Disneyland Resort: American dream lives here
"You should walk in the street and wait until the park opens," he said in a slowly enunciated singsong. Disneyland may have looked unreal, but it had a class system just like the rest of the world and people who had gotten deals through hotels and travel agents were directed to the sidewalks, while the rest of us peasants gathered in front of the barrier, peering up ahead at Sleeping Beauty's castle.
The time was now 9:55 AM. A trumpet sounded, then a velvety voice said, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Welcome to the year of a million dreams...From all of us at the Happiest Place on earth, we hope your day will be an enjoyable one."
The barrier rope dropped. We were in.
As hundreds of us rushed into fantasyland, pop music filtered through the loudspeakers, like a giant iPod with a soundtrack that controlled you, rather you controlling it. I heard the phrases, "good times together with someone dear to your heart....Precious moments you'll never forget." And in a heart swelling climax: "This has to be the most beautiful, the most peaceful place." The music mixed with the screams of passengers whizzing out of a tunnel and around "the Matterhorn" at breakneck speed, adding to the high pitch of emotion.
"C'mon," I said, and we ran to the Matterhorn, where we were seated in a car and rushing around the mountain screaming our heads off in no time. Ghouls leapt out from the darkness and howled at us and my 5-year-old buried his face in my side and hung on for dear life, as the car plunged through the darkness carrying us seemingly to our death, righting itself just in time to zip back into the light.
"Coffee," I thought, as I struggled to regain my balance, after the ride. I realized that I hadn't seen a Starbucks all morning. The absence of Starbucks added to the feeling of having walked into the set of a movie from a bygone era, a time when a cup of coffee came to you over a drugstore counter. A time when coffee cups sat on glass saucers and were all one size.
We continued through Tomorrowland and headed to Autopia, a fleet of electric cars protected from disaster by the rail they ride on.
Quite a few kids and adults in the long line were dressed for Disneyland in specifically Disney attire. A couple of chic Japanese teenagers wore velvet Mouse ears with red and white polka dot bows. A corpulent woman in a gray hoodie and sunglasses sported a faded Winnie the Pooh t-shirt. A father wore a foot high green rubber Goofy hat with drooping dog ears, while his young son went hatless. Two little girls wore Cinderella dresses and carried wands with stars at the end.
My five-year-old entertained himself by blowing bubbles against his tongue, and telling me he was bored, while staring suspiciously at the Cinderellas.
I read the sign that said, "It is possible that fuel cells may power our cars in the future."
I wanted to cross out "oossible" and write in "certain," but resisted the urge out of consideration for my 11-year-old who had recently reached the point where my very existence could embarrass him. To do something as non-conformist as stepping out of line would be akin to driving a knife through his heart.
The line inched forward. I marvelled at the couples that appeared to have come to the park without children. How could they have brought this on themselves, I wondered? Even later on the Storybook ride, which was targeted for children my younger son's age, non-child toting adults got into the colourful cars with big smiles plastered on their faces, as if nothing in the world could be more interesting than riding through a cartoon village that re-enacted Pinocchio's journey from puppet to mule and ultimately, into a boy.
Next, we did It's A Small World. Transformed for the holidays and not yet returned to its normal incarnation, the exhibit was a Christmas spectacle. Preparing myself to be completely annoyed by the fact that well into January, they hadn't bothered to take down their Christmas trees, I found myself falling irresistibly under the charm of the sweet carolling voices and the elaborate dancing figures representing different countries.
As the boat glided into the castle, passing dazzling lights and ornate figurines, I found myself, thinking, "this is pretty good." For a second I even forgot that it had all been constructed to power an industry. I put my arms around my children and my heart wanted to burst with joy as we were pulled along from one endearing sight to the next. Somewhere between France and Japan, I started crying. My 11-year-old shot me a warning look. "Mom," he said, pleadingly. The boat pulled back out into the light and he checked to be sure no one was watching me dab my eyes.
"C'mon," I said, grabbing my five-year-old's hand. "I know something really fun we can do. You love Star Wars." There was only a small line outside the Star Wars Tour and we quickly got in.
We ascended a ramp that took us around few turns. Along the way, Star Wars figures stood. R2D2. Ships. And the inevitable DV (Darth Vadar), who seemed to have replaced Mickey Mouse as the most frequently seen fantasy figure at the park.