The other day when I was reading CS Lewis’ essay On Stories, I remarked to Paul that Lewis would have loved Disneyland and hated Great America. He might have actually hated both, but in the essay he talks about how he dislikes the book The Three Musketeers because it’s all action with no setting: “The total lack of atmosphere repels me.” He contrasts this with the action set within the highly detailed setting of Toad Hall or Hrothgar’s court. It made me think of the difference between riding the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair and riding the Mad Hatter’s teacups at Disneyland; both will make you dizzy, but one is so much more memorable as it is set within the story of Alice in Wonderland, with “A very merry unbirthday, to you! To you!” playing in the background while you ride around and around in pretty pastel teacups embellished with hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. (Read Alice in Wonderland Ch. 7, The Mad Tea Party, and you will see the chapter it is loosely based on is more dizzying than the ride. “Up above the world you fly, Like a tea-tray in the sky…”) In the Disneyland version (vs the fair tilt-a-whirl), the actual action of the ride is almost secondary. I could be reading Lewis incorrectly, but it seems like that is what he is describing.
I love Disneyland for that reason and always find my visits there to be inspiring. Everything is well-designed and meticulously well-kept. It even seems as though people are more well-behaved in a setting that is held to such a high standard of quality. The only thing that would make it better would be to experience first-hand the Disneyland of the 50’s and 60’s. One time I came across someone’s pin on Pinterest for “Date Nite” at the park and I felt like I had been born in the wrong era. How fun would it be to go to Disneyland for the evening instead of the old dinner-and-a-movie? Also, I understand inflation has to be considered, but look at the price of the tickets for two!
I have a DVD called Walt Disney Treasures – Disneyland USA and one of the features on it is an episode of “The Wonderful World of Disney” from 1962 called “Disneyland After Dark.” It’s what I imagine Date Nite at Disneyland must have been like. I’m sure it wasn’t as spectacular on a regular basis, but it gives a glimpse of a theme park when the culture appeared a little classier (I’ve never worn heels and a dress to the park like the fine looking folks in the photo below). Actually, I think the photo is from a prom night so it’s probably not indicative of what people actually wore, though I still think people dressed up more. (As an aside, who knew Disneyland had a prom? Check out 2 Miss Mouses for more Disneyland prom photos that look to have been originally published in Life Magazine. Hint: they are cute.)
The “Disneyland After Dark” feature on the DVD is one of my favorite things to watch. The jokes are corny, but it has an all-star musical lineup with original Mouseketeers Annette Funicello and Bobby Rydell, the Osmond family, and, best of all, Monette Moore and Louis Armstrong. I found it on YouTube and have tried to embed it in this post. Hopefully it will work, but if it doesn’t you can view it here: Disneyland After Dark Episode. It is 45 minutes long, so if you don’t have the time, Annette and Bobby are at about 8:00, Monette Moore and Louis Armstrong at 22:00, and the Osmond Brothers at 36:00. I think it’s worth watching the whole episode though.