Disney fandom is both thrilling and insane, like most fandoms. It’s got its own lingo, like Swolfin for the twin resorts Swan and Dolphin, neither of which has an F in it but Swolfin definitely does. You can call someone a pixie duster (or the somehow more diminishing “duster”), which means they think Disney is literally magic and is practically perfect in every way. More like Main Street U.S. YAY, am I right? (On the flipside of dusters are foamers, who hate everything Disney does, and for some reason keep going back. Sometimes daily. Someone’s got to stay vigilant.)
But then there are the hipster fans. Not the Disney Hipsters, that’s an actual podcast. I mean the people who love Disney in such a specific, niche way that you’re not entirely sure what they’re talking about or if they’re serious. The deep-dive fans. The fans who are maybe ironic and maybe serious. The fans who are very intent on obsessing over things that 99% of Disney Parks guests don’t care anything about.
On today’s False Idylls Top Ten, we’re going to look at these microcosms of Disney love. You probably haven’t heard of them.
Chicken Little stans – Okay, look. Did I write this column specifically to talk about Chicken Little stans? Maybe. The movie Chicken Little is considered one of Disney’s most egregious failures, a CGI wasteland of missed opportunity and rushed production. I don’t even think it’s one of those “so bad it’s good” situations, because I’m not sure the fandom itself is about the movie. It’s about the way the parks celebrated the movie. The giant, bulbous balloon heads peering over walls at Hollywood Studios and California Adventure, towering over the populace like gallinaceous Godzillas. The audacity of Chicken
Little appearing on Disney Dollars, as though he was fit to even speak Mickey Mouse’s name. Are the people obsessed with this fowl mistake just dazzled by how terrible it all was that it’s slingshotted around to being fascinating? Because if that’s the case…
The Birthday Cake Castle – The Magic Kingdom’s 25th anniversary was a big deal. Not only was it the park’s 25th , but it was the entire resort’s. And the way Disney decided to celebrate was by making Cinderella Castle look exactly like the kind of birthday cake Barbie would serve to her guests in her Malibu beach house. It was huge and hellish, with faux peppermint sticks for turrets and gingerbread for walls and sickly-sweet-looking frosting holding the whole thing together. Many complained that taking
pictures in front of it ruined their vacation. So of course now that the generational shift has decided that all things terrible are now good, people are obsessed with this objet d’art that anticipated Is It Cake? by decades. It’s on shirts. Fan art. Vocal fans on Twitter demanding it come back. We’d see this happen later when the universally despised Sorcerer’s Hat in Hollywood Studios was finally removed and fans came out of the woodwork to insist it was good, actually. You know what was good, actually?
Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train – Look, I’ll say it. There wasn’t much to Heimlich’s. You boarded the semi-famous grub from A Bug’s Life, and along a slow-moving track, you passed giant snacks like candy corn and animal crackers and watermelon that Heimlich has taken massive bites from. Smellitzers workedovertime, making sure you could smell the partially-eaten food, because this was a full sensory experience. Along the way, Heimlich narrates in broken, German-inflected English just this side of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s Fritz, with bon mots such as, “Mama says carrots are good for my eyes. But I
don’t want to put carrots in my eyes!” It’s cheesy and absurd. It’s amazing. I can’t explain why it’s
amazing. It’s like a dark ride on the outside. It’s so silly and charming it absolutely wins you over. I mean,When you get off, Heimlich says he misses you already! It’s beautiful. (We miss Heimlich, too; when they tore down “a bug’s land,” Heimlich went with it. The period of mourning has never ended.
Horizons – It’s so low on this list because it barely qualifies as hipster anymore. Everyone knows someone who loved Horizons, or is that someone themselves. Early Epcot fans – I’m sorry, EPCOT Center fans – have never gotten over the loss of this ride, which some might call the best human achievement in history. I wouldn’t call it that. Okay maybe I would. Okay maybe I have, on my podcast. More than
once. But even though the Epcot originalists can get carried away sometimes, they have a point about this ride. Ambitious. Humongous. Kind of challenging and smart. The epitome of the original Epcot idea of edutainment. It was honestly too good for this world. What makes this crowning achievement of humankind’s purpose even more hipster is if you never rode it, and yet talk about it like it changed your
life personally. PS I didn’t go to Disney parks until 2007, you do the math.
