September 4, 2003 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Disneyland obsessives. Some people live out their lives on Main Street.
posted by xowie (51 comments total)
As my friend Scotty once said, "Everyone's a geek for something." This seems fairly harmless as far as that goes.
posted by jonmc at 7:18 AM on September 4, 2003

Poor Cory, an article on Disney obsession that doesn't give him a single prop. Oh well, I see that he's got it up on bOINGbOING already.

Yeah, as a kid I used to spend weeks, WEEKS of my life planning my trips to D-land, poring over my Magic Kingdom map and trying to figure out how to get the best value out of my single measley book of A-thru-E tickets.

But I'm much better now.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:23 AM on September 4, 2003

Why spend your afternoons bored at home when for $219 a year you can spend every afternoon there. Sounds like a good deal to me.
posted by PenDevil at 7:24 AM on September 4, 2003

I dunno, why can't these people do something healthy and wholesome, such as sit indoors and reload the Mefi front page all day long?
posted by carter at 7:25 AM on September 4, 2003

I still don't quite understand how Disney can hold so much for some people, but the phenomenon itself is absolutely fascinating. Amazing to see fictional characters from the mind of Cory Doctorow reflected in reality.

But given some reflection, this isn't really any different from the behavior displayed by those who obsess about a particular sports team, television program or music group. At a fundamental level, Disneyland obsessives are identical Dead Heads, Trekkies and MeFi junkies [as demonstrated, on preview, by carter].
posted by aladfar at 7:29 AM on September 4, 2003

Disneyland obsessives are identical Dead Heads, Trekkies and MeFi junkies.

I just realized that the article made this exact same point, as did Doctorow over at bOINGbOING. One should read the article in question in its entirety before posting. Live and learn.
posted by aladfar at 7:45 AM on September 4, 2003

It's creepy, but ultimately (as jonmc said) harmless to anyone but themselves. I've got a coworker who is going to Disneyworld again this year with his wife (they have no kids yet). I guarantee that if he lived near one of the parks he'd be one of these cats.

The only thing that has really disturbed me about his obsession (other than when he corners me to show me pics) is the statement he made once. He was talking about how, for the most part, he's a fairly frugal guy, but when he's in Orlando, it's all "Open up my wallet and take out what you want, I don't care".

If you're making a statement like that about anywhere, be it Orlando, Vegas, Amsterdam, or Instanbul, something seems amiss. That said, I'm glad he and his wife found each other. They truly are one of a kind.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:46 AM on September 4, 2003

"Open up my wallet and take out what you want, I don't care".....If you're making a statement like that about anywhere...something seems amiss.

I tend to say it in strip clubs, but I guess that dosen't really count.
posted by jonmc at 7:48 AM on September 4, 2003

Reading further:
“Trekkies are devoted to some stupid pop-culture fad,” Doug says finally. “Disney fans believe in the magic.”

That's just asking for some kind of geek jihad or something....
posted by PenDevil at 7:48 AM on September 4, 2003

I think this guy is great. He knows what he likes and he's swimming in it. Good for him!
posted by crunchland at 7:49 AM on September 4, 2003

This is a great article.

Growing up in Oregon, I never had a chance to visit Disneyland until the summer after I graduated from high school. It really was magical, even for a jaded adolescent. Space Mountain scared the hell out of me (it was my first rollercoaster): I held on and screamed "oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck" the entire ride. (I can only imagine how mortified the parents of small children near me must have been.)

The real magic came from Pirates of the Carribean. I loved that ride. It was so immersive, so fun! (Despite its glacial pace.) I rode it several times that first trip.

Years later I married a woman whose extended family has worked at Disneyland. Her uncle works in the accounting office. All of her cousins have worked as cast members. Whenever we make a trip to SoCal, her uncle is able to get us into the park for free (thanks, Bob!). Each visit is great. And each visit I ride Pirates once, twice, three times, or more. If I can ditch the rest of the group, I'll just ride it again and again.

Why? I have no idea. I just love it.
posted by jdroth at 8:14 AM on September 4, 2003

I think there's a thin line between healthy interest and mental illness, and these gentleman are closer to the latter. If you want to compare their obsession with, say, Metafilter, then don't imagine someone who visits the site every day, imagine a user who would follow Mathowie around everyday, taking notes on what he was wearing and doing, or rooting through his garbage, collecting Matt's garbage and soiled underwear for his private collection and/or personal shrine. In short: dial "P" for Psycho.

