Literary Inspiration: The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World

Hidden Magic Collage

“Wait,” you may be saying to yourself, “you never shut up about Disney World, and I suspect from your last seven, long, incredibly detailed posts that you already know all of the out-in-the-open magic of Walt Disney World.  So what gives with the book?”  (As an aside, it’s amazing how much you sound like me when you’re calling me out!  You’re also a little rude, but I’m willing to overlook that.)

What gives with the book, The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, is that in the lead-up to our last trip to Disney, I was looking for a fun trivia book that would point me in the direction of some heretofore undiscovered Disney delights.  Turns out I really do know, like, 90 percent of the magic of Disney World, and this spare little book didn’t illuminate too many things I was not already aware of (at the Magic Kingdom, a kid’s eye view of the Sleeping Beauty fountain in Fantasyland reveals a crown atop Aurora’s head; over in the Animal Kingdom, the red, yellow and white pipes that run along the ceiling in Dinosaur bear the chemical compositions for ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise in a nod to the ride’s original sponsor, McDonald’s; Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror bears an exterior Mediterranean aesthetic in order to blend in with Epcot’s Morocco pavilion next door, over which it – pun intended – towers.)

Things I should have noticed before I purchased the book?  That its information only went up to the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion in 2012, which means it was missing details on both 2017’s Pandora – the World of Avatar expansion at the Animal Kingdom and the opening of 2018’s Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios.  So it was really telling me nothing I didn’t already know.  It did not take me very long to blip through this wee book.

The most complete, detailed information came in the section on the Animal Kingdom, the park I am probably the least familiar with.  And I suspect that its completeness is owing to Veness securing a direct interview with Joe Rohde, Disney Imagineering legend and lead designer of the Animal Kingdom.  Ultra engaged, ultra gregarious and ultra creative (you’ve seen him; he’s the very enthused, exceptionally earnest gentleman with giant, stretched out earlobes weighted down with intricate metal rings) Rohde strikes me as the kind of man who would grant a delightful interview to anyone, from a major news outlet, to an elementary school newspaper, to an author seeking information directly from the source.

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There is just a ton of detail here about the Animal Kingdom, in particular Dinoland USA, a day-one part of the park (an incongruous mix of the serious – paleontology – with the not-so-serious – a trashy side-of-the-highway amusement park) that has never quite felt like it fit with the rest of the park’s lush, natural aesthetic.  I love the crap out of the Dinosaur ride (it might be my third favourite ride behind the Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror) but I’ve just never understood the Dino-Rama midway part of Dinoland USA; why the too-bright, too-loud dino carnival in the midst of the Animal Kingdom’s otherwise peaceful oasis?

Dino-Rama Collage

Rohde, who oversaw the design and implementation of Dinoland USA, has always said there’s a method to his madness, and Dino-Rama isn’t just a weird jumble of carnival shys, body-punishing wild mouse coasters and hokey dinosaur puns (“This exstincts!” proclaims one sign bearing a dino staring up in dismay at a meteorite hurtling towards his head.)  But I’ve warmed to the place considerably since reading The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World, because it finally explained that madness, and turns out, it’s really not so weird after all.

The story behind Dinoland USA is that the Dino Institute, a scientific operation where you can take tours into the past (AKA ride the Dinosaur ride, in which you travel back to the Cretaceous period to nab a dino for a morally conflicted researcher, Dr. Grant Seeker, heh), has funded a paleontology expedition in the area and sent a number of students and professors there to carry out the painstaking work of digging up old dino bones (AKA The Boneyard, a massive, incredibly fun-looking playground area for kids.)  The grad students and their professors live in the various trailers and RVs dotted throughout the area, with a number of these 1960s-style trailers converted into makeshift dining halls bearing names like Trilo Bites, the Dino Diner, Dino-Bite Snacks and Restaurantosaurus (actual dining spots you can visit and grab a – sigh – dino bite.)

