Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dumbo: A Tragedy in Three Acts, part III

Act III: Redemption?

As usually happens, time went on, and that fateful autumn day receded further and further into my past. I began to outgrow my affinity for all things Dumbo and moved forward to more important things, like elementary and (subsequently) middle school. In fact, I would dare say that at this point in my life, I had forgotten all about the heartache I had twice experienced in southern California.

There was one slight hiccup in my thought-repression, however. At the end of middle school, as was the custom at the time, all 9th graders got to take a day off from school and go to Lagoon. For the uninformed, Lagoon is an amusement park in Utah that prides itself on being the most-visited amusement park within a few hundred miles; they fail to note, of course, that it is also the only amusement park within a few hundred miles. Pride-by-default notwithstanding, "Lagoon Day" was something most 9th graders looked forward to, if only for an opportunity to rub it in the younger classmen's faces. As I had not been to Lagoon (or any other amusement park) for quite some time, I explored every nook and cranny of the park, determined to get the most out of my trip. Because, you know, that's what cool fifteen-year-olds do.

Pictured: one cool fifteen-year-old
In my exploration, I discovered something that struck an all-too-familiar chord with me: a ride whose cars spin around in a circle and can ascend/descend at the rider's will. Had I accidentally stumbled into a wormhole and been transported from Lagoon back to Disneyland? Upon closer inspection, I realized I hadn't; for you see, the cars at the Lagoon ride were helicopters, not flying elephants. While it may have offered some solace, I knew I would not only be lying to myself by riding it, but I would feel a degree of guilt—much like someone who marries a girl's younger sister when she shuts down his proposal... twice. I realized that no, this was not the time nor the place for me to settle. It was Dumbo or nothing.

Pictured: nothing
When I was in my early twenties, my father surprised me with the most interesting news I had heard in quite some time: that winter, we were going to Disneyworld. Perhaps he had had his fill of Anaheim, or perhaps he wanted his grandchildren to have the Disney experience at its fullest. Whatever the reason, a few months after the announcement, this supposed "Magic Kingdom" was the destination of my family—including my nieces and nephews, a whole new generation of younglings ready to be hewn down by the lightsaber of crushed hopes wielded by none other than Darth Disneus.

Star Wars metaphors, anyone?
Much to my surprise, Disneyworld was actually pretty fun, even as an adult. Actually, perhaps it was because I was an adult that made it so enjoyable. After all, a child wouldn't have received the same degree of enjoyment that we did after convincing the operator of Splash Mountain to break the rules and let us go twice in a row; nor would a child have found the humor in Snow White's Scary Adventures completely shutting down because our cart—full of seven fully-grown adults—weighed too much and caused a malfunction in the driving mechanism.

After we were asked to leave Snow White, we were debating what ride to visit next; while we were in mid-discussion, I glanced across the walkway and saw something whose beauty surpassed anything I had ever seen: Dumbo the Flying Elephant in all its remodeled glory. The center turning machine had been outfitted with gold beams and brass filigree. There were sixteen elephants instead of the original ten. And the best part of it all: a line of children were standing in front of it. A line meant proper operation! Nearly two decades after my original encounter, I finally reached my destination.

Or so I thought.

As I neared the ride, I realized that the line was slowly dissipating. I quickly maneuvered my way upstream through the dispersing crowd and reached the operator. His back was turned, so I desperately tried to get his attention. He was busy working on something and paid me no mind. Just as I was about to start throwing things to get him to turn around, he walked away from what he was working on. While I was racking my brain, trying to figure out exactly what was going on, he was busy posting...

...a sign announcing that Dumbo the Flying Elephant was closed for repairs.

the sign, as I remember it
Le sigh.

It has been over four years since that day, and I have yet to return to a Disney park; a man can only take so much punishment, after all. Will I ever go back? My initial thoughts were akin to "not in a million years". However, with the recent announcement of Fantasyland getting an expansion and makeover—including an entire area devoted to Dumbo—I may be forced to once-again swallow my pride and venture forth again in a few years. Perhaps the fourth time will be a charm?

It looks good, Lou. But we really need to convey the feeling of despair children are going to have...