Monday, July 18, 2005

Meet Mickey !

July 10,2005
It was the time when Dooradharshan use to rule TV in India and like many; I used to wait eagerly for the Mickey Mouse Show. It was fascinating to watch Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Goofy and Donald Duck. Many of us grew watching Mickey & his wonderful gang.

I was standing at the entrance of Disney Land and thinking about that wonderful time…

Disneyland, the famous amusement park in Los Angeles started by Walt Disney in 1955 and which now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Home to many legendary characters and place for fun and fantasy.

The Sunday was slowly waking up and the crowd was pouring into Disneyland. By 9 we were inside the Disney Park. The main entrance led to Main Street, U.S.A, a long street of shops & building which were looking like from early 1900 days. There was a colorful orchestra band playing in the street. As we traversed through this colorful street, came across a square where the “Partners” stood. Partners is the nick name given to Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.

An interesting anecdote how Disney came across the idea of his amusement park …
Walt Disney had been to an amusement park, sitting idle on a bench, watching his daughters play; he noticed how ragged and filthy the small amusement park was. He also observed people's reactions to different rides, and noticed how children's parents had nothing to do. They would be anxious to go home, while their children were still having fun, and playing. So he came up with something where both parents and most importantly children have fun.

I was standing in front of partners who virtually ruled the cartoon world for decades. There was ‘Sleeping Beauty Castle” standing right behind the statue. This building shown in the beginning or end of Disney TV shows/movies with “Buenos Vista Production” is familiar with the viewers.

Disneyland is divided into Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland , Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, Mickey's Toontown and Critter Country.

We entered into Frontierland which is supposed to relive the pioneer days of the American frontier. The Frontierland had Thunder Mountain, Mark Twain Ship & Tom Sawyers Island. Thunder mountain Rail road was too much resist and we took the indoor/outdoor roller coaster based on the concept of a runaway train careening through an abandoned mine complex.

Fantasyland was the next land visited. We moved to Peter Pan’s ride, Toad’s ride and Snowwhite’s ride which were more suitable for kids. “It’s a Small World” was the name of a beautiful ride through puppets which represent various cultures and regions of world. There were puppets dressed in Indian costumes dancing in front of Taj Mahal. It was like a quick glance through many colorful costumes of different countries.

Visiting Disneyland without visiting Mickey and gang is not feasible. So we moved to Toontown, the place where Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy & Pluto live. Met Goofy & Pluto. There was a queue to meet Minnie. After a wait was in Minnie’s house & met the Mickey’s lover gal. Walt Disney never would have imagined that his mouse character would one day become a legendary character. To prove that legendary point was a big queue to meet Mickey. After roaming in Mickey’s house & a little long wait met Mickey in the greenroom of his house.

A quick lunch at Toontown was followed by the monorail ride, which was one of Disneyland’s signature rides. The monorail took us from Tomorrowland to Disney Downtown and back. This ride provides a quick preview of things in Disneyland.
We were back in Fantasyland to take ride through Matterhorn Bobsled. There were few persons doing a hiking of this 140 feet mountain. I heard sometimes Mickey & other characters also try to climb this mountain. This was a way paying tribute to former Disney president Frank Wells, who climbed mountains as a hobby and who was tragically killed in a helicopter accident. The rollercoaster here was the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world. Though it was thrilling it never was so much gasping. May be I’m used to bigger thrills!

After a bumpy ride I met Aerial, the mermaid character. The gal in mermaid costume was really pretty J Glanced through Tomorrowland attractions like Astro-Orbitor. It was now time to get into some adventure and so we were in Adventureland.

Probably this was the land with larger crowds than any other lands. We entered into the Indiana Jones adventure, a ride based on the Indiana Jones movie. (Indiana Jones movies were directed by some famous directors like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg). In the ride we played the role of tourists in 1935, who visit the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, which is supposedly located somewhere in India. The ride was one of the best rides in the park and it was truly exciting to escape from a falling boulder and snakes.

We climbed and walked through Tarzan’s tree house. It was nearing 3’o clock which meant it was time for ‘Parade’. The Parade is the most anticipated event in the park where all the Disney characters walk through the streets of Disneyland in a colorful procession. Visitors had already thronged both sides of street everywhere.

The ‘parade of dreams’ as it was called, began with a procession of several Disney characters. Nice dance steps to a wonderful foot-tapping music followed it. Then followed marriots who were swinging in the rope. This was followed by Lion king and his group, which was followed by Snow white & 7 dwarfs. Pluto and Goofy entertained the crowd. Finally, came the grand daddy of all, ‘Mickey Mouse’ with his gal friend Minnie.

After the parade we went back to Adventureland to continue our adventure. Got into Jungle Cruise, this was a humorous boat ride, hosted by a ‘skipper’ who took us on a journey through the jungles of Asia, Africa and South America. There was piranha attack scene & Gorilla wrecking scene. During the ride also came across our ‘Ganesha’ in a forest part of Asia. I was wondering what our Ganesha was doing there!

There was “Enchanted Tiki Room” which housed a Hawaiian-themed musical show "hosted" by four lifelike macaws. The presentation featured a "cast" of over 150 talking, singing and dancing birds, flowers, a "magic" fountain, tiki drummers that performed the attraction's signature tunes. Only thing which I didn’t understand was why they located that attraction in Adventureland!

Checked into New Orlean square to ride with ‘Pirates of Caribbean’. That looked like yet another ride to me. We quickly moved to Critter Country and its main draw was ‘Splash Mountain’. After going through the longest waiting time we came to know why ‘Splash Mountain’ was so popular. A 52-and-a-half foot drop (the largest in the park) at a 45 degree angle was too thrilling.

As we were running out of time, we ended the Disneyland tour. As I was coming out of the park, something which I read about the opening day of Disneyland splashed in my mind.

“Opening day, was a day to remember. Six thousand invitations to the Grand Opening had been mailed. By mid-afternoon over 28,000 ticket holders were storming the Magic Kingdom. Most of the tickets were counterfeit.

Walt Disney was 53 when he dedicated Disneyland Park. It was a memorable ceremony. There in Town Square, Walt could look around and see the fulfillment of his hopes, dreams, and ambitions in the form of a spectacular entertainment kingdom.

Opening Day was a terrible disaster. Heat wave raised temperatures up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, due to a plumbers strike, few water fountains were operating in the hot weather. Asphalt still steaming, because it had been laid the night before, literality "trapping" high heeled shoes. After opening day, the heat wave continued, and almost wiped out the park.”

Initial hiccups and failures didn’t deter Disney much. It was not yet another amusement park. It was a dream of a man who was determined to create a dreamland.

50 years later, it still stands there as a mark of American dream...

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