Of course, such behavior also be fundamentally "harmless." He wouldn't be hurting anybody, after all. He would just be doing what he wants to do. And that's cool.
posted by Ljubljana at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2003

..such behavior would also be fundamentally harmless.

Sorry. I'm bidding on a lock of Mathowie's hair on ebay, and got a little excited while I was typing.
posted by Ljubljana at 8:50 AM on September 4, 2003

As of about five weeks ago, I now live less than two miles from Walt Disney World property. We moved here for my son - he is autistic, and for whatever reason WDW seems to be the key that unlocks his communication. So here we are and I tend to be in the parks from 3-5 times per week, sometimes with my son and sometimes without.

I fully expect Ben to grow up to be one of these people; in fact, if there is one place in the world I can imagine him actually growing up, getting a job, and functioning independently it is inside that fifty square miles of property just north of Hwy 192 and west of I-4.

As for why I go so often by myself, well... the annual pass is already paid for so going to the park is basically free. I can go hang out for a few hours in the evening, ride a few rides, maybe watch some fireworks, and it doesn't cost me a dime. It takes me less than ten minutes to get from my my home to the parking lot, so it is also extremely convenient.

On the other hand, I am not to the point where I notice if a speaker has been moved.

posted by Lokheed at 8:51 AM on September 4, 2003

Pathetic. Aboslutely fucking pathetic.
posted by scarabic at 8:58 AM on September 4, 2003

I now live less than two miles from Walt Disney World property. We moved here for my son

This is poignant, Lokheed. Good luck! I do hope your son can grow up functional in the Magic Kingdom. :)
posted by jdroth at 9:04 AM on September 4, 2003

Benji says he was once a Trekkie. “There’s no difference,” he says, then adds, “Disney fans are crankier.” We walk in silence for a moment. Benji laughs. “I had a girlfriend once.”

This guy is living Fantasy Land, once upon a time I had a girlfriend. Had this one guy come into my work buying electrical parts all time in Long Beach. Turned out besides working at Disney, he was going to rebuild the America Sings attraction in his back yard, still wonder how far along he made it. If you had seen the attraction, it would take up more than a backyard though.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:43 AM on September 4, 2003

Lokheed, that is wonderful that you've been able to find something that has such a positive effect on your son. Hope your vision comes true!

I love Disney too - I love to watch Disney movies if I'm sick or depressed - but I can't imagine living my life at Disneyland. Fairly harmless as far as obsessions go, though, I guess. Hey, whatever floats your boat. Better to chase a high on Main street than MLK Blvd.
posted by widdershins at 9:48 AM on September 4, 2003

Great FPP, btw, xowie.
posted by widdershins at 9:48 AM on September 4, 2003

I work at Disney and the stories I hear from the other side about 'Disney Enthusiasts' aren't exactly the same as the 'harmless eccentric' version in the article. Some guests can be harmful to the experience of others in the Parks. It's a real problem not contained to the Enthusiast community.

IMHO, anytime a person becomes obsessed with a topic to the degree that these people appear to be, it's unhealthy.
posted by Argyle at 10:25 AM on September 4, 2003

I think there's a thin line between healthy interest and mental illness

Ljubljana, I think there's a thin line between denial and mental illness ;)
posted by carter at 10:35 AM on September 4, 2003

One reason why people become obsessive about the Disney parks (as opposed to theme parks in general) is that they are the pinnacle of the genre. They have the coolest technology, the most detail and enough thrills without ever being bombastic.

The real shame to me is how Disney are squandering the passion of fans by refusing to invest and building only substandard parks. While the Tokyo Disney Sea park shows how it can be done (fans say it's the most immersive theme park experience ever created), they've also been responsible for the truely hideous aircraft hangar that is the Disney Studios Paris, not forgetting the mediocre and bizarrely-conceived Disney's California Adventure (which was referenced in the Simpsons as being worse than jail).
posted by skylar at 10:55 AM on September 4, 2003

Somehow I'm reminded of this guy, although his obsession seems to be narrowed down to strictly Peter Pan.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:09 AM on September 4, 2003

Better to chase a high on Main street than MLK Blvd...

