I’m the type of person who is always ready for a trip, still, when a friend asked me to go with her to Disney World, I was somewhat reluctant. In the end I decided to go, knowing that even though it would not have been my choice of a vacation spot, I would still have a good time. Living with a military and aircraft history lover for close to forty years has taught me to look for little pockets of interest in the most unlikely places. And after seeing every aircraft museum from here to Tucson, I have mastered that skill. Disney World was easy in comparison.
There is a lot to see and do in the Mouse Kingdom, and we only scratched the surface. One of my favorite attractions was a ride through vintage Hollywood movies. Because lines can be very long many attractions have pre-shows, and in this case it was a mini-museum of movies costumes. The one above was worn by Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain.
This dress was worn by Cyd Charisse in Brigadoon. There was also a costume worn by Katherine Hepburn, but it was black and my photo was pretty terrible. It was a delight getting to see a bit of old Hollywood, and it was a sort of double irony, seeing clothes made for make-believe in the ultimate make-believe setting.
Because that what Disney World is – a giant exhibition of make-believe. But interspersed one can find some glimmers of authenticity, and they are worth the finding.
This section of Disney World, Hollywood Studios, was built in the late 1980s. All along an area in front of a fake Grauman’s Chinese Theater are the authentic hand prints of many stars set in concrete. It was interesting looking through them, as many who were hot stuff in the late 80s are now barely remembered. And sadly, many have since died.
In Epcot there is an international section where eleven countries have displays and restaurants. The area devoted to Norway had this example of traditional dress along with an explanation of how it was incorporated into the costumes of the animated movie, Frozen which is set in Norway. I was amazed how Disney managed to always connect everything with one of their movies.
There are thousands of ways to spend money in the Mouse Kingdom. We thought the best stores were in Epcot, as they were not so Disney themed. The Norway shop was a dangerous place, with a dazzling selection of Norwegian wool sweaters and accessories. And the shop in China rivaled the best that New York’s Chinatown has to offer. The restaurants in Epcot were great, and we had German beer and authentic apple strudel.
I though this was pretty clever, but the chairs were just for show. It would have been better if this had been an actual resting place. But it was just an illusion.
In an area called the Animal Kingdom, one can take a safari ride through the African savanna. Unlike the completely fake Jungle Cruise in the Magic Kingdom, this is a real wildlife area with actual animals. It looks that the lioness is eyeing her dinner, but even the reality is set up to be misleading. The two animals are separated by a wide hole which the lion cannot cross.
Probably the one most confusing thing at Disney World is what I called the Cult of the Princesses. I was familiar with the old Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella cartoons, but clueless me had no idea there are now dozens of these fantasy females, all wearing gowns and waiting for that all-important prince. I know I must be exaggerating here, as I do not know the stories behind the new Disney princesses, and so I must assume that at least some of them are models of feminist ideals.
This parade through the Magic Kingdom at midday was full of cast member princesses and princes and even Mickey Mouse and his pal Goofy. In the float on the left, Cinderella’s gown is being sewn by her fairy godmothers.
Princesses are big business at Disney World. There are entire stores that sell the complete ensemble of the various princesses. The dresses are expensive and horribly cheap looking, being made of brightly colored acetate. Judging by all the little princesses in attendance, these are mighty good money makers. Interestingly, I didn’t see any little boys in costume, though I bet that is going to change now that Disney owns Star Wars.
There’s a lot more I could say about the stranglehold of baby strollers and electric scooters, and the high prices of everything, and the crazy long lines, but I don’t want to give the impression that I did not have a good time. Because I did. Fun is where you find it, according to Winnie the Pooh, and I found plenty of it.