For (a rather early) Christmas this year, we went to Disneyland. The coincidental placement of when we found cheap airline tickets put us there on election day, which was able to give us strength — or at least some feeble distraction — against the appalling outcome and sudden horrific vision of the future. I mean, what better place to be than Disneyland when the end of the world is announced?

Exactly the same as last time, I slept exceptionally poorly the night before we flew early to California, and then I slept poorly for the next few nights as well, so I was ridiculously tired the entire time. Of course I’m very used to that, so whatevs XD We were only there for two days anyway.

We started out in Adventureland, as usual. Same thoughts about Pirates of the Caribbean as last time, but this time I’d like to add that the sequence of imagery is really jumbled and kinda stupid. First is a normal, peaceful bayou where even the alligator doesn’t menace you. Then a talking pirate skull appear and warns you about pirates, and you go down a waterfall!!! Then the cave below is empty for a bizarrely long stretch except for a cheerful chorus of pirates singing from nowhere. Eventually, however, the music turns ominous and you start to see the skeletal remains of pirates with their treasure, including some hints of undead shenanigans. So far, so good, right?

Only then, before the skeleton section ends, the cheerful music resumes as if they’ve forgotten what they’re doing. Then (these days, and depending how well the projector’s working that time through) Davy Jones appear to make some vaguely ominous statement that seems far more fitting to the previous section than the one that follows. Because then we come out into this bay where, to the sound of fairly heroic adventurous Klaus Badelt music, Barbossa and his men are bombarding a fortress demanding the surrender of Captain Jack Sparrow. And after that we move on to a town overrun by pirates, which makes up the rest of the ride.

Now, despite the resumption of cheerful singing, the scenes of pirates carousing, pillaging, and threatening rape and murder are horrifying (if interesting to look at) from the off, but they grow more and more distressingly out of control as the ride proceeds… the town is set on fire, the pirates are more and more dangerously drunk, the scenery falls apart, and you feel as if you’re careening toward disaster along with them. And then…

Then Jack Sparrow appears (again, as he’s been a running story in the background) to extol a life of piracy and his own success, and the ride ends.

Prior to the Jacking of this ride, this place at the end was filled by a final skeletal pirate surrounded by treasure, as if to reiterate the eventual fate of the assholes previously on display and the idea that this much-sought-after treasure is really quite useless in the long run. And at that point, in a narrative sense, it all kinda worked. The earlier skeleton section still seemed out of place, but at least it was recalled at the end. Now, with Jack in place of that final skeleton, the original skeleton section seems totally detached from and unrelated to the rest of the ride.

And I can see not wanting to end on that note. But since the note the ride ends on now is a vindication of evil behavior rather than the previous message And they all probably died unhappily ever after, in my head it’s a bit of a toss-up which would actually be better.

P.S. At the beginning, in the peaceful bayou, the backdrop of distant cabins is totally new to me. I don’t know how long it’s been there, and whether perhaps it was just not working properly the last time(s) I was on the ride, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen it; previously it was all dark past the physical scenery if you looked hard left. It gives more visual depth to that part of the ride, but I think some of the ominousness of the deep shadow is sacrificed as well.

Anyway Indiana Jones is still my favorite Disneyland ride.

This summer I was specifically thinking, Man, I wish I had a parasol. Next time I’m at Disneyland, I’m going to have to check the prices at that one kiosk that sells them. At that time we had no plans yet to go to Disneyland for Christmas, but then when plans were actually made I of course remembered that goal. And since the parasols (which Disneyland fans know are just past the PotC exit) were only $20, I bought one. They had a bunch of cute colors, but my eventual choice was obvious.

Then we headed over to Tomorrowland and met Darth Vader. Witness the straight face I could not keep:

At first I was like, Wow, this person is so tall! but afterwards, as I was looking at the pictures and realizing that in costume he’s barely an inch taller than brother, I concluded it must be because he deliberately looms trying to make himself look bigger. Also I’m short.

Back in my Star Wars days, this would literally have made me cry. As a teenager I used to dream about Darth Vader pretty regularly; he was my favorite character of anything evar. These days it was just cool and fun, not overwhelming XD

You’ll notice I opted for ties this time. Yes, it was 90 degrees in Anaheim, but I thought the pictures would be cuter this way — and I was right! Two days of sweating are worth it for a lifetime of super cute pictures.

Tragically, the Small World ride was closed for them to put up all the Christmas stuff inside, and it opened back up again the day after we were there. But at least we still had teacups.

Check out this next picture. It’s my favorite from the trip. I look so damn fly.

Of course having only two days for the two parks means you have to prioritize the shit out of things. Several rides that we like but that are down at the bottom of our list didn’t get ridden at all, and we didn’t bother with any characters other than Darth Vader despite there being some I would have liked to meet, and we only went on Indiana Jones three times. We did have time for dumbass Mr. Toad, though (because the line wasn’t too long).

