Friday, May 20, 2011

Last Night on Earth at Downtown Disney

In college, I recall some friends and I worked on a piecemeal screenplay that took place on the last night on Earth. I don't really remember if anyone else turned their pages in or not. All I recall about one of my sections was that it was called "An Expotition to the North Pole" in honor of the Winnie-The-Pooh story by AA Milne. Memories are hazy, but it was intended to be a sort of cheerful tale of people deciding that they would decide they'd found enlightenment because they didn't have a lot of time and this was probably good enough, what with the world ending and nobody around to judge, anyway, come tomorrow.

So there's, of course, some small possibility that we aren't going to make it past tomorrow. Or whatever random date in 2012 the Mayans predicted some Q-named serpent sun god would come and invoke Ragnarok or whatever. I don't know. I suspect that the folks making the prediction are incorrect, and if they did stumble upon their onw Da Vinci Code, I confess that I hope The Rapture doesn't happen until after 1:00 PM Central Time, because I should be back in Austin by then. Should it happen between 12:00 AM and 9:25 AM Eastern, I shall still be in Florida, and Orlando seems like an odd place to try to find yourself as the angels are summoning seven-headed, ten-horned beasts. Forget about being at a Holiday Inn just outside the Gates of The Happiest Place on Earth.

Of course, if it happens when I'm mid-flight, its going to be a curious thing to see when I come into the terminal at AIBA.

Disney has been splendid, despite my own failures. I forgot to pack shorts, and so when it hit 90-odd degrees in Florida today, I chose to forego wandering The Magic Kingdom. Also, I had to get some work done, so there was that until the mid-afternoon. I did, however, go to Downtown Disney, which I had been to before back in 2000.

I can't say Disney has changed a lot from what my dusty old Ryan 2000 files want to serve up, but that's okay. Part of the Disney Magic is that when you return every few years, they may have updated some effects or technology, or renamed a sandwich shop, but the place in basically the same place that you came when you were 7. Cinderella's Castle will still be waving its flag, and you can still buy a standard-issue Mickey Mouse doll at any of a thousand kiosks anywhere nearby.

Yes, of course Disney is here to make money, but I think its an interesting invention of the 20th Century, this selling of characters, of stories and experience, that so much can come from selling a feeling, embracing nostalgia, and hoping to make memories for yourself and your children. Its a corporate owned dream and idea factory, but its also given the World (if the multi-national visitors to Downtown Disney and in my hotel are any indication) a rare opportunity for shared iconography and touchstones. Yes, yes... corporate sponsored hegemony, but we're also not living in the world where Marco Polo explored trade routes and met exotic foreigners and mis-reported on them with wild and exaggerated tales. We're a mouseclick (no pun intended) away from a good chunk of the planet's population. And its not like Der Kommandant Mickey is jackbooting his way into homes or somehow corrupting perfectly pristine native cultures. He's a funny little mouse that people tend to like, and if that means families make secular pilgrimages to wear funny beanies with plastic ears attached, that ain't all bad.

I looked high and low for any sign of Uncle Scrooge at Downtown Disney and saw none. A bit of a bummer for me, but I understand that the popularity of the comics is extremely nichey in the US. I admit that when I wandered into an "Art of Disney" gallery, I looked for some work by Carl Barks or Don Rosa, but there was no sign of any of their stuff, which, frankly, I think would sell okay if they gave it a shot.

Also, I don't take this as any particular sign other than a secret crippling sanitation issue in the immaculately manicured landscape of Disney, but this is the third time I've been to a Disney resort area since 2000, and the third time I've seen an actual mouse just wandering about. This one was on the street just walking along when I was headed back from Downtown Disney, but in 2003 or so I saw a full-sized rat outside The Matterhorn at Disneyland. And I remember seeing a mouse outside at our resort in 2000. Maybe Disney just doesn't have the heart to take out the rodents on their properties?

Did I buy souvenirs? Oh, yes. I may be a bit cynical about some of Disney's "if there's a dollar to be made, we'll find a way to wring it out of you" practices at their parks, but I'm like everyone else. Who didn't grow up with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy? Despite three consecutive summers at The Disney Store, my interest may have dipped and flagged upon occasion, and I may have realized that there is a man behind the curtain, but I STILL WANT A MICKEY T-SHIRT. I haven't had one since I was a kid, so that situation is now remedied.

It shall be a shame if the secret and awesome t-shirt I bought Jamie does not make it to Austin, so let's hope that either there is no rapture or that my pilot doesn't pull a "Left Behind" on me somewhere 20,000 feet over Biloxi.

If there is a Rapture, those of you left behind, we'll begin the looting promptly at 7:00 PM. Also, I expect you'll still be able to use the internet, but only Microsoft may be left to run it (this joke was brought to you by the year 1998. HEY-YO!!!!)

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