What if Disneyland Arrived 60 Years Too Late?

Try to imagine, just for a moment, a giant space monster punching Father Time right in the teeth.

A punch hard enough to jar loose sixty years. A half-dozen meaningless decades. A skip on the record player of history.

Now imagine that this cataclysmic punch occurred in 1901.

History shrugs it off. Life finds a way. And everything remains almost exactly the same.


Then in 1961, during a snowy December evening in Chicago, IL, a young man named Walter Elias Disney is born.

This Walt would grow up in the land of free love and civil rights. Drive ambulances in Vietnam. Create psychedelic ads in Kansas City. Head to Hollywood during the era of Serpico and The Godfather.

Mickey Mouse would debut just days after the election of Bush ’41. The Three Little Pigs during Clinton’s first year in office. Titanic would hold the box office record for only one year before ceding it to Snow White.

There would be goodwill tours to the Middle East (“Saludos Habibis!”). A dark period of Gulf War propaganda films. The first Disney live-action movies would appear about the same time as the iPad.

And Walt—who never backed down from new technology—might have launched his weekly television show on YouTube.

Then he would build a theme park.

Main Street, U.S.A.

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past. And here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.” –Disneyland Dedication Plaque, July 17, 2015

Here is a country in transition, from the Nifty Fifties to the Swinging Sixties. The charming storefronts of yesteryear beckon you with bold logos and neon signs, promising the comforting service you’ve come to expect from JC Penney’s, Montgomery Ward, and Rexall Drugs.

In Town Square, you just might catch a show from the Main Street cheerleaders as they pump up the crowd for the weekend’s big football game. Or take in a performance by the resident rock-n-roll band on the grassy field surrounding the gazebo.

This is the age of yester-year. The era of Walt Disney’s cherished childhood. This is Main Street U.S.A.

The Main Street Vehicles – Hop aboard a high-fin Cadillac, a Greyhound bus, or even a trippy hippy van for a one-way journey up Main Street. Nighttime is especially magical, when the neon comes on and the vehicles go into “Cruisin’” mode.

Main Street Cinema – Step inside the air-conditioned confines of this vintage precursor to the modern home theater, where classic movies play continually on eight screens. You’ll thrill to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, fall in love with Marilyn Monroe, or laugh hysterically at everyone’s favorite neurotic, Woody Allen.

The Disneyland Interstate Highway – The crown jewel of Main Street is the On-Ramp to the Disneyland Interstate, which offers you a grand circle tour of the Magic Kingdom, with exits at several lands along the way. This loving recreation of the Interstate Era comes straight from the childhood of Walt Disney himself, who once spent a formative summer as a roadside salesman, hawking encyclopedias to housewives along the brand new highway system of the United States.

Town Hall – Information, Guide Maps, Dining Reservations, Storage Lockers, Charging Stations. Civic protests performed daily.


“A wonderland of nature’s own design from the True-Life Adventures Brain Trust.” – Disneyland Podcast Episode 1

Adventureland takes its cue from a revolutionary form of storytelling pioneered by the visionary imagination of Walt Disney!

Step across the bridge from Main Street and you’ll find yourself inside one of the interconnected tales of Phase 1 and 2 of the Disney True-Life Adventures Cinematic Universe.

Disney True-Life Adventures Assemble: Vanishing Prairie Cruise – Guests board colorful launches for a scenic trip down river, accompanied by wisecracking, pop-culture savvy skippers. Come face to face with the sharp-toothed citizens of Beaver Valley as they team up with The African Lion and Perri the squirrel to conquer the evil genius known as The Living Desert. Featuring a script by Joss Whedon.

Adventureland BazaarDisney True-Life Adventures comic books, action figures, costumes, memorabilia. Note: Due to previous licensing agreements with other media companies, merchandise featuring Seal Island and White Wilderness is not available in Disneyland.


