It’s no great secret that Craig and I enjoy Disney World. We were introduced to the Mouse in 1997 on a world wind one day adventure that started on the Tower of Terror at 10 in the morning and ended with fireworks at 9pm. We were captivated from the very first moment and the seed of many trips to come was planted.
Disney World is like immersing yourself into another, well, world. Figuratively and literally. You’re cut off from reality. Surrounded by sights and sounds that are larger than life. There is a very specific atmosphere and attitude when you step on Disney Property. Employees (erm, cast members) are by in large cheerful and chatty. They don’t want to sell you a time share, they just like to talk. Rides are, for the most part, themed to the hilt – Disney was always the master at creating a magical world. For example….
The instant you enter the grounds of The Hollywood Tower Hotel (Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror) the rest of the park is neither seen nor heard. The temperature drops. There’s a mist. The lobby is covered in a shroud of dust and cobwebs. Time has stopped as music softly, eerily plays, and a somber bell hop beckons you toward the elevator doors. Was that shrieking? A rumble in the distance?
Not your ordinary theme park ride.
Just this past week we were in Anaheim for the EDTA annual teachers conference. A rather perfect opportunity to test out the granddaddy Disney park – Disneyland. The park that started them all. The place Walt created and saw through to fruition. The guy was crazy but it’s the kind of crazy you have to admire and wish you had a little of yourself.
Disneyland sure is fun. Great rides, many of them with a greater fun factor than their Florida counter parts. And, I’ll say this too about the Disneyland rides – they’re pictures, not necessarily complete stories. You’re not spoon fed a truncated patched together version of a fairy tale, you get the best pictures for the best ride. When I came out of Snow White, I practically yelled “WHAT?” out loud, because the ride wasn’t telling me the whole familiar story, it was showing me something, showing me flashes of light. I like that. It can be confusing, but I like that too. Here’s what you get when you go on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride:
Mr Toad is a bad driver. He drives in the house. He ignores cops, a farmer, and may be drunk. Mr Toad avoids dying in an explosives crash, but does not avoid jail. He is pronounced guilty, and his punishment is to drive head first into an oncoming train. Mr Toad dies. He goes to hell and is tormented by devils.
I want a Mr. Toad t-shirt.
So. Disneyland is fun. But there is zero magic. Not one smidge of pixie dust. I’m not transported to another world. The employees are somewhat grumpy, it’s just an ill-paying day job at a theme park. It’s not a special place to them and they’re pretty vocal about that. Maybe it has something to do with the lack of space and there’s no room to create atmosphere. Or that Disneyland is claustrophobically surrounded by the real world and everyone knows it – There’s a 24 hour IHOP across the street from the front gates. Could it be the 12.642 tattoos on the average Disneyland guest? Who knows.
Given the choice, I choose magic over fun. (And yes, I’m fully aware that there’s much to taint the magic at Disney World, there’s a lot going on these days that have made the place lose it’s luster) But dimes to donuts, magic is something that can last a life time. Fun is always temporary.
And on that note, let’s bring this back to theatre, and to high school theatre in particular. What choice do you make for your troupe or for the kinds of shows you put on at your school? Are they fun or are they magical? There’s nothing wrong with fun by the way – your drama class/troupe/play might be the only outlet your students have. It’s important to remember to have fun in life. But never forget the potential for magic. Magic lasts. Fun is temporary. It fades. A magical theatrical experience will stay with you. Grow with you. Change lives.
I’ll take magic over fun any day.