Thoughts On The Magic Kingdom, Pt. 1

One end of Main Street is wider than the other. The buildings are taller too. This causes a perspective shift that makes you feel like you have to walk further than you do, makes you feel like you are really going someplace. The names of the men who helped create the magic kingdom adorn the windows of the old-timey buildings (modeled after uncle Walt’s recollections of his childhood hometown). The genuine gas-lanterns, which light the street, are over one hundred and fifty years old, purchased by Walt at an auction in Baltimore for two cents a pound.

I thought of these things as I entered Disney Land for the second time in my conscious life. The trepidation (and frankly, dread) I felt as my family slowly drove across the Oregon/Nevada/California desert rapidly began to melt. Yeah, I admit it; I got caught up into the moment. Maybe it was the fact that the Muppet Show theme was playing as we went in, or that Mickey was posing with little kids just inside the gates, but something got me smiling and ready to run to our first ride.

Because our traditional first ride, “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln” (a practice imparted to us by my friend Cam’s dad) was closed, I was forced to figure out another first ride. It had to be something that was fun, exciting and otherworldly enough to really get our “happiest place on earth” engines running. After mulling it over in the car, I had decided on that old stand-by, “Star Tours.” Great because it’s not just a thrill ride like the Matterhorn or Space Mountain, but because it really does do the job of “transporting you to another world.”

After walking through a rather entertaining line that features the antics of C3PO and R2D2 and half a dozen fake travel commercials for planets in the Star Wars galaxy, you enter a pretend sight-seeing space ship destined for the forest moon of Yavin. The video screen drops down giving you the “view” of the front “windshield” (is it a windshield in space?), and the room jerks and jostles, simulating the moves of the ship. It’s reminiscent of those “vr” rides in the mall, except it’s really good. My favorite part is the guy who ducks down behind his desk as your ship skids into the hanger. Instead of looking like a guy who just escaped death, he looks annoyed. Like “that dumb droid is at it again.”

Probably the most genius part about Star Tours (although the technology behind it is pretty genius, still holding up after the twenty some years its been in existence) is the way it sells stuff to you. Immediately after exiting the ride you find yourself in a small room crammed to the brim with merchandise. This is a pretty familiar pattern across the park (and in other parks), excite you, and then dump you someplace where you can buy stuff. But while other rides do it with success (like Tower of Terror or Indiana Jones) Star Tours does it perfectly.

They get you amped up with the feeling of being in Star Wars (by this time, you’ve been surrounded by Star Warsy-type stuff for at least half-an-hour, if not significantly longer) and then they offer you a chance to build your own light saber and digitally insert your photo next to Jar Jar Binks. Disney is all about taking you to another world, showing you adventure and beauty and excitement, but it all serves to lull you into an almost altered state of mind, specifically designed to get you to buy stuff. This I realized as I stepped off of Star tours, and headed towards our next destination.

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