“Frontierland! Tall tales and true from the burned out fragments of dystopian society.”—Disney Parks Blog Metadata

Every era has its craze. The 1950s had Westerns on every screen, big and small. Now today’s most popular story setting springs to life off page and screen, ushering you into a gray and dismal world, where every day is a fight for survival among oppressed teenagers.

District Twain – The mournful whistle of this floating prison camp welcomes you aboard for a “ten year sentence” down the irradiated Rivers of America. You’ll drift among the poisoned fog banks, explore the holographic Logger-Jammer Forest, and overthrow The Over-Chancellor during this 15-minute leisure cruise.

Maze Run Through Nature’s Wonderland – Every teetering rock formation means danger. Every erupting geyser hides a secret. And supplies are running out. As junior members of the scrappy “Mountain Lion Gang,” guests don tight-fitting, impractical jumpsuits to try and outwit the infamous Rainbow Ridge Consortium.

Convergent – Guests participate in an interactive personality survey before being sorted into one of three Tribes: Conestoga, Pack Mule, or Stagecoach. What happens next is up to you! Will you break down the societal barriers meant to inhibit cooperation? Or will the Supreme Benefactor keep you enslaved under his mutated thumb?

The Golden Horseshoe Arena – 10 lucky guests (ages 9-15) will be selected to compete in a fight to the death for the right to be crowned Frontierland Champion. See Times Guide for showtimes.


“#Fantasyland is dedicated to the young and #younginheart. To those who believe that when you#wishuponastar, your dreams come true.” –@RetlawYensid (Walt Disney’s Personal Twitter Account)

Over the drawbridge and through the castle gates lies Fantasyland, home to all the wonderful stories you’ve come to love from Walt Disney Studios. The happiest kingdom of them all for children of all ages, but especially for the very young!

Drowsy Castle – At the end of Main Street U.S.A stand the fairy tale spires of Drowsy Castle, from Walt Disney’s upcoming animated hit, Drowsy. The story follows the timeless tale of the spunky princess who overcame a bad case of narcolepsy and the schemes of an evil fairy to rescue her mother and father, save a helpless but handsome prince from his controlling father, and awaken a kingdom to the beauty within it – all while pursuing her dream of a becoming a fashion designer with help from a magic spinning wheel. Drowsy Castle offers spa services, where young princesses-in-training (and moms too!) can pamper themselves with Drowsy Massages and pedicures.

Soarin’ Over Neverland with Peter Pan and Friends – Don a pair of pixie dust goggles and strap yourself into an authentic Lost Boy hang-glider for a thrilling flight over Neverland in this motion simulator attraction. Dodge cannonballs from the Jolly Roger, swoop over Skull Rock, and come face to face with the nefarious Captain Hook. Minimum Height 40 inches. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Wild Ride Through England ~ The Adventures of Walt Disney’s Mr. Toad and Friends – Design your own motorcar, snap on your 3-D driving goggles, then step behind the wheel for a zany jaunt through London, where your vehicle will go onroad, offroad, and nowhere in particular on this high-speed turbulent adventure. Minimum Height 40 inches. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Snow White’s Scary Adventures Featuring the Seven Dwarfs – Step aboard this revolutionary trackless robo-arm contraption built by the Seven Dwarfs, which will send you careening through a seamless forest of practical sets and video mapping technology, in an effort to escape the wicked Queen—all brought to life through the magic of your 3-D “diamond spectacles.” Minimum Height 40 inches. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Walt Disney and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland Tea Party Starring YOU! – You’ll scream “off (with) your head” as you twirl in a death-defying loop high above Fantasyland! This mega-thrill ride – the tallest in Disneyland at nearly 200 feet – is not for the faint of heart (or Queens of Hearts). 3-D “tea glasses” required. Minimum Height 48 inches. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Dumbo’s Nursery – Everyone will enjoy this themed waiting area, decorated with static props from Walt Disney’s timeless live-action classic, Dumbo. Children must be accompanied by an expectant mother.


