How to Have Fun

If there is one thing I need out of life, it’s to be useful. I give my time to AIGA, teach at Art Center, write books, and let people in when they are merging in traffic. All of these, however, are irrelevant in comparison to my useful tips for visiting Disneyland. I’m not interested in programs or books that help guest plan every minute of a day for maximum efficiency. If I wanted maximum efficiency I would vacation at a German auto factory. I don’t understand why anyone would want to race from one attraction to the next, watching the clock and screaming at the kids if they fall behind schedule. It’s supposed to be fun. So here are my tips:

1. Never, ever, ever, enter or leave an area when a parade ends. If you are in the middle of Main Street and the parade ends, do not move. You will be swept up into the crowd; you may lose the hand of your child or friends. This is as foolish as trying to calmly cross the street during a mass exodus from a burning theater. Find a quiet spot in a store and wait. It will only take 5-10 minutes for the masses to disperse.

2. Get a FastPass as soon as you enter the park. You don’t need to run screaming toward Space Mountain. You can return at a reasonable time and pass all the guests in line who have no patience or sense of pre-planning. FYI, the FastPass system has been on a grid not shared by all parks. So you can get a FastPass for Soarin’ Over California and one for Indiana Jones at the same time. Rumor has it that Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is on a grid all by itself.

3. Do not eat everything because you are at Disneyland. I hear this excuse often, “Oh, it’s fine. I can have the popcorn, frozen banana, and corn dog at the same time. I’m at Disneyland.” Wrong. The location will not prevent an upset stomach from over-indulgence. And, as I learned the hard way, you will gain weight if you use this excuse, have an Annual Passport, and visit each weekend.

4. Pay attention to guest capacity on attractions. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Little Mermaid have a system that is in constant motion. The line will move quickly. Dumbo starts and stops, and can only handle the number of guests on the attraction. The line will move slowly.

5. If there is a line, relax. You probably don’t have an imminent meeting or doctor appointment. It’s okay to wait for a few minutes and catch your breath.

6. Do not beat your children. This seems obvious, but how often have you seen the frustrated parent shaking the poor child, “You better stop crying and start having fun! Do you know how expensive this is?” The good thing about children is their mood swings. They aren’t like adults who hang on to being angry or sad. They’re crying and then five minutes later, laughing. And you don’t want to be the parent people stare at as they pass.

7. Go to the empty line. If a line is open, it’s open. If a cashier is sitting with no line, they aren’t closed. Everyone just assumes the line might be closed and doesn’t want to appear to cut. If there are two cues for an attraction and one is empty, it’s not closed; people are simply easily confused. Here’s a tip, if you want a pineapple swirl at the Tiki Juice Bar, use the line inside the Enchanted Tiki Room patio. Remember, the pushy bird gets the worm.

8. Avoid Adventureland if you need to get to New Orleans Square. The layout is dense and traffic patterns are tight. Go through Frontierland. The street is wider and people aren’t standing in the path, mystified by the idea of Bengal Barbecue skewers.

9. I like to eat at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante for Mexican food, or Stage Door Café for chicken fingers. If the patio at Stage Door is too crowded, take your tray to del Zocalo. It’s okay; you can move your food from one restaurant to another. There are no alarms if you step over the boundary with your turkey leg. In fact, we’ve often all gone separate ways and brought everything back to the Plaza Inn to eat.

10. Remain calm. This isn’t a test. God is not judging you if you don’t do every attraction. The point is to enjoy yourself. Take rests, sit on a bench on Main Street and eat some popcorn. It’s okay to only ride the Disneyland Railroad and Mark Twain, eat lunch, and wander.

One last suggestion is to watch the flag retreat ceremony on Main Street. It happens at Town Square in front of the train station late afternoon. I might be corny, but it’s pretty wonderful to see the salute to the armed services, national anthem, and lowering of the flag for the day.

Pictorial Souvenir Discourse Analysis

It’s amazing to me when I meet another Los Angeleno who has never been to Disneyland. Are the communists? Did they grow up with abusive and cruel parents who built a Carrie closet? Do they hate the idea of fun? Of course, they typically tell me “It’s not my kind of thing.” Or, “I don’t understand the attraction of contemporary mass market spectacle.” Boring, boring people.

When I was a kid, I had a copy of “Disneyland, a pictorial souvenir”. I know every detail of every image. The images paint such a nice story of a lazy day with family, rock and roll fun with teens, and exciting (but not overly exciting) adventures. When I looked through this recently, I began to decode the images. Yes, OCD, yes geeky, yes, too much emphasis on deconstruction in art school. I found several running themes.

1. Old people and People with hats.

Hats signify an exciting time. There are many matching hats on old people and kids. Old people let us know that Disneyland can be enjoyed by everyone. I know this is true. I've been there with my grandparents. Although they preferred that we visit each land in a counter-clockwise direction and never jump between sides of the park.

2. Nuns

There are nuns all over the place in the Disneyland visual landscape. They show up on preliminary sketches, and in souvenir books. I don't think there is any hidden religious subtext. This has more to do with the supposed cruelty of nuns who slam rulers on Catholic school children. Nuns are not thought of as carefree, anything goes, kinds of women.


3. Blurry motion

These say “speed.” Disneyland can be a crazed, fast paced, and thrilling place. Everything is fast: a hip dance scene in Tomorrowland, Rocket Jets, America the Beautiful Circlevision, the Peoplemover, and the Mad Tea Party Teacups. The Teacups are, and Rocket Jets (now the Astro Orbitor) were, indeed, too fast for me. All that spinning. But the Peoplemover and Circlevision were fairly slow paced. This was good. The Peoplemover had a hard fiberglass interior. I would not want to be in a Peoplemover whipping around the bend that fast, slammed against the hard seat, or in a Circlevision theater with guests throwing up.


4. Leg details

From a child’s point of view this must be what Disneyland looks like. These tell us that cast members are cleaning, the costume characters will interact with children, and there are horses. We also don't need to involve ourselves with details such as individual people.


5. Lingering

Many images show people meandering and lingering. They stare into a shop window on Main Street (why, I don’t know. The door is two feet away). Others look at unique items in the One of a Kind Shop, or watch the The Royal Street Bachelors in New Orleans Square. This tells us that there is time to relax, saunter, and discover stuff to buy. Unlike most of the stores I visit, here I can and linger and not be asked to leave. The downside of these images is the message that it's okay to walk really slowly down Main Street, 8 abreast. It's not. Some of us need lunch.

6. Darkness

Whether it’s real night outside, or simulated night in the Blue Bayou, these images are indicators that Disneyland is not just for kids. You can have dinner with your middle-aged friends or neighbors. You can take your spouse on a special dinner date while the kids hang out in Fantasyland. Or you can throw caution to the wind and get groovy with the young adults.