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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters

by Jayne Sharratt

When youıre a child and your parents tell you youıre going to Disneyland the next day, Iım told by a fairly reliable Californian source, itıs like the night before Christmas. That is, you canıt sleep but you desperately want to, or how can you ever wake up and go? He explains to me that Disneyland to a child is as exciting as something really exciting. Itıs easy to forget the figure of the genuinely overawed and excited child when we write about Disneyland. When Disneyland was launched in California in 1955, the concept was to cater to the imagination of children, and assume that parents would pay. Now Disney reflects the claim that children have become more sophisticated, while adults more child-like. So it is Œthe happiest place on earthı, a magic kingdom where adults can revisit childhood again, alongside their children.

Going to Disneyland is like being taken by the hand and told in a gentle whisper to forget anything that might be troubling you because youıre entering a different world now, and for one day none of that nasty reality stuff will matter. You will be reminded how fabulous and wondrous childhood can be, (whether you like it or not). There is certainly a dark side to Disneyland. Any visitor can be aware of the manipulation they undergo as soon as they enter the Park. Cast members and staff have perma-grinıs, there is a conspiracy to make you spend as much money as possible, and rumour has it that a secret network of tunnels connects all parts of the Park for security, and there is always someone watching you. It is true that the characters appear and disappear mysteriously, apparently into solid walls. Behind the imaginative facades and wholesome atmosphere is rampant capitalism. The rooms of Club 31, a secretive and expensive private club, are hidden above the street in New Orleans Square, the only place in Disney where you can get an alcoholic drink. A determination to be cynical, however, can fail spectacularly. When I arrive at Disneyland, I am not hungover, but my friend is, and I do feel jaded after cancelling the cards I lost on Sunset Boulevard the night before. Altogether I am not immediately in tune with the wholesome, happy family stuff. The rides beguile me. The likes of Indiana Jones and the Pirates of the Caribbean show imagination and attention to detail in their design.

The truth is that cynicism is pointless in the face of fairy tales turned into reality. Disneyland is for children. Anyone who secretly feels that childhood is wasted on children should go to Disneyland and see the looks of excitement and wonder on their faces. First stop on our tour is Space Mountain, from which Sean emerges several shades paler. It isnıt one of the rides recommended for those under the age of twelve, or anyone feeling slightly delicate for that matter. I am cheerful enough to remind him of some of his excesses the night before. Buying stamps the man taking my money jokes, ³Youıre not from around here, are you?² Disney staff are divided loosely into those who take their work seriously, and the cynical comedianıs. This is highlighted by the Jungle Book River Boat Cruise. Our first jungle guide has a horrific fake English accent and is stunningly without irony. A later guide is more cynical than even Sean could have wished for. He explains that to get the full River Boat experience, you should get four total strangers into a very small car, two of whom canıt speak English and one of whom doesnıt want to be there and drive around a neighbourhood block continuously for eight hours while telling the same two jokes, over and over again. When he learns it is our second tour of the day he looks pitying and blank. ³Why?² He asks. The queues can be nightmarish - imagine waiting two hours in the sun, only to find the ride has broken down when you get there. In one line a girl of about fourteen turned to me after Iıd been speaking on the cell phone. ³Are you from England? I can tell.² After some polite preamble about a trip she had been on to Britain, she warmed to the real point she wanted to make. ³And the boys there, theyıre so hot!² ³Um, are they?² I ask. She nods with enthusiasm. ³No offence,² she says to Sean, ³But American men are soooo ugly. English boys are awesome. And their accents are so cute.² I assure her that the novelty does wear off, while Sean just looks horrified.

In another queue, a small boy of about four is rushing ahead of us, while his parents keep calling him back. They explain how he has looked forward to this all week. He is excited by everything he sees and canıt wait to get on the ride. It is at this level that Disneyland should be appreciated. We make sure that we have been on all the big rides, although Sean point blank refuses to take me on ŒItıs a small worldı (The most annoying song in the world). I insist on going to Sleeping Beautyıs castle, where I spy Cinderella. I am determined to get her autograph for my seven year old cousin Jenna. For a while I hold back, letting children go first, but it becomes clear that as soon as one child has finished their audience, another will appear, and I am afraid that at any moment she may disappear into air, or to prepare for her role in the parade. Sean pushes me forward, ³Be assertive.² I explain hurriedly that it is for my cousin, and I get the full force of Cinderellaıs twinkling smile. Sean is only sorry she wasnıt Snow White, his own personal favourite fairy tale princess. The finale is the firework display at night, best viewed from Main Street, over the fairy tale castle. It is a magical spectacle which leaves the visitor with a lasting impression of awe and sweeps away memories of annoyances in the heat of the day. As Tinkerbelle flies from Magic Mountain to Sleeping Beautyıs castle a musical voice tells us that if we make a wish, our dreams can come true. It could be argued Disney has fettered childish imaginations - why would they want to invent anything when they can go to fairyland and see Tinkerbelle fly. I only think Disneyland may be at the most a once a year treat for most children, and must act in the modern world as a stimulant, much as fairytaleıs in story books have always done.

There is a lot to disapprove of about the Disney Corporation, but my only real regret is that I didnıt get to visit when I was seven years old. Covered in sugar dust from donutıs, gazing up at fireworks in a starry sky, I crossed my fingers and made a secret wish.
Jayne Sharratt İ 2000

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