After the thrills of Universal Studios, I was ready for “the happiest place on earth.” For a lot of Filipinos, the US = Disneyland = Mickey Mouse. But more than Mickey Mouse, I grew up with the Disney princesses— Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. At last, I was going to meet them and I was going to be happy! In the words of a Lonely Planet writer, if Disneyland fails to make you happy, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.
In spite of the summer crowd crush, the long lines at popular rides, and the food prices, I was ready to be happy. After all, my ticket was free courtesy of Jeff.
A Year of a Million Dreams. Sounds like the tag line of a supermarket promo back home. But for the family that won a stay at the Disney Resort and was featured at the kick-off of the Main Street parade in the evening, it did make a lot of sense.
First stop was the Indiana Jones show which was fun to watch together with all the kids. The sets were cute and Indiana Jones did look like Indiana Jones. We then went on an cruise on a river that was supposed to be a combination of all the great rivers of the worlds. There were animals, foliage, and some monuments. But the fun mostly came from the antics of the river guide, a big woman khaki-clad women with blond locks. I am really amazed at the energy and enthusiasm of the people working who seem to really internalize what they’re doing. You don’t actually feel they’re putting on a show for you. It must be tiring to be doing that day in and day out. The more enjoyable tour was the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride that took us on a slow river cruise on recreated sets featuring scenes from the movie.
So You Think You Can Ride
After conquering the ride at Universal, I took it that Disney’s would be peanuts. That it would be less gravity-defying. Since the Mummy Ride, I have learned all there is about gravity, force, pressure, and the capacity for the human body to experience all these at the same time in less than 3 minutes while letting out the longest and loudest primeval scream you could every give in your entire life.Since Disney is a place for kids, I expected the rides to be tame. What I had forgotten is that kids nowadays have turned into mutants that could back flip as soon as they are born. In short, you could put them on a roller coaster ride from hell and they could be bored to tears.
Disneyland is not really quite as cute as it seems to be. Amidst all those smiling princesses and fairy tale castles lurk some pretty scary rides (at least for a theme park scaredy cat like me) which I found out. The 4×4 Indiana Jones ride looked harmless. But about 10 seconds into it, I was clutching my seat as we were shaken, rattled, and swished around on jeep that was simulating passing on an unbelievably pot-holed and rocky terrain. What I was most proud of was the Matterhorn Tobogan. I even raised my arms a bit on some sharp turns too look fashionably cool. But the mother of all screams was Space Mountain. It was ride like no other and I came off the car with my legs really shaking. We climbed a steep ascent as the door opened and an electronic voice went on a countdown, “3 – 2 – 1” and for 3 excruciating minutes, we just zoomed among the stars. I swear, I never screamed as loud!
Parade of My Childhood
But the most memorable Disney experience for me didn’t involve being strapped to a seat. It was sitting at the pavement late in the afternoon and saying “Hi” to the Disney characters during the Main Street Parade. As each character passed by, I saw before me snapshots of my childhood. I have always loved stories when I was a little boy and these were some of the characters in my stories. Goofy, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and of course, Mickey and Minnie brought back my childhood. By the time the Disney princesses—Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella rolled in just after Snow White, I was ready to burst into tears. I was a kid again! At that moment, I felt I was living my dreams.
Jeff and I didn’t stay for the electric parade nor the fireworks. After some souvenir shopping, we were out of the park and back to reality. Disneyland is a place I would go back to. It may sound crappy. But not so many places allow you to go back to years of your childhood and reclaim it once again.