The Adventurer’s Club – Speaking of pinnacles of human achievement, The Adventurer’s Club was what happens when the various worlds of improv comedy, theme parties, tiki, and craft cocktail mixology smash together to create something thrilling and rare and only a little bit imperialist. Based on Joe Rohde’s “Last Days of the Raj” home parties, the Adventurer’s Club was ostensibly the home roost for world travelers whose goal is discovery and whose fuel is adrenaline. The club itself was a pretty
sterling mix of live performers, audio animatronics, and adventuring décor, set in an alternate 1937, when it’s always New Year’s Eve and you can always get a Kungaloosh at the bar. Situated in Downtown Disney, the Adventurer’s Club became the hub of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers – the SEA, a separate but similar club created in Tokyo DisneySea that later enfolded the Adventurer’s Club into its mythos. Speaking of Tokyo DisneySea…
Tokyo DisneySea – I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve been to Japan. For many Disney fans, Tokyo Disney is seen as the pinnacle of all that Disney could achieve, if not for meddling CEOs and shareholders and logic. From an American perspective, Tokyo Disneyland and especially Tokyo DisneySea (maybe the best theme park in the world?) can do no wrong, and really is absolute perfection. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging, in millennial speak, that best theme park is best.
What’s hipster about it is two-pronged: the elitist prong is constantly reminding people that you’ve
actually been there, actually ridden Journey to the Center of the Earth and Sinbad and tasted of the
many, many flavors of popcorn served in themed carts everywhere, then asking, “Oh, you haven’t been there?” That’s pretty hipster. The even more irritating prong: rattling off all these facts as reasons why it’s better than WDW and Disneyland, even though you’ve never been to Tokyo, and go to the domestic parks like twice a week.
Joffrey’s – There was always going to be a vocal contingent of Disney-goers who hated the idea of Starbucks in the parks Walt built for his daughters. Starbucks is too new, too corporate, too NOT Disney. After all, Disney is pure and has its own identity and doesn’t truck in things like corporate branding, preferring the Disney-specific places and products like Dole Whip and Carnation Café and Coke Corner. When Starbucks came in to destroy Disney, there was a minor uprising of people who wished Nescafe had never left … but that’s simply insane. Far more hipster is a rabid identification with the Joffrey’s family of products. Joffrey’s Coffees are scattered in kiosks all over the domestic parks, and if you really want to go full hipster, you will saunter past a Starbucks with your Joffrey’s in hand, rolling your eyes and muttering “Cute, but I prefer real coffee.” Bonus points if you toss an infinity scarf over your shoulder.
Legendary Years – Here’s where your hipster cred really kicks into high gear. In 2003, Disney built the first Pop Century resort, a value hotel/motel whose buildings take on the themes of pop culture of the decades 1950s-1990s. Known collectively as the “Classic Years,” this was supposed to be phase one of a bigger project that included another resort across the way called the Legendary Years, focusing on pop culture from 1900s-1940s. Imagine! Flappers! Silent films! The Great Depression! Wholesome stuff. The shell of the buildings were constructed and the giant numbers in period-specific font were even attached, but for years, the space languished and grew over. Eventually, Disney reclaimed the area for Art of Animation as sort of a value+ resort, and it’s perfectly terrific … but does not live up to what might have been had they done the Legendary Years. If you’re one type of hipster, you wish they’d built up the whole resort around Walt’s early years, and talk about it incessantly. If you’re another, you wish they’d
left the decrepit buildings to rot, like River Country was, so you can talk about what might have been, and tell people that there’s a graveyard of abandoned ambition over across Hourglass Lake. “But that’s modern Disney,” you could say, sighing!
DCA 1.0 – I have literally no idea if the love for DCA 1.0 is genuine or ironic or somewhere in between. When it debuted, virtually no one went to Disney’s California Adventure. It didn’t have a real theme, the lands were confusing (was there a mega-land called Golden State? Why did it have a bunch of mini-lands inside it?), the front plaza was like a strip mall, the park icon was a pounded hubcap that looked like a sun, kinda, and there were so many puns (Maliburritos! Brrrrrrrrbank Ice Cream!) that it was impossible to take seriously. Not to mention the worst ride of all time, Superstar Limo, which was a Michael Eisner fever dream set in the world of late 1990s celebrity culture. The consensus was that it stunk, and how. Of course now, there are those who remember it fondly. I think. Do they want to ride Superstar Limo to make fun of it or love it? Are they really missing the cartoony and absurd Golden Gate Bridge? Was the Maliboomer (TWO Malibu puns in one park!) really someone’s idea of Disney magic? Look, I don’t know. Additions like Buena Vista Street and Carsland seem obviously better, but what do I know? I miss San
Pre-Disco Yeti – Folks, if you really want to impress your friends, just tell them you rode Expedition Everest before the Yeti went into B-mode and the strobelights started and it became known as the Disco Yeti. You do not actually have to have seen the Yeti. Just tell everyone that it was the best special effect Disney ever invented – yes, even better than the “million dollar hop” in Splash Mountain – and if Disney wasn’t so cheap, they would respect Joe Rohde’s True Vision and cut the mountain open and completely gut the ride and redo the structure so that the three-second effect a lot of people never saw could be restored. Oh, you never saw it? The POV ride throughs really don’t do it justice. I saw it in person with my own eyes. It was pretty great.
So there’s the list! Let us know what you think of Kevin’s choices and let us know your favorite Disney hipster things in the comments below! Until next time, Kungaloosh!