It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Disneyworld

Rumors float about that Walt Disney had his super-imaginational head frozen. It now floats just like the rumor, in a tank somewhere, to be thawed and re-attached to another body when future technology makes that possible. Truth is, his mind and giant brain are alive and functioning at Disney resorts all over the world. Disney, whether in life, movies and death, has a dark side. Art imitates life.

A trip to a Disney theme park has a side as black as Ursula's tentacles. You know how difficult it can be spending time with your family? Imagine spending time with thousands of families. It gets real real --real fast.

To help cope, Disney now sells beer and wine at Animal Kingdom. Guests wander around the parks, already exhausted from their year of working hard to save enough money to bring the whole family to experience the damn magic. After a few hours of experiencing the magic of lines snaking around entire countries, I saw a man -- let's call him Nate -- release the leash tethered to his life's responsibilities (in this case his child) and belly up to the bar. After a few brews, newly single Nate weaved his way to the back of the park and soon found himself on the Safari Ride.

Mesmerized, I followed.

You know, everything looks safe from the inside of the open-air bus driven by an inbred teen with a penchant for theatrics. Our driver must have moved away from dull Dayton, where no one got him, and to the bright lights of Orlando. He's the kind of kid that leaves home "David", and returns as "Dayvyd".

What could go wrong with a wilderness area (almost roped off) filled with wild animals plucked from their native Africa and placed inside a Florida swamp?

Our ginger-haired driver had a spiel that included: Limits on the use of flash photography, the staying-in-the-bus rule, and his love of tap.

The bus ambled into the back country of "Africa". Warthogs rooted up artificial landscapes. The driver pointed out a visible back leg of a black rhino and hoped that he didn't attempt to charge the bus and kill us as he had the last tour. We barely made it over a rickety bridge and passed a stork resting in the back of a submerged hippo. Before we could see how that wild situation resolved, we rounded another corner. So much to see.

Disney movies are notorious for complicated back stories. In fact, most princesses never even get to have a mother.

Foreshadowing is an important and dramatic tool in all storytelling. Our driver built up the gorillas in our midst, painting them as ferocious and eager to snag one of us off the bus, tear our limbs apart and eat us like an unroasted chicken. I feared our driver would prod the poor, peaceful Silverbacks with the hope that we might see a powerful chest thumping or hear a mighty roar. But our beautiful friend just let us pass, looking away and wondering what was on cable later. And if his mother back in Africa missed him.

The driver dramatically paused the bus at the pit of dangerous Nile crocodile. He informed us that these sleeping beauties mean more than expensive shoes; they mean business. He warned that they could snap a human in half in a second and not be full -- or all that sad.

Suddenly, our peaceful passenger Nate went rogue. He hopped out of the bus and into the crocodile pit. Wow -- we all wanted to do it at these parks but no one really does it!

He pounced off one back, onto another. He skipped from croc to croc like that one chubby groupie being passed around by all of the Rolling Stones on their 1978 world tour.

Our driver was trained for these emergencies but had never had a Code ____ before. He knew all of Cassie's lines in A Chorus Line but he was suddenly stricken with actual work-performance anxiety. His walkie-talkie shook right out of his pale left hand, dropped into the pit and was immediately swallowed.

Meanwhile, I watched Nate dart up and out of danger, safely.

Our safari, like life, continued. We passed the elephants where I saw Nate cuddling a pachyderm. Who could blame him? That's the Disney we all want -- the animators make them look so cute. The elephant became angry; however, and threw caution -- and Nate to the wind with one swoop of his trunk.

Our driver would have seen Nate fly by, too, but he was busy trying to act like he had not just lost a passenger. He did this in the best way he knew -- giving a jazz hands performance. Which we all know makes driving a bus full of tourists both difficult and low-priority. Fosse danced, not drove.

Nate was flung so hard and far that he landed in the bleachers of the Lion King show. Not missing a beat, he marveled at the quality of the Broadway-worthy live singers. He realized that just fifty years ago the little red-headed bus driver would be on this same stage singing these parts in black face, but now, thanks to civil rights, affirmative action and American Idol, his mediocre white ass was forced to drive a bus and the all-black cast was free to sing about celebrating the circle of life in their Native Africa.

Nate had no idea that the entire park was searching for him. He suffered a mild sprain in the elephant toss and was now happy to sit and see a show.  He reached over and snatched the corn dog from a child enjoying the "Disney Daze". Nate snacked, content to tap his other foot to the beat of the drums. Soon, he was gonna need more wine.

The cast of the show worked themselves up into a frenzy of a finale. Characters and sweat flew off the stage in perfect rhythm. Just as the Blue Bird/Lady character began her final flying twirl up and away from the safety of the stage, her wire snapped. She flew smack into a hanging light, which knocked her unconscious and she fell to the ground.

The audience, accustomed to dark Disney movie plot twists of burning deer, dead mothers, murderous witches and thieving dwarfs, broke out into mild applause.

The actress formerly known as flying, now lay lifeless on the floor. Nate, bored, stepped over her crumpled yet lithe body as he left the theater. The rest of the cast kept dancing and singing, as they were trained to do. The gymnast monkeys worked carrying her offstage into their act. Another actress was waiting in the wings (wearing wings) and soon was soaring high above the crowd. Maximum risk at minimum wage.

Suddenly, the crepuscule hour hit. The sun was sinking. Nate stumbled out of the park and onto the monorail, unaware that he was now presumed to have been eaten by the one lion.

He headed for the Magic Kingdom.

Officials needed a scape goat and although in a Disney movie that's usually an actual goat, our driver was an easier target and non-PETA protected. He was fired and moved back to Dayton, with plans to move to NYC in the Fall.

Nate had left the hotel that morning in a red t-shirt that his wife hated but he loved. Unwittingly, he kept moving and eventually slipped into the Magic Kingdom without a ticket, caught in the shuffle of a family wearing matching red t-shirts, emblazoned with the motto, If You Don't Like Your Family, You Wont Like Ours. They had no idea the shirts they had customized on would be prophetic.

Nate fell onto the cold, clean pavement of Main Street and encountered the masses. Now sober, he was able to get a good look around. Apparently, carbs were "in" and stronger than ever.  He looked up, shielding his weary eyes from the magnificent, bright lights of Cinderella's Castle and had a revelation: This shit just got real.

At that moment, his own family happed by. His wife, unaware that he had abandoned them on the bus, had gravitated over to the Magic Kingdom like little puffy immigrants. She saw that their child's leash was not fastened to Nate's wrist. She clipped it back on.

"Come on, we got an electrical light parade to witness," she chided.

Nate dutifully followed.

Walt built it, and they will always come.


  1. There's nothing funnier than the human animal.
    - Walt Disney

  2. Did i just get a shout out ;)

    1. Thanks for the use of your name, real-life Nate!

  3. I Love counting kids on leashes at theme parks!!! Ray and I have even gotten accustomed to discussing such kid on a leash loudly and rather obnoxiously and often snap pics whenever possible. Kids on a leash provide hours of material to work with. It's genius!! I'm going to suggest "kids on a leash" at my improv next week. God I hope I get to be in that scene.

    1. Overheard one mother of twins say to another mother (they didn't know each other) as she pointed at one of her twins: "That one there, he don't go to school." Did I mention they were twins?


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