Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mouse Tales: A Behind the Ears Look at Disneyland

David Koenig is an unbiased, humorous author who explores the truth behind the Disney movies in Mouse Under Glass, and Disneyland in Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland. This book is a great read for Disney lovers and haters alike. After a brief section on the history of Disneyland, Koenig explores what the Disneyland explorer is like for an employee, and then all the tragic accidents, injuries, deaths, lawsuits, etc. that have happened at the Happiest Place on Earth .

One might imagine it would be a fun job to be a costumed character at Disneyland, but the costumes are heavy and can strain the head and neck, and the furry ones especially are sweat machines. A couple costumes have even caught fire from battery packs worn at the light-up parades. More surprisingly, this job is very dangerous mainly because of the guests. Characters have been hit, kicked, punched in the face, groped, threatened at knifepoint to go on a date, attacked by groups of children, attempted to set on fire, and stabbed. I can't imagine anyone's motivation for this, but even more innocent acts-enthusiastic children pulling and shoving-can be irritations in a costume where movement is limited.
Employees aren't always being attacked, though. They often play minor pranks on park guests, and more elaborate pranks on each other. But being a character can be very rewarding. Koenig lists two incidents which have to do with children with autism-one boy was there who had never spoken in his life. Mickey Mouse was being mobbed, and the autistic boy broke away from his father, rushed over, and said "Mickey Mouse"- his first words. The second incident I'm a little skeptical of-it sounds like a boy with autism "snapped out of it," meaning, I assume, his autism in its entirety, after repeated trips to Disneyland, because "he realized it was better living in Disneyland than in his head."

A majority of the book discusses the accidents that have happened in the Park. A majority were caused by guests doing stupid things-trying to climb from car to car on a moving ride, for example. Some were caused by employee neglicence and some by mechanical failures. Look at the wikipedia link for a list of incidents, many of which Koenig gives more details for. The wikipedia link also includes updated incidents, as the book was published in 1995. The most controversial is not the fact that there are accidents-no one can really be surprised at that, although some do forget that they're still in the real world while at Disneyland-but the fact that Disney tries so hard to make sure the other guests aren't disturbed, they've taken guests to hospitals in unmarked vehicles rather than ambulances, when the faster ride might have saved their life. There's really only one incident in the book where this was a possibility, and I'm not sure if there have been more incidents, or a changed policy, in the past 15 years.
Some of my favorite tidbits:

-The first flying Tinkerbell was 71 years old (Tiny Kline, in 1961)
-At one time the park had a rat problem, so the staff would put rat poison in hot dogs and leave them out at night, later skimming the dead rats off the Rivers of America. One kid get ahold of a hot dog and ate it and got very sick. Whoever this kid's parents are, I don't have any sympathy for them-who lets a kid eat a hot dog off the ground, or ignores a kid that ignorant for long enough for them to eat it?
-"The family of a man who was killed by their neighbors' pet lion sued the park, claiming the neighbors were unable to control the beast because they were spending the day at Disneyland." Forget the lawsuit, which is ridiculous enough in itself-who has a pet lion?? In California??
-Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center wasn't originally supposed to be a theme park, like it is today (which is basically Tomorrowland on steroids, at least in concept.) Walt wanted it to be an actual, idealized city- "a planned and controlled environment, a showcase for the latest in industry, technology, education and culture. Slums wouldn't be allowed to develop because no individuals would own land; they would rent homes, at modest rates, work gainfully and help keep the city alive." Sounds creepy to me...
A picture of the Matterhorn Mountain under construction-the world's first steel roller coaster.

No comments:

Post a Comment