I would think the chances are better that the pusher on MLK isn't a fascist. Maybe, but... just sayin'.
posted by squirrel at 11:26 AM on September 4, 2003

The "we" stuff sounds suspiciously reminiscent of Asperberger's.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:32 AM on September 4, 2003

Having seen my son in the park, the same thought occurred to me. Autism being a spectrum disorder, and Asperger's being well out on the "functional" end of the spectrum, it wouldn't surprise me if this particular guy fit the diagnostic criteria.
posted by Lokheed at 12:15 PM on September 4, 2003

He says “we” because Disneyland is the central force in his life.

Well... anyway, I think the sensible thing for Disney would be hiring these folks (after standard mental tests etc) in a selective, competitive manner, i.e., rewarding the ones who are fans but behave (like the one who left the best train seats for a family visiting the park for the 1st time) and do not cross the line into uncontrolled obsession.

It's good to have people who are enthusiastic working for you, but it is, imho, slightly creepy to be in Disneyland with your kids and stumbling upon these adults wearing Disney apparel etc. Perhaps they're just innocent and eccentric, but the fact that a news article was written about it and that we're discussing this kind of behavior implies that something is not quite normal.

BTW, the article is 100% David Lynch-bizarre and quite effective in its subtle array of sinister details (the clothes, Pat, "the berm", the pins etc). An interesting read.
posted by 111 at 12:17 PM on September 4, 2003

At first, he’s not particularly friendly.
we find an older woman with a round, angry face.
Just being near her takes away Benji’s sourness.

Walt felt so strongly about this tunnel. The idea that you leave the world and enter the happiest place on Earth

Happiest place on earth, the regulars don't seem to show it. These people's eccentricity is why they like the park, it rarely changes & constantly the same, time after time. This was Walt's theme too: you are the first to enjoy it, why it is so well maintained. Think RJ Reynolds caught Benji's behavior precisely.

slightly creepy to be in Disneyland with your kids and stumbling upon these adults wearing Disney apparel etc.

111, Disney apparel and Disney's worker costumes are not the same, if they still use polyester you wouldn't want to wear the employees' outfits.

Last time there my uncle who is in the pin business mentioned every time he'd make a pin trade, we need to move out of this area quickly or we will have a long engagement with some people. I'd scratch my head and wonder (he makes his living in the pin business); now know what/whom he was running from, the nosey regulars.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:18 PM on September 4, 2003

thomcatspike, you're right, I mean Disney employees in their animal suits look a lot less scary than adults wearing Donald Duck hats and Mickey Mouse t-shirts who hang around the park every single day.

In a creepy way, the quotes you selected from the article are telling. Overall you still make little sense to me to be quite frank, but I somehow assume you possess some kind of cryptic wisdom.
posted by 111 at 1:58 PM on September 4, 2003 [1 favorite]

One of my good friends was an intern at Disney World, and it was amazing to find out how micro-managed the visitor experience is. One of the things that amused me the most is that each and every plant in a park is rotated out every couple of weeks so that only plants in full bloom are used.

My dad used to buy a family pass to Great America each season so my siblings and I could go all day, every day, all summer long. Even with buying the parking pass booklets it was much cheaper than summer camp, and when I'd return to school no other kid could boast about riding the Grizzly wooden roller coaster nine times in a row.

With all that in mind, these obsessive nature of these guys still scares me.

Have you seen the new planters? They're peach!!!
posted by illusionaire at 2:48 PM on September 4, 2003

Disney employees in their animal suits look a lot less scary than adults wearing Donald Duck hats and Mickey Mouse t-shirts who hang around the park every single day.
111 not all the employees are character actors, animal suits; thought you were under the impression the regulars dressed in their Disney garb could be mistaken as employees.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:57 PM on September 4, 2003

Leaving aside the compulsive escapsim for a moment, I just don't get the attraction to the Disney mythos.

What is this "MagicTM" people speak of anyway? Wish upon a star and your dreams will come true? You can fly you can fly? Auntie is evil but puppies are cute? Be pretty and the prince will save you? Is this supposed to add up to some kind of ethos? A Mouse on helium? An alcoholic Duck? What the fuck?

