Monday, October 15, 2018

It Came From the Fandom: Disneyland Halloween Costumes

Anyone remember this post? No? Fair enough; it was an awfully long time ago by blog standards. I guess that means I'm not repeating myself too badly if I do another post about Disneyland-themed costumes!
First, I should probably go ahead and re-post my photo collage from...jeez Louise, five years ago at this point. AKA “That Time I Was the Small World Clock Tower For Halloween”:

Not pictured: my dignity

(If you're wondering, how did she do that?, please follow the link above. If on the other hand you're wondering, why did she do that?, I'm afraid I can't help you. Who knows why wackos like me do anything?)
In sharing the above with the internet, I have definitely outed myself as one of the geekiest of the Disneyland geeks. Disney Halloween costumes are thoroughly mainstream (and sold in the parks in children's sizes), but Disneyland Halloween costumes are the domain of the truly obsessed and, with very few exceptions, require DIY skills to achieve. So when you see someone walking around dressed as an iconic character from the parks—or even worse, an iconic structure (*cough*)—you know you're witnessing a True Believer at work.
We're rare, but we're out there. For this week's post, I'll share some of the ones I found perusing Google.*
(Disclaimer: Not all of these people are celebrating Halloween. Some of them are at conventions, including D23.)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Armchair Imagineering: Villain Land

Back when I used to frequent various online Disney theme park forums, one recurring suggestion from the Armchair Imagineers present was some sort of “Villain Land” or “Villain Mountain”—a themed area devoted to the Disney Villains. As I recall, the idea was almost never developed beyond that basic concept—those proposing it didn’t really know what they wanted, but they sure had a mighty need for it.
I’m an Armchair Imagineer myself, not an armchair psychologist, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that what these young people—because they were always young people, teens and early twenties—actually wanted was for Disney to validate their fandom as young adults. They hadn’t grown out of their childhood love of Disney but had reached an age where they were starting to be embarrassed about it, so they gravitated to the “darker and edgier” aspects of the brand—the Haunted Mansion, The Nightmare Before Christmas…and the Villains.
I bet a lot of them shopped at Hot Topic.*
My point is that the vagueness of the “Villain Land” idea is probably because it wasn’t coming from a place of Armchair Imagineering inspiration, but a simple desire to have something at Disneyland that the young adults could enjoy unself-consciously. If it gets around at school that you went to Disneyland and rode “it’s a small world,” you’ll be a laughingstock…but if it gets around that you went to Disneyland and rode, uh, the Malefi-coaster, no one will even bat an eye, because Maleficent is badass and was played by the sexy Angelina Jolie that one time.
Personally, I don’t think a Villain Land would work all that well. It’s not that the idea of a place where the Villains reign supreme lacks appeal—it would basically be a dark mirror of Fantasyland—but the execution would have to be bold in order to find its audience, and Disney's handling of its crossover brands has historically been anything but bold. Crossover might not even be the right word for Villains, or its innocent counterpart Princess—when was the last time you saw any merch for either that had the characters from different films interacting, as opposed to just existing side-by-side?
I can guarantee you, the sort of people to be interested in a hypothetical Villain Land would want interaction. They would want worldbuilding.** They would want to be heavily reminded of Fantasmic! and/or Kingdom Hearts. And I don't trust Disney's willingness to take the necessary creative risks in providing these things.
But what if...?
What if, instead of a mere Armchair Imagineer, I were an actual Imagineer, getting paid for it, and in fact I were advanced enough to be put in charge of designing the Villain Land project? How would I make the most of the opportunity? 'Tis true, you cannot make of a sow's ear a silk purse, but surely some kind of functional container, presumably made of rawhide, is possible?
That apocalyptic shattering sound you just heard was my knuckles cracking as I get to work!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Armchair Imagineering: Halloween Adventure

Many moons ago, I outlined a vision for a Disneyland Park going as hard (if not harder) for Halloween as it typically does for Christmas—unique decorations throughout every land, seasonal area music loops, nighttime attraction overlays, live entertainment, the works. None of it has actually come to pass, of course, but Halloween remains a highlight of the year, both at the Disneyland Resort and in the larger culture.
So now it’s the other park’s turn.
Like its older sister, California Adventure does a fair amount for Spoopy Day already, but there is tons of room for improvement, in terms of both refining what is there and adding more. One interesting aspect here is that the Halloween offerings only really kick in at nightfall, which is...certainly thematically appropriate! I might just let that stand.
Conversely, the one thing I find pretty irritating is the designation of Oogie Boogie as the park's official Halloween mascot. There's nothing wrong with a Halloween mascot per se,* but not only are there no specific links between California Adventure and The Nightmare Before Christmas or its characters, they don't actually do anything with this supposed mascot. His silhouette appears over the entrance gates and there are occasionally booming announcements in Ken Page's fabulous voice. That's it. There's no Oogie meet-and-greet tucked into an unassuming corner, no Oogie-based attraction overlay or stage skit.
So if we must have a mascot, then a) it should be a character with some legitimate connection to the park (such as perhaps?) and b) you should be able to tell that they're the mascot.
Anyway, let's get to the land-by-land breakdown. I admittedly have fewer solid ideas for this park than for the other one, mostly because...I was already an adult when California Adventure. I didn't grow up thinking about it; it doesn't live in my bones the way Disneyland does.
But let's see what I can do.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The 5 Scariest Disneyland Resort Attractions (That Aren't the Haunted Mansion)