Animal Kingdom Dino Diner

So the story goes, married couple Chester and Hester, carny opportunists to the core, came to the area and immediately noted the financial possibilities inherent in a place with a totally captive audience of stressed out, entertainment-starved academics.  So they moved in right next door and, cribbing off the Dino Institute’s goodwill and legitimacy, opened up Dino-Rama, a ramshackle midway competitor for the students’ attention, time and money.  This is a dig at the many, many fly-by-night attractions that sprang up directly outside Disneyland’s gates when that park opened in 1955, a “how did we not see this coming?” move that irked Walt to no end and prompted him to essentially buy up nearly all of central Florida in a move to head off a repeat performance when he opened his World of Disney in 1971.)

Dino Collage

The big draw in Dino-Rama, aside from numerous looming dinosaurs and Chip and Dale strutting about in their finest dino costumes, is Primeval Whirl, a densely knitted wild mouse coaster in which your cart wildly spins, sending you plummeting downhill somehow both sideways and backwards.  It’s an incredibly rough ride – really never fails to break our old arses – and you swing about so much, you never really get a chance to appreciate the silly cartoon dinosaur artwork and sad trombone jokes that pepper the attraction in a budget imitation of the legit Dinosaur ride next door at the Dino Institute.  Here, behold!  Now with additional Triceratops Spin action!

It’s all so very petty and passive aggressive, and I really kind of love it now that I know the backstory.  The whole of Dinoland USA is actually blanketed with little bits of trivia about the two disparate groups – letters and photos and other mementos dotted about as reminders of this odd, competitive pairing.  I think it’s all quite charming!  And information I’m glad to have learned – it really made my experience that much richer this last visit to have the scoop on the funny little inside jokes and local colour of Dinoland USA.  Which is why I chose its colourful sign – at least the Dino part! – as the subject matter of this manicure, inspired by Hidden Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, which I read in service of my friends’ reading challenge for the eighteenth prompt, “a guide.”

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Snack Money

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In the last couple of years you’ve watched – probably with some annoyance at this point; it’s okay, I understand – as my husband and I have jetted off to Disney World at every possible opportunity.  We got that Disney stoke BAD.  You’ve read about us navigating insane Christmas Day crowds, buddying up to Wookiees (check them double Es now!) and drinking our way around, well, any park that serves alcohol (and that would be all of them.)

But the one Disney thing you haven’t seen us indulge in very much is souvenir-hunting.  Thankfully, Mr. Finger Candy and I are not really the collector types, so Disney’s hypnotic capitalist mojo does not work its hoodoo on these two yoohoos.  And for that I am SO GLAD, because there’s an endless number of ways you can part with your money whilst on a Disney vacation, and plastic souvenir cups aren’t high up on my list of things to lug home.

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I save that money and luggage space for those really special items that grab my attention, like this Loungefly wallet I grabbed on our last trip to Disney World.  Isn’t she lovely?  I’m smitten with the purple leather, and this Disney snacks print, which is showing up on everything from dishware to apparel to doormats, is the trendiest thing in a place known for setting the trends.  I needed a new wallet anyways, so this one came along at just the right time. 🙂 What I didn’t need was the matching mini backpack, which, while utterly adorable, was ludicrously expensive and made me feel like Cher Horowitz after she got all old and moved to Canada to start a blog.

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I thought these nails turned out pretty well!  That Disneyfied “D” in particular *could* get me into trouble with Walt’s aggressive trademark people, that’s how good I think it is!  But I’m biased (and still really quite pleased with this snacktacular mani, and my cute new wallet.)

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Literary Inspiration: 11/22/63

Sock Hop Collage

Kicking off the not-so-new year with another giant literary tome from Stephen King, master of the macabre, ninja of nostalgia and writer of the five-part non-ending.  I started reading 11/22/63 – “the one where he goes back in time and saves JFK” – at the end of 2018, but life events conspired to push its conclusion back into 2019, and so here we are, 800 some-odd (some very odd) pages later.  I gripe about King’s frequent inability to satisfactorily conclude his stories, but he’s my favourite author, and if he released an entire book of short stories written in binary code, I’d read that, too.  So a quiet little story about one man’s quest to alter the course of one very big event – with all the usual Kingsian complications in play – is riiiiiight in my literary wheelhouse.  Bring on the revisionist history!

