September 1997
s m u g
by Joe Procopio


It's the Real World After All

"Remember the Magic"

That's the adopted slogan/buzzword/mantra for Walt Disney World's 25th Anniversary Celebration. And what does it mean? It could be a tribute to the uncanny spirit and imagination that turned 27,000 acres of swampland that lay smack in the middle of the most unbearably hot and sticky place in the country into the shining mecca that Walt and Roy built. Sure, that makes sense.

It could also be one helluva slick marketing ploy.

See, MickeyWorld is for kids. Every last detail in the compound is directed at knee level. Drawback: A very small percentage of kids these days have money, especially the kind of Disney Dollars needed to generate the capital needed to buy, say, ABC. Therefore, the suits at Disney Limited are in constant need of a way to evoke the inner child in Mommy and Daddy and loosen those purse strings.

Thus, Mommy and Daddy are called upon to Remember the Magic. To return to a childhood, long ago, when they were free and innocent and their one goal in life consisted of getting dinner down in time for Disney's Wonderful World of Color.

Child: I'd give anything to have breakfast with Mickey.

Parent: I'll pay no more than $249 for the room and $43 per ticket plus transportation, meals, and incidentals to have breakfast with Mickey.

Allow me to disclaim. I'm all for the Disney thing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Disney is the one behemoth corporation that does things, on average, very well. I think imagineering is the way of the future. I'm quite in support of daydreaming and small worlds and toy stories and magic slippers and sleeping beauties.

I don't care if Ellen is a lesbian.

Although I do wish everyone would shut up about it.

So there, I bought it. I'm not immune. I booked 4 glorious fun-filled days and 3 nights for my girlfriend, Allison, and me.

Of the three parks that make up the megalopolis, we decided to hit Epcot first. That's the one with "Spaceship Earth" out front (sponsored by AT&T). Epcot's central reason for being revolves around two ideas; "Future World", representing technology, and the "World Showcase", dedicated to "international amity". And for the first time, I noticed that these ideas are starting to wear a little thin.

There wasn't much on the techie side that, well, particularly impressed me. Sure, there was some neat VR stuff (sponsored by Motorola), but no more or less thrilling than playing Quake over the internet with someone from Brazil, which is no longer a difficult task. It seems that times have progressed far enough to where the resources of the corporation no longer outweigh the resources of the individual. And one can probably blame/thank Bill Gates for that.

Most of the other technology complexes were just plain lame. "The Land" (sponsored by Nestle) remained virtually empty throughout the day. "The Test Track" (sponsored by General Motors), a 60mph race car ride and quite possibly the best chance for fun, was hampered with all manner of glitches and closed. "The Living Seas" (sponsored by United Technologies) began with one long UT commercial, and then took us below a man-made coral reef to a mammoth aquarium filled with some manatees and tropical fish. It also had some good seafood at an "undersea" restaurant with a view of said aquarium. But my dinner kept getting interrupted by guilt-provoking looks from the aquarium fish as they swam by.

I'm not sure, but I would swear one of them mouthed "bastard".

The World Culture area ignored a lot, for one thing all of the toilets and phones worked and the all of the food was really good. One activity we indulged in was to go to "France" and pretend to be rude to everybody.

That was fun.

All in all, the day (sponsored by me, when you get right down to it), was all right. Better, by a bit, than real life.

MGM Studios is my favorite of the three parks and this is where we spent our second day. MGM is what Disney does best because there's none of that clumsy attempt at fooling you into thinking that this is real, that part of this fantasy exists in everyone. No, MGM is the movies, baby, the pictures. And thus, you are allowed to take it for what it is.

MGM held the most highlights. The "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" is a thirteen-story drop in an elevator and is top notch, both physically and psychologically. For nostalgic reasons, you can't beat the "Star Wars" ride. And the Muppets' 3-D show is at least well-written and plays with your senses a little.

Perhaps the neatest attraction was dinner at the "Sci-fi Dine-in Theater Restaurant". Here, hostesses on roller-skates seat you at little fake cars where you're served excellent food in front of a huge replica drive-in screen that shows old '50s sci-fi B-movie trailers and shorts.

The only low-points at MGM were the heavy-handed attempts to work the Cap Cities/ABC merger into the fun. The old "Sound Studio" show used to be a cute little clip with Chevy Chase and Martin Short, and it showcased Disney's knack for playing to children without pandering. It has since been replaced with a banal ABC Saturday Morning promotion piece.

It was stupid.

Not quite as stupid, however, as "Ellen's Buy the Book" store, which, of course, sold T-Shirts and mugs. Am I the only person left who thinks that Ellen DeGeneres, no matter what her sexual preference, has the charisma of tupperware? She wasn't funny before her show, she wasn't funny before she was out and now that she is out, I'm sorry, she still isn't funny.

However, and you didn't hear this from me, I think there was a small gaggle of paranoid Southern Baptists eyeing the Ellen character mug collection. They paid for it very quietly and stuffed it into a "Bargain World" bag.

The Magic Kingdom, the primary and most heralded of the Disney parks, was where I learned the true meaning of the phrase "Remember the Magic". And it wasn't too far off from my initial guess. Remember the Magic = Reclaim the Innocence = Return to Childhood = Release the Inner Child.

There were unruly, obnoxious, misbehaved, spoiled, silly, ugly inner-children running all over the place. All of them with children of their own.

Man, I can only begin to describe to you the atrocities, the complete lack of human decency exhibited by adults at the Magic Kingdom. I found myself, within the span of a few short hours, completely disgusted by grown men and women cutting us off in line, being thoroughly inbred and rude to the overtly nice Disney-folk or, my all time favorite, able-bodied men sitting on the monorails, trams, or buses while women and children stood.

By the way, if you were, are, or are planning on taking a seat while a women or a child stands, you should be ashamed of yourself. You big wussy. It was Allison that kept me from making any speeches or bitch-slapping any of these guys, so I have to vent now in order to not explode.

That being said, I remembered and prepared a little list of my favorite incidents.

Man with kids to Disney Ride Person: "No, we sat in the back last time, we're sitting in front this time."

Woman to me and Allison at small shady lunch table: "Are you finished eating yet?" Allison: "Not quite yet." Woman (exasperated): "Unh. Well, could you hurry up then?"

Man to wife on monorail: "No honey, let the other people stand, they're no different than us."

And then, of course, the most popular phrases of the day:

"I was here first."
"Move out of the way."
"Quick, go grab that seat."
"Shut up."
"Go ask those people if..."

(Note: It's utterly shocking to me how many times parents employ their kids to do the dirty work.)

We ended up leaving Magic Kingdom after a few scant hours. And it occurred to me that we were, in effect, boycotting Magic Kingdom. Not because of the actions of those who stand for an "alternative" lifestyle, but because of the actions of those who are apparently just chock full of "family values".

During our last day, we were allowed to go anywhere we wanted, thanks to the Disney multi-park pass we purchased beforehand. So we went to the pool at our hotel and got drunk. Then we went shopping for souvenirs and the like. Then we went out for a nice dinner at a good restaurant.

Even without using the tickets, I feel as if we somehow managed to save money on that last day.

So, my advice for the Disney vacation? Bring sunscreen, bring your inner child, bring your Visa card, and bring a hefty amount of tolerance and understanding. Because at the number one vacation destination in the United States, they don't take no for an answer. But they do take American Express.



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