There is a school of thought, concerning theme park attractions, that says: Scarier = Better. (It often overlaps with the related Faster = Better school.) Naturally, it comes to the fore during the fall season, when temporary Halloween attractions pop up everywhere and try their best to scare the pants off everyone who pays good money to experience them, and occasionally succeed.
Disney theme parks don't usually fare too well on the Scarier = Better scale. WDI tends to take a middle-of-the-road approach with attraction content, avoiding both the too-saccharine and the too-horrific. Exceptions, especially on the too-horrific end of the scale, come across as “not Disney enough” and may not last as long as they probably would in someone else's park. It's something of a pity—it would be nice if the world's finest attraction builders got to stretch themselves a little more, instead of having to stick within the bounds of a PG/soft PG-13 rating.
Regardless, Disney rides are not scary. At least, they don't have a reputation for being scary. Depending on the guest, they can be quite scary indeed...not always on purpose! The Haunted Mansion is the obvious example of a Disney attraction that is considered at least mildly spooky—so obvious that for this post, I decided it would be more fruitful to set it aside and talk about others instead.*
So here are—in my estimation—the five scariest non-Haunted Mansion Disneyland Resort attractions!
(Disclaimer: None of them actually scare me, nor ever have. Even when I was little, I think I had too firm a grasp of reality to be actually frightened by Disneyland. I knew it was all pretend and couldn't really hurt me.)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sentimental Paleontology: Late Lamented Haunted Mansion Effects

Well, we're into September now, and you know what that means.

“Halloween creep” is getting to be as bad as Christmas creep, but this year I actually don't mind. I, along with about 90% of the people I know, have been basically done with summer since approximately mid-July. Bring on the pumpkins, I say.* And what better way to kick off Halloween Season at the Disneyland Dilettante then with a look at the Haunted Mansion, and particularly aspects of it that are, shall we say, no longer with us?
And boy howdy, are there ever a lot of them. Plenty of attractions have been upgraded and retooled over the years, but I think I can safely say that no other attraction has undergone anywhere near as much piecemeal turnover—adding, subtracting, and/or replacing individual show elements as opposed to whole scenes—as the Mansion. There are probably several reasons why this should be. The supernatural subject matter lends itself to many different kinds of effects, which practically beg to be upgraded as technology improves. It's a modular sort of spectacle, in which swapping out one ghost for another doesn't meaningfully alter the ride's sense of narrative flow. And it has a devoted fanbase always ready to scour every inch for surprises, meaning that any tinkering is bound to be noticed.
The upshot is that sometimes a fragment of the Haunted Mansion just...goes away, usually with little to no fanfare, never to be seen again in this life. But they say that nothing is truly dead as long as its name is still spoken...**

Monday, September 10, 2018

After-Action Report: Pin Collecting/Trading

I don't know what it is about the pins. It might be simply that they're cute, affordable, don't take up much space, and come in such a staggering variety that you're bound to find something that appeals to you. Got a favorite character, favorite ride, favorite holiday, favorite sport? There's a pin for that! With new ones released on a weekly basis, not to mention the special editions, mystery boxes, and whatever else they scheme in the smoke-filled rooms of Disney Marketing, there are so many pins. Even if you could afford it, you'd never be able to collect them all.
And I don't know about you, but that's a big relief to me, because it means I am under no obligation to try.
I exaggerate. I wouldn't say I've ever been into pin collecting. If I see one I adore, I will usually get it, but that rarely happens these days. I mostly got it out of my system back in the mid-2000s—you know, around the time of the 50th Anniversary, possibly the single most rewarding time to be a Disneyland fan in my lifetime—but that was enough for me to build up a reasonably sized collection.
I've never actually traded for a pin. Ever. I have one that I bought on eBay, because it was already out of production by the time I discovered that I really wanted it. Everything else in my stash came from a Disney theme park pin store, sometimes through the intermediary of a friend who gave it as a gift.
So I might not be the most qualified person to talk about this. But did you know there's no licensing process for blogging? Strange but true!
Actually, I'll come clean: this is mostly an excuse to show off my pin collection. Photos and explanations under the break!
Er...fair warning: these are not good photos. They were taken in the decidedly nonprofessional setting of my apartment, using the sub-amateur equipment that is my phone, against the completely ad-hoc backdrop of my coffee table. And I was not always able to wrangle the flash very well.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Second Sense: Some Thoughts On Music Loops

To my U.S. fans, happy Labor Day! To my Canadian fans, Happy Labour Day! (My desk calendar at work lists them separately.)
I collect Disney theme park music and audio. If that surprises you...welcome to my blog! I have a huge archive for you to get caught up on! Anyway, this obsession extends not just to the soundtracks of individual attractions, but to the so-called “music loops” that provide atmosphere in open areas, attraction queues, and even shops. As far as I can tell, these started being used in 1971; presumably the first few were created for Magic Kingdom but also installed in Disneyland because why not?
Most loops run anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour before repeating, and traditionally they have been composed of instrumental music rather than vocal recordings. Recently, however, there has been a shift toward the use of actual songs* in music loops, often very well-known songs, and I think this is a bit of a mistake.
Firstly, instrumental music can readily fade into the background and provide atmosphere without demanding attention, while vocals (especially familiar ones) can be quite distracting. There's no way around it—we humans are social animals, our interactions are mostly mediated vocally, and thus human voices are more attention-grabbing than any other sound.
Secondly, songs tend to be more instantly recognizable than instrumentals (since most people listen to vocal recordings more often than they listen to instrumental music), and extremely recognizable music inevitably reminds people of the context from which they recognize it, rather than immersing them in the setting of the park as it is supposed to. (This video describes a similar problem with respect to film soundtracks that lean heavily on established pop music.) Some of the most lackluster music loops in the Disneyland Resort have to be the ones throughout Cars Land, which just sound like “oldies” radio stations and make me feel less like I'm in a small town in a fantastic world of living cars, and more like I'm in the car with my Baby Boomer parents controlling the radio.**