July 17, 2009

Forever twenty-nine

Disneyland's twenty-fifth anniversary came twenty-nine years ago today. In my mind, it was the Park's greatest year. A time when Disneyland truly understood why it had been created and what it offered the world.

The Magic Kingdom then had what Walt called "that thing—the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement—I knew when I was a kid." Whatever that thing was, Walt found it in Marceline, Missouri. He said that more things of importance had happened to him in Marceline than he imagined ever could. What kinds of things could have happened in that small town to make such an impression on him? Even today, the population is only around 2,500.

Walt put that feeling into words at Disneyland's dedication. Age and youth. Fond memories. Challenge and promise. Those simple, timeless things became the hub around which Disneyland grew.

Now that it's grown into what it is today, of course, simple, timeless things are a lot harder to find anywhere, not just in Anaheim. That's why birthdays are so important. They're times to reflect and refocus on those timeless things, and Disneyland's birthdays are no exception. I think that's why Disneyland gave buttons or ribbons like this one to the Cast working those days: to celebrate what it was, and to rededicate itself to being the Happiest Place on Earth, the place where whatever that feeling of happy excitement is could always be found.

Finding simplicity and timelessness is easier when you know what you're looking for. Disneyland: The First Quarter Century provided some examples back in 1980:
A child examines the hitching posts that line an 1890 street and asks, "Mommy, what kind of parking meters are these?"

An elderly gentleman on the same street smiles happily and tells a bystander what he likes best about Disneyland—"I can jaywalk here!"

A young man aboard a "Mississippi" sternwheeler on a moonlit night seeks an introduction to a girl by asking, "Is this your first trip aboard?"
Some people today might scoff at those kinds of things as naive longings for a past that never was. But Walt found them in Marceline, and they were at Disneyland when I wore this ribbon. I saw them. If you were that child, that elderly gentleman, or that young couple watching the pin lights twinkling from stem to stern as the Mark Twain pulled away from her landing, I'll bet that you saw them too.

On July 17, we're all entitled to celebrate that feeling of happy excitement we knew as kids who grew up in the Disneyland that used to be. So happy birthday.

And many happy returns.

July 11, 2009

Show Biz (was)

Back when the Space Stage sat under the speedramp to Space Mountain, a fantastic song-and-dance revue called Show Biz Is! played during Disneyland's summer season.

Signing back into the Park after a summer day shift, I would often catch the show. The Space Stage was a terrific venue, and Show Biz Is! was one of the Magic Kingdom's last great live entertainment offerings. As I remember, it was at least a half-hour long. A cast of about twenty performers showcased Hollywood, Broadway, and music in a flurry of costume and set changes.

Jack Wagner announced each cast member as the show ended, and each took a bow with some inventive move. Almost thirty years after, I'm sorry to say that I've lost everyone's name except for Kimber Elston. If you've got a kid who thinks he or she can dance, follow this link and look her up for some lessons.

The other performers were fabulous, too. I can remember the numbers (songs from The Fantasticks, The Pajama Game, Singin' in the Rain, and many more), but their names have disappeared from my mind like the Space Stage from Tomorrowland. Somehow, though, I think that sitting on one of those blue benches as the curtain went up on a show like this would bring them all back. I sure wish that Disneyland would.