Thirty Days in the Kingdom: Searching for a Laughing Place

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For author Matt Ferrell, it's not always pixie dust and flying elephants as he tackles a month at a certain amusement park in Anaheim, California. In Thirty Days in the Kingdom, he relays his day-to-day experiences beginning on September 1, 2008, and continuing each day for the rest of the month.

Following an inner urge to relive his childhood, Ferrell experiences the sights, sounds, rides, crowds, food, music, shows, characters, and more at this popular theme park. Sharing his ...

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Thirty Days in the Kingdom: Searching for a Laughing Place

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For author Matt Ferrell, it's not always pixie dust and flying elephants as he tackles a month at a certain amusement park in Anaheim, California. In Thirty Days in the Kingdom, he relays his day-to-day experiences beginning on September 1, 2008, and continuing each day for the rest of the month.

Following an inner urge to relive his childhood, Ferrell experiences the sights, sounds, rides, crowds, food, music, shows, characters, and more at this popular theme park. Sharing his observations and insights while surrounded by "guests" having fun, Thirty Days in the Kingdom provides a unique look at the culture, patrons, and "cast members" of this much-visited tourist attraction.

Among oversized strollers and churro-hungry guests hurrying to wait in the next line, Ferrell finds his happy place, and he discovers that somewhere between childhood memories, Neverland, and middle-aged realities that his dreams just might possibly come true.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781475989724
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/29/2013
  • Pages: 156
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.36 (d)

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By Matt Ferrell

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Matt Ferrell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4759-8972-4



Look at This Stuff; Isn't It Neat?


The Disneyland Band just finished a rousing performance of "Let's Go Fly a Kite" and is marching away behind a gate labeled "Cast Members Only." They are followed by Alice and the Mad Hatter. You know, from Wonderland. Before Johnny Depp.

Look over there. Goofy just strolled by and is "gawrshing" it up to the delight of several children in front of the Disneyland Fire Department. It's nice to be able to stop, watch, and listen and not worry about getting in line and making everything happen in a few short hours, knowing that I can't possibly see it all in this one isolated moment yet wanting to desperately. Normally I would feel torn, wanting to stay and watch Goofy's antics but feeling compelled to head on to Adventureland for a Dole Whip or to get in line for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or obtain a fastpass for Space Mountain.

Experiencing Disneyland this way, knowing that I'll be here every day for a month, is already very freeing and calming. Just knowing that I don't have to do anything, make any deadlines, see the four o'clock show, or be there for the parade at three thirty allows me to relax and just be here with no real purpose—for now, at least.

"Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy."

That quote attributed to Walt Disney appears on a plaque to the right of the Main Entrance's flower garden, which always blooms in the shape of Mickey Mouse, and above a "tunnel," as Ashley put it. Ashley, the woman assisting me at the ticket window, couldn't initially find my name in her computerized system, and I was beginning to panic. I had only purchased my annual pass online about an hour before I left the house to come here, so I wasn't even sure if it would register in the Disney files on such short notice. After Ashley received some assistance from a manager, however, my name was discovered, as I had faith it would, a ticket was printed, and my journey began. I proceeded through the main gate and under the "tunnel," as Ashley had so expertly directed me to do, and I proudly headed toward the Bank of Main Street, where I would receive a photo ID copy of my annual pass. Then I'd be an official Premium Annual Passholder, with no blackout dates and with parking included.

The line for official annual passes was already quite long at the Bank of Main Street when I arrived, but I nevertheless felt at peace. I didn't mind the wait, and with my newfound Disney attitude, I slowed down, enjoying the time to observe the immediate surroundings. There was another long line to visit with Pluto to my right, but the line for Cruella de Vil, who was situated more centrally on Main Street, attracted far fewer guests. She was a little scary. All of the children who were also waiting in line at the bank were mostly fascinated with the dapple-gray horse pulling the trolley up and down Main Street, U.S.A. "Is it real?" they asked, full of wonder. I remember having that feeling as a child, wondering what was real versus what was fake during our family vacations to Disney World and wanting everything to be a facsimile of the real thing. How could things be real? Even the flowers are perfect and all blooming, seemingly perky and happy. The happiest flowers on Earth?