But here’s the thing – for the daughter of a couple of hardcore Boomers, the kind of people who remember the day some combination of Lee Harvey Oswald, the CIA and a grassy knoll in Texas assassinated John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, I know precious little about the actual event itself.  Nor have I ever felt the need to rectify that particular gap in my knowledge of American politics; it’s a world so far removed from mine, I’ve never cared to seek out those details.

That’s clearly not the case with King, who devotes nearly 900 pages to the subject of JFK’s assassination.  Sort of.  11/22/63 is not really about JFK at all, and it’s only nominally about his violent, greatly disputed death.  What 11/22/63 is actually about is love.  And dancing.

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The mostly spoiler-free details, and how this very retro manicure fits into the grander scheme of things: 11/22/63 begins not in 1963, nor does it start in 1958, where the wormhole that makes this a time travel story exists.  It actually starts in 2011 – in Maine, naturally – with 35-year-old high school English teacher Jake Epping.  Fresh off a contentious divorce to a woman who loved alcohol – and other men – a lot more than him, and experiencing diminishing returns on his many years as an educator, Jake is well positioned for a major life change.  That that change would come in the form of multiple, increasingly complex jaunts into the past via a wormhole in a smelly diner pantry is most likely not the kind of change Jake was envisioning, but the Kingsian world works in odd ways.

After being shown this rip in the fabric of time by diner owner and amateur time traveler Al Templeton (made ever so less impressive because of its physical location, situated between a dirty mop bucket on one side and a stack of canned goods on the other) Jake is tasked with returning to 1958, where he will live as a regular man of the time until November 22nd, 1963, when he will travel to Texas, kill Lee Harvey Oswald, save President John F. Kennedy and spare millions from the brutal political fallout sparked by his assassination.  Al would do it himself were it not for the fact that he’s dying – time travel plays real hell on a person’s condition.

Al is adamant that, partisan concerns aside, JFK must be saved; Democrat, Republican, Sock Puppet, the global repercussions of his death are just too great.  But Jake, who has read enough science fiction in his day, has concerns regarding Al’s proposed scheme.  Assuming he completes his mission and doesn’t die right there in the 1960s, how is he to return to 2011?  And if he does find his way back to 2011, what will he be returning to?  The Butterfly Effect posits that the world will not be the same, cannot be the same, given such incredible intervention.  Al assures him that he’s been back and forth hundreds of times – often for just a few hours, but sometimes for much, much longer – and aside from a hell of case of lung cancer he picked up on his last, years long trip, the world itself seemed to suffer no ill effects.

To that effect, Jake asks how he could have seen Al the day prior, happily (and more importantly, healthily) manning the counter at his diner, pushing his suspiciously inexpensive Fat Burgers, only for him to now be (barely) standing before him, wracked with stage 4 lung cancer.  Al replies that time moves differently in the past, ticking off days upon months upon years in the then while mere moments pass in the now.  Shrugging off Jake’s continued enquiries as to how any of this can possibly be, does he not feel the least bit conflicted about the irrevocable damage he may be inflicting on both the past and the present, Al replies that it’s not as irrevocable as Jake would think – the wormhole employs a kind of reset function that wipes the slate clean in the past every time Al returns to the present.  So no harm, no foul to the people of the past, and Al can continue getting the meat for his Fat Burgers at 1958 prices.

Feeling like he doesn’t have much of a choice, and also wondering what the hell else he’s going to do with his life, Jake takes the bait and steps through into 1958.

With nothing but time on his hands between his arrival in 1958 and his date with Lee Harvey Oswald on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository in 1963, Jake tries to acclimate to the time, finding it relatively easy.  Seems he wasn’t a man built for the modern era after all.  Upon discovering that he has reservations about the hows and whys of his task – does he really have to kill Oswald?  Can he not just divert him from his chosen path? – Jake conducts a couple of test cases, and discovers what could be 11/22/63’s overriding theme – the past is obdurate and will resist all attempts at change.  Jake frequently, and bitterly, addresses the Al who has taken up residence in his head, accusing him of radically underselling the ease, or lack thereof, of altering the very course of time.

