With the controversial stealth film Escape from Tomorrowland wiling its way across America, we thought it was time to reconsider the Scariest Happiest Place on Earth from our own semi-adult perspective.
Every year, my mom would alternate our vacation destinations between Disney World and Universal Studios. Disney had the magic, Universal (as their motto correctly stated) let you ride the movies. I always preferred Universal to Disney; Universal felt more grown up, whereas Disney felt perpetually locked inside the imaginative fantasies of a child. Of course, I didn’t understand that as a kid. I couldn’t intellectualize that until now, in my late 20s.
I recently paid a visit to the Disney World in Orlando. As a child, I thought the Magic Kingdom was a wonderful, fantastical place. But then I grew up, and as you often do when you grow up, I realized how the things I loved as a kid are nothing more than cheap rip offs or complete scams. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is one such thing. How? Why? I’ll tell you. For example…
Astro Orbiter, Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, and Dumbo are all the same ride
As A Kid:
Every ride is an adventure. No second thought goes into the experience of a ride. You wait in the line, you sit in the seat, the thing goes, rinse and repeat for every attraction in the park. It was all amazing because 98% of your life’s experience at that point is hating school. Riding on the back of Dumbo for about a minute is the most incredible thing you’ll do for the next decade or so. But then time passes and you experience the Magic Kingdom…
As An Adult:
…you realize that The Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland, Aladdin’s Magic Carpets in Adventureland, and Dumbo in Fantasyland Are all the exact same ride – aerial carousels. Disney CTRL+C’d one ride, changed its skin, and pasted it in two other places in the park. As an adult the laziness of this really sticks out, especially if you’re on a mission to ride as many rides as you can in the one day you’re probably going to spend in the park. On a busy park day you’ll wait in the lines for these rides for hours, only to realize you’ve paid an insane amount of money to experience the exhilaration of a plane waiting for clearance to land three times. You don’t have to ride them. If you’re wise, after riding one you’d duplicate the memory two more times in your head then smugly eat a turkey leg as you watch all the other sheep line up at the other clones.
If you’re going to Disney any time soon, do yourself a favor and ride one of these three and forgo the other two. I recommend the Astro Orbiter; it gives you a beautiful panoramic view of the park from up high.
Swiss Family Robinson Tree House is a line disguised as a ride
As A Kid:
When I was younger, I barely knew who or what the Swiss Family Robinson was about. I’m still not sure. Was it a movie? A show? Whatever it was, was it really good enough to warrant its own attraction in the park? I’ll never know. Regardless, the Swiss Family Robinson tree house in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, while never as exhilarating as, say, Space Mountain, was a fun romp. What kid hasn’t dreamed of having their own extremely elaborate tree house fort, fitted with multiple bedrooms and a kitchen? It was a little boy’s dream come to life. But…
As An Adult:
You realize there’s something sinister about this particular attraction. Spend enough time in a big name theme park and you’ll get the strange feeling that the whole park was designed by mad scientists who wanted to see if people would line up for hours in blistering Florida heat for the promise of a morsel of cheese at the end. Just as you’re about to be convinced that the line was created as a massive, messed up social experiment, you get on the ride and all of your negative thoughts are washed away. And then there’s the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, which nothing more than a line disguised as a ride. You walk a series of ascending stair cases that lead you around decorative island prison cells that let you gaze in wonder at desks and decorative plates, as if this is what would happen if a plane carrying the QVC network crashed on the island from LOST.
Most rides in modern theme parks keep you entertained all the way through, using lavishly and intricately designed sets, characters, and videos that all lead up to and inform you of the narrative of the ride you’re about to go on. The Tree House is that, just without the ride at the end. It’s all foreplay and no orgasm, which leaves you with an intense sense of annoyance.
You exit about 4 feet from where you entered, and the only thing close to a ride at the end of that dizzying line is a trash can in which you can attempt to vomit up your memory of that crappy thing you just did.
Here’s a picture showing off the most exhilarating moment of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House:
It’s the view you get of Space Mountain from the highest point of the Tree House. It’s not good when the best part of an attraction is when it offers the chance to look at a better attraction.