“Promise of thing[s] to come, in part or in whole, to be defined at such time as is mutually agreed upon.” – Joint Press Release, The Walt Disney Company and IBM

The future beckons from the gleaming spires of Tomorrowland, showcase of the strategic corporate partnerships of The Walt Disney Company and its subsidiary holdings.

Here guests can enjoy just-in-time delivery of entertainment-based initiatives through the magic of brand penetration, while leveraging best-in-class assets to synergistically monetize the client-centric vacation experience.

Dronetopia Sponsored by Amazon – Guests young and old take control of a remote aircraft, piloting an Amazon Prime shipment through a challenging wooded course through Tomorrowland.

SEO Hall of Fame Sponsored by Google – Advancements in the breathtaking field of search engine optimization and deep indexing are on display in this interactive kiosk adventure.

PRC Marsliner Rocket – Topping out at nearly 190 feet, this full-scale replica of a top-secret space craft is a testament to the continuing emergence of China in the global market, and a stark warning to America’s previously dominant space program. The Marsliner sets the stage for the thrilling Flight to Mars simulator attraction, where guests race against the clock to stave off economic collapse in the face of rising national debt, all while watching another country win the race to Mars.

Circarama Theater Sponsored by Siemens– This 360-degree IMAX theater is currently home to the stirring and powerful film, Innovironmentions. This spectacle of corporate responsibility raises awareness of the very real struggle faced by companies in today’s political climate, highlighting diversity efforts and green initiatives in response to a groundswell of public support for environmental factors in the marketplace.

Tomorrowland Gallery Sponsored by Brad Bird – View lifeless pictures of props from the latest box office flops in this temporary placeholder attraction. Also serves slushies.


Two Amazing Theme Park Performances Hiding in Plain Sight

Most of us when we go to the movies are there to actually watch the movie.

I mean, I like cup holders and adolescent groping as much as the next guy. But if I’m going to spend the yearly wage of a Nike factory worker to sit in a darkened room for two hours, I want to watch Tom Cruise possibly fall to his death from a dumb plane stunt. Not the idiot in Row 5 texting his mother.

Same deal at the parks. When the lights go down and the butterfly curtain flaps away, our eyes are glued to the fantastic theme park performances on stage or screen.

Unless we’ve been there a hundred times.

We’ve written more tips than Cosmo about ways to spice up your ridemaking. But shows are trouble. Rather than an ever-changing three-dimensional vista of pillaging pirates, it’s often the same static bench in the same faux aquarium, listening to the same turtle factoids in the same phony Australian accent.

Turtle Talk With Crush

Cue the adolescent groping

That’s why it’s often easier to ride Haunted Mansion all day long than it is to see Beauty and the Beast Live On Stage twice in the same decade.

But what if I told you crazy fans that there are secret shows hidden in plain sight?

Great theme park performances that 99% of the audience never sees?

Animatronic actors pouring their entire soul into their role for nary a scrap of recognition?

I’m not talking an occasional unnoticed sight gag. These are full-length on-stage theme park performances that run non-stop throughout the day. These guys are emoting their hearts out, with more stage-time than the stars of the show.

And you never noticed them, you godless heathen.

To find them, you have to look in a place you never would have guessed.

You have to watch the audience.

It’s a surreal situation, like reading Moby Dick from the point of view of the whale. But if you have the fortitude, you can step through the looking glass and watch other characters watch the show.

The Country Bear Jamboree

You all know Blood on the Saddle, the Bear Band Serenade and the rest of the classic show. You can sing all the carols from the Christmas version and may even quote the skunk’s lines from Vacation Hoedown.

But do you know who gets the first lines and the last lines in the show?

Yeah. It’s that terrific troupe of talking taxidermy. Melvin, Max, and Buff.

Photo courtesy of Loren Javier under Creative Commons License

Photo courtesy of Loren Javier via Creative Commons License

And since they’ve got nowhere to hide, they have to watch the show. Again. And again. And again.

