I’m coming off seven days at the four main Disney parks in Orlando (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood studios). It’s easy to be cynical about Disney. I should know; I’ve done it myself. But I have to say, I was astonished at the excellence with which the people of Disney pursue their vision–more specifically, the vision of the man Walt Disney. I can’t say I buy the vision completely–I got a bait of the dreams-coming-true business early on, and it was hard to take the save-the-planet business too seriously when I thought about the wetlands that must have been drained to make that place–but I truly did admire the creativity and artistry with which Disney people give that vision “a local habitation and a name,” to quote Shakespeare.
There were a few rides whose waiting areas were so beautifully done that I was sorry the wait wasn’t longer. The “Expedition Everest” roller coaster has a Himalayan theme; the waiting area takes you through a reproduction of a mountain climbing base camp and a Yeti museum. Forty minutes in line wasn’t enough to take it all in. One is tempted to say something snide about the multiplied fakery of a fake museum with fake artifacts about a fake creature situated next to a fake Everest that, as it turns out, is the highest mountain in Florida. But I enjoyed my fake education about the Yeti at least as much as I enjoyed the roller coaster (which was also excellent). Disney could have put a quarter of the care and expense into that waiting area and nobody would have complained. But obviously there are people making decisions there who care about things other than corporate profits. No doubt there are plenty of people there who care only about corporate profits, but they seem to give the creatives room to do their thing very, very well.

A word about trash: Whole squadrons of trash picker-uppers fan out throughout the parks, picking up any trash that finds its way to the ground. They were part of the reason the parks are so clean. But also, I believe there’s something self-perpetuating about the cleanliness of the parks. Because they’re so clean, people seem reluctant to drop their trash on the ground…and perhaps also because they’ve gotten a good look at the person who’s going to have to pick up after them.

And finally: I have to tell about one exchange I overheard, not because it was in any way typical, but because it’s funny. An attentive mother says to her twelve- or thirteen-year-old daughter, “What do you want to do? Ride another ride? Go shopping? See a show?” There’s a very funny street show happening about ten paces away, people are screaming overhead in the Tower of Terror, the sun is shining, there is the smell of popcorn in the air. And the girl slumps in boredom so deeply that I, a passing stranger, almost reachout a hand to support her. She fetches a deep sigh and says, “There’s just nothing to do here.”

But she was the exception who proved the rule. Aside from her, a good time was had by all.

  • Canaan Bound
    2:40 PM, 22 March 2011

    So glad to hear that you enjoyed Disney! And that your spirits weren’t dampered by the APF cynicism.

  • JJ
    2:53 PM, 22 March 2011

    That makes me want to go to Disney a bit more. I love good roller coasters and if the wait is awesome then even better.
    Kind of sad that that girl was bored. I’ve been to the local VA theme park (King’s Dominion) a ton of times and have always loved going. I could ride some of their coasters over and over again on a single visit. I wonder if this girl is a Disney regular? Or maybe just a product of this overstimulated generation (videogames, social networking, every kid with a cell phone, etc.). Who knows? Still kinda sad though.

  • Jess
    3:00 PM, 22 March 2011

    I am just going to say right here that my week felt only partially fulfilled without Audience Participation Friday. Just thought I’d let you know. 😉 But in all seriousity (I am not sure if that is a word but, as it rhymes with curiousity and you can never get enough words that rhyme with curiousity, it should be), I am glad you had a good time. 🙂 After all of your work researching feechies, you deserve it.

  • Jonathan Rogers
    3:03 PM, 22 March 2011

    Ah yes…I should apologize for missing APF last week. I just didn’t want to do it in the main post; I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those bloggers who starts half his posts with “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while…” Friday came along, and I completely forgot about APF. But we’ll come up with something good this week.

  • Jess
    3:48 PM, 22 March 2011

    Three cheers! 🙂 And I completely understand intentionally avoiding the sorry blogger effect.

  • Aaron Roughton
    4:39 PM, 24 March 2011

    I have a picture somewhere that I’ll send to you if I can find it. It’s of me standing behind a man who is asleep sitting on a bench at Disney. I pretended to be asleep also while my wife took our picture. I hope he’s not one of your readers, because I was clearly mocking his boredom. I think I may have even been holding one of my children in my arms.

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