May 06, 2005

With A Crowd Like This, It Just Feels Like A Small World ...

Shelby was out last night meeting her friend Nell for dinner, so I thought that I'd run some errands and then maybe head over to Disneyland to see what was happening for the opening night of their 50th anniversary celebration.

May 5th isn't actually the the 50th anniversary of Disneyland -- that'll be July 17th -- but it's the date they picked to kick off the eighteen months of fireworks, special events, and the like that are centered around the occasion. 05/05/05 definitely sounds like a more auspicious date -- plus, since Disneyland's 50th is supposed to be a worldwide event at all of the Disney parks, it won't confuse any of those wacky furriners who put their dates in the wrong order.

It was supposed to be crowded -- celebrities! Special ceremonies! Radio and TV coverage from all over! During the day, there were supposedly so many people there that they filled the parking structure (an incredible feat, considering that the thing is so big that it has to be visible from space -- compare the size of the structure [the greyish rectangle in the upper left] to that of Disneyland itself). I had an easy time getting in, however, so it wasn't until I was on Main Street, USA that I realized just how big the crowd actually was:

. . . this was twelve Grad Nights and a New Year's Eve put together. I'm pretty sure that it was the most people that DL's ever managed to pull in for a cold, dampish mid-week evening.

I still entertained the thought that I might leave before the big fireworks show started, but after a little while of swimming against the stream, I looked behind me and realized that I was stuck -- there wasn't any way that I'd be fighting my way back through that until some of those people started to leave.

Others around me had some more extreme reactions. I was almost knocked to the ground when a big guy -- he must've been 300 pounds or so -- slammed into me from behind. Somebody asked him if he was all right, and his answer was "Too many people! I gotta get away from all of these people!" before he resumed elbowing and shoving his way through the crowd. (Jerk. From his reaction, you'd think we were in the middle of an English soccer riot or stuffed into a subway car, but despite the crowds, everybody still had some personal space.)

After some effort, I made my way up to the "hub" -- the traffic circle where Main Street ends, with Sleeping Beauty's Castle at the head and the gateways to the various "lands" on either side. I was surrounded by more-Disneyer-than-thou enthusiasm -- on my right, I had a clot of former "cast members" ("this is definitely a crowd -- but let me tell you about this one night that I was working Fantasmic in the middle of summer, and ..."); on my left, I had the hardcore fans, wearing T-shirts with the URL for some Disney fan site, with their Premium Annual Passes around their necks, comparing their various collectable pins ("Well, this one is an extremely limited-edition pin made solely from atoms taken from Walt Disney's exhumed corpse, and you could only get it by attending a very special invitation-only VIP AP breakfast that was held at six in the morning at ...") I kept my eyes on the clouds; it had been raining earlier in the evening, and if the rain appeared again and they had to cancel the fireworks, there'd be a full-scale riot.

After passing the longest twenty minutes ever, the fireworks began. It was the best fireworks show ever! There were all kinds of special effects -- rockets, pillars of fire, giant spinning pinwheels, lasers, pictures projected onto the castle and the Matterhorn, fireworks in all different shapes (Mickey's head, happy faces, hearts, boxes) -- themed to sounds and music from various Disneyland attractions through the years. Even some narration from Adventure Thru Inner Space and the remain-seated warning from the Matterhorn ("Remain seated please -- ípermanecer sentados, por favor!") made an appearance.

The best thing was that this wasn't your traditional high-up-in-the-sky fireworks show, but an immersive experience. There are lots of fireworks and effects down low (part of Fantasyland is closed for the show; it's amazing they didn't set anything on fire!), and, if you're standing in the hub, fireworks all around -- even behind -- you.

Then the show ended, the lights went up, and it was back to that ol' cattle-car feeling as I waited (and waited ...) for things to clear up enough to move around. We'll definitely be going back to see the show ... but maybe after some of the newness -- and the crowds -- have subsided!

Posted by Kevin at May 6, 2005 11:53 AM