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.

You'll Never Walk Alone

“How many photos of the same ochre door in Liberty Square at Walt Disney World do I need?” Obviously, the answer is “never too many.” Organizing my iPhoto library this weekend, I found the same image photographed almost in the exact same location over the course of ten years. Clearly, each time I see this door, I think, “oh, that would make a nice photograph.” But clearly, my mind is a sieve.

The other surprising discovery was the large amount of Walt Disney World photos sans people. I’m not talking here about the lack of photos of family members. I mean no people, as in Life After People. This tells me something about my psychological makeup, but I can’t focus long enough to know what. I don’t know how I manage to take so many images at a place with millions of people that are devoid of human activity. And there are quite a few images that may have a couple of guests, but are of empty areas of concrete or sand.

I have a secret dream of retiring and creating a job at Disneyland helping people with their photos, and offering guidance to the guests looking lost. “Excuse me,” I would say, “Are you looking for Space Mountain?” Or, “May I help you with a photo tip? Bring your child forward, and let the castle be in the background.” I could wear a white shirt and black bow tie, and be the “Answer Man.” The trick would be to not direct people to shoot scenes without any human presence. “Now wait, ask your child to get out of the shot. Okay, there are no people in the frame, shoot it now.”

The Road Less Travelled

Disneyland WEDway Peoplemover, 1967

I went to the Apple store last weekend to get a new iPhone. When Alex, my helpful sales guy, was doing the transfer, he noticed my phone screen-saver. It’s geeky, but I have an image of the Peoplemover at Disneyland. Alex, who was young and groovy, said he loved the Peoplemover and wished it were still there. This is a sentiment I hear all the time. The Peoplemover was a fine piece of design, functionally and aesthetically. The cabs were just the right size, the materials were durable, and the color palette was wonderfully slightly shifted from primary colors.

The Peoplemover opened with the Tomorrowland redesign in 1967. This version of Tomorrowland was the bight future, gleaming white, a world on the move. When Tomorrowland was refurbished in 1998, Rocket Rods replaced the beloved Peoplemover. Since Rocket Rods was retired in 2000, the tracks have sat empty.

When friends back east hear that I have a Disneyland Annual Passport, they are mystified. “What do you do there? Do you go on all the attractions?” they ask. Of course I don’t. Like every other Southern California resident, I use my passport to have lunch, sit on a bench, and walk around the Park. If I go on an attraction, it’s the slow ones: Disneyland Railroad, the Mark Twain Riverboat, maybe Pirates. The Peoplemover was a favorite slow attraction. It was wonderful to leisurely tour Tomorrowland and yell at guests from above. Noreen always had good advice for the guests walking below us. She would yell at them, “No matching outfits!” or “No running! Slow down Sir!” or “No holding hands. No touching.” Perhaps this is the real reason for the Peoplemover’s retirement.

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