April 17, 2011

Stop-motion animation

In the old days before annual passes, leaving Disneyland at the end of an exhausting but wonderful trip was like carrying an anvil all the way down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A.

Once Jack Wagner intoned that the Magic Kingdom had ended its normal operating day, a slow tide of humanity began sweeping you along toward Town Square and the parking lot beyond. No more time to scramble around Tom Sawyer's Island, explore liquid space, or sail with the wildest crew that ever sacked the Spanish main. Step by step, you moved along, the distance between you and the family car decreased, and the time until the next visit seemed too vast to comprehend.

As a balloon vender in the 80's on Main Street while the current of guests flowed slowly around me, I was one stopping point before the portals leading back into the "real world." Like drifting leaves against a rock, guests would collect, asking for a red one, blue, two yellows and a pink—whatever colors of helium-filled Mickey Mouse magic appealed most. With the transaction completed, the current swept them away, outside the berm and into the Anaheim night.

The other stopping points were called Guides I and II, the souvenir stands at either side of Town Square. These little places were less than shops, but they were stocked with all kinds of Disneyland items. If balloon venders were rocks in the river of humanity draining out of the Park, the stands were more like fallen logs. Eventually the drifting flotsam swept by, but it took longer to get around the obstacle.

Postcards (five cents each) spun in racks out front. Stuffed characters lined the back walls. The counters held pinback buttons, charm bracelets, pencil cases, suckers, push puppets, key chains, spoons, ash trays, salt and pepper shakers, thimbles, playing cards, bumper stickers, those liquid-filled pens that had the monorail, or a Skyway bucket, or the Mark Twain gliding along on a piece of clear plastic, pennants...

and flip books like the one above, in which Pluto chases his tail as the pages fall. I think that it cost about a dollar. A classic little handful of Disney animation. It stopped me on the way home, nearly forty years ago, then drifted out of the main gate turnstile with me.

I probably fell asleep watching it in the back of the car on the long freeway ride home. I'm about to do almost the same thing now—with the same happy feeling as I watch the drawings start to come alive.