Smoking sections are the saddest place on Earth
As A Kid:
First off, for smokers like me, or rather, for former smokers like me, smoking sections count as an attraction. When you’re addicted to nicotine and are out in the modern day, public areas where you can legally smoke are few and far between. Any tiny sliver of land you’re allowed to smoke on is precious. As a kid roaming the Magic Kingdom, smoking sections were weird, alien places that people stood on to speed up their impending deaths, like standing over a health pack in a video game but in reverse. I didn’t get them, but the people in the smoking sections were always huddled off in a dark corner like they were some kind of exclusive group. But…
As An Adult:
Everyone in the smoking section looks pathetic and unhappy. While the rest of the park is loud and filled with wonder, for some reason every smoking section has all joy and fun sucked out of them, as if the smokers in the were locked in an impenetrable force field of depression. The closer you get the more all the joy and sound fades. In that sense, entering one is a lot like drowning. You expect to see all color drain from the world, reducing your surroundings to maudlin shades of grey, like you’re entering a frame from Schindler’s List. The smokers shuffle around aimlessly, tapping the ash off their cigarettes in the hope that a discarded napkin will accidentally catch fire and bring some color and excitement to this dreary existence. I never took a picture of one such section. There are also no pictures of the smoking areas online. If you are wondering why I or no one else on earth has photographic evidence of these areas, it’s for the same reason you never think to snap a selfie the moment you find out your dog died – why would you want to document such misery?
It’s A Small World looks like a warehouse filled with the construction paper art of children
As A Kid:
In all the times I had been to Magic Kingdom growing up, I never rode It’s A Small World. It’s an iconic ride that I had always heard wasn’t worth the wait, but its legend had taken root in my mind. I didn’t care if it wasn’t the most exciting ride in the park; I wanted to ride it to see for myself. So for years I built up this myth of It’s A Small World, imaging what could possibly be inside. I finally rode it at the age of 27.
As An Adult:
Turns out it’s one of the shoddier rides you’ll ever experience. As you enter a new room and see another tableau of creepy, doll-faced multicultural children you’re made very aware that you’re in a warehouse filled with all the construction paper art you thought your elementary school teacher threw away. It’s A Small World is the secret government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark but for hand turkeys and crayon drawings of your childhood murder fantasies. Did you ever use a box of Crayolas to stick-figure sketch your family when you were 5? That drawing has been turned into a Mexican kid holding hands with a Norwegian clown demon in a shelled-out Office Depot that somehow found its way into the middle of Disney World.
The ride’s overall message is one of peace and racial unity. After all, it’s a small world and we all live in it, so therefore we should all try to accept out differences. This message is obliterated by an attraction at the other end of the park because…
The Enchanted Tiki Room is a Relic of America’s Casually Racist Past
As A Kid:
I didn’t even know this thing excited when I was little, and I’m probably better off for it. You know when you watch a movie or show you loved as a kid and realize it’s terribly racist or homophobic or misogynistic? That’s the Enchanted Tiki Room.
As An Adult:
If I had experienced and enjoyed the Enchanted Tiki Room as a child, I would hate myself today for it. The attraction was created in 1963 and its casually offensive racial stereotypes reflect that. I’m Hispanic, but I’m generally oblivious or don’t care about things other Hispanics feel is offensive. Jose the Bird, the star and host of the Enchanted Tiki Room show, offended me in a kitschy, enchanting way. It’s Disney’s hallmark racism – you realize it’s offensive but it’s just so damn adorable. It’s racism that makes you go Awwwww. It’s a cute baby wearing a Klan hood.
You can watch the Mexican parrot being woken out of his sleep by a white person and told to get to work at this Youtube link.
The show feels like something only children from the early 60s would find entertaining. I can envision a moment during the next season of Mad Men, with Don out in LA, paying a visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland. In there, Don will have one of his contemplative moments of humanity in which he sees the racist birds talking and acts as the audience’s proxy for interpreting the cultural changes of the 1960s. He’ll see his kid’s faces sporting smiles and he’ll grow despondent. Then he’ll pity-f**k a dark-skinned Dominican girl because that’s how Don Draper heals racial wounds.
The happiest place on earth? That’s wherever you won’t find 5 More Creepy Squatters Living Where They Shouldn’t. But Disney can’t be held responsible if you disregard the Most Ignored Warning Labels on Earth.