An Overdose of Disneyland

This column is being brought to you live from Disneyland, where I've been covering the park's marathon 30th birthday party since it began at one minute past midnight Wednesday.

(No, that's too Game-of-the-Weekish. Try something with a little more emerging-national-trend in it.)

It was 30 years ago when Walt Disney gambled his made-in-movies fortune on what experts said was a foolish idea: a theme amusement park built in the middle of the distant Anaheim orange groves.

But Disneyland not only survived, it flourished, changing America's entertainment habits forever.

And Wednesday--nearly 250 million visitors later--the park celebrated its 30th birthday with a 24-hour bash.

(Too stiff. Lighten up a little, will you? This is an amusement park, not a march on Washington. Put some color in it.)

Colored spotlights formed a huge rainbow that arched across the sky. Below, the line of waiting party-goers stretched into the parking lot.

Then at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, the moment Disneyland's 30th anniversary had arrived, bands erupted into music and balloons poured into the sky. The thousands seeing the sight oooo-ed. The 24-hour birthday bash had begun.

(Oooo-ed? What kind of a word is oooo-ed?)

You know, like "oooo-ed and ah-ed." They all said, "Oooo!"

(You wanna check your notes and see if they said something that's in the dictionary?)

Let's see. No, they just said, "Oooo."

(You're going to have to get with it. This stuff just isn't making it.)

Look, it's amazing I can even dial the phone. Do you know what I've been going through out here? You think it's a big deal to run a Death Valley marathon or cycle across the country in 10 days? You should try Disneyland for 24 straight hours.

I got up in the middle of the night and have been walking around the park for 14 straight hours. There are still 10 more to go. I can't take much more of this fun.

Sure, it's kind of exciting at first. They charged $30 a head for this party, so they pulled out all the stops--bands everywhere, decorations everywhere, food everywhere (it came with the ticket) and a parade. They were giving away nice posters, too.

At that price, you wouldn't expect a monstrous crowd. Disneyland always refuses to tell you attendance figures, but it was smaller than an average summer day. It only took about 20 minutes to get onto Space Mountain.

So even though you're operating with only an afternoon nap under your belt, the sight of those short lines sends you into kind of a frenzy. People started racing from one premium ride to another, but in the early morning hours it would take a survivalist to withstand that for long. Pretty soon, bunches of people started dropping like flies. It got a little spooky.

It seemed to start around sunrise. (Just seeing the sun rise with the park still going full blast was spooky enough.)

You come off Space Mountain and people are sitting on benches with weird, utterly blank stares on their faces.

You walk into the stand-up theater that shows movies on a 360-degree screen and people are lying all over the lobby on stools and cushions. When the guy got up to say the show was starting, the audience actually groaned.

You come out of the theater and encounter the only sofas in Disneyland. Every one of them had a seemingly lifeless body sprawled across it. It was upsetting--because I was looking for a place to crash too. The search pretty soon became urgent.

Walking through Disneyland on the verge of exhaustion casts the place in an entirely different light. You care not a whit about which ride is the most exciting. What matters is which one is the best for napping. I now have had plenty of experience.

The river boat isn't bad--it's a long ride, at least--but there is no comfortable place to curl up. The little cars in "Adventure Thru Inner Space" are too cramped and there's nowhere to lean your head except against a loudspeaker. The concerts aren't bad, if you can tune out Sister Sledge.

The problem is, there really isn't a good place for a lie-down short of the first-aid room. Around 7 a.m., however, I was beginning to feel like a candidate for first aid.

I decided to walk it off, then discovered a few minutes later that I had walked to the "It's a Small World" ride for no conscious reason I could recall. It turned out to be a not-bad nap ride, however.

I saw one of the original Mouseketeers, Darlene, who was my No. 2 fantasy when I was in junior high school. (Annette was No. 1.) But to my exhausted mind Darlene appeared to be middle-aged. That's what extreme fatigue can do--make you hallucinate.

And now my sunglasses have broken. I'm through.

I'm sorry, but I'm going to bail out on this assignment. This is too much fun for any mere mortal, especially one who left his innersoles at home.

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