Eleven Nerdy Observations From a Week at Disneyland

By Luke Y. Thompson in Daily Lists, Nerdery
Friday, September 20, 2013 at 6:00 am

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As many of you know, I recently had the occasion to stay at the Disneyland hotel for an entire week, with a pass to enter both Disneyland and California Adventure at any time except Saturday. A lengthy stay can make quite the difference, as Disneyland has so much stuff that it's impossible to do everything in a day, and day-trippers are usually rushing to cram everything in. With a week on your hands, however, there's more time to take it all in, noticing things you might not normally see in the hustle and bustle.

This list may be more self-indulgent than usual, if such a thing is possible. And, no, there are no X or R-rated honeymoon photos herein. Just some of the more intriguing things that caught my attention while enjoying the afterglow of wedded bliss.

1. Disney Has Not Forgotten the Rocketeer.

They remember. They just treat him like slave labor now.

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Yes, Cliff Secord's airfaring alter ego cranks out kernels of corn in a food cart nowadays. The sad li'l superhero can see the replica of a rocket outside of his glass prison, but may never use his again.

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2. Accurate Baboon Ass.

Several restaurants in Disneyland allow you to enjoy your food while being visited by giant cartoon characters. Most of these look like giant, huggable teddy bears...

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...but then there are some that make you go WTF. Like, this would have given me nightmares if I were a little kid.

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Look, I know he's Simba's friend and all, but he was never meant to be blown up to six feet and peering over our dinner table. He is surprisingly accurate in a key way, though - I checked as he took his leave, and this mandrill does have the appropriate blue buttocks.

3. Speaking of Nightmares...

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This decaying Minnie mask with a baby doll head inside - part of a display of merchandise throughout the ages - may just give me some tonight.

4. The TV That Talks and Transforms...

...and yet fails completely at its primary function. You can't see it in this picture - or rather, you THINK you can't see it.

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That piece of wooden furniture, however, is no chest of drawers. It is a clever concealment. Hit a button on your room remote, and it talks to you in an English accent, informing you that "the television is in motion." The top pops open, and the flatscreen TV rises upward from inside.

Which is great, except for a few things:

-the built-in DVD player didn't work.
-the TV kept losing its signal.
-it would randomly switch to CBS whenever it felt like it. If it had been ABC, I'd have been suspicious.

To sum up: Disneyland can make a convincing robot Abraham Lincoln. But they cannot get a TV to work in their signature Fairy Tale Suite.

They can, however, fold your washcloths into octopi. Let us not underrate this skill.

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5. Splash Mountain is Pretty Much the Woodland Critter Christmas Ride.

I know Song of the South. I've seen Song of the South. Splash Mountain has some of the same characters, but a waaaay different spirit.

Song of the South is about a white kid on a reconstruction-era Southern plantation whose parents are emotionally distant, so instead he learns life lessons via former slave Uncle Remus, who tells him stories of Brer Rabbit. Because it's Disney, and everything is utterly PG-ified - and therefore not mentioning the Civil War or slavery even though most adults know what's going on - Disney is afraid to release it again domestically for fear of racial insensitivity charges. They're happy to show it overseas, where the historical context wouldn't mean as much.

And yet Splash Mountain is kinda-sorta based on the movie, in that it features Brer Rabbit and his foes Brer Fox and Brer Bear. There is no Uncle Remus, and rather than the happy go lucky spirit embodied in the clip above, it's full of creepy dioramas, talk of impending doom, and sudden drops. The songs also have new lyrics for some reason.

There's something like the uncanny valley effect at work, where the human eye recognizes the fakeness of highly detailed replicas. Disney rides that represent cartoon characters as cartoon characters work perfectly, but the singing birds on Splash Mountain are halfway between cartoon and realistic animal, and the mix is subtly frightening. Especially when that one starts doing a high falsetto.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never explicitly credited Splash Mountain as inspiration for their "Woodland Critter Christmas" episode of South Park, in which cute wildlife turn out to be violent Satanists. But the parallels are there, especially with the big fall of a mountain at the end, which is based on a much simpler toss into a briar patch in Song of the South.

Seriously, tell me these fuckers don't look demon-possessed.

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Loren Javier

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