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The Whiteboard Jungle: Trip to Disneyland isn’t what it used to be

“Remember when there were always people, but never a crowd?”

This saying comes from a calendar whose theme revolves around the past. It also reflects how I feel about Disneyland.

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As a kid, I thought Disneyland was crowded. I didn’t realize how wrong I was.

Now when I go there, it is so packed with people that it is difficult to be happy at the so-called happiest place on Earth.

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As much as I still like Disneyland today, it doesn’t have the same feel as it used to due to the crowds.

It doesn’t seem to matter how high the admission is, money has no effect on thinning out the masses. Multiple-hourlong lines for rides and bumping into people when walking around do not make a visit enjoyable.

This thought has been running through my mind ever since I visited “That’s From Disneyland!” a 20,000-square-foot temporary exhibit of Disneyland artifacts housed at the old Sports Authority building in Sherman Oaks. The Disney items will be auctioned off this weekend.

For those of us who grew up with the park, this time capsule of classic Disneyland is an emotional trip down memory lane, a reminder of simpler and less-congested times.

Richard Kraft, a talent agent representing famous composers, has collected a massive number of items from Disneyland over the past 25 years and is now selling them all.

For $150,000, you can go home with a Dumbo from the Fantasyland ride.

What impressed me most about the exhibit was its scope. Never again will one be able to walk into one building and view vehicles from defunct rides, menus from bygone restaurants, posters of rides old and new whose bright colors stir anticipation, as well as artist conceptions of attractions never realized.

There are even some animatronic robots, including Jose the parrot from the Enchanted Tiki Room and singing children from It’s a Small World.

When I was a child, my family did not have the wherewithal to take elaborate summer vacations, so the one big trip each year was going to Disneyland.

We knew we had to make the most out of that one day, arriving at 8 a.m. and staying until midnight. Back then, we were able to get on most of the rides, an impossible task today.

I was allowed to get one souvenir and each year I chose the same one, a large foldout map of Disneyland, which was continuously being updated with areas labeled “future attractions.”

Some of those places, such as “Liberty Square” off of Main Street, never materialized. How strange to see some of these maps framed and mounted on display for sale.

It would be hard to believe that anyone else has as immense a collection as Kraft does. This makes visiting the exhibit bittersweet because once the auction is over, all of these items will be disbursed to who knows how many people.

Funny how Walt built Disneyland as an idealized facsimile of America at the turn of the 20th century, and now his creation has become an idealized version of mid-20th-century America.

What a shame that the Disney Co. can’t or won’t swoop in like Dumbo and buy the entire Kraft collection.

Keep it there in that building, and with the help of the creative folks at Disney Imagineering, reimagine the displays like a Smithsonian museum, preserving it for future generations to learn the history of the one park Walt Disney supervised and visited. Include videotaped testimonies of surviving workers and artists who were there from the beginning as well.

With lines outside waiting to get into this exhibit, it is surprising that the marketing marvels at Disney don’t realize the financial potential that could be made from such an endeavor, or can’t see how this would continue the legacy of its founder in preserving the past.

BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,000 Teacher.” He can be reached at www.brian-crosby.com.

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