honestly think I'd love it still if I went back.

The things I have a hard part about when it comes to Disney-as-corporation (the TV station, their handling of DVDs, etc.), I try to separate from the parks. The parks to me are one true thing still aimed wholly at creating a magical experience, and it's that I try to tap into when I think about them. It's the same feeling I get watching the [older, well-crafted] movies. I love experiencing that wonder.

I'm glad you had a good time, despite your reservations.

-Also, the answer I always liked best for the raven question (which has no real answer, actually) was "Because the notes for which they are noted are not notable notes." Try saying that ten times fast! :)

Gwilym Williams said...

A little magical illusion is sadly what a lot of kids in certain other parts of the world will never get to see. They will be made to grow into replicas of their narrow minded parents. This is the R word.

meno said...

When my daughter was 4, we took her to Disneyland. On the submarine ride, with clearly plastic mermaids on visible wires, she burst out with "Oh look Mommy, mermaids are real, they are!"

Nothing i could say to that except, "Yes they are sweetie."

fresca said...

My lip-curling Eurosnob sister had the same reaction to Disneyland:
she had to stay in a hotel there because she was going to a nearby conference, and she was disgusted. Beforehand, that is.

She came back with stars in her eyes, saying she wanted to get married there and ride off in a Cinderella horse and carriage, like she'd seen a real couple do.

(She probably would have too, but they don't do lesbian marriages... yet. Tho they do allow a "gay day". She and her partner of 26 years got married in San Fran in '09.)

fresca said...

P.S. The cynic in me wants to comment, so I'm letting her:
Disney damnwell SHOULD deliver, after all the cultural theft they do and then lock-up for 99 years with their copyright (as you noted).
Eevil/entertaining economic smoke and mirrors.

That said, I want to go to there.

P.S. Your girls! They rock!

fresca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clowncar said...

SA, illusion is all. Particularly at Disneyland.

Laurita, there was a parade? We missed it! Guess we'll have to go back.

Beth, Tweety is a he? Really? Shocking. And you're right, there are 2 Disneys. The one that made Disneyland and all those wonderful early movies - Bambi, Snow White, Fantasia - and the corporate monstrosity that is currently trying - with some success - to infiltrate the minds of my daughters. I think it's time based. They went to the dark side in the 70s.

Gwil, kids have great resources, perhaps some of them learn to transcend the limitations of their parents. I hope so.

Mermaids are real if you believe they're real, meno. After all, I still believe in democracy, with so much evidence to the contrary.

Fresca, I'm not quite sure of the mechanism, but they do have the ability to blast a bit of magic into the most jaded adult. I'm surprised they have a "gay day" - I would have figured the corporate overlords consider gays to alienate their core demographic. Maybe because it's California? And you're preaching to the choir on the copyright thing - trashing the public good to help the profit line. I love the idea of art belonging in the public domain. Before, you know, 99 years ave passed.

And yes, my girls do rock. Thanks for noticing.