Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: Disneyland, soundtracked

ANAHEIM, July 27 - July was a tough month, weighted down by a colossal writing / editing project which pretty much clobbered my ass. But besides the obvious Miller Time lure of a day at Disneyland, this trip had an extra, scientific significance. Ride durations for the entire park are posted online. Song times for my entire 6 GB iTunes library can be sorted with one click. With three or four minutes of research, it is entirely possible to match each ride with its exact soundtrack. Midmonth, I called my friend Oliver Hall and asked those twenty magic words; Are you aware that Space Mountain and Discharge's 'Drunk With Power' are both two minutes and forty four seconds long? A week later, we parked in the Minnie lot and set forth.

1. MAD TEA PARTY / "Operation" by Circle Jerks (1:30)

Disneyland attractions are surprisingly brief, so my list had a strong bias towards hardcore. This felt fitting for the Tea Party, the most politically charged ride of 2010. And yet, standing in line wearing earbuds, surrounded by children, I suddenly felt very foolish. I relayed this concern to Oliver, who said, "Pioneers are always mocked. Look at Neil Armstrong."

I had chronic nosebleed issues as a child, so this was my first time riding the cups. The motion sickness part was kind of rough. The song ended two seconds too late, and was great, and completely inappropriate, and awesome. Afterwards, we paused under the tarps of the shuttered Alice ride to collect ourselves and Oliver smiled in that way people do when they're about to vomit into a passing stroller.

2. MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE / "Coup D'etat" by Circle Jerks (2:02)

We joined a long queue of harried moms and bored kids. Oliver stared out wistfully towards Merlin's Sword, near the King Arthur Carrousel. He explained; as a kid, he'd stuck through three presentations of "Merlin" selecting a child from the crowd to yank the sword free, each time hoping in vain to get chosen. "It was right there," he explained to me and any toddlers within earshot, "that I was buggered thrice by Merlin."

An idea came to me.

Me: "Keith Morris should hire himself out."

Oliver: "Hm?"

Me: "Like, '$500 to spend a day at Disneyland with the singer of the Circle Jerks'. I'll bet he could clean up."

Oliver: "Yeah."

The line wasn't moving. A woman popped her head around the corner and informed us that something mechanical had jammed. I thought enviously of all those people getting an extended stay inside my favorite ride. We left with an agreement to return later, which we promptly forgot. The following day, my friend Anthony would point out that I am "an asshole" for omitting this ride, and proclaimed the entire day " a failure."

3. SNOW WHITE'S SCARY ADVENTURES / "Think" by Void (1:49)

I recognized a startling resemblance to the paintings of chalets in the ride's foyer and pictures I'd seen of The Berghof, Hitler's private retreat in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps. I mentioned this to Oliver, who laughed, and then said, a bit too loudly, "You know who else enjoyed this ride? Hitler."

Once in motion, our song started strong, got funny, then quickly turned terrifying. Bubba Dupree's semi-solo conjured up an evil tree, and for a brief but real moment, the ride's gnarled old witch peered into my eyes and said, with her mind, You are one of us now. You will never leave this place. Afterwards, Oliver & I debriefed.

Me: "I'd imagine that's what a Disneyland drug meltdown would be like."

Oliver: "That got really fucking frightening."

4. BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD / "Padded Room" by Six Finger Satellite (3:19)

I made it as far as the ride's incline - 6FS prematurely kicking into full gear - when my iPhone bumped me out of the song entirely (I'd accidentally set it on something called "shake to shuffle"). At first it skipped to "Driving" by Wrangler Brutes, a song I sometimes listen to at the gym. But each jolt jumped me through less and less apt material ("What You Waiting For" by Gwen Stefani, Caruso's "Addio Alla Madre", "Since I Don't Have You" by the Skyliners). It was a graceless snub by my own equipment.

Oliver: "Formally, the ride was very similar to the song, especially the breakdown in the middle. The drums kick back in on the second ascent. The tempo of it was pretty well matched."

Me: "Shit!!!"

5. ASTRO ORBITOR [sic] / "Dope Smoking Moron" by The Replacements (1:30)

I'd never flown the misspelled Astro jets before, on the grounds that it seemed like a silent, boring, go-nowhere experience. This song made it merely a boring, go-nowhere experience. And although the track matched the ride's duration, its tempo and lyrics were completely inappropriate.