The line at the Bank of Main Street moved quickly, and in an attempt to be humorous when I finally reached the bank window, I said to Carolyn, my "teller," "I'd like to make a three-million-dollar withdrawal from checking, please," as stone-facedly as possible. She seemed a bit confused initially, but then she smiled when she caught on to my banking humor. Perhaps she was somewhat relieved that I didn't actually think this was a real bank or that I wasn't holding her up. With a smile, she talked me through the particulars of an annual pass, and she asked for some personal information, filling in forms electronically, her fingernails clipping on the keys while I copied notes I'd taken from my parking pass to a piece of notepaper she'd given me. She couldn't believe I was a first-time visitor to Disneyland and excused herself momentarily, returning with an oversized badge which read "1st Visit," crowned by "Where Dreams Come True." I was reimbursed for the twelve dollars I paid earlier for parking and was sent on my way, proudly displaying my newly earned badge. I ventured into Disney Showcase, one of the stores on Main Street, looking for a journal in which to begin my month of writing. That particular store sold only hot-pink Minnie Mouse notebooks, and I was looking for something just a wee bit more masculine for my current writing purposes. The associate there told me to try the Disneyland Emporium across Main Street. Once inside that store, I found a suitable Mickey Mouse journal for my writing and used my hot-off-the-press annual pass for a 10 percent discount. With journal in hand, I hopped on the train and took my first journey on the Grand Circle Tour of the Disney Railroad. On my particular train car, the seats were arranged in a theatrical manner, facing east, and passengers sat more or less perpendicular to the direction in which they were traveling; in this setup, all the world really is a stage. During my journey, I noticed how everything seems perfectly placed in the park. The "Is the horse real?" question those kids were asking earlier came into play on my premiere tour of Disneyland. Even the pine straw is artistically placed. What is really real, what is the hand of God, and what is the hand of Disney—and does it actually matter, when it all comes down to it? I wanted to ride the Disneyland Railroad all day; one of these days, maybe I will. But not today.

Goofy is currently heading off farther down Main Street, U.S.A., behind some private gate or door, and so too shall I. And in my exploration, I shall attempt to keep the lines of reality blurred and my solar plexus calmed.



Jungle Cruisin'


The haunted Mansion is closed today, and here I was so hoping to visit its grim, grinning ghosts and get on a Doom Buggy. Hopefully within the month. But for now, I'm sitting in a chair in a darling little alcove in New Orleans Square at the end of a lovely blue curved staircase. If you've been to this particular spot, you know exactly where I mean. There are two gas lamps and a cherubic statue up the staircase, which leads to a "Cast Members Only" door. Today hasn't felt magical so far, although I like where I am now in this quiet place away from the maddening crowd. I truly feel that I am someplace else. That magical feeling is growing by the minute.

My arrival here today was a bit different than yesterday's; as I passed through the parking gate that I drove through yesterday, I received a slip of paper informing me that the Timon parking area was closed and to "Please proceed to the Mickey and Friends parking area." I was glad of this instruction, as I had been wanting to find the Mickey and Friends parking area, since that is where I am "officially" supposed to park as an Annual Passholder.

The journey to the Mickey and Friends parking garage was a winding one, and when I arrived there, the parking garage felt like the underbelly of a shopping mall. The throngs of guests visiting Disneyland on this particular September day became immediately apparent in the Mickey and Friends garage. Supposedly, this garage has over ten thousand parking spots. The Timon parking area is open-air and feels more, I don't know, welcoming, like you've actually arrived someplace. In the Mickey and Friends parking garage, however, I immediately felt the need to rush to get somewhere and became a bit anxious. Perhaps it was just the group energy. The sun was already making the day incredibly hot when I arrived, but I think my face was a bit sunburned from yesterday's lack of sunscreen, so maybe it felt a bit hotter than it actually was. The tram transporting me and the other guests to the main gate wove its way around to pick us up, after everyone finally got all of the strollers "behind the yellow line." I want to figure out a way to walk to the main gate from the parking garage, because I predict that dealing with tram crowds would not be the best way to start my days. Walking to the Main Entrance must certainly be an option.

Currently, to my immediate left, there is an eggplant-colored door, and from behind it I hear a continuous pneumatic thumping. Judging from my location, I'm figuring that the attraction Pirates of the Caribbean must live behind that door. I rode Pirates earlier and recorded the audio of the ride-through on my iPod. It's a fourteen-minute journey, and, if memory serves me, the attraction here is quite more extensive than the attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida. There are more skeleton tableaux at the beginning of the ride here at Disneyland. Way more. And an additional waterfall descent into the Pirate's Lair. I remember the ride in Florida as having only one pirate skeleton at the beginning of the journey.

