This should be the last of the Disneyland posts for a while… I promise. But having spent the entire of last week in the so-called Happiest Place on Earth (TM) and returning with only a handful of memories in the form of videos, photos, tacky souvenirs, and mixed emotions, I thought I had better write one last post to sum up one of my own trademarked quirky observations.
On Saturday morning there was a false-alarm bomb scare at Disneyland.
This was our third trip to the resort, and each time we’ve gone it’s been a very different experience. And each time I come back from those trips feeling this mixed bag of odd emotions about the vacation as a whole. Fun. Frustration. Excitement. Thrill. And usually a bit of a vacant, hollow feeling in my skull. This time was no different, of course, though one particular event crystallized some of those thoughts on something I hadn’t considered before. Being witness to the “event” gave me some things to think about in the intervening days.
First? You know the event. It was the subject of my previous post. But a recap…
On Saturday morning there was a false-alarm bomb scare at Disneyland. This all occurred on the day we were flying out, so we were not even planning on going to the park. I just happened to be out for a stroll to waste some time before the taxi came to collect us. In other words, the event didn’t affect us so much as… well… it was happening right there and I was part of the milling crowd for a few minutes. But, see, at the end of it, it turns out that it wasn’t a bomb or anything physically dangerous at all. It turns out it was a geocache, one of those stash-able containers hidden as part of the treasure hunting game you play with your GPS. This one was rather foolishly hidden, foolishly designed, and foolishly played all-around, all against a fairly narrow set of guidelines for setting up geocaches… because anyone can hide them, and lots of people do, so there needs to be rules, right?
But then why would someone hide a geocache anyhow? I’ve done it, myself, but I never really considered why I’ve played. So, I mean, why put the effort into stashing some paper and a pencil in a secret place… even when you are following the rules? Why? Is it a thrill? Is it entertainment? What?
It seems to me that this is somehow connected to the nub of Disneyland’s role as the top dog of the intellectual property food chain? It seems to me that the fact that one guy trying to leave his own teeny-tiny little mark on Disneyland can cause such huge a ripple effect — a tidal wave — bringing out the cops, shutting down the park, and impacting thousands of people… it seems to me that’s why I get these mixed emotions from these sorts of trips: Disneyland is a one-way street when it comes to ideas.
Now, don’t misread here: Dude broke lots of rules and a few laws. I only mention the why-you-don’t-geocache-in-Disneyland anecdote because it is an extreme example of this one-way street. To answer my previous question — why hide a geocache anywhere — I think the reason one participates in this game is to create a bit of adventure for someone else. Key word: create. Sure, it’s just a technological game of hide-and-seek, but in placing a container one is creating entertainment for someone else. It’s a game. By hiding you are setting up a play for someone else. You are creating a hunt and creating a treasure to be found.
One problem: you can’t create in Disneyland. That is, unless you are part of Disney, paid by Disney, or you are Disney… well… simply, you don’t get to create inside Disneyland. If you visit Disneyland you are a consumer, plain and simple.
And that’s fine. Don’t get me wrong. Consuming quality media can be fun. Taking part in rides and interactive stories can be an amusing way to spend a day or even a week. But again: a one way street.
…if you are a creative person a week in Disneyland can be absolutely draining…
Yet of this brings me back to my initial bag of mixed emotions. One might guess from reading this blog, looking at my other websites, following my photo and video projects, or just knowing me in general that, frankly, I’d rather be on the creating side. I’m a creator. I don’t know if I’m creative, per se, but I like to be making things, building things, inventing things, imagining things. But a place like Disneyland — at least from the perspective that I witnessed it — is not built for people like me. Disneyland is built for consumers. The park, the decorations, the shows, and the rides — all of it — is built for people who like to open their brains and drink from a metaphorical fire hose of pop-culture and Disney-anna.
It is designed that way. It has been meticulously built, rebuilt, and refined to do one thing very well: deluge your brain to capacity and beyond with stuff created by Disney. It is a consumer’s paradise. If your ideal day is having your mind gushed with a million happily manufactured thoughts involving princesses and Mickey Mouse, you will love it there.
But if you are a creator? A week in Disneyland can be absolutely draining. Why? Because no matter what you do — how much fun you seem to have had — the only impression you leave behind is a few more dollars exchanged and a few more turnstile numbers increased. You have nothing to add to the story. You have nothing to contribute… at least nothing that Disney wants.
So, dude who wanted to leave his little mark on the park. I get him — I do not in any way agree with what he did, and I think he should have thought a little more deeply about the impacts beforehand — but I get him. He’s a creator-guy. He wanted to add to the so-called “magic” by leaving his own little nugget of entertainment inside the perimeter of Disney’s green fence. He wanted to create a tiny bit of non-Disney adventure for a few other people. He wanted to leave his mark. But it just isn’t an easy thing to do… because apparently they call the cops.