Star Trek is also escapist fantasy, but at least, as a canon of stories, it articulates some worthwhile values you can grow on. Disney just spews an endless torrent of gender programming, happy endings, and crabs singing cha-cha-cha. My kids are getting none. Maybe Bambi.

posted by scarabic at 3:04 PM on September 4, 2003

Disney? Star Trek? It's all a crock. But if they ain't scaring the horses I don't see a problem.

Excellent link xowie.
posted by squealy at 4:08 PM on September 4, 2003

*grumps with scarabic*
posted by boredomjockey at 5:08 PM on September 4, 2003

Growing up in the shadows of the park, I had an annual pass for a while, just as my awkward teenage years started. I got kind of anti-social and just played in the arcade instead of rides every weekend (my parents used the park as a babysitter for my brother and I, a place where everyone could go separate ways but be safe I guess).

So the thing about Disneyland is the immersion, and the incredible amounts of energy put into making the place seem like an out-of-life experience. You feel happy there, everything is clean, everyone is nice, it's a bizarre sort of hyper unreal utopia.

Like any immersive experience, you're going to lose some folks to it. I used to go once a week as a kid and I've been back about once every five years since, so I don't consider myself obsessed. Like any addiction, I think these superfans just feel better inside the berm and prefer that feeling never stops. The same could be said for being drunk or using heroin or playing Everquest or administering MetaFilter.

Sometimes people just want to be inside the berm at all times, and do their best to revisit as often as possible where everything is good and under control in an otherwise wild world.
posted by mathowie at 5:14 PM on September 4, 2003

I've always imagined Disneyland to be some special sort of hell. Crowds, noise, standing in lines. Ugh. Give me an empty mountaintop any day of the week.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on September 4, 2003

Also sprach mathowie:

The same could be said for being drunk or using heroin or playing Everquest or administering MetaFilter.

Or doing all four at once...

posted by Sidhedevil at 8:08 PM on September 4, 2003

I guess it says something about my nature, but whenever I go to a place where everything is perfect, la la la, I can't take my eyes off of the subtle fray at the hem of the curtain, so to speak. The cigarette butts in the fountain.

The fact that Disney is trying to create utopia is creepy enough, but the fact that it inevitably falls short makes it creepier. And, as scarabic pointed out, all along the primrose way we get mythological programming in ethics, gender, body size and ethnicity. Feh.
posted by squirrel at 11:03 PM on September 4, 2003

I've always imagined Disneyland to be some special sort of hell

Oh yes. I once shocked my son's karate teacher and several other listening parents by breezily saying that I'd rather have my toenails pulled out than go to Disneyland. I didn't think this was such a controversial opinion, but I guess it came off as a grotesque heresy.

I also assume that most of the people profiled in this article are somewhere on the autistic curve. (And I thought I was capable of pretty obsessive behaviour--I'm feeling pretty well adjusted at the moment, thanks.)
posted by jokeefe at 8:25 AM on September 5, 2003

As the CEO of MousePlanet.com (let me say I don't know how that happened), I know a lot of these people. For the most part they are much more normal than they seem when written about in this detail.

Disneyland is, for them, a place to hang out with friends. For a flat fee, you can sit around as long as you want, talk, people watch, occasionally do something, go eat, etc.

But some people do take it too far and quickly become a pain in the ass. Both to the people around them and the people that work at the parks. (Say, some adult wearing 90 pounds of pins, running over children to make sure they get their hands on the newest "limited edition" pin.)

I've met and (and my wife as intereviewed) George Reiger, the tattoo guy. He is pretty interesting and the tattoos are only half of it, you should see his house. Totally decorated in Disney.
posted by obfusciatrist at 8:41 AM on September 5, 2003

Mouseplanet.com is 404, my friend. So, what... am I to take it that your wife didn't interview George Reiger, either? This shadiness around you puzzles me.

But some people do take it too far and quickly become a pain in the ass.

