Read an Excerpt
The Importance of Being Goofy
"Sir, we have a problem."
Disney's Vice President looked up from his desk to see the Assistant VP. standing there, nervously fingering a file stuffed with paperwork. The VP sighed. "What is it now? Did the tabloids find out about Minnie and Yosemite Sam?"
The Assistant VP shook his head. "No, we think she dumped him over hygiene issues," he said. "This is another problem. A really serious problem." "All right, let me have it," said the VP, hoping it wasn't more trouble about Donald Duck not wearing pants.
"We," said the Assistant VP, "are out of ideas."
After a moment, the VP laughed. "You can't be serious. We have a thousand people working overtime in the Creative Department."
"They're out," said the Assistant VP, spreading his arms helplessly. "And it's not just them. We're all out. The entire human race is out of ideas. We have nothing left to use for next year's animated summer blockbuster, which would then lead to merchandise, theme park rides, fast food tie-ins, and the direct-to-video sequel."
Recognizing the severity of the situation, the VP began to concentrate. He wasn't head of Acquisitions for nothing. "No problem. We'll just use an old book whose copyright has expired, like The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Tarzan."
"They've all been done," said the Assistant VP dolefully, opening his file folder and reading aloud. "All literature and history have been entirely optioned, produced, and/or tied up in royalties litigation by Disney or our competitors."
"Everything?" asked the VP, aghast.
"Everything," answered the Assistant VP. "Well, except for Chicken Soup for the Vegetarian's Soul, which Marketing has some kind of problem with." "I don't believe this," said the VP angrily. "What about, um, The Old Man and the Sea? I read that in high school."
The Assistant VP looked through his papers. "In production at Universal. Voices by Brad Pitt as the old man and Julia Roberts as the fish he loves." "Okay, we'll go back further...what about...A Tale of Two Cities?" "Script is in at Miramax, with Oliver Stone attached to direct. We could steal it for animation, but that's our big Oscar contender."
"How about Moby Dick?"
"TV movie, with low ratings."
"Romeo and Juliet?"
"Leonardo di Caprio a few years ago. Pre-Titanic, yesterday's news."
"The Old Testament?"
"Dreamworks already did Prince of Egypt."
"All right!" shouted the VP angrily, slamming his fist to the desk. "There's only one thing left to do."
"What?" asked the Assistant VP, mystified.
The VP swiveled around in his chair, looking out over the Hollywood hills. He'd always known this day would come, but he'd hoped it wouldn't be during his watch.
"It's time to start cross-pollinating our existing products," he said calmly. "Tell everyone in Creative to start work on Pocahontas: The Little Hunchback Mermaid of Notre Dame."
And so it goes....
What really makes writing about Disneyland fun is that the Disney people take everything so seriously. Day to day they debate momentous decisions with far-ranging consequences: Do you think Goofy would look swishy in a silver cape? Have we gone too far with the Little Mermaid's cleavage? At a time when the whole nation is concerned about the drug problem, can we afford to have a dwarf named "Dopey"?
Unofficially, we think having a sense of humor is pretty important. This guidebook has a sense of humor, and it is probably necessary that you do, too....Not to use this book, but more significantly, to have fun at Disneyland. Disneyland (in the popular phrasing) is the mother of all tourist attractions. A certain amount of levity is required simply to survive. Think of the Unofficial Guide as a private trainer to help get your sense of humor in shape. It will help you understand the importance of being Goofy.
The Death of Spontaneity
One of our all-time favorite letters is from a man in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He writes:
Your book reads like the operations plan for an amphibious landing....Go here, do this, proceed to Step 15....You must think that everyone [who visits Disneyland] is a hyperactive, Type-A, theme-park commando. Whatever happened to the satisfaction of self-discovery or the joy of spontaneity? Next you will be telling us when to empty our bladders.
As it happens, we at the Unofficial Guide are a pretty existential crew. We are big on self-discovery when walking in the woods or watching birds. Some of us are able to improvise jazz without reading music, while others can whip up a mean pot of chili without a recipe. When it comes to Disneyland, however, we all agree that you either need a good plan or a frontal lobotomy. The operational definition of self-discovery and spontaneity at Disneyland is the "pleasure" of heat prostration and the "joy" of standing in line.
It's easy to spot the free spirits at Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure, particularly at opening time. While everybody else is stampeding to Splash Mountain or Indiana Jones, they are the ones standing in a cloud of dust puzzling over the park map. Later, they are the people running around like chickens in a thunderstorm trying to find an attraction with less than a 40-minute wait. Face it, Disneyland Resort is not a very existential place. In many ways it's the quintessential system, the ultimate in mass-produced entertainment, the most planned and programmed environment imaginable. Spontaneity and self-discovery work about as well at Disneyland as they do on your tax return.
We're not saying you can't have a great time at Disneyland. Bowling isn't very spontaneous either, but lots of people love it. What we are saying is that you need a plan. You don't have to be compulsive or inflexible about it, just think about what you want to do before you go. Don't delude yourself by rationalizing that the information in this modest tome is only for the pathological and super-organized. Ask not for whom the tome tells, Bubba, it tells for thee.