Christmas in the kingdom

Dec 04

If you’re a regular Theater Dogs reader, you may already know that I’m obssessed with Disneyland and consider it to be a masterful work of theater — sets, costumes, lights, drama (and, OK, robots).

Spent last weekend in the happiest place on Earth, and here are some observations:

- America needs to lose a little weight. I’m afraid that people are counting on those motorized scooters, those “little buddies” if you will, to maintain their lifestyles even when they’re too big to walk anymore.

- The Christmas Candelight Procession, which occurs one weekend each Decmeber, is a tremendous event. A 50-piece orchestra and a 500-member choir (I’m estimating the numbers here, but I’m close) singing Christmas songs and Hector Elizondo (the guest narrator changes each year) reciting the Christmas story is lovely in both sight and sound. The event takes place behind the Main Street train station, in proximity to the giant Christmas tree, so the mood is appropriately ye olde time Christmas. But the best part involves the eight trumpeters on the roof of the train station. Spectacular.

- Disneyland’s parades have gotten so fancy they’re like Broadway shows on wheels (and on foot). The Holiday Parade is still cute, but this year’s best performances go to the woman playing Cinderella’s stepmother and the guy with braces playing Sleeping Beauty’s prince. It’s hard to charm from the confines of a cheesy holiday parade, but these two performers managed it.

- In Disney’s California Adventure, the new “High School Musical Pep Rally” is a hoot as 25-year-old performers play high school basketball players and drama geeks. This is essentially a mini-parade that does a full performance at the beginning and at the end of the short route. As you might expect, kids and pre-teens loved it, knew all the words to the songs and danced along with the choreography. Cute. Disney’s got a gold mine here.

- Speaking of gold mines, Disneyland has been overrun by pirates — everything is pirates. There’s a great actor playing Capt. Jack Sparrow running around New Orleans Square like he’s tripping on some psychedelic drug, but the tourists just eat it up. Pirate T-shirts, hats, Mickey Mouse ears and biker regalia have infiltrated every gift shop. It’s all too much pirates. Argh. Can Disney keep up the momentum before the third (and please, Walt, final) movie drops next summer? Probably not.

- The three new Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow Audioanimatronic figures in the ride Pirates of the Caribbean are very nice. The first two bear an uncanny resemblance to the actor and move so realistically it’s eerie. The final Capt. Jack on the way up the waterfall where he’s sitting on looted treasure and singing his own cocky version of “Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life For Me” looks like it’s been botoxed.

- The holiday version of “it’s a small world” is so unbelievably charming you can’t even believe it. It’s like jumping into a stack of Christmas cards and splashing around in lights, sparkles and good cheer. The holiday overlay packs so much charm it makes the regular “small world” seem like not much.

- On Splash Mountain, having heavier people in the front of your log means you’re going to get extra wet — mainly from water sloshing over the sides and into your shoes.

- The “new and improved” Space Mountain is, sorry to say, not that great. The new score is not nearly as good as Dick Dale’s surf guitar soundtrack. DCA’s California Screamin’ roller coaster is now the Disneyland Resort’s best coaster. On Jan. 3, both Space Mountain and California Screamin’ get new, temporary “rockin’” soundtracks, supposedly by name musicians. And Space Mountain is rumored to be prepping an accompanying light show for the new rockin’ track.

- If you’re enjoying the marvelous Sunday brunch at Storyteller’s Cafe in the Grand Californian hotel, and Chip (of Chip ‘n’ Dale fame) is scurrying about, watch your Mickey Mouse waffles.

- As a child, I dreamed of a) living in Pirates of the Caribbean and b) becoming a Disneyland Ambassador and wearing a plaid vest while escorting visiting dignitaries around the park. I’d still like to do that, actually.

4 comments

  1. joy meads /

    robots pirates and high school drama geeks. i have got to go back to disneyland.

  2. Kerry Reid /

    My friend Danne (pronounced “Danny” but the variant spelling is on his birth certificate – really) went on “It’s A Small World” many years ago in a, shall we say, herbally enhanced state. And the ride broke down. Now, one might think that, it not being a particularly complicated ride, one could just walk out. But to think that, one would be underestimating the fear-in-the-face-of-a-litigious-population that drives much of the decision-making apparatus at the Magic Kingdom.

    So he and his fellow stoners, er actors, sat there for TWO HOURS until the ride was fixed.

    And now, the punchline: the song kept playing. The whole time.

  3. Whenever I visit http://www.oaklandtribune.com, hover over ‘entertainment,’ click “On Stage” in the drop down menu to find “Theater Dogs” and I see the Disneyland advertisement to the right of your blog, I hear Jodi
    Benson’s pristine voice “cal-ling, cal-ling meeee….Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, close my eyes real tight, wishin’ hard I might, wishin’ hard I may find my way to Disneyland….”

    How fitting, really, to have that advertisement so close to you.

    It sounds like the five million people I saw in June are still there waiting to ride Pirates of the Caribbean.

  4. Peter Hall /

    Thanks for the advice on “Splash Mountain.” I’ll advise the “heavy loaders” in my group to move the back of the log.

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