Which means while Henry is off adolescently groping Teddi Berra in the attic, Melvin, Max, and Buff are listening to the same corny numbers they’ve been hearing since 1971.

Sometimes they nod along in time to the music. Sometimes they roll their eyes. Sometimes they even whisper to each other. Oh, and Max hides a chuckle at the antics at multiple points in the show.

Try it next time. Try watching the entire Country Bears show while staring at the right wall.

Not only will you creep out everyone around you, but you’ll also see an entirely new Magic Kingdom show that you never knew existed.

Muppet Vision 3-D

MuppetVision 3-D is that rare exception to the rule, where the jokes come fast and furious and the sight gags are rewarding even on the tenth viewing.

But if you are one of those people whose gaze habitually gravitates to the fluffy chickens roaming through the Muppet Labs foyer at the beginning of the film, you’ve probably seen the movie enough times to try this.

And you don’t even need 3-D glasses.

Just like Melvin, Max, and Buff, Waldorf and Statler have minor roles in the main show. And just like in Country Bears, they get the opening and closing lines.

But for the most part, they are there to watch.

If anything, their theme park performance is even more fascinating than Melvin, Max, and Buff. Statler’s mouth is forever falling open in abject shock at the hijinks on display. Both of them spend so much time ducking and rattling from all the shenanigans, you’d think stuff really was flying off the screen.

In a brilliant instance of animated puppetry, Waldorf and Statler will actually turn to face the theater when Waldo, the Spirit of 3-D, flies in close – as if that zany creature was actually hovering over people’s heads.

Speaking of which, watch them bob their head with every bounce as Waldo plays pogo on top of the audience. Or wince in time with Beaker whenever the MuppetVision paddlewheel cracks him in the skull.

And sometimes they simply can’t help looking at each other in horror at what they are being subjected to.

It’s an entire show unto itself.


I was surprised at how engaging this is for a long-timer. It takes some discipline to remain focused on these peripheral theme park performances, when everything from the music stings to the lighting cues is geared to focus your attention on the stage.

It would be great if someone skilled at low-light videography would just set up a tripod and put the entire performance of Melvin, Max, Buff, Waldorf, and Statler up on youtube.

But until that happens, you’ll just have to go to the parks and try it yourself.

It really is like discovering a completely new show.


Animal Kingdom’s Latest Delicious Treat is… Poop

A while back, I praised Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter for creating the perfect theme park food crossover. Famous fictional food in a theme park is something Disney has never quite mastered, though they do allow you to eat famous fictional mice for every meal of the day.

But now that bare-bones approach is about to become extinct.

Today was my first opportunity to sample the many new shops and food locations that have sprung up in Construction Wall City Animal Kingdom, and I’m here to declare that a new theme park treat champion has been crowned.

Zuri’s Sweets opened only a few days ago, and features exciting and strange beef jerky flavors, African infused olive oils, and candy dispensing machines that actually dispense trail mix and other exotic combinations instead of M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces.

It’s one of Disney’s better attempts at merchandising in recent memory. It has not yet been overrun with the same generic merchandise that you can find everywhere else, and even the Timon and Pumbaa gummy candies at least have an African slant to them.

But the candy and pastry counter caught my eye. Not because there are new elephant and monkey candy apples, but because for the first time anywhere, a theme park is offering an assortment of pastry animal poop that you can buy.

How much would you pay to eat animal poop? $10? $20? How about only $3.99 (or one Disney snack coupon)!!

How much would you pay to eat animal poop? $10? $20? How about only $3.99 (or one Disney snack coupon)!!

No joke, it is a series of pastries called “Match the Species,” and they are designed to look like the bowel movements of exotic animals. There are four flavors.

  • Elephant
  • Giraffe
  • Cotton-Top Tamarin
  • Hippo

We did not sample any of these delectable dishes, because we had already just come from the bathroom. But otherwise, I can assure you we would have been all over these like flies on… well, tasty chocolate scat, I guess.

Take that, Butter Beer.