People do get somewhat snooty about Disney. But I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who’s been to Disneyland (or Disney World, or Euro Disney) will have been impressed. Long ago when the world was young, Mrs Crox and I went to the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California, for a day, at about this time of year – it remains by far the best day out we’ve ever had. We paid Euro Disney a three-day visit one brisk but shiny February when Crox Minor was five, and Crox Minima just two and a half. Somewhere I have a picture of Mrs Crox, Crox Minor and Crox Minima with an outsize Minnie Mouse. Mrs Crox looks thrilled to be there; Crox Minima looks pant-wettingly terrified; and Crox Minor was wearing what one can only describe as a thousand-yard stare. This suggests that Disneyland is for the grownups at least as much as the kids.
So our day spent there last Friday (9 April) was by way of nostalgia, as well as rounding off our visit to Paris, and a way of seeing how the Croxii reacted to it, now they were capable of doing anything other than gawp in wonderment/fear/boredom/terror (delete as applicable). So what did we do? What does anyone do in a theme park? We queued for inordinate lengths of time for brief (but thrilling) rides. We ate and drank and were merry. We spent an unmentionable amount of money on cheap tat.
What, then, is Disneyland’s secret? If there really is magic in the Magic KingdomTM, what is it? I think I can express it in just three words, and these three words are … wait for it … Attention To Detail. The designers appear to have gone to very great lengths so that wherever you look in Disneyland, at whatever scale, nothing whatsoever intrudes on your suspension of disbelief.
The props, the backgrounds, all are chosen to evoke vivid Cartoon Reality – even when you are waiting ages to ride on Big Thunder Mountain, you pass through a kind of film set which evokes (as far as one can guess) in the minutest detail a mining colony in 19th-Century Colorado. So much so, that if things do jar, one can put such indiscretions down as deliberate. And while you look, you listen – the music that pumps out everywhere comes from modest speakers, filling the air with sound but without apparent distortion. One side of your brain thinks you’re in Enchanted – the other (the techie side) thinks that there is some seriously powerful amplification going on. The detail is so obsessional that even in an old-West-themed saloon, genuine western-style saloon music follows you even when you visit the gents – which is furnished in western-style wallpapers and brass light fittings.
This Attention To Detail came home to me when, not long after visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, we went to Universal Studios, another film-based theme park. We rode through the night sky on flying bicycles straight out of E. T. But the sensation was spoiled because everywhere you looked, there were illuminated signs directing one to the Emergency Exit. Sure, at EuroDisney there are the Sorties De Secours. But they are less obtrusive. I can’t think how, but they are.