I re-downloaded the Disneyland app on Monday evening, and was looking at the characters wandering around and seeing what ride line wait times were whilst I packed. All of a sudden I knew just how Harry felt watching Ginny’s dot from afar on the Marauder’s Map. Anyway, the app crashed a couple of times in the park for no reason I could figure (apps, man), and this message cracked me up:

We spent most of the second day in California Adventure. As before, one time on Midway Mania was more than enough for my poor hands and wrists, but still hella fun.

The new Soarin’ footage… I don’t even have words. We went on that twice, hoping both times to sit in the middle (B) section to see whether the fish-eye distortion is less egregious there, but failing both times. Despite the bendiness of the scenery, however, that experience is fucking amazing. I mean, it was always a remarkable ride, but now it’s just… I can’t even.

P.S. This still makes me laugh out loud every time:

Next we saw Frozen Live at the Hyperion, and it’s pretty clear (from the number of showtimes per day) that this musical is more demanding for its performers than the Aladdin one ever was. And now I have to talk about it for a bit.

First and foremost, many of the characters, including Princess Anna, were played by people of color, and I can’t even begin to express how delightful that was — especially the day after the election. Of course it would be even better to see more characters of color in the original films (and signs are pretty good that we will, going forward), but it is, at least, fantastic progress to have an official adaptation of such a popular story unconcernedly cast a Black woman as its lead.

She nailed the role, too. Anna has always been an adorable character, definitely the heart of Frozen, and this actor captured her awkward enthusiasm and determination perfectly. I didn’t think anyone’s singing performance was spectacular, but everyone was adequate (and actually I enjoyed this live Let It Go a little more than the movie version since I don’t like Idina Menzel’s voice very much).

Olaf was surprisingly not-annoying, mostly because he’s played by a guy with a life-sized puppet attached to his feet so it walks along in front of him. He manipulates its body with his hands and performs Olaf’s dialogue and singing straightforwardly as if he were just performing for his own sake… and makes facial expressions appropriate to the lines that are far more worth watching than the Olaf puppet. Of course Olaf still has most of the most annoying lines in the show, which were all carefully included, but what can you do?

And can I talk about Hans more in terms of the original story, not specifically in reference to this musical, for just a moment? I’m always hearing complaints about Hans saying he’s a poorly written villain and an unnecessarily deceptive character and Disney should have stuck with their original idea to have him be Anna’s actual love interest and a good guy. And I can’t agree.

Some people seem to think every villain needs to be just like Donald Trump overtly evil, completely devoid of any better feelings and the capacity to love, saying and doing things that signal his evilness whenever he thinks no one’s looking (even if the camera is looking).

But humans (except for Donald Trump) don’t actually work that way. People with some, even many good qualities can still do reprehensible things, and I loved to see a slightly more complex villain with multiple sides to his character in a Disney story — a guy willing to carry out an immoral plan for his own advantage, but, since he’s not an inhuman monster stripped by this willingness of all good qualities, not unhappy to bond with a fun and pretty girl and try to make the best relationship a person like him possibly can with her in coincidence with his evil plot.

In several ways, including this, Frozen departed from formula and embraced some unprecedented complexity of story, which is one of the reasons I’m excited for the sequel. It still, I feel, had a laundry list of small problems that added up to drag the movie down from excellent to just good, but overall I’m pretty fond of it, and very much enjoyed this musical version at Disneyland.

They opted to end with a reprise of Love is an Open Door, which was, in my opinion, an excellent choice. Three ginormous doors — oversized for visual emphasis — had often been present (usually as the only scenery at that moment) onstage to reinforce the symbolism of the “series of doors in my face” Anna’s life has been, and using the main lines of a song about love equating to personal liberation and progress to contrast the fake love between Hans and Anna with the real, demonstrated love between Elsa and Anna was a brilliant touch.

Incidentally, speaking of the giant doors, near the beginning when I first saw them, I was thinking, Now, if I were staging the Do You Want to Build a Snowman? scene, I would put that giant door right in the middle of the stage and have the stage rotate so you kept seeing one side of the door and then the other — Anna, then Elsa, then Anna again. And guess how they actually staged it!! I win the hypothetically-how-to-stage-the-snowman-scene game.

In general the staging effects were really fun. I especially liked the combination of actual blowing air and wires that caused Elsa’s gloves and cape to appear to flutter away in a strong wind, and the invisible screens (seriously I don’t know how they worked) that allowed her to shoot frosty blasts across the stage. It was super cool, if you’ll pardon the pun.

I kinda liked the musical better than the original movie even if the singing wasn’t as good. Black Anna, interesting effects, Olaf’s actor’s face, the reprised song at the end emphasizing important themes… it was good times.

So after that, we went to see the Moana sneak peek. I was already pretty excited for and planning on seeing that, and that hasn’t changed. I had hoped that the sneak peek would get mom interested, though, as the Zootopia sneak peek did last time we were there, but sadly this was not the case. The footage we saw gave an impression of a movie full of action, and if there’s one thing my mom is not interested in (beyond “movies in general”), it’s action. So we’re at the “You’ll have to tell me if I would like it” stage that’s typical for any film she thinks might be mildly interesting. And it tends to turn out that she wouldn’t like most of thems. I bet I’ll like it, though.