With years to go until his main mission, Jake sets out to learn everything he can about Oswald, tracking his movements as he and his family move from Russia to the United States, even going so far as to bug his home.  Justifiably uneasy with the thought of killing an innocent man – but not necessarily a good man; Oswald is a certifiable piece of shit – Jake’s looking for proof irrefutable that Oswald done it, or will do it.

Then, once again looking for a way to pass the time, Jake moves to a small town outside of Texas, where he finds his real purpose in the past – friends that are like family, a meaningful career as a respected educator and mentor, and love.  And it’s that love, forged on a small town gymnasium dance floor by two giddy teachers showing off their best Lindy Hops, that alters the course of Jake’s trajectory in the past, and whether his present is even something worth returning to.

In the interest of not giving away too much of what amounts to a simple story about a man finding love in the most unexpected of places and times, I won’t say much more.  But these nails are a representation of 11/22/63’s other theme, which is that dancing is everything.  I couldn’t think of anything more fitting than a manicure inspired by Jake and Sadie’s gleeful turn at the Hop.

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All in all, a very enjoyable read that had so much less to do with JFK than I thought possible for a book (nominally) about the assassination of said man.  Oh! and wonder of wonders, 11/22/63 has an ending, an actual, identifiable conclusion – and a satisfying one at that.  It was just a very sweet love story set within the more complex framework of time travel, and nicely showed off the softer side of our man Steve.  Aw, who knew King could get so warm and fuzzy?

By the by, I read this book in service of my blogging friends’ Jay and Julie’s 2019 reading challenge for the twelfth theme of “Shallowness: pick a book based on its spine appearance alone” because all 11/22/63 has its spine. 🙂

Rockin’ the Birthday Dots

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Mickey Mouse turned 90 years old this year, and all across the Walt Disney World Resort, where I was lucky enough to enjoy a recent lovely vacation, there were tons of opportunities to meet Mickey and Minnie in their birthday wear (not to be confused with birthday suits, which would be an entirely different and altogether terrifying experience.)  Both Mickey and Minnie are sporting some fly new threads for the occasion, a white suit for Mickey and a white sundress for Minnie, both liberally sprinkled with multi-coloured dots.  There are also some black Minnie ears available in the shops, likewise adorned with rainbow-hued polka dots, because this is Disney, and of course there are.

We get asked all the time if we’ve met the park OGs, Mickey and Minnie, and the answer is no, never, not a once.  My husband and I go to Disney World and we meet Kylo Ren, Chewbacca and BB-8.  We stand in a two and a half hour long lineup to meet Jack and Sally of The Nightmare Before Christmas (worth every one of those 9,000 seconds!)  We hang out with Wreck-It-Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz, dine with the Beast and rawk out with Vampirina.  And I once nearly overturned a tavern table in my zest for sprinting outside and directly into the bulgy, waiting arms of Gaston.

Character Collage

But Mick and Min have remained elusive.  Something to rectify on our next trip.  For now I’ll just have to satisfy myself with these nails that rock both Mickey and Minnie’s birthday dots.  To the next 90, young mouse(s)!

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Polar Vortex

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Are we still in one?  I really wouldn’t know, seeing as none of my limbs have been warm in about three weeks, and my eyeballs may have frozen over.  HOW WILL WE KNOW WHEN WE’VE EXITED THE VORTEX???  Also, do you suppose this is how Jack Torrence felt before he went all Jack Torrence?  Best keep me away from any abandoned hotels – all freezing and no heat makes Sandra something-something. 😦

They say you write what you know, and the same holds true, apparently, for nail art – all I know is cold these days, so more frozen nail art it is.  Here I painted a smattering of delicate, lacy snowflakes over OPI’s colour-shifting Northern Lights before frosting the entire thing in Enchanted Polish’s Rainbow Juice (With Pulp.)   I like this polish’s mix of holographic shimmer, glitter and tiny, jagged shards – it makes everything it touches look like its been haphazardly dusted with sparkling snow.  Pretty, and ever so fitting given the present weather conditions (see above, re: cold and miserable.)

