My dad and I went to Disneyland today. I had a couple people ask why we’d go, especially when it was boud to be a busy time of year. Inspired by Melody Kramer’s post about her recent visit to Disney World, I’m sharing my reason about visiting the resort’s California outpost.
1. Historical significance.
Disneyland opened in 1955, and while it was an appropriate companion to post WWII optimism, it’s also a landmark of the 1960s. That’s because Disney was heavily involved in the 1964-65 World’s Fair, and pieces of that involement are alive in Disneyland.
I’m not the only person to be re-examining the 1960s and its place in American history. Mad Men is proof of that. I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened to women’s lives in the 1950s and 1960s, too, and how it’s related to our lives today (yes, this is somewhat related to the book I’m writing). To see living examples of what Disney saw as America of that time is helping me understanding that history.
What I consider the top artifact from that World’s Fair — the Carousel of Progress — is in Disney World. I’ve been on that ride too many times to count. But the original house of that ride is in Disneyland (and housing some excellent Avengers stuff like my meeting today with Captain America), and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is still showing. It’s a very AMERICA! movie. When it finished, I was tempted to yell “rock flag and eagle. It was a perfect capsule of what people wanted to believe America stood for, even if it was living in chaos.
That’s a long way of saying that Disneyland is a cultural and historical landmark, and since I was an hour away, I wanted to see it. I skipped Small World, which was also at the World’s Fair, because it’s only not annoying if you ride it very late at night and maybe jump from boat to boat (only when they’re pushed together and if you get caught and kicked out of Disney, don’t blame me).
(One fun note: while waiting in line to meet Captain America, I read Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America. So I was in Tomorrowland in a building from the World’s Fair reading about the world’s fair. Meta.)
2. Personal Significance
Like most people my age, I grew up on a steady diet of Disney movies. As a child, I visited the park three times. In college, I had a Florida resident pass, which cost about $100 if my memory is correct. Disney World became a place I went to…whenever. This has changed my perspective because instead of this incredibly rare place to visit, Disney became something that was just on a list of something to do. This took the pressure off trips there. If I didn’t get on THAT right, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. I’d just go next time
So to say “I want to go to Disneyland” while on vacation in California felt completely normal to me. It felt fitting — like I was rounding out my Disney experience. I’ve wanted to see the original, even though I’d been told dozen of times it was smaller and not the same (and they were right. Everything felt like it was 3/4 the size), but I just wanted to see it, and see how it was different.
Today was exceptionally crowded, which wasn’t surprising given the time of year. So when rides starting have 60 to 90 minute waits with no Fast Pass options, my dad and I would just shrug and move on. We didn’t NEED to see something or ride on a ride. We could just enjoy the experience.
Yes, it was obscenely crowded, and I didn’t get to go on a lot of the attractions I wanted to experience, like the Matterhorn, but my dad and I had a great time. We got to go on a few attractions, and just hung out. We walked and talked around the park, pointing out what was different from Disney World and what was the same, and about previous trips to the parks we made, whether it was as a family or not.
And despite being a professional, 34-year-old woman, I got tongue tied when I almost bumped into Marry Poppins while drinking my coffee. I giggled after having my picture taken with Captain America. Dad and I ended our day by taking a ride on the Disneyland Railroad, and it was calming to sit on the train and see the park on a nice warm day.
For us, it as a fun day. I get why it wouldn’t be for a lot of people, but we had a blast.
I’m about to embark on a long project that will at times not go well. I’ll want to skip the little things out of frustration. When I get that way, I’ll look at this picture
This is in a popcorn machine in Tomorrowland. In similar popcorn machines on Main Street, turn of the century clowns have this job. The Rocketeer here is a tiny thing, an homage to a movie I love but that was not a box office success. I was delighted. I won’t forget it. Those little details matter.
Sure, the story of Walt Disney has been polished to a high shine, and the company isn’t perfect — far from it. But Disneyland still represents a dream realized. I’d like to think I’m a dreamer and a schemer, and sometimes I bang my head against a wall and wish that I’d just become an accountant instead of choosing a job that requires regular blood letting. So seeing something like that is a reminder that I CAN make things happen, no matter how impossible they seem.
What I’m doing is in no way related to what Walt Disney did, but it’s enough to see a dream come true to make me think that maybe mine can too.