Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber's "Education Matters" column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.
A life-long love affair has officially and finally come to an end. A relationship based on a deep and unqualified affection that began back in 1955 when we were both young, and has lasted for about 40 years, is over — kaput.
The magic is gone and, it pains me to say so, never again to be recaptured. The last slender thread of attachment was severed just last week when my brother and I took our families to Disneyland, the "happiest place on Earth."
Before I proceed with the reasons for my breakup, I must confess that the rest of my family does not share my disdain. In fact, they see me as something of a kill-joy for even suggesting that the "Magical Kingdom" is anything but.
I readily accept their verdict and welcome the punishment — not being invited next year when the family plans its traditional day at the park.
I submit the following bare facts as grounds for the separation: We spent more than $600 for five adults and two children and after nine hours at the place, went on a total of five rides. The majority of the day was spent waiting in lines. We waited to take a bus from a parking lot; we were directed to blocks away from Disneyland.
We spent 45 minutes waiting for one ride that lasted less than two minutes (Peter Pan); we waited an hour and 10 minutes for Space Mountain, 10 of those minutes going nowhere because of "mechanical difficulties."
We waited in line to buy ice cream and popcorn; we even waited in line to get a drink of water (I think they've eliminated a number of water fountains to force visitors to buy bottled water at a price I calculated to be about a dollar a gulp).
For the visitors slogging sheep-like toward the entrance of rides, there are many distractions at Disneyland. But when Snow White greets a line of people waiting for their turn at Pirates of the Caribbean, she's not just being friendly — she's a decoy, as are the happy background voices and music to make the wait more pleasant. And those lines are no ordinary straight-arrow lines either. They're laid out in a back-and-forth pattern so that the next turn is never out of sight, giving the impression that you're making progress.
I hate waiting in lines, but that is how all visitors to Disneyland spend most of their day. When they're not shuffling along in lines, they're maneuvering through a dense thicket of people in a place that knows no capacity. It has occurred to me in the last several visits that I was paying an enormous amount of money to be made miserable, and that continuing to do that year after year is nothing short of insanity.
The genius (if that's the right word) of Disney is its unrelenting assault on the pocket book from the moment you enter the park. Parking is now $14; entrance price is $72 (when Disneyland opened in '55, it was $1). Food — from the popcorn vendor to the restaurants — is about twice what you'd pay outside the park. And the countless hawkers of Disney products that, like everything else at the place, are greatly overpriced (add mouse ears to any product and bump up the price $20).
Virtually every parent of a young child will attest to an overwhelming obligation, or perhaps more accurately, enormous pressure to bring home a souvenir of the day's magic. My souvenir, these days, comes on the ride home while everyone sleeps in the car and I, exhausted and with sore feet, struggle with the nagging thought that I've participated once again in an annual ritual that has become an annual rip-off.
I can't help but think that Walt Disney would not be pleased if he were alive today. If he were still running things, he would likely have fired the likes of Michael Eisner and his ilk for subverting his uncommon vision and transforming a truly magical place into a common money grubbing corporation.
So I am citing irreconcilable differences with the Mouse even while I savor the many, many happy memories of that once Magic Kingdom. I'm well aware that I long ago ceased to be the target audience for potential visitors to the park, and it also occurs to me that I'm becoming more of a curmudgeon as I grow older.
Nevertheless, I find that the Disneyland of today is all about capitalizing on, rather than preserving, the vision of its founder, and that's enough to make a grown Mouse cry.
DAN KIMBER is a former teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.
FOR THE RECORD: Portions of this piece were plagiarized from an unsigned piece published on Tonic.com on Feb. 17, 2010 titled "Why Disney Is the Happiest Place on Earth."