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Icy and Iridescent

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Kicking off another week of winter with an easy peasy manicure positively spackled with iridescent glitter.  This is four coats of Essence Polish’s Space Queen over a simple white creme.  I always think these kinds of not-too-flashy clear glitter polishes look like they belong in a little girl’s Tinkerbell makeup kit (Tinkerbell Cosmetics, for my younger readers, was the ’80s girl’s answer to the kind of makeup they sell today in inexpensive jewelry and accessory shops like Claire’s – it was *maybe* not of the greatest quality, and everything smelled like plastic strawberries.)

But the Space Queens of the world endure because these polishes are fun, for little kids and big kids alike.  It’s also the only iridescent glitter polish I own, because iridescent glitter sticks to your nails like it’s been Crazy Glue’d onto your person for LIFE.  But it doesn’t smell like phony strawberries, so there’s a big plus. 🙂

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I commented in a post last month that one of Disney’s colour trends of 2018 was this sort of blue-leaning iridescent hue that looks as though everything has been iced with pastel rainbows.  Seems I really took that particular trend to heart, because a quick glance around my apartment turned up a dozen or so items in this exact finish, ranging from shimmery makeup and a glossy new day planner, to barware, candle holders and even a stack of 20-year-old dessert plates!

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I adore my new planner!  Nabbed this pretty at Chapters for $5 a couple of weeks after Christmas (small tip when it comes to purchasing things like calendars or day planners: If you don’t absolutely need one for the first couple of weeks of the year, hold off until they come down in price – usually about 75% – in early to mid-January.)

Journal Collage

Even my daily water intake has gotten into the shimmery, iridescent action, courtesy of my cool new Starbucks tumbler.  The reflections on the surface of the water remind me of the brew Dumbledore chokes back in the Inferi-beset Crystal Cave in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (you know, just ever so slightly less poisonous and insanity-making.)

Iridescent Water 1

And on the hot side of the beverage spectrum, we even have my new poison apple mug, positively dripping in a shimmery, iridescent glaze.  So pretty.

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And one of these days I will find a bottle worthy of this iridescent stopper my mom gave me some years back, fetchingly outfitted in the finest of squirrel fashions (perched on those Pier 1 dessert plates, most of which have lost their silvery rainbow lustre over the past 20 years of hard use.  Knock on wood, but I’ve never broken a single one, and I STILL, to this day, lament not purchasing all of the dishware available in the collection when I had the chance.)

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And with that, time to venture out into the true iciness of this Monday morning, some pretty, mood-boosting iridescent goodies in tow.  Happy week, friends – I hope it’s shiny rainbows every single day. 🙂

Frosty Freeze

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That’s me!  Or rather, I’m frosty and freezing.  To paraphrase Captain Raymond Holt of Brooklyn 9-9, where I live (Eastern Ontario, Canada) it is colder than Cocytus, the frozen lake of Hell.  And has been that way – resolutely, aggravatingly so – all. week. long.  We’re talking temps that dip into the mid-20s (NEGATIVE 20 DEGREES) but owing to BS metrics like windchill, actually feel like they’re in the -30s.  I haven’t been warm all week.

Anyhow, all that to explain how these nails, which started out in a tropical place, wound up looking more like frosted snowflakes.  Because everything in my life is frosted in snowflakes these days, so why not also my manicures?!  Also because the glittery purple polish I chose, a nameless stocking stuffer I received last year, is itself just frosty enough to make what started out life as floral fronds into ice cold lace daggers.  Or sorry, as you may know it, snow.  Because there’s also been a ton of that this week as well, inexplicably – it’s really not supposed to snow when it gets this cold, but somehow, it’s managed BOTH at the same time!  As have I with these nails. 😉

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