Friday, February 06, 2009

I Heart Disney World

I have a problem. My problem is that I really do enjoy going to Orlando, Florida to the theme park resorts. It's embarrassing because so many other people hate it or think it is shallow and cold and represents all that is wrong with the world.

What could an intelligent grown man with no children see in such a place? Well, let me try to explain.

Ever since I was a little kid, I've been kind of obsessed with artificial worlds. There's nothing that I love more than outside inside. It may have started when I first saw Logan's Run. The idea of a domed city, of pools and lakes and plants all indoors, of giant ceilings and lights and conditioned air, blew my mind. I don't know what the appeal is actually, but I found myself, when watching the movie, and later the television series, more interested in the architecture and the design and the feeling of the place than I was in the actual story.

When I got older, I developed the same obsession for malls. I didn't care about the stores. I went to malls to get a taste of that domed-city sensation. I like to be tricked into feeling like I am somewhere that I am not. It's been the same way with museums and their artificial worlds. I've always loved the fake outdoors dioramas in the natural history section, or the man-made starry skies at the planetarium. Movie theaters have a touch of that as well with their cool lighting and high ceilings. I love the Christmas section at Yankee Candle Company in Deerfield, MA. I don't care about the ornaments or the sales or the candles, but I love the fake snow out the windows and the sound of trains and dogs barking in the distance. I get lost in the artificial trees and the ceiling that looks like the sky. I just eat that stuff up. Maybe it's the closest you can come to being awake in a dream-world, without hallucinogenics.

The resorts in Orlando are huge versions of these artificial dream worlds. There might not be a dome over the place, but the warm evening skies of Florida sometimes can make it feel like there is. When I am there, the rest of the world simply disappears. Again, I'm not interested in Mickey Mouse or the thrill rides or the souvenir stores, I am just looking for a dream-world to disappear into. When I walk around these places, I am wide-eyed and lost like a little kid. I'm aware of the huge money sucking machines around me, I see the product placements and flashing advertisements, but my desire for other-worldliness manages to let them just fade away, sort of like how I can feel my sleeves on my arm, but only if I make myself aware of them. I acknowledge the screaming kids and the lines of cattle-like people. I accept the feed-trough snack bars and the brash commercialism of the place. All of that pales in comparison to the magic that I see around me. I stroll around or sit on a bench beneath a bottom-lit palm tree and gaze out at the lights and details and I marvel at the imagination and work that went into it all.

Maybe everyone can do this, but I've always felt that I had a pretty good ability to let my mind ruminate on the craft that goes into something while at the same time allowing myself to get lost in the thing itself. I'm that way with music and movies. I can be fully immersed emotionally in a song while at the same time noting with wonder the perfect sound of, say, an electric piano, or the great placement of a tom drum. In movies, I can, at the same time be caught up in the drama of a scene while noting the smooth steady-cam tracking that the director has used. I'm the same way at these theme parks and resorts. I can be strolling through the Asia section of Animal Kingdom, feeling entirely like I am in a far-away exotic place and simultaneously pointing out the way that they designed the pathways for optimal crowd movement. I just eat that stuff up.

I've always been interested in alternate versions of reality. Drawing, photography, and song recording are all attempts at capturing moments and presenting them in a contained new reality. I've always felt that movies are the ultimate expression of creativity, because they contain and combine music, audio, story-telling, photography, acting, design and filming together. To me, being in the resort-worlds of Orlando is like being inside one of those movies.

So, Lesa and I are planning our next vacation and we've been running over different ideas. But, we keep coming back to Orlando. We've been on other vacations, we've gone to the ocean, to the cities, to the mountains and they are all great. But at none of them can we remove ourselves as completely from our normal every-day lives as we can in the Wonderful World of Disney. When we are there, all there is is that place. There is no real world. I'm told that it is the same on cruises. However, I am scared to be stuck on a big ship for a week when I don't know how it will effect my inner-ear. Las Vegas is similar, also, but there is a bit more touch of the real world there and it ends up taking a lot of money from you - it's a bit more cynical feeling. Just a touch.

So, I don't know. We might go back. I know it's crazy to many people. A lot of you can't understand how we can do it. You think of Disney World and you think of screaming babies and cartoon characters taking your money and a big evil corporation shaking you down and sucking out your soul. I think of warm breezes and hanging paper lanterns, I think of flowers and fireworks, or giant torches reflecting in a lake, of boats carrying people up winding canals beneath pelicans and eagles, of music playing in the bushes in manicured gardens, of warm swimming pools with waterfalls and tiki bars, of long carpeted hotel hallways, crazy architecture, stunning designs, awesome light-fixtures, haunted houses, dinosaur worlds, animals everywhere, ice-cream cones, laser shows, and an overall blurred feeling of forgetting the real world.

Don't make fun of me.


winterpills said...

i love you.

Rick said...

Try Vegas. Seriously.

ina said...

Well, blogger said "duplication error" so I'll try again (if I can remember what I wrote)...

Thank you for such a lovely post.

I've always felt that movies are the ultimate expression of creativity, because they contain and combine music, audio, story-telling, photography, acting, design and filming together.

This sentence is lifted, nearly verbatim, from my college application essay :-)


When I told my father that I was pregnant with my older daughter, the first thing he said to me was, "You mean I'm gonna get to have someone to take to Disneyland?!?"

Happy vacationing!

Julie said...

That's OK Henning. I first went to WDW in 1976 and remember buying a lot of "C" tickets for the Mad Tea Party. Then I honeymooned there, and made a few trips in the next five years. We finally decided to pack up and follow a dream - we've now worked here for the past 15 years. One of the best decisions we ever made! Come on down!

Henning said...

Thanks everyone.

Rick, we went to Vegas in September and I loved it. But like I said, it's still got a touch of the real world in it. We're definitely going back though.

Julie, thank you. We ARE going back. Staying at Animal Kingdom thanks to the great deals right now. I think that is really cool that you moved down there to "follow your dream". Not many people do that.

debl said...

I feel the same way about WDW, except I ALSO like riding the rides (well, the ones I have judged worthy of my time). When I'm there I study and analyze how everything is designed to manipulate you a certain way, while simultaneously enjoying being manipulated. It's like getting totally engrossed in a movie, while also noticing the set design/ cinematography/special effects. Which you kind of said already.

I do kind of miss not finding out what rides/ new areas/ hotels are on the way. Now my life is all cupcakes and felt...

Henning said...

Debl, I DO like the rides, too. I don't like the jostly or spinny ones but there a lot of them that I really like. They are just not the MAIN attraction for me.