When I was a kid, I read an article in my grandfather's study about Pirates of the Caribbean opening in 1967 and how Disney designers purchased real skeletons from the medical center at UCLA for those pirates. Knowing that, they became creepier to me. Walt had originally intended for Pirates of the Caribbean to be a walk-through wax museum, but after the success of the boats in "small world" at the New York World's Fair in 1964, he scrapped the idea and started over from scratch. I love how Walt was always willing to start over, regardless of cost, to make a thing right and in the way he wanted it. "It's kind of fun to do the impossible," he was fond of saying.

I enjoyed the serenity of Pirates and the slow gliding movement of the boat. As an added bonus, I was sitting in the rear in my own row. I love the vastness of the attraction and in particular the seemingly unlimited ceiling, how the clouds slowly pass by and loom above. I also really enjoy watching the "fire" and the play of light on the fabric that is used to make the illusion of fire in the burning town; at least, I think that's how they do it. Even though fire is raging in every detailed window, it's so calm inside the attraction, and I never seem to take in the reality or anxiety of a town's burning in plunder. I also enjoy how the ride has no narration and you sort of get to make up your own storyline and focus without being prompted as you sail through the various tableaux presented. Many of the scenes are certainly open to many interpretations. I remember being on the ride as a kid, and how my parents would point out different things to me, the drunken pigs or the real hair on that pirate's leg hanging over the bridge. The ride has been updated since my last sailing, which was probably a year ago at Disney World. It now includes Captain Jack Sparrow and has been modernized to fit the storylines of the successful films, but for me, it doesn't detract from the initial charm or from my childhood memories of what the ride represents. It will always be a favorite of mine and of thousands of other people, and I can't imagine I will ever grow tired of sailing its Caribbean seas. I plan to ride it every day.

I rode the Jungle Cruise earlier today and had quite a different reaction, mostly because of Kelvin, the guy doing the narration—my cruise guide, or "skipper." Now, look, I know that the narration is more or less scripted, with bad puns and witty sarcasm, but Kelvin seemed very bitter during the cruise and relied on the guests to spur him on, so to speak. It was obvious that he wasn't going to "perform" unless we made it worth his while. He made some comment about my hair being too high and would sort of mildly insult all the guests on the boat when we didn't laugh at his jokes, all of which seemed to ridicule the attraction and point out the "fakeness" of it all. In light of Kelvin's mockery, I felt almost guilty for having wanted to enjoy the ride. Come to think of it, the "cast member" who boarded us also seemed quite jaded and bored. He didn't like the fact that the two German girls in front of me didn't respond when he asked them how many were in their party.

"They completely ignored me," he muttered under his breath to me as I indicated I was a party of one. There were some other Germans on my "cruise," and Kelvin made some sort of joke, again a jabbing one, something about where they came from; when they replied, "Germany," all smiley and proud, in response to his asking where they were from, he shot back, "I thought you would have said the airport!" and produced a very fake chuckle. Nobody laughed.

The joke went completely over the Germans' heads, let alone that they couldn't understand anything he was saying in the first place, and he made a weird sneer. They didn't want bad jokes, either. They just wanted to see the zebras, the rhinoceros that chased the safari party up the tree, and the laughing hyenas. Didn't we all? Watching and listening to Kelvin was akin to watching a comedian bombing on a jungle-themed stand-up night. I just kept trying to tune him out, but it was difficult. I wanted one of the tour guides from 1955 who, I imagine, would have done his or her best to get people to believe the attraction was real. I wanted the original script that had no jokes and sounded very much like the narration of one of Walt's True-Life Adventures documentaries. I was hoping to ooh and aah over the flora and fauna, and to giggle when the baby elephant sprayed water from his trunk. I wanted to really believe that we had to shoot the hippo to get past safely and be amazed that we were traveling behind the waterfall. After all, didn't we leave the world of today and enter a world of fantasy when we arrived at the happiest place on Earth? I wanted to be happy, damn it.

Originally, the attraction was designed as a realistic journey along the dangerous and exotic waters of Africa, South America, and Asia, based on the True-Life Adventures popular at the time. Doesn't that sound fun? Kelvin, my current skipper, just made me hate our journey through the jungle, and he only served to accentuate the artifice. I think I prefer it old school.

