The Wonderful World of Disney

The Wonderful World of Disney

You can count me among the most ardent fans of Disney World,  despite all the reasons there apparently are for resisting its charms or dismissing its significance.  The fact remains that the Walt Disney organization is second to none when it comes to creating wonderful entertainment for people of all ages and I for one applaud them for it.  And yes,  I suppose one can say that there is a slightly homogenized quality to the universe they create, with every blade of grass just so,  but it also means that after four days there,  I was hard-pressed to think of one single unpleasant surprise.  .  . and in this day and age,  I count freedom from unpleasantness very high on my list of vacation priorities.  But my time there was not just four days of agreeability – there were also moments that were genuinely thrilling and uplifting in the best sense of the word. . .   including

  1. * a magnificent stage version of “Finding Nemo’ which we saw at Animal Kingdom Thursday morning.  It is no small task to take a marvelous animated classic like this one and bring it to life onstage. . . but that’s what they have managed to do and the results are sheer magic.   Reminiscent of what one sees in the Lion King stage show,  the main characters of “Nemo” were brought to life via hand-held puppets – and the puppeteers, by and large,  were fully visible to the audience. . . and it was remarkable how quickly we forgot all about them and found ourselves utterly caught up in the story.    And at several points,  the action was taken out into the audience,  which is always exciting – and the story was enhanced with new songs that added rather than detracted from the proceedings.   (Kathy and I liked the music enough to seek out the CD of it.)   The production takes approximately 40 minutes,  so it’s shorter than the film,  but the essential elements of the story are all there – including the sharks,  the jellyfish,  the dentist office aquarium, the sea turtles,  and more.   And I’m pretty sure I speak for Kathy when I say that we were every bit as entranced as any young child in that audience . . . drinking it all in with slack-jawed awe. . .  and feeling so incredibly grateful that someone had the genius to think of all this and bring it to reality – and that we were lucky enough to be in the audience, experiencing every unforgettable moment.

  1. * a relatively new ride called “Soarin’ “   which simulates the thrill of flight as you seem to soar above a plethora of California scenes.   It’s one of those rides where part of you knows that you aren’t really flying – but then there’s this other part of you that can’t help but give into the illusion and is genuinely thrilled by the sensation.   Kathy’s dad had gone on this earlier in the week and he was adamant that we had to do this – and rather than risk being excised from the will,  we did it . . . and it more than lived up to its billing.  This was at Epcot and I heartily recommend it to anyone.

  1. * Star Tours –  this was actually a similar sort of thing except that rather than simulating a lovely soaring glide over picturesque vistas,  this ride simulates a death-defying flight aboard a spacecraft out of Star Wars – and ‘bumpy’ does not begin to describe what this ride was like.   By the way,  Kathy decided to sit this one out . . . and she is a wise woman,  because I think she would have hated every second of it.   But I had a blast.

  1. * The Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor –  I am still shaking my head in amazement over this.   It plays off of the premise from the movie Monsters Inc.  (that incredibly inventive Pixar classic)  that the Monster World is now securing its energy needs not from the terrified screams of humans but rather from their laughter.   So this bit of entertainment is set up sort of like a comedy club with animated monsters on screen in front,  interacting with the audience.   What is especially amazing is that we are not watching something pre-recorded that’s being played back.   These animated monsters are actually listening to what is being said by members of the audience and responding – so no two shows are exactly alike.   Kathy and I actually went to this twice-  once with our good friend Jon Marschall (who was down at Disney because of his daughter Kaitlin’s high school band participating in a music festival there)  and a second time with Kathy’s dad.   Both times we laughed our heads off.

  1. * The Great Movie Tour –  This is the first thing we saw at Disney Hollywood, which is the newest of the Disney parks and one I can’t wait to return to.   You ride through what amounts to a series of recreations of some of movie history’s most memorable scenes . . .  So you get “Singin’ in the Rain” with Gene Kelly,  a Julie Andrews/ Dick Van Dyke moment from “Mary Poppins,”  a dramatic moment from “Alien” when Sigourney Weaver’s character of Ripley finds herself confronted by the infamous alien killing off her crew,  some John Wayne, some Jimmy Cagney, some “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” some “Casablanca,” and then in the best moment of all,  a ride through Munchkinland.    That last part was amazingly wonderful,  and my only complaint is that they didn’t sing my favorite part of the scene, which is:

“From now on you’ll be history.  You’ll be hist…. You’ll be hist….. You’ll be history.   And we will glorify your NAME!  You will be a bust …. be a bust….. be a bust….. in the Hall of FAME!”    That’s a masterpiece on the order of Verdi’s “Aida,” in my opinion. . . although I would probably get some strange looks from my colleagues if I were ever to say so at a music faculty meeting.

  1. *  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “It’s a Small World After All,”  which may not have a lot of 21st century technological razzle-dazzle to offer,  but which packs ‘em in anyway because no one can resist it.   I’m only sad that this time around I rode the ride without my niece Lorelai –  but it was almost as fun for Kathy and I to share the ride with our good friend MIke K, who used to be a faithful volunteer at the Racine Theater Guild but who now does lights for Disney World and gets paid for it.   We spent some time strolling the Magic Kingdom with Mike, who loves Disney even more than we do, and that was tremendously fun.

By the way,  even Disney misfires from time to time.  We wasted ten minutes of our lives going through a ride called Stitch’s Great Escape that was painfully dumb. . . and I mean we had to resist the urge to lick our fingers and stick them in a light socket to end our misery.  The one bright side is that subjecting ourselves to this helped us appreciate even more deeply all the wonderful things that delighted us at every turn in the wonderful world of Disney.

pictured above:  the aquarium scene from Finding Nemo. If you look carefully,  you can see the human puppeteers.