December 23, 2006
‘Tis the season to be nostalgic…
I have a confession to make.
There’s something out there in the corporate world that I love. It’s largely a holdover from childhood, as the adult me is generally turned off by things like extravagant commercialism. It’s not a love I talk about often for that reason, and because there are so many other possible objections people might have about this thing that I love, most if not all of which are valid. I just can’t help it. It has a lot to do with where I grew up (Mission Viejo, CA), and my idealism, and my affection for the fictive dream. But I’ll confess my love to you, my lovely readers…
I adore Disneyland. (That’d be the Happiest Place on Earth, located in Anaheim, CA, for those who get Disneyland and Walt Disney World (in FL) confused.) Not so much Disneyland as it is now, but rather Disneyland as it was in my childhood and into adolescence, before they started trying so hard to cross-market everything–don’t get me wrong, the cross-marketing was there from well before my time (Dole Pineapple presents the Enchanted Tiki Room; Mattel presents the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through), but it feels to me like it’s gotten ridiculous: the Jungle Cruise was revamped to match the new Indiana Jones ride; the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse was renovated to connect to the Tarzan animated feature from a few years back. I know that’s largely nostalgia talking, but in my opinion Disneyland is very much about nostalgia. I loved Tomorrowland the way it was in the 80s–still showcasing what people in the 50s and 60s thought the future would be like. It was kitchy and silly and fun. Disneyland in general was a place outside time, outside reality, which was very much what I needed when I was growing up, and I loved it.
I haven’t been to Disneyland in several years, which felt strange at first considering that by high school I was making the trip at least once a year. (Of course, it helped that entry was a lot cheaper then, and I often got to go for free–the school band would play a brief concert in the morning, and then we’d get to run around the park for the rest of the day.) These days it just feels like the people running the place are trying too hard. Trying too hard to impress guests with up-to-the-minute technology, when I’m perfectly content with the clacking birds in the Tiki Room. Trying too hard to squeeze every last penny–and then some–out of every person who comes through the gates. And many of the things I loved are gone or have become unpleasant in some way–the caves in Tom Sawyer’s island smell like urine, for example. And maybe they always did. I certainly know that there was always plenty of sexism and racism and ethnocentrism pervading the park that I wasn’t aware of until I was an adult. The park has changed and I have changed, and so I can never really get back the magic of the days I spent there in years past.
Except that today I stumbled across Stuff from the Park, where a collector from Colorado has posted pictures of a variety of Disneyland paraphernalia, as well as a large number of lovely slides from the park’s opening in 1955 (and actually even slightly before that) to the 70s. This post captures the Disneyland of my memories quite well. SftP is a site well worth checking out if you have interests in old theme/amusement park images, assorted bits of Americana, and/or goofy training manuals.