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June 25, 2002

More Disneyland Musings

The positive side of Disneyland for Kelly is of course the Fantasy: the breakfast with Disney characters at Goofy's Kitchen, the dinner with more Disney characters at Avalon Cove, the rides like Dumbo and King Triton's Carousel and the Orange Stinger.

The positive side for me, where it exists, is in what I've been calling social engineering. This is all the infrastructure and activities designed to keep crowds of people moving, satisfied, cheerful. In long lines, there is often some visual distraction to pass the time, a 'side-story' for the ride playing on monitors, animatronic tableau, a view of other rides, whatever. Often, the line is broken up into 'outside' and 'inside' so you don't have to see the line stretching unbroken into the distance.

In parades there are clear breaks between attractions so that pedestrians can cross the street without waiting for the entire parade to pass by. One parade I witnessed at Paradise Pier in the California Adventure illustrates some of the continuous, subtle application of technology in the aid of this social engineering. This parade was composed of several segments with varying musical themes. There was classical Chinese, American Pop, jazz and so on.

As each 'themed' part of the parade passed by, it's musical accompaniment swelled to fill the air, displacing the last. Each of these musical themes seemed to have the same metre as the last, and the blending was seamless. I found out later from a 'cast member' that each float at the center of a themed section of the parade carries a radio transmitter. The transmitter sends a signal to the speakers which line the parade route. As the signal from the transmitter gets stronger, it overrides the signal from an earlier float, and the music for that float begins to dominate the speakers at that particular location. Supercool!

Still, I'm a curmudgeon, and observing the subtle and unsubtle applications of social engineering lasts one only so long. Our trip ended none too soon for me. All the standing in line and walking at one-third speed with the random shuffle surrounded by milling crowds takes it's toll on my back. Jean asked Kelly if we should stay longer next time, and Kelly said yes. I told her that one more day would have seen me lying on the hotel bed with a heating pad in the small of my back.

While I made time for myself to try out some of the 'grown-up' rides, I guess I'm just not into amusement parks any more. I rode the faux Coney Island roller coaster, California Screamin', and while I got satisfactorily jostled and disoriented, it was pretty much, "so what?" While others were screaming and flailing their hands, I was just sitting quietly with a small smile on my face. I guess it's pretty much a 'make your own fun' sort of thing.

I rode Space Mountain, mainly to see if I thought Kelly would like it. I don't think she's ready for careening through nearly pitch black spaces in an invisible roller coaster, so I didn't suggest it. My reaction was the same ho-hum attitude. Star Tours was amusing, but more for what a ride simulator can do than for the actual attraction.

So Jean is talking about this being a yearly event and I'm replying "it doesn't have to be every year, surely?" In any case, the scenario we talked about last year but didn't do now seems likely: Jean and Kelly ride down to John Wayne Airport with me when I go to Anime Expo next year, and they take the shuttle to Anaheim, while I take the shuttle to Long Beach. At the end of AX, instead of taking the shuttle back to the airport, I take one to Anaheim and join them for a day or two at Disneyland before we all fly back together. That way, Kelly gets several days at Disneyland (Anime Expo is a four day convention) and I get spared burning out on Disney before she does.

Posted by dpwakefield at June 25, 2002 03:19 PM