I once remarked to a friend how intricately detailed Tokyo DisneySea was, especially the Mediterranean Harbor section. He asked why I didn't go to the real Mediterranean and criticized Disney theme parks for being fake and said that everybody who visits them is obese or a jerk.
I said to him that we're not all obese and that visiting the Mediterranean would be fun, except that there isn't a huge man-made mountain with two kick ass rides within in Italy.
No, Disneyland can't replace the real thing. It doesn't attempt to. Imagineering could never recreate a hike up to Mount Hollywood on a clear day so that the vastness of Los Angeles fills your peripheral from Santa Monica to the San Gabriels. In a decade I don't think nature could recreate a hike up to Mount Hollywood on a clear day at the rate we're going.
Disneyland is not the real thing. On the contrary, it is a theatrical experience.
To me, half the experience of Disneyland is discovering the mechanics of making the illusion possible. Ride systems, construction techniques and special effects methods (God bless you Yale Gracey) are just as fun to watch as they are to figure out. There is an art in making the unreal seem real.
The Walt Disney Company is an organization that is responsible for some of the most wonderful works of art ever created. It's also responsible for some of the most banal entertainment with few redeeming social qualities (Technically, hard-working people were employed during Beverly Hills Chihuahua!). No where is this more apparent than at Disney theme parks. The worst of the worst sit side by side with the classics of Imagineering past.
Space Mountain towers over Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. The Jungle Cruise is just a couple doors down from the cheap cartoon makeover Tarzan's Treehouse. The Pirates of the Caribbean's upstairs neighbor is an overhyped door prize for a select few, where once was a happening arthouse loft and everyone was invited.
There is value in not sticking a cart full of crappy Chinese Disney merchandise into every nook and cranny in this magic kingdom. There is beauty in a fountain, a floral arrangement or a flight of stairs. Such unique spots should not be obstructed by racks full of the same Christmas garbage sold in every other store in the park.
The following photos were taken by me (except for one) and represent what I consider beautiful about Disneyland from spectacular vistas to the not-so-obvious. Click on the image for a bigger, higher quality version.
I was surprised at how much the Disneyland fan community was divided over Toontown. For a cartoon world it's pretty damn detailed.
See all that stuff in the middle of the track? That's why my roller coaster didn't work. The whirs of the machinery, the hisses of the hydraulics and the clacks of steel complete the experience for me.
Waterfalls and streams are an integral part of the Disneyland formula.
No claim jumping, jerk.
A metal fence obscures the foliage at the base of the Matterhorn. Peek between the bars sometime and discover this little stream.
Some lament that Fantasmic! has intruded on the nighttime atmosphere of New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America. I love Fantasmic! but in this shot I took after a night ride on the Columbia, I can see their point. Even here evidence of the nighttime spectacular is visible.
Sometimes nature is the icing on the cake.
With the re-opening of the Submarine Voyage the lagoon feels more alive than it has in a decade. Of course, I pretend Captain Nemo is in there instead of Finding Nemo.
Even toons have somewhere to go and relax.
It may be dirty half the time and wrapped in the baffling "Rockin'" overlay in this shot and obscured by that spinning satellite dish thing that replaced the Rocket Jets, but it's still Space Mountian, damnitt.
Monorail purple soars over the Submarine Lagoon before it was wrapped up in Year of a Million Dreams garb like a common bus advertisement.
Disneyland may not be a museum, but that doesn't stop museums from being a part of Disneyland. Just try and tell me that looking at stuff like this doesn't make you miss the Disney Gallery.
Big Thunder's rock spires.
The balcony at Innoventions, the most popular part of Innoventions.
Disneyland security doesn't kick you out until midnight so you can shop. Pesky people like me use the opportunity to shoot FREE photos when fewer people are around.
Toad Hall, my favorite of the Fantasyland dark ride facades. Now here's a makeover that worked.
Enthusiasm for Disneyland and trains seem to go hand in hand.
These two weren't waiting to cross. They already did. However, they took the time to wave to riders and then they continued on their way to TDA (to the left of this photo).
Splash Mountain's lift hills are powered entirely by waterwheels.
This was shot from the old Fastpass distribution area for Splash Mountain.And the photo that inspired this article.
This is the Courtyard of Angels taken by Andy Castro, the famous journalist that covers Disneyland. His photo proves that even the smallest parts of Disneyland can be beautiful, if they are allowed to be.