I believe that the correct Disney "cast member" scripting is "pain in the cheese hole."
posted by squirrel at 3:03 PM on September 5, 2003

made the same mistake myself. try www.mouseplanet.com.
posted by crunchland at 3:05 PM on September 5, 2003

Good post, and now it'll be a bit of a project to figure out how everyone will react to today's fatality on Big Thunder Mountain.
posted by brookedel at 3:19 PM on September 5, 2003

Heaven and Earth, they left his body in the tunnel. For investigators. Imagine this guy's family gathered around out in front of the ride, being consoled and corralled by a man in mouse ears. He says, "No, you can't see him now. His body must stay in the tunnel until our investigators take some measurements. Go get your kids a slurpy on us while you wait. Any flavor of the rainbow."
posted by squirrel at 6:06 PM on September 5, 2003

First of all, just to be clear, the decision to leave the body in the tunnel was made by Anaheim PD and FD. As of an hour ago, even Disney's own investigators had not been allowed on the scene.

This is the second major injury incident on BTMRR in the last couple years. Though the last was a combination of rider error and nothing on the ride to prevent that error (a child got a leg outside the ride at a bad point in time). Earlier this year, another gentleman died from a heart attack immediately after departing the ride (though the ride had nothing to do with that).

Allow me to self-post, but here is our devloping coverage throughout the day to this story:

posted by obfusciatrist at 7:56 PM on September 5, 2003

It seems from reports as if the guy who died did so not by being thrown from the track but from a heart attack. So it seems the initial error on the ride resulted in the guy having the cardiac arrest.
posted by skylar at 7:32 AM on September 6, 2003

So how did the other 10 people get hurt?
posted by NortonDC at 8:51 AM on September 6, 2003

There hasn't yet been word on the cause of death. However, there was at least one person who experienced severe physical injuries to his upper torso (facial injuries and a broken collarbone and ribs).

Pure speculation on my part, but this implies that something hit him. BTMRR has a lap bar restraint system, so those injuries wouldn't have been caused by the restraints.

It is possible he was thrown forward by a sudden stop and impacted the front wall of the train car (bending around the lap bar). However, if the failure really was in the b pull, the train should only have been going a few miles an hour at that point.
posted by obfusciatrist at 9:11 AM on September 6, 2003

George Reiger's site is interesting.
posted by waxpancake at 10:57 AM on September 7, 2003

"On behalf of the entire cast of the Disneyland Resort we are shocked and saddened," said Cynthia Harris, president of Disneyland Resort.

(bold mine) I love the fact that even in the face of a PR nightmare, a public fatality, and millions of dollars in compensatory damages forthcoming, those damned Disney employees hang onto those brand hallmark titles by instict (and lack of better judgement.)
posted by robbie01 at 7:06 PM on September 8, 2003

When I was working in Orlando on the WDW College Program, I used to enjoy spending time in the parks after work. You'd think that a fellow would get burned out on pixie dust after four to eight hours of it, but one of my favorite things to do was to hop a shuttle bus or the Monorail over to Epcot and finish out the evening with a walk around World Showcase and watching IllumiNations. Of course, I could go talk to my roommate and several other neighbors [from the dorm-esque apartment complex for College Program cast members, back in the mid-90s when one apartment complex was all they needed] during the course of an evening's trip to Epcot. But I digress.

The thing I liked the most about being at WDW was a sense of security -- I knew that no matter what happened elsewhere in the world, the Magic Kingdom would open at 9am tomorrow morning and everything in, at least, the Reedy Creek Improvement District [the county-like governing entity that comprises the 43 square miles of the resort], would be just dandy. [The parks closed not too long after they opened on the morning of 9/11/2001, of course.]

As I recently scheduled my fourth post-college-program visit to Orlando [the second with my wife], this time a week split between the parks and a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas, I began to wonder if maybe I was getting a little old to be enjoying WDW so much.

After reading this article, I am glad to see that not only am I not too old, I am still enjoying it as an occasional treat. I don't know that these people are necessarily enjoying it. For some of them it almost sounds like a chore they pay hundreds of dollars a year to do, because they must, or because they feel they're the only ones who would. This line is perhaps the most reassuring to me:

“Girls get in the way of the true calling of TWDC,” Benji says.

I think I speak for a majority of my gender when I say that if there were no girls there, Disney wouldn't be any fun. I daresay it was built for girls. Cinderella's Castle? I mean, come on.

I could talk about this all night, but everyone else stopped reading this thread a week ago, so if anyone has any questions they need answering, find me.
posted by britain at 7:50 PM on September 16, 2003

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