Despite this being our “last chance to check in” at the Hollywood Tower of Terror before it gets re-imaged in February (and the outside is already covered in building stuff), we elected to skip that ride. Seriously, it’s, like, 90 seconds long, and I’m not willing to wait in line for more than about ten minutes for it. We didn’t manage to do the Monsters, Inc. ride either. We did, however, make it onto the Radiator Springs Racers by using the Single Riders line.

I think the phrase “Single Riders” is kinda funny to begin with, but when coupled with that blank anticipated wait time it’s kinda like, “Yeah, we have no idea how long you’re going to be single,” and it makes me laugh.

This cool hubcap Christmas tree in the Radiator Springs area kinda makes one wonder about Christmas in a world populated by sentient vehicles and (apparently) no humans. Is there a Jesus myth there? If so, dare I ask what make and model he is? Jesus Chrysler I seriously did not just say that.

There’s a much bigger tree — a freaking huge Christmas tree — in the Main Street Square, and it and the rest of Main Street in the dark looked too charming and lovely not to try to get some pictures of.

Very disappointingly, there were no parades on the two days we were there. The parade that’s on right now (apparently only on weekends) is the same Soundsational thing as last time, but I enjoyed that plenty and would have been happy to see it again. I suppose this way was better, since it gave us more freedom in our limited amount of time, but still…

At one point on Wednesday, however, we were eating at the Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta restaurant in California Adventure (and, BTW, fucking amazing food there, for once actually worth the Disneyland food prices), and it turned out we just happened to be seated (it’s all outdoor seating there) right next to where a show was going to happen. So we had an excellent view.

The show was a lot of singing and dancing in celebration of Latin America (specifically Mexico) and Latin American Christmas traditions (yes, they did play Feliz Navidad). It featured Mickey and Minnie in Mexican dress, of course, a lot of skilled human dancers and drummers, and Donald and his amigos whose names I’m not going to bother to look up from The Three Caballeros.

Regarding the latter, brother remarked, and I totally agreed, that it’s more than a little sad that Disney can never come up with any better way to represent Latin America than characters from that 70-year-old problematic movie. It’s been the better part of a century, Disney, and the most recognizable Latin American characters you can give us are birds nobody knows the names of that smoke cigars and ogle women? Still, the show was fun to watch; the actual humans, even if they weren’t characters from anything, performed well.

When it was over, we got down from where we’d been standing, for a better view, on the bench by our table, and started looking around wondering whether this was the type of outdoor seating where you clean up your own stuff or whether the tables get bused. And in so looking, we immediately caught the eye of an employee obviously waiting to clear our table off.

While we were stacking up the dishes for him, we chatted a little with him about how he liked working at Disneyland… and it was obvious from his features and the accent of his broken English that he was Latin American (yes, I’m a terrible person that can’t distinguish among accents). I won’t emphasize the various points of interest in the scenario, but the juxtaposition of the show against this encounter was striking and maybe somewhat distressing — especially the day after that election.

This time I didn’t buy souvenirs for most of my friends, since I was a little short on money after shelling out $100 for pet-sitting. I did grab a couple of important gifts, though, and was tempted throughout both parks by various things I could have bought for myself. What I eventually went with was the adorable “Kiss the girl” shirt I was eyeing last time I was there, as well as a BEAN JAWA that I love beyond belief. BEAN JAWA I LOVE YOU FOREVER.

If anyone asks, I’ll tell them it’s a game plan for myself (…prince, I don’t want you; bye.)

Oh, yeah. We skipped Splash Mountain. I like Splash Mountain quite a bit, but brother’s not terribly fond of it, and the lines were usually pretty long, so it did not make the cut. Sad day for outdated characters nobody cares about.

I also forgot to mention that we did go on the Holiday Haunted Mansion at one point when the line wasn’t too long. As I’ve said before, I don’t like The Nightmare Before Christmas, and think The Haunted Mansion is much better in its proper form… but I can handle the Holiday version as long as I’m braced for it, which I, of course, was this time. It’s not too terrible, and the line wasn’t too long.

We’ll finish up with two Pokémon GO screenshots.

At this time I don’t have a spare battery pack, so a combination of coming into the park with 50% battery on Tuesday (on account of having used my phone on the way in; see upcoming PL for more details) and our limited amount of time in the parks prevented me from playing the game seriously even just to get egg mileage… but obviously I had to open it up a couple of times to see what various Disneyland spots were stops and gyms. Because, while Pokémon GO is definitely a secondary concern at most whilst one is at Disneyland, I still think it’s awesome that all sorts of stuff in there is part of the game.

I had intended to level this gym up so I could station something there and then take a screenshot of my own avatar and my own Poke instead of some stranger’s. I ran out of time, though. Oh, crap, I just revealed which team I’m on!!

So in conclusion. I can’t say, “What an awesome week this has been!” on account of, you know, evil incarnate suddenly being the president elect… but I had lots of fun at Disneyland nonetheless. I always have lots of fun at Disneyland; it just doesn’t usually have quite so much outside misery and horror to contend with.