Me: "Oops."

Oliver: "I think you'd need a one and a half minute Hawkwind song for that ride."

6. PINOCCHIO'S DARING JOURNEY / "Contact High" by Ike & Tina Turner (2:03)

This was a nice jaunt through Francesco Crispi era Italy, with a track that continued the day's theme of drug adventure by proxy. The overall effect was pleasant and casual, like listening to music while sitting by the stereo (something I haven't done in at least a decade). Although my math was off on this one - the Turners faded out at Monstro, a minute too early - this was an appropriate blunder, providing a soft landing back in the reality of Pinocchio's bedroom and then the realer reality of the ride's completion.

Me: "Even though that's maybe an anti-drug song, it kind of made drugs seem fun."

Oliver: "It certainly obliterated the Pinocchio narrative."

Oliver standing near the Sword In The Stone: "Where it all went wrong." I saw this face again, later, at the Golden Horseshoe, when the question was raised, "Whom does one have to blow to get an ice cream here?"

7. MATTERHORN / "Gossip" by Suburban Lawns (2:27)

Dusk had fallen and our Fastpasses came due. By the time we'd rounded the expedited line it was night. This was our first close match of the day. The reverb on Su Tissue's already icy, ethereal vocals made her sound as if she were serenading us from deep within one of the mighty mountain's caverns. A+.

8. AUTOPIA / "Spy Vs. Spy" by Pell Mell (2:52, on repeat)

15 minutes into the line, two young women forced us into a dialogue. Highlights:

Young Woman 1: "Did you guys come from ComiCon?"

Me: "No."

Young Woman 1: "What do you guys do for a living?"

Oliver: (laughing maliciously) "Sam's a writer."

Young Woman 1: "No way! I write erotic fiction. For myself. You guys are hot geeks!"

By the time I'd settled into my car, my discombobulated humiliation had actually knotted the earbuds in my pocket, and I spent the ride angrily attempting to untangle everything - the earbuds, my pride, the day's shattered goodwill - as I puttered along the driving range. Oliver later reported that the song was "really good."

9. SPACE MOUNTAIN "Drunk With Power" Discharge (2:44)

This was the day's big gun, despite my deception about the matching times (the song is three seconds shorter). But Discharge's insistence on jumping in at full power undercut the ride's ascending-spacepod buildup. And I had to blast the earbuds to distortion to drown out Disney's techno.

Me: "I thought that was very morbid."

Oliver: "But looking out over the infinite cosmos and hearing Discharge sing about power and death was a Lovecraftian vision of the universe."

Me: "It felt like the thing was going to jump its tracks and that would be that."

Oliver: "It was still pretty awesome."

Me: "It was no Matterhorn."

10. JUNGLE CRUISE / "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin (8:33)

Still demoralized from Autopia, I decided to block any further unwanted human interaction, tuning out the ride like a pouty 14 year old on a family vacation. This was a nice fit with this night cruise, lending an import to the fake jungle's fake animals and fake gibbering natives, each doomed to repeat their actions over and over again. Also, the song fit perfectly from dock to dock. I'm not sure what the significance of this was.

11. INDIANA JONES ADVENTURE: TEMPLE OF THE FORBIDDEN EYE / "Panama" by Van Halen (3:32)

This should have been the most awesome event in the history of the universe up to this point. Instead, it was merely the most awesome thing since life appeared on this planet. "Panama" matches this ride timewise, but when does the ride start? At the moment the oversized jeep lurches into action? When it rounds the corner? This imprecision could have cost us our Wizard Of Oz / Dark Side of The Moon moment, and none of the song's four hisses, starting at 2:27, matched the giant animatronic cobra. Why would God let this happen??

12. SPLASH MOUNTAIN / "Dirty Bomb" by Landed (10:35)

This is a disturbing, disorienting song. Even more disturbing and disorienting was my willful ignorance that sitting front and center on one of the hollow flume logs would result in an immediate drenching. For most of the ride I huddled shivering, glasses smeared, teeth chattering, soaked in brackish ride water, the musical dialogue of the passing rabbits and bears and alligators - themselves lifted from 1946's Song Of The South, a film too racist for rerelease - reduced to the grunts and howls of actual animals, and it occurred to me that this would probably have been a more appropriate song to play while wandering the park and staring creepily at children. Next time.