At the end of our Jungle Cruise, he made some final comment about how we were the most awkward and quiet group he'd ever led through the jungle, throwing in one last insult to us all. I disliked Kelvin and how he made no attempt or effort to make any of the cruise appear real or seem like it was happening now—or even enjoyable, for that matter. And the feeling that he hated being a skipper on the Jungle Cruise—that's what bothered me the most. I was excited to ride the attraction that was one of the park's original highlights, but now I felt hollow, thanks to Kelvin's lack of enthusiasm and satirical humor. I understand that the attraction has evolved over time into a more modern sort of thing and that each "skipper" has different scripts he or she can follow, but I still want to ride it again before I leave today and get another perspective, not to mention another skipper.

In Hong Kong Disneyland, the Jungle Cruise has three separate lines to choose from, allowing visitors to experience the journey in their preferred language: one line for English, one for Mandarin, and one for Cantonese. Perhaps here at Disneyland in California, they could offer various lines for the attraction as well: a line for those wanting to enjoy the jungle journey and believe it's all real with the original script; a line for the guests who want to make fun of it and prefer the more sarcastic modern humor; and a line for the tour in silence or in Mandarin or Cantonese. The kid in me doesn't want to feel so jaded. I actually was able to tune Kelvin out from time to time and enjoy the foliage, the bamboo, and the idea of it all. But in my personal opinion, Kelvin, the Jungle Cruise guide, is just an asshole.



Day of the Dark Rides


I've found a little hideaway next to the tour guide booth and a water fountain. It's off the parade route, so I think I'm good for a timely exit once the parade begins; I'll be able to miss the crowd. I arrived at Disneyland a bit later than I'd originally planned. The sun is intense again today, but I have on sunscreen and have been wearing a hat most of the day. I don't know how some guests manage the heat here, wearing jeans and long sleeves. The fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas must be melting in their black hoodies, striped long sleeves and leggings, and oversized Jack Skellington hats. Speaking of Jack Skellington, I learned that the Haunted Mansion reopens on September 26, and the very nice young woman in the Crystal Shop next to the Pinocchio ride told me that it changes over to a The Nightmare Before Christmas theme. What's this?

Excerpted from THIRTY DAYS IN THE KINGDOM by Matt Ferrell. Copyright © 2013 Matt Ferrell. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments....................     xi     

Introduction....................     xiii     

Day 1 Look at This Stuff; Isn't It Neat?....................     1     

Day 2 Jungle Cruisin'....................     5     

Day 3 Day of the Dark Rides....................     11     

Day 4 Leading Lady....................     15     

Day 5 Walking in Walt's Footsteps....................     19     

Day 6 Vault Disney and Ducks....................     27     

Day 7 It's Time We're Aware....................     33     

Day 8 Ass Mountain....................     39     

Day 9 Tom Who?....................     43     

Day 10 Flying Over London, and a Word about Flip-Flops....................     49     

Day 11 The Age of Not Believing....................     55     

Day 12 To Infinity ... and Beyond....................     61     

Day 13 Disney on Parade....................     65     

Day 14 In Need of a Fairy Godmother....................     71     

Day 15 Last Call....................     75     

Day 16 State of the Nation....................     79     

Day 17 Mob Mentality....................     83     

Day 18 Please Remain Seated....................     87     

Day 19 An Afternoon in Toontown....................     91     

Day 20 Lessons from Dino....................     97     

Day 21 King of the Wild Frontier....................     101     

Day 22 Down in New Orleans....................     107     

Day 23 Deep in the Hundred-Acre Woods....................     111     

Day 24 Lost and Found....................     115     

Day 25 This Is Halloween!....................     119     

Day 26 Here Today, Gone Tomorrowland....................     123     

Day 27 Only in Disneyland....................     127     

Day 28 Bird's-Eye View....................     131     

Day 29 Dinner and a Ride ... or Seven....................     133     

Day 30 The Happiest Place on Earth....................     137     

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013

    This is one of the best books about Disneyland I've read.  It's

    This is one of the best books about Disneyland I've read.  It's part travelogue, part diary, part Disneyland history and overall a delight to read.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I bought this, but decided to because I'm such a huge Disney fan.  There's an overall feeling to this book that made me feel like I was almost in the park sometimes.  I even cried a couple times, and certainly laughed many times.  It's basically the diary of this guy who spends a month at Disneyland and everything he experiences while there.  If you are a fan of Disney or Disneyland read this book.  You won't be disappointed!  

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