Please God, don't make me go back to Disneyland - Editor's Note

Disneyland is a happier place, since my departure last week from Southern California. I don't know how many of you have opted to go to God's Largest Amusement Park as adults, but all I can say is that it will be a long time before I want to see another Mickey Mouse. Especially a Mickey Mouse with a price tag stuck to it.

Disneyland is a happier place, since my departure last week from Southern California.

I don't know how many of you have opted to go to God's Largest Amusement Park as adults, but all I can say is that it will be a long time before I want to see another Mickey Mouse.

Especially a Mickey Mouse with a price tag stuck to it.

Yup, I'm the ultimate stick in the mud. I should be wearing a button that says, “I make little kids cry.” (I actually own such a button, but I choose not to wear it most days.)

But really, I'm not that cranky. I have a lot of cool toys that I will happily share with anyone. I run with scissors. And I like little kids.

In fact, the first few hours that my teenage daughter and I spent at the park, I was bouncing nearly as high as those mouse-eared balloons they sell. So much to see! All that color! All that movement! I've never been on drugs, but I think the feeling was pretty close. Considering the $72 cost of the day pass, drugs might have been cheaper.

Eventually, though, the commercialism, and the mobs, wore me down to a nub.

When I was a kid, “Disney” was something that came on television once a week. A Disney-park adventure was something you might do once in a lifetime. Otherwise, it was a local weekend matinee of family entertainment.

Disney knew its place.

Today, Disney is mega-powerful merchandising force, a financial smart bomb posing as a giant, smiling mouse. I used to have cable, and that provided us 24-7, if we kept the Boob Tube on, with Disney-themed shows, commercials and pseudo news segments about theme parks (also known as commercials.) I marveled at it, then turned it off, when I realized “Raven” was actually starting to make sense. It's the same thing that happens when you start listening to Tim Eyman. Eventually the pseudo reality starts to seem real. I turn him off, quickly, too.

So if I was turning a deaf ear to Raven, I guess I should have thought ahead, when it came to visiting the epicenter of the Disney universe.

But it was so alluring. To be able to tell people we were visiting Disneyland. Another rite of passage, to hear the rundown of rides they liked, and tips for securing the best rides with the smallest lines. To be able to say, just like the commercial, “Woo hoo! I'm goin' to Disneyland!!!”

So when we got there, and rode the little tram into the park, I was ready for something special.

But the mouse I grew up with was not the mouse that I was seeing.

I had no idea so many factories had cranked out so much merchandise. Disney shoes, hats, socks, coats, jackets, jewelry, bottles, dolls, toothbrushes, candy, games, wine-bottle corks. Paintings that cost more than my car. Museum-quality sculptures that cost more than my parents' car.

Where was the scratchy little black-and-white mouse that used to work on a steamboat? Where was the alto-voiced creature that I remembered, buried under all that glitz?

The moment that brought me to a standstill was in the Princess part of the park.

We entered a shop that featured dresses and tiaras from every major princess in the Disney pantheon. It was prom-queen heaven, and even I wanted some of that bling.

But then I walked into a room where stylists were actually giving little girls makeovers.

Makeovers.

And they were expensive ones at that.

I realized for many of these girls, with their well-heeled parents watching, this was one of the biggest moments of their lives. Perhaps some of them had medical issues, for which a trip like this was balm for months of suffering they had endured.

But it just seemed so ... wrong.

Little girls shouldn't be getting makeovers. They're perfect as is. They don't need a salon professional to buff their nails and put their hair up. Moms, aunts, grandmas, sisters, friends - they're supposed to do that.

After that, it seemed as if every corner we turned brought more opportunities for acquiring merchandise. For every beautifully landscaped section, or fountain, or giant costumed character, there was a shop busting at the seams with merchandise. By the time we got midway through the park, kids were having meltdowns in their strollers.

I don't think it was due to the heat.

I think it was from hearing the word, “no.” Over and over, as parents employed evasive maneuvers around toy stands that would rival the National Guard on patrol.

For the money we forked over to stand in line and eat overpriced food, Disney should do us all a favor. Keep the mountains of merchandise in one excruciating corner of the park and let people simply take in the experience of being in the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth.”

And if they can't do that, then at least hand out Disney-themed ear plugs.

Or better yet, drink tickets, to those legions of unthanked, weary stroller pushers.


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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact thebrunells@msn.com.
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