Saturday, March 10, 2012

Disneyland (Pt. I): My Main Attraction

I am so tired. So tired in fact, that I'm falling asleep as I write this. It is 1:30 am in Chicago, 11:30 pm in Orange County, Calif. I am in the latter, but my internal clock is still in the former.

But, like a typical blogger who does not write about important issues or analyze events of their lives, I'm going to recount one of the special events of my day (I've been doing this a lot lately, I apologize) in a slightly unique way. In a list of my favorite Disneyland attractions.

I've been waiting for a while to share this with you. I decided not to post much about D-Land (as my friends and I so affectionately call it) until I had returned there for the first time since winter break. Well that has happened. So the first installment of my series on Disneyland will be a list of my favorite attractions.

The Haunted Mansion

Most people don't understand why I like this ride so much. Even as a kid, I didn't understand why I liked this ride so much. It's a dark ride with a traditional and freaky theme - a morbid one that most people don't count among their favorites.

But I have a lot of fond memories of Haunted Mansion. I have been on it so many times that I can recite the lines of the "Ghost Host" better than he can - even the Spanish portions. As I enter the chamber with no windows and no doors, I automatically locate the doors that open to the hallway that leads to the ride and situate myself in front of it.

The Haunted Mansion was also my mom's favorite ride at Disneyland. She was fascinated with all things supernatural and ghoulish, so the ride was a perfect combination of everything she loved. Alternatively, I'm into more froofy Disney things, yet the Haunted Mansion quenches my thirst for an immersive ride that's just unusual enough that none of my friends want to go on it - increasing my love for it even more (absence really does make the heart grow fonder).

Space Mountain

My friends will tell you that the best part of this ride are the photos. I have come out of it with some of the most ridiculous pictures of my life. They are universally unflattering.

Firstly, they are taken with a flash in the dark which has obvious repercussions. Secondly, they are taken while moving at a fast speed which means long hair is pulled back in a very terrible, even frightening way. Thirdly, most people don't know it's going to be taken so they're making ridiculous faces. And finally, if you pose for them it always turns out completely wrong and way more hilarious than you could have planned.

Space Mountain itself is a great ride. It is thrilling and pretty (what with all the twinkling "stars") - and it takes place in the dark! You don't find many rides that consistently take place in the dark. It's such a disorienting feeling that it's absolutely amazing. Unlike Haunted Mansion, this is one that's not so much dripping with nostalgia as it is filled with newness and teenaged fascination.

We're not afraid.
Tower of Terror

As with Haunted Mansion, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder with Disneyland rides. I tend to go to Disneyland with a couple of my closest friends or my dad. In either case, I am usually with someone who abhors the Hollywood Tower of Terror. The incidence of my going on this ride was immediately depleted to a 5 percent occurrence within a whole summer of going to Disneyland fairly consistently.

Why? The drop is scary. According to the people I go with to Disneyland anyway (except Kristin).

I love the Tower of Terror. The queue itself has a really interesting theme and a fun Twilight Zone/Rod Serling video that introduces you to the story of the ride. You shuffle from room to room until you finally arrive at your destination - an elevator that will take you to your guestroom at the hotel. And chaos ensues. Lovely, stomach-unsettling, butterfly-inducing chaos.

I love my friends and my family, but I do not hesitate to blame them for the fact that I have become so enamored with the Tower of Terror, simply because I never get a chance to ride it.

Peter Pan's Flight

It amazes me that a concept as wonderful as Peter Pan's Flight has not been replicated all over Disney parks around the world. The idea of using an overhead path to make it feel like the ride vehicle is flying through the sky is truly effective and one of the best creative choices that has never been overdone.

Back when The Little Mermaid Ride was in the planning stages, they created a virtual ridethrough that was put on the Little Mermaid Platinum Edition DVD. I own the DVD and, being a Disney nerd, have watched the Special Features disc at least two dozen times. The Little Mermaid Ride on the disc functioned like the Peter Pan ride, with passengers riding a shell that floated from land to water on a track that was above the vehicle. It looked breathtakingly beautiful.

In execution, Little Mermaid ended up being more in the way of Haunted Mansion than Peter Pan. So Peter Pan remains an anomaly of the Disney system that is absolutely one of the best rides - just ask anyone, the lines are always three times as long as any of the other Fantasyland rides'.

Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough

When I was little, I was never happier than when I forced whomever I was at Disneyland with to run through the Sleeping Beauty Castle with me. Just as it sounds, this was a walkthrough that took you past rooms dedicated to the story of Sleeping Beauty, situated in Sleeping Beauty Castle.

We'd amble up the stairs to rooms with dioramas behind glass windows of the Sleeping Beauty characters at different points in the story. In the last diorama, Barbie dolls were used to represent Aurora and Prince Phillip dancing in a final scene as her dressed turned pink and blue.

To this day I mourn over the loss of the quite low-quality diorama pieces of my youth. The Sleeping Beauty Castle went through years of remaining closed. Then, after a refurbishment, it reopened with a set of wooden diorama pieces that are equally awe-inspiring, but maybe a little less adorably kitschy. I was disappointed to say the least. Where are the Barbie dolls of my youth?

(The Disneyland Effect)

It seems nostalgia proves the winner of the Best Attractions category. With Sleeping Beauty Castle and Haunted Mansion in particular, it's the associations with young youth that make them so absolutely irresistible for an older me. And that's what Disneyland itself is for me and probably many other people my age who have lived in Orange County their whole lives.

We love the rides we enjoyed as children. We couple those with those we went on with our friends as teenagers. And when smushed together, they all form the list of reasons why Disneyland is one of the defining institutions of our lives, of past and present coming together. Commercialism aside, it really is the Happiest Place on Earth by this measure.

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